Former apartheid police officer Joao Rodrigues is accused of being part of a group of policemen who murdered Ahmed Timol while he was in custody in 1971.
Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
By Zelda Venter Jul 9, 2021
Pretoria – Family members of the Struggle stalwart Ahmed Timol said they were worried about claims the man charged with his murder was of ill health.
Apartheid-era police officer João Rodrigues is turning to the Constitutional Court in a final bid not to be prosecuted for the murder of Timol nearly 50 years ago.
Rodrigues’s attorney, Ben Minnaar, said in an affidavit to the Constitutional Court, that his client, who is in his eighties, suffered from continuous ill health and fading memory.
He said Rodrigues suffered a stroke in April and that a blood clot went through his brain. This had cut his blood supply.
However, speaking for the Timol family, Imtiaz Cajee told the Pretoria News that he was anxious for Rodrigues, one of the apartheid-era policemen allegedly responsible for the death of his uncle decades ago, to be brought to book.
“We are worried about the allegations made by Rodrigues’s attorney that he is not well and that his memory is fading. That is a clear sign that he does not want to face the court.”
Cajee said Rodrigues’s trial had been dragging for almost three years now. He is due to again appear in the Johannesburg High Court on Monday, but in light of his Concourt application, it is likely that the case will yet again be postponed.
It will be his 19th court appearance.
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) last month dismissed an appeal by Rodrigues in which he asked for a stay of prosecution.
The issue before the SCA was whether a lengthy delay in commencing criminal prosecution of charges, including murder, allegedly caused by political interference, caused him prejudice and justified a permanent stay of prosecution.
According to Rodrigues, he was being prosecuted for an improper motive, which included political interference.
The murder charge relates to the death of Timol at the then notorious John Vorster Square police station in October 1971.
The Supreme Court judges said there was simply no evidence showing how political interference had an impact on factors relating to whether the substantial fairness of the trial was tainted and ordered that he had to face his trial.
Minnaar, meanwhile, said in his application for leave to appeal the Supreme Court judgment, that Rodrigues subsequent to the April stroke, also had suffered several minor strokes.
“He is not fit to leave his home on his own and unaccompanied in fear that he may not return because of failing memory,” Minnaar said.
He stated that his client was never involved in the interrogation or assault of Timol, or in any of the events which led to his death when he fell from the 10th floor of the John Vorster Square building.
Minnaar said an inquest held in 1972 found that it was suicide and that no one was responsible for his death.
He said Rodrigues was only informed 20 years later of the new inquest into Timol’s death and that he would have to testify.
Minnaar maintained that his client’s prosecution 47 years after Timol’s death infringed his right to a fair trial.
According to him, the Supreme Court misdirected itself in a number of its findings against Rodrigues, and that it was of the utmost importance that the apex court ruled on this case to obtain clarity, as a variety of similar apartheid-era cases were likely to follow.