Ahmed Timol – The Quest for the truth continues


Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 27 July 2017| 03 Zhul Qadha 1438

Who was Ahmed Timol?
Ahmed Timol was a young schoolteacher in Roodepoort who opposed apartheid. He was arrested at a police roadblock on 22 October 1971, and died five days later. He was the 22nd political detainee to die in detention since 1960. Many more were to follow…

Forty-one years after his death, and 16 years after his mother’s appearance before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in search of closure, the circumstances that led to Ahmed Timol plunging from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square Police Station remain shrouded in mystery.

An inquest did not bother to explain the gruesome marks that covered Timol’s body, finding that he had committed suicide by jumping to his death. Timol, 29-years-old, would have been 70 today. Security police coined the term, “Indians can’t fly”, in reference to his death.

Re opening of Timol Inquest

25 July 2017

Statement from the Ahmed Timol Family Trust

The state has subpoenaed seven former members of the security police to testify at the re-opened inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol in detention 46 years ago, police captain Benjamin Nel informed Judge Billy Mothle yesterday. Timol, a member of the South African Communist Party, died on the 27 October 1971, four days after being detained.

The former policemen who have been subpoenaed include then-Sergeant Joao Rodriguez, who – according to the police version – was unable to prevent Timol from committing suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square Police Station.

Captain Nel told Judge Mothle he had served the subpoenas on the former policemen to give evidence next week.
The original inquest into Timol’s death endorsed the police version, but those who knew Timol strongly believed the police were lying and dismissed the inquest as a sham.

A central strand of the police version was that communists were under instructions tocommit suicide to avoid revealing information under interrogation.

In her testimony yesterday, a veteran anti-apartheid activist and member of the South African Communist Party, poured cold water on this contention.

Stephanie Kemp, now 76, told the court of her own torture by police prior to her conviction for sabotage in the 1960s. After her release she sued the police, who settled in cash to avoid going to trial.

Kemp then left for London, where she worked fulltime for the South African Communist Party until her return to South Africa in 1990. She was the point person for communications between Timol and the party leadership abroad.

Asked yesterday what type of training Timol would have received on conducting himself under interrogation, she said it was accepted that most detainees would be tortured until giving a statement. “You need to delay that as long as possible to allow other people to escape… The whole ethos was to struggle, and be heroic and courageous.”

Earlier yesterday, the inquest heard the evidence of an eyewitness to Timol’s fall, former state prosecutor, Ernie Matthis. Matthis said he was in an office on the 4th or 6th floor when he saw the body drop past the window.
He told the court in which direction Timol’s body was facing as it fell, evidence that may be crucial when forensic pathologists take the stand.

The inquest also heard from former security policeman Paul Erasmus yesterday, the first former policemen to take the stand. Erasmus only joined the police a few years after Timol’s death, but vividly described the culture of police lawlessness that prevailed at the time – including the systemic torture of detainees.

In his testimony today, former Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, a childhood friend of Timol’s, is expected to reveal further information about Timol’s training in London and the Soviet Union, and his instructions on returning to South Africa.

Also on the witness list for today is Professor Ken Boffard. Professor Emeritus at the University of the Witwatersrand, Trauma Director and Academic Head of Trauma at Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg, and Visiting Professor of Trauma at Sahlgrenska Hospital, Gothenburg.

* The State agreed to re-open the Timol Inquest after investigation by the family revealed new evidence. Timol was one of 73 detainees who died while in the hands of the police between 1963 and 1990. Police and apartheid-era inquest magistrates routinely described the deaths as suicides or accidents. None of the police have ever been held accountable.

The inquest is being held in Court 2D at the Gauteng North High Court in Pretoria. Proceedings start at 10am. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

The Timol family is assisted by the South African non–profit Foundation on Human Rights (FHR); Advocate Howard Varney, a senior program adviser with The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICT), law firm Webber Wentzel, the Legal Resource Centre (LRC), and super-sleuth, Frank Dutton, among others.

Statement from the Ahmed Timol Family Trust

Inquest resumes in Pretoria on Monday 46 years after his death
The website www.sahistory.org.za lists the names of 73 anti-apartheid activists who died in detention between 1963 and 1990. Nobody has ever been held accountable for any of those deaths.

The 22nd name on the list is Ahmed Timol, who died on 27 October 1971, four days after being arrested at a police roadblock.

In Timol’s case, as with the others, inquests were held to rubber-stamp the police version of the death. According to police, Timol committed suicide by jumping out of a 10th floor window at John Vorster Square. Other deaths in detention were ascribed to “accidents” such as slipping in the shower…

Those who knew Ahmed Timol, and knew of the barbarism of apartheid police torturers, strongly believed the police version was a lie.

Approximately 21 years ago, Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, began researching his uncle’s death. He produced a book, Timol: Quest for Justice, and was the driving force behind the production of a documentary and exhibition of the same theme.

Re-opening the inquest was the long-term goal, a goal that was achieved last month in Johannesburg with the assistance of the South African non–profit Foundation on Human Rights (FHR); Howard Varney, a senior program adviser with The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICT), law firm Webber Wentzel, the Legal Resource Centre (LRC), and super-sleuth, Frank Dutton, among others.

After hearing five-days of evidence in June, Mr Justice Billy Mothle ordered the inquest to resume on Monday (24 July at 10am) in Court 2D at the North Gauteng High Court (corner Paul Kruger & Madiba Streets, Pretoria). Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Among witnesses expected to testify are apartheid era policemen with direct knowledge of Timol’s detention and interrogation.


Witnesses to include police directly involved in detention and interrogation

The re-opened inquest into the death in police custody 46 years ago of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol resumes in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday. Timol was a young teacher from Roodepoort and a member of the South African Communist Party.

He died on 27 October 1971, four days after being arrested at a police roadblock in the company of a friend and comrade, the medical student, Saleem Essop.

According to the police version of events, this was endorsed by the inquest magistrate at the time, Timol jumped from the 10th Floor of John Vorster Square in Johannesburg while under interrogation.

But family, comrades and friends never believed Timol jumped. They believe he was either pushed out the window by police, or thrown out the window after being tortured to death.

The re-opened inquest heard five days of evidence in Johannesburg last month. Among the witnesses was Dr Essop, who described being brutally assaulted by police in the days after being arrested with Timol.

Dr Essop landed up in hospital. He said the last time he saw Timol, shuffling down a passage, head in a hood, being escorted by his captors; his friend gave the appearance of having been brutally tortured, too.

Over the next two weeks, the inquest will take evidence from witnesses to the fall, and experts on forensic pathology and torture in detention. South African Communist Party members will reveal details of their instructions under interrogation.

And, finally, the inquest will hear from former members of the police who were directly involved in Timol’s detention and interrogation.

Short biography of Ahmed Timol

  • Born in Breyten in 1941
  • Attends Primary School in Roodepoort
  • Matriculates from Johannesburg Indian High School in 1959
  • Graduates as a teacher at Johannesburg Training Institute for Indians in 1963
  • Teaches at Roodepoort Indian High School in 1964
  • In 1966 he completes his Hajj to Mecca, then travels to London to reunite with old friends, the ANC activist brothers, Aziz and Essop Pahad
  • In 1969 he accompanies former President Thabo Mbeki to Lenin University in the Soviet Union for political training
  • Returns to South Africa in 1970 to set up underground structures for the communist party
  • Arrested at police roadblock on Friday 22 October 1971
  • Dies on 27 October, the 22ndpolitical detainee to die while in the hands of apartheid police since 1960.

Source – Ahmed Timol Website