Ap­plause, and a tear from Bi­zos, greet rul­ing that ac­tivist was mur­dered while in de­ten­tion

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - ZELDA VENTER zelda.venter@inl.co.za

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 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 in the Gauteng High Court, Pre­to­ria.

Ahmed Ti­mol.

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