Timol ‘an inspiration to freedom fighters’
MAKING another emotional return to the place where his uncle Ahmed Timol died tragically, Imtiaz Cajee is adamant about one thing: “My uncle is not a victim!”
Cajee was speaking to The Star yesterday on the 10th floor of the Johannesburg Central police station – formerly known as John Vorster Square – where Timol plunged 10 storeys in October 1971 while being held in detention by apartheid police.
Cajee was on an on-sight visit to the police station led by Judge J Mothle for the reopening of the inquest into his uncle’s death, which was ruled a suicide by magistrate JL de Villiers in June 1972.
Cajee contended that Timol and his friend Dr Salim Essop played a small but important role in trying to revive the anti-apartheid Struggle by distributing then banned SACP and ANC literature. Essop was arrested with Timol with the banned literature in a car in which they were travelling.
“They were not victims, but freedom fighters. The apartheid regime had thought they had crushed all forms of opposition following Sharpeville. And here comes a cell distributing political literature. If the security branch thought they had crushed all forms of opposition, they were mistaken because it (Timol’s death) inspired a new generation of freedom fighters,” Cajee stressed.
Essop was also at the on-sight visit, where he took the inquest’s presiding officer, Judge Mothle, to room 1013, where he said he was “brutally” tortured for roughly four days following his arrest, and room 1026, where Timol allegedly jumped to his death.
Essop also demonstrated to the judge what he said were Timol’s movements the last time he saw him alive.
He remembered seeing him dragging his feet past room 1013 with a hood over his head and two police officers on either side of him. Essop said his comrade had looked severely injured and in pain.
Cajee said it was painful to hear this, and painful to return to a building in which his uncle had been subject to such brutality.
“Every time one comes here, it doesn’t get any easier – it becomes more difficult and painful.”
PAC activist and former trade unionist Phillip Dhlamini revealed it was his sixth time at the police station – and the first without shackles.
Dhlamini said he was also familiar with the notorious vault in room 1013, which he said was referred to as Die Waarkamer (The Truth Room).
“There is the money bag, which they will put over your head and pour water over it,” he remembered.