For­mer po­lice­man says Ti­mol jumped

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS -

THE apartheid-era po­lice of­fi­cer who was the last per­son to see anti-apartheid ac­tivist Ahmed Ti­mol alive told an in­quest in the high court in Pre­to­ria yes­ter­day of the in­tim­i­da­tion and fear of phys­i­cal harm he faced when he gave ev­i­dence in the ini­tial in­quest on how events had un­folded.

For­mer po­lice sergeant in the then South African Po­lice, Joao (Jan) Rodrigues, 78, told the on­go­ing in­quest presided over by Judge Billy Mothle that he was co­erced into say­ing what he claimed at the ini­tial in­quest in 1972, which found that Ti­mol had com­mit­ted sui­cide and which thus ex­on­er­ated the po­lice.

“At the time when I gave tes­ti­mony in the mag­is­trate’s court, I was co­erced to say things which were not cor­rect. That made me to be un­set­tled in re­la­tion to how events un­folded on that day in ques­tion. There were about four or five of­fi­cers who co­erced me to say things which were not true,” said Rodrigues, switch­ing be­tween English and Afrikaans.

“All the of­fi­cers that wanted to in­flu­ence me were also present dur­ing the pro­ceed­ings (of the ini­tial in­quest). I was a ju­nior to these of­fi­cers. I felt in­tim­i­dated be­cause they in­flu­enced me to say things that were not true.”

The Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity’s ad­vo­cate Torie Pre­to­rius asked Rodrigues to ex­plain the in­flu­ence which had come from the se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers.

“General Buys wanted me to tes­tify to the ef­fect that I had a fight with him (Ti­mol) be­fore he threw him­self out of the win­dow, which had never hap­pened. There was no wrestling match. We never had a phys­i­cal fight. I do not know why he wanted me to say that. I can­not spec­u­late on that,” said Rodrigues.

“I did not tell the mag­is­trate (at the ini­tial in­quest) be­cause I was in­tim­i­dated by all the four of­fi­cers who were there. They were present at all times I gave ev­i­dence.”

Pre­to­rius asked Rodrigues to tell the court what he feared would hap­pen had he told the court then that he had been “pres­sured to tell a lie”.

“It was a very strong unit and they had a lot of in­flu­ence in re­la­tion to this mat­ter. They could have dam­aged my im­age. They could have caused me se­ri­ous harm. It was pos­si­ble that they could cause se­ri­ous harm,” Rodrigues re­sponded.

Judge Mothle asked Rodrigues to tell the court why he had not bro­ken his si­lence on the in­tim­i­da­tion for 45 years.

“After the hear­ing, since 1972 to this date, why have you not come forward to say you were in­tim­i­dated, or there were at­tempts to in­tim­i­date you by these of­fi­cers?” Mothle asked.

“I did not have the op­por­tu­nity to come forward,” said Rodrigues.

Mothle pressed on, ask­ing Rodrigues to ex­plain what he meant by not hav­ing had the op­por­tu­nity.

Rodrigues then re­sponded: “I don’t know.”

The for­mer sergeant told the court that he had only heard about in­ci­dents of tor­ture but he had not wit­nessed any such in­stances, nor had he tor­tured any­body.

Rodrigues has told the in­quest that he tried to save Ti­mol, but he could not reach him be­fore the ac­tivist dived out of a win­dow from the 10th floor, com­mit­ting sui­cide at the in­fa­mous John Vorster Square po­lice sta­tion, now known as the Jo­han­nes­burg Cen­tral po­lice sta­tion, on Sep­tem­ber 27, 1971. Rodrigues in­sisted that he was mov­ing to­wards Ti­mol, hop­ing to stop him from jump­ing out of the win­dow, but fell over a chair, and by the time he got up, the de­tainee had al­ready jumped.

Mag­is­trate JL de Vil­liers ruled in June 1972 that Ti­mol had com­mit­ted sui­cide by jump­ing from the 10th floor, a rul­ing which has been con­tested by the ac­tivist’s fam­ily and as­so­ci­ates for decades.– ANA

IN­TER­RO­GA­TION CHAM­BER: The room from which Ahmed Ti­mol fell to his death. The pic­ture was taken 46 years ago.

IN­TIM­I­DATED: Joao Rodrigues in court dur­ing the Ahmed Ti­mol in­quest.

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