A man committed to the struggle, despite the imminent threats the apartheid security police posed to him – the late Ahmed Timol has been remembered over the past few weeks by family and friends, during the reopened inquest into his death.
As a 30-year-old young man who was a member of the South African Communist Party, Timol was seen as a “big catch” when he was eventually caught at a road block in 1971 and was arrested for having underground propaganda pamphlets on him.
Timol was arrested alongside friend and medical student Dr Saleem Essop, who underwent such treacherous torture, that he had to be hospitalised.
In what is thought to have been an interrogation gone wrong, room 1026 of the 10th floor of John Vorster Square is where Timol spent his final moments, before allegedly jumping to his death on October 27 1971.
International policy and investigations expert Frank Kennan Dutton called Timol’s death “a cover-up”.
His family, led by his nephew Imtiaz Cajee, has fought to reopen the inquest, when in 1972, it was ruled by apartheid-era magistrate JL de Villiers that Timol had committed suicide and that no foul play was involved in his death.
During the last 15 days of intensive testimony given by key witnesses, several findings emerged, including that Timol had sustained injuries that were unrelated to his fall and that his faith meant he would have never even considered suicide as an option, even if he was being tortured by security police.
Pathologists Dr Shakeera Holland and Professor Steve Naidoo both appeared in court after analysing the original post-mortem report which was conducted on Timol.
Both concluded that a majority of his injuries were sustained prior to falling, and that he would not have been able to physically make his way towards the window as he had extensive injuries to his left ankle.
Judge Billy Mothle, who is overseeing the case, told the court today that he would be calling both pathologists back to the witness stand in order to provide some clarity on the actual time of death, after new evidence emerged yesterday.
A witness who claims to have been at the Dollars petrol station, which was situated opposite John Vorster Square, told the court yesterday that he had heard Timol fall – a loud “thud” – and when he and another witness approached the scene they were ushered away by angry men in unmarked clothing, whom he assumed were police officers.
Muhammed Ali Tokhan told the court that he was witness to this during the mid-morning hours of that day, which is in contradiction to what was originally stated by police officers, who said that Timol had jumped from the building at about 4pm.
Mothle would on this basis like to call another key witness, Joao Roderigues, who was allegedly the last person to see Timol alive.
Roderigues, who was cross-examined for three days this week, maintained that he saw Timol jump from the window, and that he was not quick enough to stop him.
Roderigues was an administrative clerk working for the security police. He said he was there to merely “hand out salary cheques” but was asked by the two officers on duty (Hans Gloy and JZ van Niekerk) to guard Timol after they left the room.
Mothle reminded him that should it come to light that Roderigues had any part to play in the death of Timol, he could face prosecution.
An unflinching Roderigues maintained his innocence.
Today Essop was asked to identify some officers from black and white photographs.
An emotional Essop was able to identify several of the officers – including Van Niekerk, whom he said was “a particularly nasty interrogator” – as he held back tears.
The court will hear the final testimony from Cajee on August 10.
Cajee drove the investigation into his uncle’s death.
Another witness who worked at the Dollars petrol station has been subpoenaed as well.
That will be the last day of oral evidence submissions. Until August 18, only written affidavits will be accepted and Mothle is expected to make a ruling on this day.
Mothle appealed to anyone who may be able to help the case to get in touch with the Timol family.