Painful day for Timol family
TODAY is expected to be a particularly harrowing day for the family of Ahmed Timol as they come face to face with the man said to have been in the room on the day the anti-apartheid activist plunged to his death.
Former security police officer Joao Rodriguez, 78, is expected to take the stand this morning in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, during the second leg of the inquest into Timol’s death.
The last time Rodriguez relived the events of 1971 – when the then 29-year-old Timol was interrogated at the then John Vorster Square – was during the inquest in 1972.
The magistrate at the time accepted the evidence of the police that Timol was not tortured and had opted of his own accord to suddenly jump out of the window of the notorious 10th floor of the building.
Rodriguez at the time testified that he tried to stop Timol from jumping, but was too late.
However, during the past few weeks the court heard a totally different story, which included how political detainees at the time were tortured by the security police. Forensic evidence revealed a host of injuries that Timol suffered before he fell to his death.
They included a massive skull fracture, which according to the experts must have been caused by something like a steel pipe. The injury was so severe the experts said he would not have been able to walk, let alone jump out of the window.
The family is now pinning their hopes on Rodriguez and fellow security policeman, Sergeant Neville Els, to speak up today. Els, now 80, was a security branch interrogator, but did not directly interrogate Timol.
Mohammed Timol, the younger brother of Ahmed, said seeing Rodriguez today would rouse emotions. “But we don’t want vengeance, we want the truth. He was said to be the last person in the room the day my brother was said to have jumped. We plead with him to come and tell us what really happened on that fateful day.”
Mohammed said the evidence thus far showed a cover-up, and the family and the public were entitled to know the truth.
His plea to Rodriguez was to “please come and tell the truth, so you can perhaps find peace within yourself and we can know the truth”.
A close friend of Timol, Dr Saleem Essop, arrested with him and detained at John Vorster Square, also called on Rodriguez to tell the truth. Essop was so severely tortured that he nearly died and had to be rushed to hospital.
“We simply want to establish the truth during this inquest – how it came about that Timol died. We hope Mr Rodriguez will give a true account of what actually happened in room 1026. The police version is contested by us and we hope Rodriguez will paint an accurate picture,” Essop said.
Both Els and Rodriguez were subpoenaed by the court to appear before it today.
SACP member Ronnie Kasrils is set to take the stand this week.