Time, injuries, a cover-up: The big revelations in the Timol inquest

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

Today all eyes will be on Judge Billy Mothle, when he hands down judgment in the reopened inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol, who was said to have committed suicide on October 27 1971, after he “jumped” from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square.

Timol’s family fought to have the inquest reopened, after a strong belief that Judge JL De Villiers had incorrectly ruled his death a suicide, and have sought to prove that he was in fact murdered while in detention. Here are eight important revelations that came out of the inquest

1) With his injuries there was no way Timol could have jumped, experts said.

Forensic pathologist Dr Shakeera Holland. Picture: Netwerk24

Forensic experts Professor Steve Naidoo and Dr Shakeera Holland both pointed out that Timol had a depressed skull, which Holland said could only have been caused as a result of “blunt-force trauma” and was not consistent with the fall injuries.

2) Out of those injuries, only 10 were as a result of Timol falling.

The rest, Naidoo said, were injuries which he had before he fell.

3) Ahmed Timol’s death was a cover-up.

That was the testimony from international policy and investigations expert Frank Kennan Dutton. He said that when the original inquest into Timol’s death took place, key witnesses were not interviewed, nor were other detainees.

4) Black police officers not interviewed

In Dutton’s findings, he told the court that there “was a large contingent of black members” whose statements were not taken following Timol’s death.

5) ‘It happened in seconds’

Joao Rodrigues. Picture: Screengrab/YouTube

78-year-old Joao Rodrigues, who was witness to Timol’s apparent “suicide”, said that when Timol supposedly jumped from the window, “it all happened in split seconds”. Rodrigues was alone in the room with Timol according to his testimony.

“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 any more. So I got up, looked through the window and saw a body lying on the ground far below.”

6) Witness ‘didn’t know’ about prior injuries

Rodrigues denied knowing where Timol had sustained leg and ankle injuries from prior to his fall.

“I was never involved. I don’t know where those injuries were sustained,” he said.

7) Suicide was not a part of SACP policy

Former minister of intelligent services Ronnie Kasrils testifies on day 14 of the reopened Timol inquest today. Picture: screengrab/sabc

Timol, who was a member of the South African Communist Party, was said to have committed suicide as per the document Inkululeko Freedom No 2, which is what was used by apartheid magistrate JL de Villiers when he ruled in the 1972 inquest that Ahmed Timol had committed suicide.

Ronnie Kasrils, former intelligence minister, helped to compile the document and said that suicide was not a part of the tactics that SACP members used if they were caught by state security.

8) Time of death

There were contradictions over the time of death, which extended the reopened inquest

Muhammed Ali Tokhan and Abdullah Adam both testified that they had been witness to Timol’s fall on October 27 1971, which happened during the mid-morning and not late afternoon as was previously recorded by the state police.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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