Ti­mol: it was mur­der


The Witness - - FRONT -

In a land­mark rul­ing handed down in the North Gaut­eng High Court yes­ter­day, Judge Billy Mothle over­turned a 1972 in­quest find­ing which had ruled that an­ti­a­partheid ac­tivist Ahmed Ti­mol had com­mit­ted sui­cide by jump­ing out of a win­dow on the 10th floor of the John Vorster Square build­ing in 1971.

Mothle said Ti­mol’s fall was as a re­sult of be­ing pushed by the se­cu­rity branch po­lice, ei­ther from the win­dow of room 1026 or from the top of the roof of the prison, now called Jo­han­nes­burg Cen­tral po­lice sta­tion.

Nkosi­nathi Biko, the son of Steve Biko, thanked the Ti­mol fam­ily for re­lent­lessly pur­su­ing the in­quest. “This is a great vic­tory not only for your fam­ily but also for this na­tion.”

When asked if the Biko fam­ily would be con­sid­er­ing re­open­ing the in­quest into his fa­ther’s death, he said: “The na­tion should help me with that ques­tion. It is not only a ques­tion for the Biko fam­ily.

“The fact that there were no pros­e­cu­tions in the case of Biko and other cases, leav­ing on the record find­ing such as no­body is to blame is some­thing that we should pon­der over as a na­tion.”

Mo­ham­mad Ti­mol, the brother of the late ac­tivist, said Oc­to­ber 27 would mark 46 years since his brother’s death.

“Forty­six years had also gone by that those who mur­dered Ahmed and those who tor­tured the de­tainees sit­ting here to­day ... those in­ter­roga­tors and mem­bers of the se­cu­rity branch po­lice... they are no longer here so that we can bring them to ac­count for their ac­tions.

“We be­lieve that this is the be­gin­ning to un­cover all those peo­ple who were sub­jected to the most bru­tal death at the hands of the se­cu­rity branch po­lice.”


Im­tiaz Ca­jee, Ti­mol’s nephew, said the fam­ily had never doubted that Ti­mol was mur­dered by the po­lice and that the ini­tial in­quest was a cover up. Ca­jee said with­out the med­i­cal records, it would have been dif­fi­cult to per­suade the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity (NPA) to re­open the case.

“I think for me re­al­ity will sink in once I read the judg­ment again. I think for the first time we can say that my un­cle did not die in po­lice de­ten­tion but he was killed and I think that is very sig­nif­i­cant.”

Ca­jee said this was some­thing that he had been strug­gling with for years. “I think the find­ings reaf­firm our view which we have al­ways held and that is that Ahmed Ti­mol did not com­mit sui­cide, did not die in po­lice cus­tody but was mur­dered in po­lice de­ten­tion.”

Ca­jee said he was over­whelmed. He said his thoughts went out to other fam­i­lies whose loved ones died un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances like Ti­mol.

The NPA’s Lu­vuyo Mfaku wel­comed the judg­ment. “All those fam­i­lies that have got their loved ones who passed on dur­ing de­ten­tion and where in­quests were held, those will be looked at to see whether in their cases there were cover­ups.

“And where there is new ev­i­dence that has come to the fore, the NPA will not hes­i­tate to open those cases.”

Mfaku said the court or­dered that there be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into and pos­si­ble prose­cu­tion of former se­cu­rity branch po­lice sergeant Joao Jan Ro­drigues for his role in Ti­mol’s death.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tors in the po­lice now know what to in­ves­ti­gate and what the charges will be. Be­cause it is an in­quest, the find­ings are made on the balance of prob­a­bil­i­ties and that needs to be in­ves­ti­gated so that in a crim­i­nal court we are in a po­si­tion to prove our case be­yond rea­son­able doubt.”


Strug­gle icon Salim Es­sop, who was ar­rested along with Ti­mol, said the judg­ment re­vealed what re­ally hap­pened to Ti­mol.

“The truth is that Ahmed Ti­mol was de­tained and we both were ter­ri­bly tor­tured to near death. I think the judge has ac­cepted to­day that Ahmed Ti­mol died be­cause of tor­ture.”

Marjorie Job­son from the Khu­lumani Sup­port Group said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was very proud of Ti­mol’s fam­ily.

“This has given hope to hun­dreds and hun­dreds of fam­i­lies of peo­ple who died in de­ten­tion. We un­der­stand how dif­fi­cult it is to get these things into court but the re­lief and hope it has re­stored in peo­ple is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant.”

Job­son said the judg­ment also laid bare the use of tor­ture by the apartheid regime. “We were relieved to hear that Judge Billy Mothle rec­om­mended in­ves­ti­ga­tion and we think that it is time that the law takes its course.”

Hu­man rights lawyer Ad­vo­cate Ge­orge Bi­zos said: “What would have hap­pened to South Africa if in 1972, we had a judge or mag­is­trate hear­ing the rea­sons for the death of Ti­mol and a few years later, the other great South Africans?

“If they lis­tened to the top two lawyers in South Africa, Issy Maisels and Sydney Ken­tridge, who ap­pealed and gave ev­i­dence that the se­cu­rity po­lice killed peo­ple in cus­tody, South Africa may have avoided the ter­ror that it had to face there­after.”

Bi­zos said the ab­sence of killers in the deaths of Steve Biko and Ti­mol led to the deaths of at least an­other 65 peo­ple in South Africa at the hands of the se­cu­rity branch po­lice.

“Jus­tice has her way of ac­tu­ally reach­ing the top,” he said.


Chair­per­son of the Foun­da­tion for Hu­man Rights Thoko Mpuml­wana said it had been a long jour­ney for the Ti­mol fam­ily.

“We want peo­ple to know that the pages in the archives are miss­ing in some of these sto­ries to be told. We hope that it will never again hap­pen that there are miss­ing pages in the sto­ries of peo­ple fight­ing for jus­tice.”

Mpuml­wana said ev­ery in­di­vid­ual had the right to know the truth about the past. “The fab­ri­ca­tions and the with­hold­ing of in­for­ma­tion from the TRC [Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion] was un­just, that is why we are here to­day. If only peo­ple told the truth and were hon­ourable enough to tell the truth, then the fam­ily would have not been here, be­cause they would have had clo­sure.”

The SACP’s Solly Ma­paila said the party was very happy that the judge had over­turned the “lie” that was per­pet­u­ated at the time. “We now know of­fi­cially that apartheid se­cu­rity forces mur­dered com­rade Ti­mol largely for his role as mem­ber of the com­mu­nist party. We have enough ev­i­dence, de­spite their at­tempt to try and de­stroy it.”

Ma­paila said this was an im­por­tant judg­ment and that the govern­ment needed to ur­gently as­sem­ble per­son­nel to re­open “more than 400 cases of our com­rades which through the TRC were found to re­quire fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion”.


Es­sop Pa­had (left), former min­is­ter in the pres­i­dency, and Dr Salim Es­sop, friend and fel­low in­mate of Ahmed Ti­mol, at the Pre­to­ria High Court yes­ter­day. Both tes­ti­fied in the re­opened in­quest into Ti­mol’s tor­ture and mur­der by long dead se­cu­rity...

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