Se­cu­rity cops called shots in Ti­mol in­quest

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - KHAYA KOKO khaya.koko@inl.co.za

APARTHEID’S se­cu­rity po­lice were a law unto them­selves, who got mag­is­trates, pros­e­cu­tors and se­nior pros­e­cu­tors to help them con­ceal their evil deeds – go­ing as far as fab­ri­cat­ing ev­i­dence.

These were the scathing views of hu­man rights lawyer Ge­orge Bi­zos, who de­scribed what he felt was a cover-up by the apartheid state in hid­ing the facts sur­round­ing ac­tivist Ahmed Ti­mol’s death in Oc­to­ber 1971.

The renowned lawyer rep­re­sented the Ti­mol fam­ily along­side leg­endary hu­man rights lawyer Issy Maisels in the 1972 in­quest.

Bi­zos was tes­ti­fy­ing at the re­opened in­quest into Ti­mol’s death in the Gaut­eng High Court, Jo­han­nes­burg, yes­ter­day.

The case was brought by the late ac­tivist’s fam­ily in a bid to over­turn the June 1972 in­quest rul­ing by mag­is­trate JL de Vil­liers, that Ti­mol had com­mit­ted sui­cide by jump­ing from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square, which is to­day known as the Jo­han­nes­burg Cen­tral po­lice sta­tion.

A bone of con­tention for Bi­zos was an “in­vented” doc­u­ment by the apartheid po­lice, “Inku­l­uleko Free­dom, Fe­bru­ary 1972, No 2”, which he said he and Maisels re­ceived from the po­lice’s lawyer Fanie de Vil­liers. The doc­u­ment ap­peared to have been writ­ten by the SA Com­mu­nist Party and im­plored com­rades to “rather com­mit sui­cide than be­tray the or­gan­i­sa­tion”.

Bi­zos told the court yes­ter­day that the doc­u­ment was not part of the for­mal ex­hibit list. “The mag­is­trate read­ily used it (the doc­u­ment) to base his find­ing that there was a po­lit­i­cal mo­tive of com­mu­nist ide­ol­ogy be­hind Ti­mol’s sup­posed sui­cide… I have no doubt that this doc­u­ment was fab­ri­cated by the po­lice for the con­sump­tion of the court,” he said.

De Vil­liers said at the time in his find­ings that Ti­mol was in­volved in dis­tribut­ing this doc­u­ment but Bi­zos re­jected the find­ings, as­sert­ing: “Un­less this date (Fe­bru­ary 1972) is in­cor­rect, then it ap­pears that this doc­u­ment was only pub­lished months af­ter Ti­mol’s death, which means he ob­vi­ously had no sight of it let alone be­ing in­volved in its dis­tri­bu­tion.

“This is an in­di­ca­tion of the care­less­ness, or worse, of the mag­is­trate.”

The Ti­mol fam­ily’s ad­vo­cate. Howard Var­ney, told the court that the non-in­clu­sion of this doc­u­ment meant Bi­zos and Maisels “were de­prived an op­por­tu­nity to ask ques­tions in re­la­tion to this doc­u­ment”.

Var­ney asked Bi­zos to com­ment on his view, to which he re­sponded: “Well, I can only say that, un­for­tu­nately, the se­cu­rity po­lice were a law unto them­selves. They de­cided which mag­is­trate would take which case. Un­for­tu­nately, there were se­cu­rity po­lice­men, there were pros­e­cu­tors, there were se­nior pros­e­cu­tors that did the bid­ding of the se­cu­rity po­lice.”

Bi­zos said the po­lice’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Cil­liers, had told him and Maisels that he would not use this doc­u­ment as it was “defam­a­tory in re­spect of Maisels, my­self and oth­ers”, and was sur­prised when the mag­is­trate re­lied on it.

“We thought the doc­u­ment would, at least, be shelved when Fanie said he was not pre­pared to use it. We be­lieved there would be suf­fi­cient hu­man­ity to tear it up or put it away – not be handed over to the mag­is­trate be­hind our back.

“What sort of mag­is­trate takes into con­sid­er­a­tion in his judg­ment a doc­u­ment that was not placed be­fore him?” Bi­zos asked.

Ti­mol was ar­rested with his friend Dr Salim Es­sop in Oc­to­ber 1971.

The in­quest con­tin­ues to­day.

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