Kasrils rubbishes 'doctored' SACP document used in first Timol inquest

Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils says he fears for his life after he openly criticised President Jacob Zuma. (Cornel van Heerden, Gallo Images, Beeld, file)
Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils says he fears for his life after he openly criticised President Jacob Zuma. (Cornel van Heerden, Gallo Images, Beeld, file)

Johannesburg - Former minister for intelligence services Ronnie Kasrils on Thursday said that the Inkululeko Freedom number 2 document, which the magistrate relied on in the Ahmed Timol inquest in 1972, had been doctored.

Magistrate JJL de Villiers had relied on the document to determine the findings in the initial inquest in 1972, which ruled that Timol death in 1971 had been a suicide.

Kasrils was testifying on day 14 of the new Timol inquest, sitting in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

The security branch police had testified before the 1972 inquest that Timol had jumped out of a window on the 10th floor of John Vorster Square, now Johannesburg Central Police Station.

His family have always disputed the police version and strongly believed that Timol was killed by security branch officers while he was in detention.

READ: Timol Inquest: Ex-security branch cop accused of fabricating story

A fresh inquest was reopened after the family told the National Prosecuting Authority that it had new evidence.

Kasrils said he decided to join the African National Congress after the Sharpeville massacre.

He got to know of Timol when he worked for a committee led by Yusuf Dadoo, Joe Slovo and others in London.

"The committee's mission was to reorganise the underground structures of the SACP/ANC," he said.

'Learning how to survive in a police state'

Many were recruited to work for the ANC and South African Communist Party underground, and among them was Timol.

"The training involved learning how to survive in a police state such as South Africa."

Kasrils said there were two types of recruits, those like Timol who were recruited to serve the movement for a long term, and those who were international sympathisers who would go to South Africa as tourists to smuggle in propaganda leaflets.

READ: If police sergeant is guilty, he 'must face full might of the law' - Timol's nephew

Kasrils admitted that he never personally met or trained Timol because he was trained by Jack Hodgson.

"I knew about him and his training," he said.

Recruits were also trained to withhold information while in detention.

"There were comrades that did resist to the point of being beaten unconscious."

Kasrils said recruits were trained to withhold information for at least 24 hours, so that they could allow their comrades to escape over the border.

Judge Billy Mothle said there appeared that there had been a race between the security branch and the detainees. The security police wanted to extract information from detainees as soon as possible, while the detainees tried to hold off giving information for a long as possible.

WATCH LIVE: Timol inquest, day 14

No instructions to commit suicide

On the torture of Timol and Salim Essop, the man with whom he was arrested, Kasrils said he believed that the torture of Timol might have been harsher, because the security branch already had information of his activities abroad.

"They knew that Timol had been out of the country. They would have regarded him as a really important catch."

The Inkululeko Freedom No 2 document was not a formally handed over as an exhibit during the first inquest, but landed in the hands of the magistrate. The magistrate relied on this document to make the finding that Timol had committed suicide.

Kasrils pointed out to the court that certain passages had been modified.

He referred to a line which reads: "Rather commit suicide than betray the organisation."

"This is not English... English would be: 'Rather than betray the organisation'," Kasrils said.

Kasrils said, to him, the document appeared to have been translated by an Afrikaans-speaking person because of the poor English.

He believes that someone fiddled with the document.

Kasrils confirmed that no instruction to commit suicide, rather than betraying the organisation was given by the SACP or ANC. "Absolutely not," he said.

'Heard a thud'

Kasrils said there had been cases of communist party members escaping from custody.

"I don't think there is an actual record that was kept, but there were quite a number of people who managed to get out of the prisons - possibly a dozen in 1989 from the United Democratic Front."

Mothle said: "Timol and others were meant to be kept in cells, and we learnt that they were not allowed to be kept in the cells. The reasons the police said they kept them in the offices was that SACP members had escaped."

Kasrils responded: "In 1963, there was a famous escape in Johannesburg in Marshall Square. I think all four people were connected to the SACP, in one way or another. My wife, then, managed to escape from the security branch in Durban by being transferred to a mental hospital."

Muhammad Ali Thokan, a man who had been filling his car with petrol across the road from John Vorster Square, told the court that he was at the Dollars Filling Station on the morning of October 27, 1971, when he heard a thud.

That morning, Thokan, had been filling up his car because he was on his way to a government licencing department in Pretoria to get a trading licence.

"I heard a thud, I looked around and I did not see anything, and then I just carried on."

Later, a pedestrian exclaimed that a body had fallen from the building.

'Held responsible'

When Thokan went to investigate, he was told to "fuck off" by a group of plain clothed police officers who emerged from John Vorster Square.

Thokan said he obliged and left the scene.

Mothle asked Thokan if he was certain that the incident had occurred mid-morning. Thokan responded that he was certain, because he would never have gone to Pretoria in the afternoon.

Things took an interesting turn on Wednesday when Advocate Howard Varney, who is representing the Timol family, said he would be asking the North Gauteng High Court to recommend that criminal charges be brought against former security branch officer Sergeant Joao Jan Rodrigues.

He had previously said the inquest was a truth seeking exercise and that the family was not seeking vengeance.

Varney said: "We will first put to this court that you collaborated with the security branch to cover up various crimes.

"Firstly, the torture and the repeated grievous assaults with intent to do harm to Mr Timol, as well as his murder. Should it be demonstrated that you colluded with the security branch to set up the fall of Mr Timol, you should be held responsible with the crime of murder.

"We will be submitting to this honourable court that it recommend to the National Prosecuting Authority that you be charged with perjury, accessory after the fact to the murder of Timol, alternatively to the murder of Ahmed Timol," said Varney.

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