Timol murder case in court, 47 years after his death

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Ahmed Timol. Picture: File
Ahmed Timol. Picture: File

It’s been nearly 47 years since Ahmed Timol fell from the 10th floor of a notorious apartheid police station. And now his family is hopeful that the high court will finally get them answers.

Timol’s death had until recently been classed as a suicide, but an inquest into his death ruled that he had been murdered.

The pre-trial hearing in the Timol murder gets under way in the high court tomorrow.

The Timol family hopes that former security policeman Joao “Jan” Rodrigues will view his pending trial for the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol nearly 47 years ago, as an opportunity to finally tell the truth about events in the 10th floor interrogation room in October 1971 that led to Timol plummeting to his death.

Rodrigues was the last person to see Timol alive, and was in the room when he fell to his death.

“It is not too late for former security policeman Joao Rodrigues to tell the truth,” Ahmed Timol Family Trust said in a statement today.

The matter has been set down on the Johannesburg High Court Roll for 10am tomorrow.

“By telling the truth, Rodrigues would not only provide final closure for the Timol family but also potentially assist other families still seeking the truth about loved ones taken from them by apartheid forces – besides taking the opportunity in his twilight years to make peace with his conscience and his country,” the trust said.

In July, Rodrigues, a former security branch policeman who was found to be an accomplice in Timol’s death, was granted R2000 bail at the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court.

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.

Imtiaz Cajee, Timol’s nephew, said that seeing Rodrigues charged at the crime scene of what was formerly known as John Vorster Square, now Johannesburg Central Police Station, 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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