Justice delayed after fall from John Vorster Square


Pretoria News / 14 May 2018, 06:54am / Zelda Venter

Phillip Mabelane died without knowing who killed his son, activist Matthews Mabelane. 

THE elderly father of anti-apartheid activist Matthews Mabelane  -who like Ahmed Timol died after falling from the notorious John Vorster Square in Joburg – has died without seeing justice for his son. Mabelane, jr, was a student activist of the Soweto 1976 generation. He died on February 15, 1977, after a fall from the 10th floor of the John Vorster, now known as Johannesburg Central police station.

As in the case of Timol, Mabelane was at the time being interrogated by the ruthless members of the Security Branch. In his case, an inquest also ruled his death to be accidental.

The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, last year, during the reopening of the Timol inquest, ruled that he did not commit suicide, but was pushed out of the window from either the 10th floor or rooftop.

Judge Billy Mothle at the time found that the then Security Branch police officers who interrogated Timol were collectively responsible for his death and should be held accountable.

The judge said there was at this stage evidence implicating former officers Jan Rodriguez, Hans Gloy and Johannes van Niekerk. The latter two had since died, while Rodriguez is in his 80s. The judge also said that former sergeant Neville Els on the face of it had a case to answer regarding Timol’s death.

The families of other detainees who at the time died in custody – including that of Mabelane – had build up their hopes that the death of their loved ones would also be investigated.


The family of Mabelane said their biggest hope was that his elderly father could one day die knowing what happened to his son. But this was not to be; 96-year-old Phillip Mabelane died in Joburg last Wednesday.

This was while National Director of Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams ass- ured the media in Cape Town that the State was prioritising the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by apartheid-era police.

Earlier in the week, the team of lawyers and investigators behind the reopening of the Timol inquest had called on South Africans with information about eight other apartheid killings – including that of Mabelane – to urgently reveal what they know.

All the cases related to alleged suicides while in police custody.

The reopening of the Timol inquest was the first, and to date, the last such case to serve before the court.

Timol’s uncle, Imtiaz Cajee, who had fought for the inquest to be opened, as well as that of others in the same situation, told the Pretoria News that six months had passed since Judge Mothle’s judgment.

He said the family still waited for those involved to be charged. He said they were getting no answers.

“We need to know who the investigating officers are and the work done on these investigations. The Timol finding gave many families hope that they could find answers relating to the death of their loved ones. They want answers before they depart from this world,” Cajee said.

He added that government leaders owed this to the families and could not go back on their word.

Luvuyo Mfaku, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, told the Pretoria News that two dockets relating to Judge Mothle’s judgment were being handled by the Department of Public Prosecutions in Pretoria.

He said the prosecutor had directed the investigating officer to follow up on certain outstanding issues.

“The police are conducting investigations guided by our Priority Crimes Litigation Unit prosecutors in respect of some Truth and Reconciliation Commission matters,” he said.

Mfaku did not want to divulge at this stage who would be prosecuted, or when.