THE nephew of the late anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol made a vow in 1996 during the heart-rending evidence of Timol’s mother Hawa before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he would get to the bottom of who was responsible for his uncle’s death.
He left no stone unturned and relentlessly did research and spoke to people in his quest to get answers.
Imtiaz Cajee’s work paid off two decades later when prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams gave the green light for the inquest to be reopened.
Cajee had spent countless hours to fight for justice for his uncle and had walked into various walls during his journey.
The former national director of public prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, in 2003 refused to entertain a second inquest and reaffirmed an internal memorandum of the priority crimes litigation unit that “the matter was closed”.
“I was very disappointed by the approach of the NPA, which I believed to be cavalier and uncaring,” Cajee said. But this simply made him soldier on and not give up hope.
“My uncle Mohammed (Timol’s younger brother) had reminded me over the years it was important for us to reverse the inquest findings made in 1972, stating that my uncle had committed suicide.
“The family never believed the police version and were convinced that the inquest was a farce and a cover up.
“The annals of our history must correctly reflect that uncle Ahmed was killed in police detention.”
Cajee was only 5 years old when his uncle was killed, but they were very close.
He recalled spending a lot of time with Timol as a child and driving around with him in the Anglia motor vehicle – the same one he was driving when he was apprehended by police in October 1971.
When his uncle Mohammed went into exile Cajee was 12 years old and this spurred him on to find out more about both his uncles.
“This was the actual start of my journey. I began reading the newspaper clippings which my family had kept on the news on uncle Ahmed’s death and the subsequent inquest.
“I examined his picture album and mentally pieced a picture together of what had happened.”
He questioned why his uncle Ahmed had died and why his uncle Mohammed went into exile.
“After matric I worked in the motor industry and witnessed the oppression of workers.”
Through his association with the ANC, he was recruited to the Alexandra Health Centre in Alexandra township in 1992. Here he witnesses unprecedented levels of violence in the ongoing conflict between the ANC and the IFP.
In 1997 he joined the public service, which he said was one of his proudest moments. “My intention was to make my beloved uncle proud; that I would serve my country with pride and ensure his death and all other deaths were not in vain.”
Cajee is at present working at the State Security Agency.
Cajee had published a book titled Timol – A quest for justice which was written by him to make people aware of the story of Ahmed Timol.
It was written 34 years after his death. But pertinent questions regarding his uncle’s death still remain.
Cajee is now writing a second book which will focus on issues such as the events leading to Timol’sdeath and the police version of the events. He hoped that this second leg of the inquest will provide the answers that had been under wraps for the past 46 years.
His journey took him to one of Timol’s interrogators, Hans Gloy, one of the people claimed to have tortured him before his death. Cajee phoned Gloy, a captain in the security branch at the time, a few times. Gloy refused to speak to him and even threatened to obtain an interdict against Cajee if he did not leave him alone.
The last time Cajee spoke to Gloy was almost 36 years after his uncle’s death.
“I pleaded with him to tell the truth since he was approaching the end of his life. My appeal was for us to meet and find closure.”
But Gloy died, taking his secrets to the grave.
“My uncle’s death had a tremendous impact on me. It has shaped my life and has inspired me to continue striving for the principles he had died for.”
Cajee said he will continue writing his second book and fill in the blanks in the hope it will bring closure to his family and the country as a whole.