Timol family hopes for truth from Security Branch policeman

As the trial into the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol looms, the Timol family has made an appeal to the former Security Branch policeman accused of the young activist’s murder to tell the truth about how he was killed.

Imtiaz Cajee, Timol’s nephew who helped reopen the inquest into his death last year, has said that if former security cop Joao Rodrigues comes forward with the truth, then the family would avoid pursuing a prison sentence in court.

Cajee made the offer to Rodrigues on Monday, a day before the family will head to the Johannesburg high court for a pre-trial hearing set down for Tuesday, where the dates for the trial might be finalised.

“If he were to tell the truth the family would support Rodrigues receiving a non-custodial sentence. Ours has never been a quest for vengeance,” said Cajee.

The landmark trial comes after a 47-year quest for justice which Cajee has tenaciously led. Last year, the Timol family altered the history books when the reopened inquest into the slain freedom fighter’s death found that he had been tortured and murdered during his detention in John Vorster Square (now Johannesburg Central police station) in October 1971.


Rodrigues was in the room with Timol when he supposedly “jumped” from the 10th floor of the building. At the initial inquest into Timol’s death in 1972, security police told the magistrate that Timol had killed himself because it was the protocol of the South African Communist Party — whom Timol served under — that their members should die if they were detained by the police.

At the reopened inquest, former SACP activists told Judge Billy Mothle, who presided over the case, that it was never SACP policy for members to kill themselves if they were detained. Rodrigues also took the stand, where he testified that he “could not recall” certain events that transpired in the days leading up to Timol’s death, and he denied ever being involved in torturing Timol.

Rodrigues, while under oath before Mothle, stuck to script he had read in 1972, insisting Timol’s death was the result of suicide. But the judge, after listening to testimony from forensic experts, found otherwise and overturned the previous inquest findings.

READ MORE: Timol ruling ‘just the beginning’

“Timol did not jump out of the window but was pushed out of the window or off the roof,” said Mothle, reading a summary of his 129-page judgment.“Members of the security branch … murdered Timol.” 

Rodrigues has now been charged with Timol’s murder and perjury. As the last known Security Branch member to be present with Timol when he was killed, Rodrigues’s testimony could be tantamount to delivering a witness account of Timol’s final moments before he died.

“To be honest, we did not foresee prosecutions following the re-opened inquest. All we have ever sought, as a family, is for Uncle Ahmed’s murderers to tell the truth,” Cajee said.

“We understand that Rodrigues was part of a closed apartheid security system with which it would have been difficult to break ranks. However, the system that protected him in the past no longer has the power to do so. He has been left exposed.

The trial is set to be the first trial into the death of an anti-apartheid activist in detention in South Africa’s democratic era. What Cajee hopes is that the truth will finally be told. “It is not too late for Rodrigues to state what really happened,” he said.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

Related stories

Eusebius McKaiser: Reject the dichotomy of political horrors

Senekal shows us that we must make a stand against the loud voice of the populist EFF and racist rightwingers

How embroidery broke the silence around women’s apartheid trauma

By making embroideries, women move beyond and challenge categories and labels of “being vulnerable” or being perceived as “marginalised”

US ‘brokered’ agreements on Israel: Wind of change or toxic blast of extortion?

The United States is negotiating with African countries that will see them exchange Palestinian people’s rights for improved economic and trade conditions

How to whitewash colonial pain and trauma

Approval of the River Club development in Cape Town is reminiscent of those bulldozing spatial planners of apartheid

George Bizos dies at 92

Renowned human rights lawyer George Bizos, who defended Nelson Mandela and other struggle icons during the treason trial and Rivonia trial, represented families at the TRC, and later represented Marikana miners’ families, has died

The pencil test still colours the rainbow nation illusion

This latest racist hair fiasco is just one more thing that all the darkies in me are tired of defending and explaining
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Vitamin therapy is for drips

It may be marketed by influencers, but intravenous vitamin therapy is not necessary and probably not worth the hype, experts say

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

Murder of anti-mining activist emboldens KZN community

Mam’Ntshangase was described as a fierce critic of mining and ambassador for land rights.

Unite with Nigeria’s ‘Speak Up’ generation protesting against police brutality

Photos of citizens draped in the bloodied flag have spread around the world in the month the country should be celebrating 60 years of independence
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday