Timol family hopes inquest will restore his legacy, dignity and honour

2017-06-21 23:09
Members of the media were invited to the 44th anniversary of the death in detention of anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Timol at the Johannesburg Central Police Station on October 27, 2015 in Johannesburg. (File, Gallo Images)

Members of the media were invited to the 44th anniversary of the death in detention of anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Timol at the Johannesburg Central Police Station on October 27, 2015 in Johannesburg. (File, Gallo Images)

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Johannesburg - The family of teacher and anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol, who died in police custody 45 years ago, believe that the reopening of an inquest docket into his death will help them clarify what really happened, and restore his legacy, dignity and honour.

After being ruled a suicide in 1972, a private investigation launched by Timol's family into his death uncovered new evidence, which it presented to the NPA, asking for the inquest to be reopened.

According to the Timol Family Trust, the NPA agreed that there was compelling evidence and said it would investigate.

Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Cajee, told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday, ahead of the hearings which will begin on June 26, that all his family wanted was to prove that the findings were wrong.

The Roodepoort teacher's loved ones did not believe Timol, the 22nd person to die in apartheid police custody, had jumped from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square while being interrogated by security police.

"I am often asked, but why over 45 years after his death, 23 years since the birth of democracy, and over 16 years after the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC), do we still continue pursuing this particular matter?

"Firstly, it’s important for us to reflect correctly the angles of our history, that my uncle did not commit suicide and that the magistrate’s findings were incorrect," Cajee said.

"We feel that Magistrate De Villiers was biased in his findings and that he protected the security branch officers in our view, that were responsible for my uncle’s death.

"So to preserve my uncle’s honour, his legacy, his dignity, and the only way to accomplish this would be to get the findings inquest reversed," Cajee said.

'Magistrate branded her a liar'

The second reason was to restore the honour and dignity of Timol’s mother and his maternal grandmother, Hawa, who had testified during the initial inquest into her son’s death, and who was subsequently branded as a liar, he said.

"[During the inquest], she recollected one of her encounters with the security branch officers who had told her that she had failed to give her son a good hiding.

"Within a day later, they returned to the flat to tell her that her son was killed. And when she testified this during the inquest, the magistrate branded her a liar."

Hawa Timol died in 1997, after testifying for the second time in 1996, Cajee said.

"So I think it’s important again for her own honour and her own legacy and dignity, to restore the dignity by taking it back to an inquest that will clearly demonstrate, in our view, that my uncle did not commit suicide and that he was murdered."

Cajee expressed his family’s deepest gratitude to the Foundation for Human Rights, which had helped them fund most of the investigations and research into finding more evidence to present to the NPA.

'It has to be the responsibility of the ruling party'

He criticised government, as well as the ANC, for failing to assist families to find closure regarding the whereabouts of their loved ones who had died at the hands of the apartheid regime.

"Our thoughts go out to all the other families that are seeking closure. We have a grave to go to as the Timol family, but… many many other families throughout the country, that till today are searching for remains, purely remains, not looking at prosecution, not looking at hunting perpetrators, not looking at seeing them [perpetrators] sentenced when they are 70 and 80 and 90-years-old, but purely looking for remains," he said.

He said it was unfortunate that, while these families were trying to find closure, they were forced to do this independently and individually, with no assistance from government.

"It cannot be the responsibility of the foundation to help every individual family in this country to find closure, to find justice.

"It has to be the responsibility of the government of the day. It has to be the responsibility of the ruling party because these cadres that were killed… were all members of the ANC and the alliance," Cajee said.

"Surely the state cannot abdicate its responsibility. It has to fulfil its responsibility because we owe it to our freedom fighters who have not witnessed our democracy, who are not enjoying the fruits of democracy that we are enjoying today, that surely we have to preserve their memory," he said.

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