Timol probe significant
THE Ahmed Timol inquest playing out in the Pretoria High Court this week makes for enthralling viewing and compelling reading – all the more so since it is about the murder of a South African patriot and hero 46 years ago.
Timol was a member of the SACP and uMkhonto weSizwe, arrested and interrogated by the apartheid regime’s notorious political police – the Security Branch.
Officers tortured him for information and then he managed to evade his tormentors and kill himself by falling 10 storeys to his death from the notorious John Vorster Police Station, today the Johannesburg Central Police Station.
At least that’s the official story. One that was accepted without a moment’s incredulity by the presiding magistrate, exonerating anyone involved.
Timol’s murder was, in Thabo Mbeki’s words, the high water mark for the apartheid regime and the lowest moment for the liberation movements – it was also a turning point in the Struggle against apartheid.
But that notwithstanding, his official cause of death though has never been contested – until now, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of his family to have a proper inquest conducted.
Today, 24 years after our democratic liberation, we are faced with the harrowing testimonies of that era. Tales of brutality so commonplace that it was effectively legitimated – a heart of darkness that continues to haunt us to this day.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission did much to create an environment conducive to us beginning to reconcile as a nation, but the reality is that much of our wounds have still not healed, the hurt remains, festering under the surface.
For true healing, the scabs must be ripped off, the raw wounds exposed to allow us all to peer in, take stock.
We need as a nation to truly understand what was done because only once we have done this can we see how the fruits of today’s bitter harvest have their seeds in those dark days of repression.
This is the importance of the Pretoria inquest. We hope that once more in death, Ahmed Timol can provide another critically important turning point – for us to finally start finding one another as a nation.