Timol’s death inquest reopened
Inquest into apartheid-era activist’s death reopened due to new evidence five decades after his detention in 1971
ALMOST five decades after anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol’s death in detention in 1971, his family’s struggle to find the truth has reached fruition with South Gauteng High Court judge president Billy Mothle set to oversee the reopening of the inquest into his death.
The inquest will be heard on three dates after pending for 45 years. It will begin on June 26 and run until June 30, then resume on July 24 until August 4, with the final dates on August 10 and 11.
Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, who has been waging a battle to find the truth, said: “Our immediate priority is to have the apartheid- era inquest finding of nobody to blame, reversed.”
A private investigation on behalf of the Timol family presented evidence to the National Prosecuting Authority ( NPA) in January 2016.
They argued that apartheid- era magistrate JJL de Villiers had erred in his findings and provided compelling evidence to the NPA necessitating the reopening of the inquest in the interest of justice.
De Villiers concluded during the original Timol inquest in 1972 that he was not tortured during his detention, the security branch officers were credible witnesses and that the detainee had committed suicide. He found nobody responsible for Timol’s death.
Timol’s family members and close friends never believed that he had committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square police station during his interrogation by security police.
They believed that Timol was either tortured to death and thrown from the building or pushed. They remained convinced that the inquest was a coverup. Timol was the 22nd person to die in police custody under apartheid and many more were to follow.
Cajee said he would provide pertinent details surrounding the arrest, detention and death of his uncle in the second edition of his book, Timol: The Elusive Truth, which he intends to publish.
“Our immediate priority is to have the finding of ‘nobody to blame’ reversed. My grandmother was humiliated by magistrate De Villiers and branded a liar when she testified how a security branch officer told her that she had not given her son a hiding when growing up and that they were going to do this for her.
My grandmother has since died but she will be smiling at the news of the reopening of the inquest,” Cajee said.
Timol was a teacher, a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and anti-apartheid activist.
The SACP has welcomed the reopening of the inquest, saying it needed to be thoroughly investigated.
“This will help assist with getting closure. The whole history of apartheid must be uncovered fully and steps be taken as there are cases which have not been unearthed at all,” spokesperson Alex Mashilo said.
Others who died in detention were Dr Neil Aggett, Wellington Tshazibane, Elmon Malele, Matthews Mabalena, Ernest Dipale, Clayton Sizwe Sithole and Stanza Bopape.
FINDING TRUTH: Judge president Billy Mothle of the Joburg high court will oversee the reopening of the case of Ahmed Timol’s death in detention.