Man accused of Ahmed Timol’s murder granted R2000 bail

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45 years ago, activist Ahmed Timol fell to his death from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square. The state reopened the inquest into the circumstances of his death. Picture: Supplied
45 years ago, activist Ahmed Timol fell to his death from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square. The state reopened the inquest into the circumstances of his death. Picture: Supplied

Former security branch policeman Joao Rodrigues, who was found to be an accomplice in the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol was granted R2000 bail at the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court on at midday on Monday.

The pre-trial conference is set to take place on September 18 at the Johannesburg High Court.

Rodrigues appeared at the court following a warrant of arrest which was issued against his name on Sunday afternoon, for his role into the activist’s death. It was previously claimed that Timol had committed suicide after jumping from the 10th floor of what was then known as John Vorster Square.

Rodrigues had appeared on charges of murder and defeating the ends of justice.

Wearing a beige jacket, which he had worn throughout his appearances during last year’s reopened inquest into the death of Timol, Rodrigues appeared tired albeit in good spirits, and smiled now and then as he limped along with a walking stick.

Acting on behalf of Rodrigues, Advocate Stephanus Johannes Coetzee asked the court to grant him bail as he was not a flight risk and, as such, posed no threat to the state.

Coetzee also represented Rodriguez during last year’s reopened inquest into the death of Timol, when he told Judge Billy Mothle during the final arguments in August that the court should look around the “veracity of evidence”, and rule that those who were responsible for Timol’s death was inconclusive.

When Rodrigues testified during the inquest last year, he had claimed that Timol, who was just 30 years old at the time of his death, was sipping on a cup of coffee with no apparent marks or bruises. This was in contradiction to claims that Timol had been tortured by apartheid state police officers who were holding him for interrogation at John Vorster Square.

Rodrigues said that when he witnessed Timol allegedly jumping out of the window, he was not quick enough to stop him.

“It all happened in a split second. I had to decide whether I was going to follow him on the left hand side of the table. This happened in split seconds. I wanted to stop Timol, but my chair was in my way. And I then went into the chair and lost my balance and I fell to the ground and tumbled.

“But on my way to Timol I saw him open the window and I saw him dive through the window. And I then fell on the ground and when I jumped up I realised that Timol wasn’t there anymore. So I got up, looked through the window and saw a body lying on the ground far below,” Rodrigues said of Timol’s final moments.

The nephew to Timol, Imtiaz Cajee said that seeing Rodrigues charged at the crime scene of what was formerly known as John Vorster Square, now Johannesburg Central Police Station, where Timol had lost his life was an emotional moment. 

"There's mixed emotions. I saw him charged at the crime scene and hauled into the back of a police van, it's a significant milestone. The journey is far from over," Cajee said. 

Timol, who was an underground South African Communist Party member and freedom fighter was involved in the distribution of pamphlets and anti-apartheid material upon his return to South Africa from London in 1971.

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