Closure for Timol family after judge rules that he was murdered

Ahmed Timol, a 29-year-old Roodepoort teacher and anti-apartheid activist, fell from the 10th floor of the security police building in Johannesburg in 1971.
Ahmed Timol, a 29-year-old Roodepoort teacher and anti-apartheid activist, fell from the 10th floor of the security police building in Johannesburg in 1971.

Almost 46 years after the death of Ahmed Timol, his family members have finally found closure.

In a landmark ruling into the reopened inquest into the death of the anti-apartheid activist, Judge Billy Mothle ruled today that Timol, who was 29 at the time, did not commit suicide, but was murdered by state security after he was detained at John Vorster Square in 1971.

His ruling was handed down in the North Gauteng High Court this morning.

The packed courtroom was filled with South African Communist Party members, including its leader Solly Mapaila, and Human Rights Advocate George Bizos. Members of the gallery applauded the ruling after Mothle gave his ruling, an “executive summary” of the 129-page judgment.

The inquest began on June 26 this year after the Timol family, led by his nephew Imtiaz Cajee, fought to have the 1972 inquest reopened.

Apartheid magistrate JL de Villiers had ruled that Timol had committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of the notorious John Vorster Square building.

Over the past few months, the world has paid close attention to the testimonies that were given by key experts into the case, as well as witnesses who have all laid claim that Timol would not have committed suicide and that the apartheid government sought to cover up the real reasons behind his death.

Some of the key findings of the case included the evidence that was presented by forensic experts Dr Shakeera Holland and Professor Steve Naidoo into the injuries that Timol had sustained prior to his fall.

Today, Mothle said that the cause of death was a result of “multiple injuries”, including brain and chest injuries.

Mothle also ruled that the evidence that was presented in the reopened inquest contradicted the ruling from the original inquest, and ruled that the original findings were incorrect.

Mothle said that the court found the cause of death to be “massive head, brain and trauma”.

He also recommended that Joao Rodrigues, who was a state security officer in 1971 and the last person to see Timol alive before he fell to his death, should be investigated for giving conflicting testimony after he was called to testify in the reopened inquest. Mothle also said that officers Hans Gloy and JZ van Niekerk, who were on duty overseeing Timol the day he died, were complicit in the murder.

“This court’s prima facie finding is that members of the Security Branch who were interrogating Timol the day he died, through an act of commission or omission, murdered Timol. This they committed through dolus eventualis as the form of intent,” he read.

In his testimony, Rodrigues maintained that he played no part in the death of Timol, despite being in the room with him when he had “jumped” out of the window.

The South African Communist Party applauded the ruling, and said that the ruling serves as inspiration for other families who also seek justice for the deaths of their loved ones after they died while being held in detention during apartheid.

Cajee, told the media after Mothle handed down his ruling that his grandparents can finally rest in peace, and that he was grateful to Mothle for the manner in which he handled the inquest.

“Ma and pa are undoubtedly resting and smiling from the heavens,” he said.

Avantika Seeth
Multimedia journalist
City Press
p:+27 11 713 9001  e:
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