Reopening of Timol matter not 'about inciting racial tension' - family

The nephew of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol said he was filled with mixed emotions as his uncle's alleged killer finally got his day in court.

Joao Jan Rodrigues, the 79-year-old former security branch police sergeant accused of being involved in the murder of Timol, appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Monday on charges of murder and defeating the ends of justice.

PICS: Ahmed Timol murder accused Joao Rodrigues arrives in court

Timol's nephew Imtiaz Cajee told reporters shortly after his appearance that the reopening of the Timol matter was not "about inciting racial tension".

"It is about remembering our fallen heroes and heroines who paid the ultimate price for us to live in a democratic South Africa and for that we will never forget," he said, adding that he was grateful to the director of public prosecutions for seeing the matter through.

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who was also in court to support the Timol family, said Rodrigues' appearance in court was "historic".

Hopefully 'the big fish will come'

"It is a bittersweet moment because we are looking at the small fish that did not apply for amnesty. They misled the truth commission.

"We thank the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) for gathering the relevant evidence and we are hopeful that one day the big fish will come...those who issued instructions. We want those that said we don't deserve to be humans," Lesufi said.

Rodrigues was granted R2 000 bail.

Magistrate Carlo Labuschagne said Rodrigues was not a young man and that he handed himself over to the police when he was issued with a warrant of arrest.

The matter was postponed to September 18 for a pre-trial conference in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

In his affidavit, which was read out in court by his legal representative, Rodrigues said he intended pleading not guilty to the charges.

Previous perjury conviction

"I intend on proving my innocence at the trial. I have no desire to forfeit everything I have worked for up to now and to become a fugitive of the criminal justice system," reads the affidavit.

He said the inquest proceedings by Judge Billy Mothle found that he was not present when Timol died but that "my actions might be as an accessory after the fact".

Last year, almost 47 years since his death, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria found that Timol, just as his family had always maintained, died at the hands of apartheid security branch police while in detention.

ALSO READ: Timol's family 'cautiously optimistic' ahead of former police sergeant's court appearance

Mothle found that Timol did not die from suicide, but that he "died as a result of having been pushed to fall, an act which was committed by members of the security branch with dolus eventualis as a form of intent, and prima facie amounting to murder".

Mothle said three witnesses contradicted Rodrigues' version of events around Timol's death.

He said members of the security branch who were interrogating Timol on that day were collectively responsible for his death. Mothle said at the time that Rodrigues said he had placed himself on the scene as a party to the cover-up to conceal the truth and thus became an accessory to murder.

"Rodrigues should be investigated for making contradictory statements while under oath. He has a previous conviction on perjury."