Reopen all unresolved apartheid martyr cases, foundation asks justice minister

Joao "Jan" Roderigues (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)
Joao "Jan" Roderigues (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The Imam Haron Foundation (IHF) has appealed to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola and related structures that "they open upon all the previous apartheid managed inquests and all unresolved cases".

This follows the unanimous historic ruling that was handed down in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg earlier in June in which the court dismissed apartheid-era cop Joao "Jan" Roderigues' application for a permanent stay of his prosecution.

Roderigues is accused of involvement in anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol's murder in 1971, News24 reported. At the time of his death, Timol was in custody.

Officers who interrogated him, including Roderigues, claimed that he threw himself out of a window from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square, now the Johannesburg Central Police station.

A 1972 inquest found that Timol had committed suicide, however, after the family disputed this, it was reopened in 2017 and it was found that he was murdered.

Security branch cruelly tortured and brutally murdered activists

"The IHF wishes to state that it always maintained the firm opinion that all those individuals who were detained and who died while in custody during the apartheid era, were cruelly tortured and brutally murdered at the hands of the apartheid regime's Security Branch (SB) members. And IHF is also of the view that this is a position that should have been recorded in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission [TRC] Report that was eventually made public; this sadly was, however, not to be," the foundation said in a statement.

READ: Rodrigues 'must face full might of the law' - nephew of Ahmed Timol

"Taking this position into account and as soon we heard the court's ruling in "the interest of justice and society's need for accountability…" regarding the Ahmed Timol case...and that tangibly forced our democratic government's justice system to bring this particular case back into the public eye as one of the TRC's unfinished tasks. As IHF members, we were and are extremely elated on, at least, three accounts.

"Firstly, we were very glad that Imtiaz Cajee’s persistent perseverance and his sincere efforts paid off to overturn the (apartheid-appointed) magistrate's court's questionable decisions of the 1972 Timol inquest; one that ruled in favour of the Security Branch members – of whom Joao Rodrigues formed a part in his capacity as an administrative clerk – who were basically responsible for having physically thrown Ahmed Timol out of – then known as – John Vorster Square police station's 10th-storey window (room 1026) on October 27, 1971."

Prosecute the killers of Nokuthula Simelane

The IHF said it was "exceedingly pleased" that the court unanimously decided to reject and waive Rodrigues' request for stay of prosecution.

"Secondly, as IHF entered the 50th year memorialising Imam Haron's martyrdom while he was kept incommunicado for 123 days for his dogged pursuit of social justice against the inhumane apartheid system, we honestly hope that the newly appointed members of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will not only bring Rodrigues to book, but that the NPA will also seek to prosecute the abductors and killers – despite the TRC amnesty that was granted – of Nokuthula Simelane."

On June 6, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria officially declared Simelane deceased, though her body has never been found; the finding was, however, based on the belief that those who had applied for amnesty were directly responsible for her disappearance and her subsequent murder.

Reopen apartheid-managed inquests 

"Thirdly, we plea to our newly appointed Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola and related structures that they open upon all the previous apartheid-managed inquests and all unresolved cases expeditiously without families having to knock on the doors of the ministry.

"We would want the minister and associated newly appointed government officials to act proactively in the interest of all of these families that have encountered decades of trauma, and rule fairly in their as well as the nation's interest for they have severely suffered in different ways; all of these was as a result of their cases not having been given any serious attention despite the extant evidence that had been around during these many years.

ALSO READ: Ahmed Timol murder: Roderigues still has an opportunity to make a full disclosure - family

"All of these families only desire closure regarding their loved ones and this can only be done if the minister and others in the South African government acts on the promises that were made at the end of the TRC process where it was agreed that many incomplete tasks and unfinished business matters still needed to be addressed.

"All of those who were killed in the apartheid prisons across the country belong to these categories and their cases should be given immediate attention.

"If this is done, then it will indeed assist in restoring the dignity of each of those individuals who had sacrificed their lives for the sake of social justice and particularly for the current and future generations that continue to experience inequalities at different levels in our democratic South African society," the IHF asserted. 

Imam Abdullah Haron was a South African Muslim cleric and anti-apartheid activist who was detained and subsequently killed by security police in 1969.

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