Timol judgment brings closure to family

Johannesburg – People from all walks of life seated in a packed courtroom 2D of the North Gauteng High Court stood up and clapped simultaneously minutes after Judge Billy Mothle ruled that anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol had been murdered and had not taken his own life in 1971.

Timol's nephew, Imtiaz Cajee, who had championed the reopening of the inquest into his uncle's death after the family had found new evidence, turned around and shook hands with and embraced those around him, including his other uncle, Muhammad Timol, SACP's Solly Mapaila and struggle icon Salim Essop.

Murmurs pierced the silent courtroom as Mothle read out his damning findings which overturned a 1972 inquest which had found that Timol had jumped out of the 10th floor of the John Vorster Square building in 1971.

READ: #TimolInquest: Great victory for the nation - Nkosinathi Biko

Almost 46 years since his death, the North Gauteng High Court found that Timol, just as the family had always maintained, died at the hands of apartheid security branch police while in detention.

Reading his executive summary of the 120-page judgment, Mothle concluded that after being arrested by the security police on October 22, 1971, Timol was interrogated by various members of the security branch police in a room.

Consistent with testimony by Timol's friend, Essop, whom he had been arrested with, Mothle said: "Timol was tortured by interrogating members of the security branch in order to extract information out of him." 

Sergeant's version contradicted

Timol was tortured to the extent that he sustained severe injuries prior to his fall, the court heard.

On October 27, 1971, the day Timol died, he had been interrogated by captains Gloy and Van Niekerk and had been under their care when he fell, Mothle said.

"The allegations by security branch members that Timol was not assaulted are not true... The conclusion by the magistrate that Timol was treated in a civilised manner is also not true," Mothle found.

The trajectory evidence presented in court also proved that Timol was pushed either from the window of room 1026 or from the roof of the building.

Mothle said three witnesses contradicted former security branch police sergeant Joao Jan Rodrigues' version of events around Timol's death.

Witnesses stated that Timol died mid-morning while Rodrigues said the incident took place in the afternoon.

"Timol's fall to the ground was as a result of being pushed either from a window of room 1026 or from the top of the roof of the John Vorster Square building."

Further investigation recommended

Mothle found that Timol did not meet his death because he committed suicide but that he "died as a result of having being 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 members of the security branch who were interrogating Timol on that day were collectively responsible for his death.

"Rodrigues placed himself on the scene as a party to the cover-up to conceal the truth," and thus became an accessory to murder.

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

Read the full judgment below: