Timol was pushed to his death, judge rules
THE Pretoria High Court has pointed out key lessons for a democratic South Africa‚ drawn from the reopened inquest into the death of activist Ahmed Timol at the hands of the apartheid police.
Judge Billy Mothle yesterday found that the initial 1972 inquest‚ which accepted that Timol committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of the notorious John Vorster Square in Johannesburg‚ was part of a cover-up on the real cause of death‚ which was murder. He said all branches of the state should ensure that the constitutional boundaries set on respect for human rights and dignity should never be crossed.
He said one of the lessons from this reopened inquest was that the reopening came so late that most of the members of the Security Branch involved Timol’s death and the investigation of it had died.
Mothle lamented that the court had to deal with the mysterious disappearance of part of the 1972 inquest record dealing with the evidence of the police officials‚ in particular page 3 of the affidavit of former apartheid police sergeant Joao Rodrigues.
The judge said this piece of evidence‚ according to the 1972 inquest magistrate’s judgment‚ explained how Timol fell.
“Consequently‚ the key police witnesses who would have been called to testify again in regard to the events preceding the fall were not available.
“It is therefore important for the future that the state ensures that the records of inquests are preserved‚ considering the fact that the [Inquest] Act provides for reopening without any limitation as to time‚” Mothle said, adding the inquest also revealed there were at least 65 more families seeking answers to questions on the demise of their loved ones in detention.
He said these families needed healing and closure‚ and it was the court’s view that these families – particularly where the original inquest ruled the cause of death in detention was suicide – should be assisted to gather information for the inquest to be reopened.
“The Human Right Commission‚ working in consultation with the law enforcement agencies‚ should be sufficiently resourced to take on this task‚” the judge said.
Mothle found Timol was pushed from the 10th floor or roof of the building with a clear intention to murder him, and that there was prima facie evidence implicating apartheid police captains Hans Gloy and Faan van Niekerk. The judge said the duo were “on duty and interrogating Timol at the time”.
“Rodrigues‚ in his own version‚ participated in the cover-up to conceal the crime of murder as an accessory after the fact‚ and went on to commit perjury by presenting contradictory evidence before the 1972 and 2017 inquests. He should accordingly be investigated with a view to his prosecution.” — DDC