26 OCTOBER 2020


On 27 October 1971, Ahmed Timol (3 November 1941 – 27 October 1971), who was detained five days earlier by the apartheid regime, was flung to his death from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square Police station (now Johannesburg Central Police Station). 

A school teacher who taught in Roodepoort, Timol from an early age registered his rejection of the evil system of apartheid through his activism. He left the country in 1966, and joined Umkhonto we Sizwe and the SACP. After military and political training, he returned to South Africa in 1970 to set up underground structures of the ANC and SACP.  Ahmed Timol was arrested a year later with student, Saleem Essop, severely tortured, until his brutal killing on 27 October 1971, seven days before his 30th birthday. 

The regime claimed he committed suicide, but all evidence pointed to the contrary, and his case served before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996. Timol’s case was one of the 350-odd cases, where perpetrators did not come forward, withheld the truth and/or were refused amnesty, handed over to the Justice Ministry for prosecution in 2003.

In October 2016, the Minister of Justice re-opened the inquest into Timol’s murder and in October of the next year, Judge Billy Mothle reversed the findings of the 1972 apartheid inquest, that claimed Timol committed suicide.  The Judge ordered that security branch member Joao Rodrigues be prosecuted for the murder; and that the National Prosecuting Authority also consider charging fellow policemen, Neville Els and Seth Sons, for perjury.

Rodrigues is now trying to escape prosecution, petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal to revisit the ruling of the full bench of the South Gauteng High Court in June 2019 that dismissed his 342 (A) Application for a permanent stay of prosecution. The case will be heard on 6 November 2020.

The ANC rejects with contempt the machinations by Rodrigues and others to try and escape accountability for their heinous deeds, trying to gain blanket amnesty for their crimes against humanity.
The ANC recalls the citation by President Cyril Ramaphosa when Ahmed Timol was awarded the highest honour as a patriot on January 8, 2019: “His torturer is to stand trial for his murder 49 years after it was committed.  (Timol) speaks even in his death to defend the right to truth and justice.”

Forty-nine years after the brutal murder of the 29 year old Ahmed Timol, we remain resolute that justice for Timol and others must be done. It is for this reason that the ANC joined hands with the Foundation for Human Rights and families of apartheid era victims – like the Timol, Stanza Bopape, Nokuthula Simelane and The Cradock Four families – who are still yearning for justice and closure.

A joint committee chaired by ANC Deputy Secretary Jessie Duarte has been formed to investigate and develop a plan of action – working with the Minister of Justice – to ensure justice for the families of the victims of apartheid-era crimes, including crimes against humanity, which are still unresolved. 

In 2019, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, formally requested Judge Presidents of the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal Divisions of the High Court to each designate a judge to re-open the inquests in relation to the deaths in detention of anti-apartheid activists, Drs Neil Aggett and Hoosen Haffejee. 

The ANC is also writing to  the National Democratic Lawyers Association (NADEL), Advocates for Transformation, the Pan African Bar Association and Black Lawyers Association in order to make their members available to help with investigations and prosecutions of these 350 cases expeditiously in order to give families justice and closure.

The ANC supports the statement by Minister Lamola, when he said: “It is of paramount importance to society that justice is not seen as a mythical concept, but it must be seen to be done. Conceivably, this principle becomes more pronounced where the families of apartheid era victims are concerned. As the Ministry, we will be looking into TRC Cases which fall under this category, to ensure that justice fully manifests itself.”

As we commemorate 49 years after the brutal death of our patriot and Isithwalandwe, Ahmed Timol, the ANC calls on its government to expedite the ratification of The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) that declared Apartheid as a Crime Against Humanity, as resolved at its recent NEC Lekgotla in October 2020. The ratification of the Convention will allow for prosecution of these outstanding apartheid-era crimes against humanity under national as well as international laws to ensure justice is done.   

27 October is the commemoration of the murder of Cde Ahmed Timol, but is also the anniversary of the birth of another great South African, Oliver Reginald Tambo.  As we celebrate the lives of these two patriots on 27 October, we recall the words of OR Tambo in 1981 when he said:
“The inhuman apartheid system relies on fascist methods for its doomed survival. … as members of the African National Congress and Umkhonto we Sizwe (we) stand for social justice, for an end to… exploitation…, for the national and social emancipation of the people of South Africa; (we) represent the aspirations of the oppressed and exploited majority; we fight for a liberated, democratic and non-racial South Africa and for peace in our country and beyond its borders. In the pursuit of these noble goals, (we) march shoulder to shoulder with the peoples of the progressive world.”



Pule Mabe
National Spokesperson
071 623 4975