Three Years Delay since Historic Timol Ruling


2017 Timol verdict was to be an impetus for TRC cases

The delay in bringing Joao Rodrigues to trial is unconscionable and an affront to the family of Ahmed Timol and their 48 year struggle for justice in South Africa. It has been three years (12 October 2017) since Judge Billy Mothle overruled a 1972 inquest finding that Ahmed Timol had committed suicide by jumping to his death from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square Police Station (renamed Johannesburg Central Police Station). Joao Rodrigues is seeking to delay any reckoning in court for his actions and has now petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein 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 appeal is scheduled to be heard on Friday, 06 November 2020.

In an extraordinary move which threatens to embarrass the democratic state and the ruling party, Rodrigues’s legal team has argued that he received a blanket amnesty which precludes his prosecution for murder.

After listening to testimonies of witness contemporaries of the 29 year old Roodepoort teacher Ahmed Timol, two forensic pathologists and a trajectory specialist amongst other witnesses spanning over four months, Judge Mothle on this historic day, three years ago, ruled that Timol did not commit suicide by jumping to his death from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square police station in downtown Joburg but that
Timol was interrogated, tortured and murdered. 

The judge ordered that Joao “Jan” Rodrigues, a former Security Branch policeman who was the only person in the room at the time “Timol was pushed or thrown from the window,” be charged and referred the matter to the National Prosecuting Authority. He also added that charges be considered by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), against Security police officers Neville Els and Seth Sons for perjury. This judgement was a victory not only for the family of Ahmed Timol, but for the oppressed majority of South Africans including detainees, who were brutally detained, tortured, murdered and scarred for life by the racist apartheid regime. Many of them sat in the galley with local and international media celebrating this historic ruling.

Regrettably for the Timol family and numerous activists tortured during the years of apartheid, the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Pretoria, Adv. George Baloyi decided not to charge Els and Sons following a delay of more than two and a half years to come to a decision only because of the persistence of Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee. The reasons provided by Adv. George Baloyi are spurious in its claims that Els was not involved in the torture or abuse of any political detainees-this despite the detainee file of Professor Kantilal Naik confirming Els’s complicity as he was present when Naik was tortured. Els was also the subject of an investigation regarding serious allegations of assault, abuse and electrical shock treatment and even signed an undertaking relating to the provision of state legal representation on 25 November 1980. The legal firm Webber Wentzel representing Imtiaz Cajee, nephew of Ahmed Timol and the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) has made representation to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to reverse their decision to not prosecute Neville Els and Seth Sons for perjury committed in their testimony during the reopened Ahmed Timol inquest in 2017. (See Annexures: A – C2 and D – H).

In a devastating betrayal by the state of the families of victims, the state has not only funded the legal costs of Joao Rodrigues in an amount of R3 585, 205.92 covering the costs of a private attorney, junior and senior legal counsel but has refused to disclose how this amount is broken down citing privilege in their refusal to do so. Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee filed an appeal against the Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) ruling made by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola’s department.
Families have gathered under the banners of the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR), The South African Coalition for Transitional Justice (SACTJ) and the Apartheid-Era Victims Family Group (AVFG) and are all frustrated at the apathy displayed by the State in addressing TRC cases. The re-opening of inquests into the deaths of Dr Neil Aggett and Dr Hoosen Haffejee has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Alleged apartheid-era perpetrators in the Aggett and Haffejee matters have passed on. Many key family witnesses will also pass on as these matters grind on. Lukhanyo Calata, the son of the late Fort Calata, one of the Cradock Four, has been prevented from opening a criminal case in respect of the missing investigation docket, which disappeared from the offices of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) two or more years ago.

Correspondence from TRC Commissioners and the AVFG sent to President Ramaphosa to intervene and to establish judicial inquiry into lack of apartheid prosecutions has been met with a deafening silence.

A call is made to the ANC led government to intervene in these long outstanding TRC matters that will continue to haunt the democratically elected government to find truth and justice for many of its cadres killed by the apartheid regime.