Rodrigues at Jhb. Central Police Station on 30 July 2018. Courtesy of Oryx Media


30 July 2020 marks exactly two years since the first court appearance of apartheid-era security branch police officer Joao Rodrigues for his role in the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol. The re-opened 2017 inquest into the death of Timol culminated in the reversal of the 1972 inquest finding that Timol had committed suicide. Judge Billy Mothle who presided over the historic inquest found that Timol had been murdered in police detention

Rodrigues has made numerous court appearances and his criminal trial is yet to commence. His legal team have petitioned the Supreme court of Appeal(SCA) in Bloemfontein to revisit the decision of the Full Bench of the South Gauteng High court, which in June 2019, dismissed his Section 342A application for a permanent stay of prosecution. The respondents in the SCA matter have filed heads of argument. A date is now expected to be set for, if necessary, oral argument. 

Two other security branch police officers, Neville Els and Seth Sons, also came under scrutiny at the 2017 Timol Inquest. Mothle had recommended that they be investigated for perjury for their evidence at the inquest in 2017. After inquest proceedings were referred to the National Prosecuting Authority for decision, they were let off the hook after the NPA declined to prosecute both Els and Sons. It took the NPA 30 months after the inquest to make this decision after Imtiaz Cajee, the nephew of Timol, persistently requested updates on the status of the matter. Webber Wentzel, the legal firm representing Cajee and the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) have made representations to the NPA to reverse their decisions. 

An application for the information pertaining to the total costs for legally representing Roderigues was made by Cajee to the Department of Justice and Correctional services (DOJ&CD) in May 2019 in terms of Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) revealed that a staggering R3 585, 205.92 (Three million five hundred and eighty five thousand, two hundred and five rands, and ninety two cents) of taxpayers money was made to counsel for Rodrigues, thus far. This pertained only to the inquest, criminal court remands and the permanent stay of prosecution. It should be noted that the State has not led a single witness yet.  In March 2020, Cajee lodged an internal PAIA appeal to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development requesting a full breakdown of the costs incurred. Despite repeated requests, a noteworthy response is yet to be received.