Editorial: Lest we forget the heroes of a war for justice

Ahmed Timol's mother, Hawa Timol (Ahmed Family Trust)

Ahmed Timol's mother, Hawa Timol (Ahmed Family Trust)

For the children who never were, But may have been And for the parents who were, But were made to feel too much —

Judge Billy Mothle has found that freedom fighter Ahmed Timol never committed suicide, as the officers from the old Security Branch of the police claimed.

“Timol died as a result of having being pushed to fall, an act which was committed by members of the Security Branch with dolus eventualis as the form of intent, and prima facie amounting to murder.”

Ahmed Timol was murdered.

He is one of many, many people who were killed as the apartheid state forced itself on to the majority of South Africans. Timol is one of many, many people whose loved ones have waited in vain for some kind of closure for their loss.

His surviving relatives now have their suspicions confirmed. Timol never took his own life. For them, at least, there is some solace.

But for many, closure will remain elusive. So this is a moment heavy with history.

It is a moment heavy, too, with feelings — many of them our own, as we try to distil the bearing of this ruling on all the other cases, all the other suspicious deaths in police custody.

But it is a moment particularly heavy with the feelings of those who lost someone in the fight against the apartheid regime. It is a moment that we cannot allow to run away from us.

There is an opportunity in this moment for us to take stock of how little has been recovered for those whose lives, land and dignity were stolen.

When Aunty Hawa Timol testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996, she was determined to know what exactly had happened to her son in that police station in 1971. She would die a year later, none the wiser.

Her words should be played back to us in this moment, a reminder of how much was lost in all these years.

“They killed him and said he committed suicide.” “I will not forget what happened.”

In a clip of her testimony online, she speaks in Gujarati, her grief choking her voice: “Ey nallo ooto.” It’s a sentence the translator omits in the SABC footage, not essential to the meaning of what she was conveying, but a haunting echo for those able to catch her meaning.

“Ey nallo ooto.”  He was a child.

This woman’s child was stolen from her by a murderous regime. It is a regime that murdered and plundered. It is a tyranny from which we are yet to recover. It is a regime whose crimes were never really punished.

So, for the children who never were, But may have been And for the parents who were, But were made to feel too much — Long, long, long May we remember Who you were.

Rest in peace, Ahmed Timol. Rest in peace, Nokuthula Simelane.

Rest in peace Solwandle Ngudle, Bellington Mampe, James Tyita, Suliman Salojee, Ngeni Gaga, Pongolosha Hoye, James Hamakwayo, Hangula Shonyeka, Leong Pin,  Ah Yan, Alpheus Madiba, Jundea Tubukwa, Nicodemus Kgoathe, Solomon Modipane, James Lenkoe, Caleb Mayekiso, Michael Shivute, Jacob Monakgotla, Abdullah Haroon (Imam), Mthayeni Cuthsela, Joseph Mdluli, William Tshwane, Mapetla Mohapi, Luke Mazwembe, Dumisani Mbatha, Fenuel Mogatusi,  Jacob Mashabane, Edward Mzolo, Ernest Mamashila, Tbalo Mosala, Wellington Tshazibane, George Botha, Lawrence Ndzanga, Nanaotha Ntshuntsha, Elmon Malele, Matthews Mabelane, Twasifeni Joyi, Samuel Malinga, Aaron Khoza, Phakamile Mabija, Elijah Loza, Hoosen Haffejee, Bayempin Mzizi, Bantu Steve Biko, Sipho Malaza, Lungile Tabalaza, Saul Ndzumo, Manana Mgqweto, Tshifhiwa Muofhe, Neil Aggett, Ernest Dipale,  Simon Mndawe, Paris Malatji, Samuel Tshikudo, Mxolisi Sipele, Ephraim Mthethwa, Andries Raditsela, Batandwa Ndondo,  Makompe Kutumela, Peter Nchabaleng, Xoliso Jacobs, Simon Marule, Benedict Mashoke, Eric Mntonga, Nobandla Bani,  Sithembele Zokwe, Alfred Makaleng, Clayton Sizwe Sithole,  Lucas Tlhotlhomisang and Donald Thabela Madisha.

Rest in peace, the two “unknown persons” who died in detention in 1968 and 1976 — they were not unknown to their loved ones.

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