Timol: truth at last
Applause greets ruling on murder
THE historic verdict that anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol did not commit suicide, but was in fact murdered, was met with spontaneous clapping by the packed courtroom.
Advocate George Bizos, 89, the only person in court who 45 years ago – in 1972 – attended the original inquest, shed a tear.
He was at the time part of the team which represented the Timol family in their quest to find the truth. An emotional Bizos yesterday thanked Judge Billy Mothle for bringing back the truth.
He said many others had died in South Africa under suspicious circumstances while in detention under the apartheid regime. “I hope what had happened here today (yesterday) will also happen for them.”
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) promised it would do all it could to assist others in the same position as the Timol family to find justice.
“The NPA will ensure that all matters which are not resolved are resolved,” spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said.
He said the NPA would give its assistance to other families who were still seeking closure after evidence had been gathered in their cases, and it was decided that there was enough evidence to reopen the inquest.
“The NPA is pleased with the outcome of the inquest. It is a historical one. It has never happened in the past. When the (Timol) family approached the prosecution authority for the first time, we indicated that we will ensure that these matters are resolved.”
He said the NPA from the start indicated that the investigating officer had to investigate these matters and gather evidence, so that the families could get closure.
Mfaku said the order of the judge was clear in this case, that there must be an investigation and possible prosecution.
“But the findings were made on a balance of probabilities and it must be thoroughly investigated so that, when we get to a court of law, we could prove our case beyond any doubt.”
Many, such as the family of Steve Biko and Matthews Mabelane, are now pinning their hopes on this judgment.
It was found at the time that Mabelane had also jumped out of the 10th floor of the notorious John Vorster Square police station – now Joburg Central – in 1977.
His brother, Lasch Mabelane, was 24 at the time. The now older man attended yesterday’s proceedings and said the Timol verdict gave them renewed hope.
“We need closure. As fast as possible. The claim that Matthews fell from the 10th floor was a blatant lie.”
Biko’s eldest son, Nkosinathi Biko, was also in court and he said they, too, would like to see his inquest reopened. He said the fact that there was nobody to blame for what happened to Biko and others in his position should “haunt” the nation. “As the family of Steve Biko we have walked the path. It was a long journey and one we will see to the end.”
Thoko Mpumlwana, of the Foundation for Human Rights, expressed her hope that other families, such as those of Biko and Mabelane, would one day find out the real truth.
“It is not so much about prosecution; it is about the truth,” she said. “This is part of an ongoing journey. This is not the end.”
An elated Imtiaz Cajee said this was the first time in 46 years that they could say his uncle was killed while in detention and that he did not commit suicide.
He said this leg of the journey had come to an end, but it was far from over, as many more have to get closure.
Cajee said he was grateful that Bizos’s life had been spared for him to see this moment.
SACP second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila, who also attended, said the judgment was an affirmation of the truth that the party had always believed.
Judge Billy Mothle delivers judgment in the inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol (inset) in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.