Joao Anastacio “Jan” Roderiques arrives at the North Gauteng High Court in August 2017 to give evidence at the re-opened inquest into the death in detention of Ahmed Timol in 1971.

 29 July 2018

 Statement from the Foundation for Human Rights


Activist died after fall from 10th floor or roof of police building nearly 47 years ago

 The Justice & Accountability Network, a team of lawyers, investigators and activists who worked with the State to re-open the inquest into the death in apartheid police custody of Ahmed Timol in October 1971, has learned that a warrant of arrest for murder and defeating the ends of justice has finally been issued for one of the former security policeman implicated in Timol’s killing.

Former security police sergeant Joao Anastacio “Jan” Roderiques, 80, is expected to appear in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court tomorrow.

It is the same court building in which, 46 years ago – six months after Timol’s death – Roderiques told the apartheid magistrate presiding at Timol’s inquest that he saw the detainee commit suicide.

The inquest magistrate accepted Roderiques evidence that he was alone with Timol in a 10th floor interrogation room at the security police’s Johannesburg headquarters when Timol committed suicide by jumping out of the window.

But Roderiques’ version was unequivocally rejected by Judge Billy Mothle, who presided at the re-opened inquest last year. Judge Mothle replaced the 1972 court’s suicide finding with one of murder – recommending that Roderiques role in the matter be re-investigated with a view to prosecution.

“It is important that Mr Roderiques’ arraignment is placed in its correct context,” said Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights, Ms Yasmin Sooka.

“Nearly 20 years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report recommended approximately 300 cases for further investigation and, potentially, prosecution. These were cases in which perpetrators of apartheid era crimes – and those who gave the orders – were refused amnesty or chose not to take advantage of the country’s generous amnesty provisions. The TRC was a foundational component of post-apartheid South Africa’s restorative justice process. By failing to conduct follow-through investigations the State effectively shut down the process, failing victims and their families.

“This is just the second of those 300 cases to be brought to court. In the first matter, that of the murder of Nokuthula Simelane in 1983, four serving and former policemen were arrested in 2016 – but the trial has since been delayed as the police tried, ultimately unsuccessfully, to avoid having to pay the costs of defending former members, arguing that that they were on a private frolic and not part of the former state’s death squads ” Ms Sooka said.

The head of the National Prosecutions Authority, Shaun Abrahams, told media assembled at parliament in May that the NPA was prioritising the investigation of approximately 15 other deaths of anti-apartheid activists with a view to possible prosecutions.

* The Foundation for Human Rights is coordinating the Justice & Accountability Network which seeks to contribute to justice and accountability in the post-TRC environment. The group includes representatives of the Legal Resources Centre, Khulumani Support Group, Moray Hawthorn of the law firm Webber Wentzel, internationally-renowned detective Frank Dutton, Advocate Howard Varney and Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Cajee. The group is presently working on, among other cases, the alleged “suicides” in police custody of Neil Aggett, Mathews Mabelane, Hoosen Haffejee and Babla Saloojee, and the alleged “natural” deaths of Nicodemus Kgoathe, Solomon Modipane and Jacob Monnokgotla.


Distributed on behalf of the Foundation for Human Rights for the Justice & Accountability Network by Oryx Media (Benny Gool 082 5566 556 or Roger Friedman 079 8966 899).