‘Activist would never have taken his life’
FORMER minister in the Presidency and Struggle veteran, Essop Pahad, told the high court in Pretoria that Ahmed Timol would not have committed suicide.
Besides it not being in his nature, it was against Islam and he was a man who was very much in love at the time.
Pahad yesterday took the stand in the second leg of the inquest into Timol’s death in 1971. The political activist was killed when he fell out of a 10th-storey window of the notorious John Vorster Square in Joburg.
While police maintained it was suicide – a finding made by a magistrate following an inquest – his family insisted on having it re-opened as they did not believe it.
This sentiment was shared by Pahad, who said he and Timol were very close friends. Pahad told Judge Billy Mothle that Timol joined him while he was in exile in the UK. Timol was called back to South Africa by the SACP. This was shortly before his arrest and his death.
Pahad said on the last occasion he saw Timol, they spoke about the possibility and the dangers of being arrested.
“At that time, we had information about others who were arrested and tortured by members of Security Branch… I told him it is not traitorous to break under torture.”
Pahad said Timol was also aware that he could go to jail for a long time over his political activities. “He was not at all scared to face a long prison term.”
Pahad said apart from suicide being against Timol’s religion, he also fell in love at the time with Ruth Longoni, who remained in London when Timol returned to South Africa.
“She could not join him because of the Immorality Act in South Africa, but she always believed he would come back to her.”
Pahad also rejected a document purported to have been issued by the SACP, in which it urged its members who were interrogated and tortured, to commit suicide. He called the document a fabrication and an attempt by the police to exonerate themselves.
Medical and trauma expert Prof Kenneth Boffard testified that Timol suffered life-threatening injuries when he fell out of the window. Apart from a skull fracture, he also suffered, among others, a spinal injury and a fractured upper leg and arm.
He obtained this information after he studied the post-mortem report on Timol’s death.
According to Boffard, there were several bruises on Timol’s body and an orbital injury, which appeared to have been there before his fall.
He said the police should have never moved Timol when they found him in the garden of John Vorster Square, after the fall. According to him, it was standard practice not to move a patient with such serious injuries until an ambulance had arrived, as this could worsen the patient’s condition.
He also frowned upon the fact that the police immediately removed the then stillbreathing Timol from where he was lying outside the building. He said he was very surprised that Timol was moved, as the police were usually reluctant to move a patient because they could be held liable if anything went wrong.
The inquest is proceeding, with two forensic pathologists expected to testify today.
It was against Islam and he was in love at the time
ATTENDING PROCEEDINGS: Ahmed Timol’s brother Mohammad Timol, left, with his nephew, Ahmed Cajee, in court.