Ti­mol fam­ily push­ing hard for clo­sure

Bid to over­turn mag­is­trate’s 1971 rul­ing on son’s ‘sui­cide’

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - KHAYA KOKO @khayakoko88

AQUEST for clo­sure… that is the over­rid­ing theme for re­open­ing the in­quest into Ahmed Ti­mol’s mys­te­ri­ous death while in apartheid po­lice cus­tody in Oc­to­ber, 1971.

The in­quest, which be­gins on Mon­day at the high court in Joburg, seeks to over­turn a June 1972 rul­ing by Mag­is­trate JL de Vil­liers, who ruled that Ti­mol had com­mit­ted sui­cide by jump­ing out of the 10th floor of the no­to­ri­ous John Vorster Square build­ing – cur­rently known as Johannesburg Po­lice Sta­tion.

Ti­mol was ar­rested in 1971 with his friend Salim Es­sop, a com­rade in the SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP), af­ter be­ing caught with banned SACP and ANC lit­er­a­ture in the car in which they were trav­el­ling.

Ac­cord­ing to Ti­mol’s fam­ily, a burial su­per­vi­sor em­ployed by the Cen­tral Is­lamic Trust, Mo­hamed Khan, who ex­am­ined Ti­mol af­ter his death, found that one of Ti­mol’s eyes was out of its socket.

His body had blue marks, his fin­ger­nails had been re­moved and he had burn marks all over him as a re­sult of shock treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to Khan.

Khan’s ob­ser­va­tions were ex­cluded in De Vil­liers’s rul­ing, which is what the Ti­mol fam­ily seek to over­turn in their search for clo­sure.

Speak­ing to The Star yes­ter­day, Ti­mol’s ma­ter­nal nephew, Im­tiaz Ca­jee, said the fam­ily also hoped to re­store the dig­nity of Ti­mol’s par­ents, whom he said were hu­mil­i­ated by apartheid se­cu­rity forces be­fore and af­ter his un­cle’s death.

“So, it is a very sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone, not just for the Ti­mol fam­ily, but also giv­ing hope to other fam­i­lies in the coun­try who have lost loved ones through the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice (death) that there is some hope,” Ca­jee said.

Tes­ti­fy­ing at the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion, Ti­mol’s mother, Hawa Ti­mol, de­scribed how she found out her son had died:

“Three po­lice­men (who iden­ti­fied them­selves as se­cu­rity branch) came and en­tered our house.

“One of them pushed me into a seat and pro­ceeded to tell me my son had tried to es­cape by jump­ing out of the 10th floor of John Vorster Square, and that I was to tell my hus­band that his body was ly­ing in the Hill­brow gov­ern­ment mor­tu­ary.”

Ca­jee thanked the Foun­da­tion for Hu­man Rights, which he said had played a key role in as­sist­ing the fam­ily re­open the in­quest, say­ing he would also as­sist other fam­i­lies seek­ing clo­sure for their loved ones’ mys­te­ri­ous deaths and dis­ap­pear­ances as soon as his un­cle’s case was con­cluded.

Foun­da­tion chair­per­son Yas­min Sooka said three in­ves­ti­ga­tors – in­clud­ing Frank Dut­ton, who was part of the dis­banded Scor­pi­ons – were em­ployed to col­late ev­i­dence that was ex­pected to be led at the re­opened in­quest.

She con­ceded that it was dif­fi­cult to raise fund­ing for the in­ves­ti­ga­tors, but added: “The mo­ment we con­clude the Ti­mol in­quest, we are go­ing to launch a mas­sive hunt for fund­ing to take the other cases for­ward.”

SACP spokesper­son Alex Mashilo said the apartheid regime was re­spon­si­ble for a num­ber of sim­i­lar deaths and un­ex­plained dis­ap­pear­ances.

“So, it is im­por­tant that the whole coun­try finds clo­sure, and the re­open­ing of this in­quest will con­trib­ute to­wards that clo­sure, par­tic­u­larly if the in­quest be­comes suc­cess­ful.”

Judge Billy Mothle will over­see the re­opened in­quest. The fi­nal dates will be Au­gust 10 and 11.


UN­RE­SOLVED: Ahmed Ti­mol was a young school­teacher in Rood­e­poort who op­posed apartheid. He was ar­rested at a po­lice road­block on Oc­to­ber 22, 1971, and died five days later. He be­came the 22nd po­lit­i­cal de­tainee to die in de­ten­tion since 1960.

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