It’s been 45 years, and finally an inquest has been reopened into anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol’s death following his 10-storey plunge to the ground while under interrogation and police detention at the notorious John Vorster Square.
“Our immediate priority is to have the apartheid-era inquest finding of ‘nobody to blame’ reversed,” said Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, Timol’s nephew, upon the announcement of the dates on which the inquest is to be heard.
The High Court in Johannesburg’s judge president appointed Judge Billy Mothle to oversee the reopening of the inquest, which is expected to occur from June 26 to 30.
The case will them resume on July 24 to August 4, with the final dates on August 10 and 11.
Timol was a South African Communist Party member, Umkhonto weSizwe operative and a Roodepoort teacher, the 22nd political detainee to die under detention since 1960.
Members of Timol’s family, close friends and his comrades never believed the 29-year-old committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of the infamous John Vorster Square Police Station, now renamed the Johannesburg Central Police Station.
“They believed that Timol was either tortured to death and thrown from the building or pushed to his death,” said the Ahmed Timol Family Trust and the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR).
“They remained convinced that the inquest was a cover-up.
“A private investigation on behalf of the Timol family presented evidence to the National Prosecuting Authority in January 2016.
“They argued that apartheid-era magistrate De Villiers had erred in his findings and provided compelling evidence to the NPA necessitating the reopening of the inquest in the interest of justice.
“Magistrate De Villiers concluded during the original Timol inquest in 1972 that Timol was not tortured during his detention, the Security Branch Officers were credible witnesses and that the detainee had committed suicide.
“He found nobody responsible for his death.”
Cajee added that the reopening of the inquest was long overdue “and years of perseverance had finally paid off”.
Timol’s mother, Cajee’s grandmother, appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996 to ask for answers on her son’s death.
“They were not forthcoming, as none of the perpetrators was subpoenaed to testify and provide their version of events leading to Timol’s death.”
Cajee said his grandmother “was humiliated by magistrate De Villiers and branded a liar when she testified how a Security Branch officer told her that she had not given her son a hiding when growing up and that they were going to do this for her”.
“My grandmother has since passed away, but she will be smiling at the news of the reopening of the inquest,” Cajee said.
“We wait for the findings to be reversed and the honour and dignity of Comrade Timol restored.”
- Meanwhile, the family of MK cadre Nokuthula Simelane continues their search for her remains for over 34 years. Simelane was kidnapped by members of the apartheid-era Soweto security branch who now want the ministry of police to cover their legal costs.
- Neil Aggett, an organiser of the Food and Canning Workers’ Union. died at John Vorster Square on February 5, 1982, after being detained for 70 days and tortured by the SA Police Security Branch operating under of the apartheid system. Aggett was the 51st person to have died in apartheid police detention.
The Simelane and Aggett cases are with the NPA and Cajee is adamant these cases must be speedily concluded.