Thirty months have elapsed since Judge Billy Mothle ruled on 12 October 2017 that Ahmed Timol’s was murdered and that Neville Els and Seth Sons both be investigated for misleading the court and charged with perjury. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has now advised that it does not intend to pursue charges against the two Security Branch police officers despite Judge Mothle’s ruling.
Correspondence received from the NPA Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) North Gauteng cites the failure of the presiding officer to place Sons under oath timeously, prescription of assault charges, the denial by Sons and Els of knowledge of assaults, the age of the suspects and the lapse of time as the reasons for declining to prosecute Sons and Els.
The decision is bizarre as Judge Mothle found that police records conclusively reflected that Els was present when Professor Kantilal Naik, a fellow detainee was subjected to the “helicopter” method of interrogation, after which he subsequently lost use of his hands. Els and Sons were both found to have lied under oath indicating that they had no knowledge of the torture of detainees and had only learnt of the assaults from reports in the media. Five witnesses subsequently came forward after Sons’s testimony and filed affidavits to the effect that they too had been assaulted by Sons.
Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee has since 2017 been following up with the NPA on the investigation into the criminal cases that were registered. He adds” I have been provided with many different reasons as to why it took thirty months to investigate both these matters: initially I was informed that it was due to ‘internal processes’. Then I was told that it had been forwarded to Adv Chauke, DPP South Gauteng. Then it was forwarded to Adv George Baloyi, DPP North Gauteng. Advocates Sibongile Mzinyathi, Andrea Johnson, Chris Macadam and Torie Pretorius have all been mentioned in subsequent electronic communications. At one stage I was informed by the National Director of Public Prosecutions herself that the NPA were busy with a centralisation application in respective of incidents that transpired at John Vorster Square. All of the reasons cited are to be frank spurious and indicative of the lack of political will to do the right thing.
Joao Rodrigues, the police officer who by his own admission was the only person in the room with Timol on 27 October 1971 and the last person to see him alive has currently petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) for leave to appeal against the judgment of the full bench of the South Gauteng High Court that dismissed his application for a permanent stay of prosecution in his murder trial set to proceed in the Johannesburg High Court. Rodrigues’ next court appearance in his criminal case is Thursday, 28th May 2020. Rodrigues’ last court appearance for the criminal case was scheduled for the 28th May 2020 and has now been postponed to Friday, 31 July 2020.
“The decision by the NPA not to charge Sons and Els is deplorable and will inevitably deepen impunity for apartheid crimes in South Africa” said Cajee. He added, “families of victims will not rest until such time as we see the NPA and the South African state live up to its international and domestic obligations. Many other families believe that the NPA lacks political will to pursue these cases and would rather delay making decisions in the apartheid cases allowing many of the perpetrators to get away with it. Cajee notes with anger his frustration that once again the NPA has failed to take action at a time when Sons and Els are still alive, but unwilling to disclose the truth about their complicity in torture deepening the impunity for apartheid crimes. “Inevitably, the families of victims are in a race against time as family members age and pass on without learning the truth about the death of loved ones. This is a betrayal of those who gave us their lives for freedom” said Cajee.
Webber Wentzel’s Mr Moray Hathorn confirms that they have been notified by their client of the NPA’s decision to not prosecute Sons and Els. They are studying the correspondence and will decide on the way forward in due course. Mr Moray Hathorn is also the instructing attorney for other families including the family for Dr Neil Aggett whose re opened inquest is at present been heard.