Ti­mol in­quest will set a prece­dent

Cape Times - - NEWS - Ti­mol Fam­ily State­ment

LAST month South Africa com­mem­o­rated the killing in de­ten­tion of anti-apartheid ac­tivists, Babla Saloo­jee (1964), Imam Haron (1969) and Steve Biko (1977).

They, and Ahmed Ti­mol, were among at least 73 po­lit­i­cal de­tainees who died while in the hands of the po­lice be­tween 1963 and 1990. No­body has ever been held re­spon­si­ble for any of those deaths.

In most in­stances, in­quests did not take place. Deaths of po­lit­i­cal de­tainees were recorded as ac­ci­dents or sui­cides, post-mortem ex­am­i­na­tions went un­recorded – if they were held – and the bod­ies were buried as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Although the Ti­mol fam­ily never doubted that Un­cle Ahmed was mur­dered by the po­lice, and that the in­quest was a cover-up, the fact that an in­quest took place in 1972 iron­i­cally pro­vided the spine of ev­i­dence needed to re­open the in­quest 45 years later. It was a fa­tal flaw in the cover-up. With­out the med­i­cal records, for ex­am­ple, it would have been very dif­fi­cult to per­suade the NPA to re­open the case. This will present a le­gal chal­lenge for the fam­i­lies of those for whom med­i­cal records do not ex­ist or have been de­stroyed. My plea to all South Africans is not to for­get that there are many fam­i­lies through­out the coun­try whose losses of loved ones at the hands of apartheid have never been ad­e­quately, if at all, ac­knowl­edged. The Ti­mol fam­ily urges the Na­tional Di­rec­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions and NPA to re­open all cases re­lat­ing to the killing of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists, not only those killed in po­lice de­ten­tion. We would like to view the re­opened Ti­mol in­quest as a be­gin­ning, not an end.

I’d like to speak to our mo­ti­va­tion for pur­su­ing this ac­tion. We are a pa­tri­otic fam­ily liv­ing in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety that Un­cle Ahmed fought for, and for which he ul­ti­mately paid the high­est sac­ri­fice. When my grand­mother, Un­cle Ahmed’s mother, Mrs Hawa Ti­mol – whom we called “Ma” – gave ev­i­dence to the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion 21 years ago, she made it very clear that what she sought was a re­vi­sion of the of­fi­cial record that stated Un­cle Ahmed com­mit­ted sui­cide. My grand­fa­ther Mr Ha­jee Ti­mol – “Papa” – had al­ways been very clear that the fam­ily would not pur­sue a civil claim as it did not want to re­ceive blood money. We who have sur­vived Ma and Papa have tried to be faith­ful to their pur­suit of the truth. We have never sought vengeance, and when­ever I have ap­proached for­mer mem­bers of the se­cu­rity po­lice in­volved in Un­cle Ahmed’s in­ter­ro­ga­tion, I have al­ways done so – ex­plic­itly – in the spirit of truth and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Hav­ing said that, the fam­ily was bit­terly dis­ap­pointed by the tes­ti­monies of for­mer se­cu­rity po­lice­men Els, Ro­drigues and Sons. It was our hope that they would break cover and tell the truth about what hap­pened to Un­cle Ahmed.

By stick­ing to their ver­sions of not hav­ing ever wit­nessed tor­ture, and only read­ing about in in the press, they lost an op­por­tu­nity – not only for them­selves, but also to con­trib­ute to South Africa’s greater rec­on­cil­i­a­tion project. They might have set a prece­dent for other se­cu­rity po­lice of­fi­cers to as­sist other fam­i­lies to find an­swers about their loved ones.

Those for­mer se­cu­rity po­lice of­fi­cials who choose to con­tinue to sub­vert the truth and evade the law should be pros­e­cuted, re­gard­less of their age. The hunt for Nazi per­pe­tra­tors of the Holo­caust con­tin­ues.

I would like to pay a spe­cial trib­ute to my Un­cle Mo­ham­mad Ti­mol, Un­cle Ahmed’s brother. Many peo­ple who lived through the pain that Un­cle Mo­ham­mad did, not only his own pain but also that of his par­ents, would have ex­hib­ited some bit­ter­ness. But Un­cle Mo­ham­mad never did. He couldn’t at­tend the fu­neral, be­cause he was in de­ten­tion, him­self, but he did at­tend the en­tire sham in­quest in 1972 along with his par­ents. Can you imag­ine the heart­break, six months after the loss of your son and brother, of hav­ing to sit through one Se­cu­rity Branch po­lice­man after an­other cor­rob­o­rat­ing a pack of lies about the cir­cum­stances of his death? The agony of hav­ing to lis­ten to the apartheid mag­is­trate brand Ma a liar… of wit­ness­ing the ef­fects of the loss on Papa’s health… of bury­ing Ma be­fore this mat­ter could be set­tled? Un­cle Mo­ham­mad has at­tended every day of the re­opened in­quest.

Forty-five years have passed since mag­is­trate JL de Vil­liers’ in­sult­ing rul­ing. It has been a long, up­hill strug­gle, but 23 years into our democ­racy, the true cir­cum­stances of Ahmed Ti­mol’s death have fi­nally been ven­ti­lated, and the of­fi­cial record re­vised. I wish to thank Mr Jus­tice Billy Mothle, not for his rul­ing, but for the man­ner in which he con­ducted the pro­ceed­ings. Above his knowl­edge of the law he showed the com­pas­sion­ate face of jus­tice; the fam­ily was never in any doubt that the mat­ter was in good hands. Ma and Papa (their souls can now rest in peace) are un­doubt­edly smil­ing from the heav­ens.

There are many in­di­vid­u­als, or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­sti­tu­tions I would like to thank for as­sist­ing to re­open the in­quest. They in­clude the FHR, LRC, WW, and the for­mer de­tainees and ex­pert wit­nesses who tes­ti­fied.

I wish to thank the me­dia, past and present, for its ster­ling cov­er­age of Un­cle Ahmed’s death. The cov­er­age that jour­nal­ists – lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally – gave the case in 1971 pres­sured the apartheid regime into con­duct­ing an in­quest. You lot have been fan­tas­tic in your follow-through. Fi­nally, the in­quest find­ing con­cludes an im­por­tant as­pect of our jour­ney, but the jour­ney, it­self, con­tin­ues. There are other fam­i­lies seek­ing clo­sure who could do with our as­sis­tance. There is an ex­hi­bi­tion on Un­cle Ahmed’s life and death to be up­dated (fund­ing please!) – and in­ves­ti­ga­tions and con­clu­sions to be fi­nalised ahead of the pub­li­ca­tion of the sec­ond edi­tion of my book on Un­cle Ahmed.

Thank you, once again.

We would like to view the re­opened Ti­mol in­quest as a be­gin­ning

Pic­ture: Ahmed Ti­mol Fam­ily Trust

HIS­TORIC: Thou­sands of peo­ple at­tended the fu­neral ser­vice of po­lit­i­cal de­tainee Ahmed Ti­mol, who was killed on the morn­ing of Oc­to­ber 27, 1971.

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