Thursday, October 29, 2015

Apartheid-era SACP Martyred Activist Ahmed Timol’s Family Seeks Closure
Wednesday 28 October 2015 08:27
Busi Chimombe

Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol died at John Voster Square police station in 1972 .

Forty-four years after the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol, his family continues to search closure and the reopening of an inquest to uncover the truth around his death.

Timol, a teacher and a member of the South African Communist Party, was arrested at a roadblock in 1972 and taken to John Voster Square police station.

Police claimed he committed suicide while in custody, but medical records showed he was severely tortured. The family says the inquest ignored this evidence.

On Tuesday, they held a memorial service at the very police station to mark his tragic fate.

Documents provided to the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation by Advocate Mia Loonat, a lawyer representing the Timol family in the 1972 inquest, have now been digitised by Wits University's Historical Papers Research Archive and are available to the public online.

Timol's brother Mohammad says they need to know the truth

Although missing over 650 pages, the initiative has given renewed hope for closure for the Timol family.

They have rejected the police line that Timol committed suicide by jumping out of a 10th floor window during interrogation.

The police had claimed that he had just ratted out some of his comrades. Timol's brother Mohammad, says they need to know the truth.  

"We are working with the foundation for human rights to reopen the inquest and to reverse the findings of the inquest magistrate as we know that those that they claimed had committed suicide or slipped on a bar of soap, we all know were all brutally killed therefore we need to reopen the inquest and in a democratic South Africa set a precedent that those judgments have got to be reversed."

Advocate George Bizos, who was also part of the family's legal team during the inquest, says the truth was ignored by the Senior Magistrate. He says there are grounds for the case to be reopened.

"The signs and particularly the medical signs showed them to be bloody liars. No less than 14 injuries were identified by Dr Gluckman that showed that some were inflicted more than days, others fairly recently. The Senior Magistrate ignored the evidence of Gluckman supported by fellow doctors."

Bizos says he remembers the security branch members boasting after Timol's death that they had netted a big fish and managed to dismantle an extensive underground network in the province. More eerie were the words that the entire attorney had proved was that Indians cannot fly.

Timol's nephew Imitiaz Cajee has been relentless in his investigation about what happened to his uncle, authoring a book on the subject and running an exhibition to keep his legacy alive.

" For me government has to be commended for repatriating the remains of our fallen heroes abroad but surely it cannot stop there. We have to ask the difficult questions: What happened to Ahmed Timol? What happened to Suliman Babla Salojee? What happened to Neil Aggett? What happened to Steve Biko? And the irony that we expected during the TRC in 1996 was that we were going to find some forms of closure. We should not forget about the others who were not even granted an opportunity to testify at the TRC whose wishes were not even granted of having an institution named after them,  ho wait until today for financial compensation."

Wits University Historical Papers Research Archive's Michell Pickover says the post-apartheid state has not prioritised the recording of the archives that document the past regime's human rights violations, with intelligence and security documents kept a secret. Even now she says little is being done to open up these archives.

"The proposed Protection of Security Act , the so-called Secrecy Bill which I believe is still on the table in its current form is retrospective and will give protection to apartheid era documents and secrets. The archives of the TRC are not accessible even when using PAIA requests more than eight years after the TRC's final report was released. The records of the TRC remain unprocessed and deliberately buried in what is essentially an inaccessible and closed archive guarded by the Minister of Justice, by national intelligence and the Department of Arts and Culture."

While the digitised documents do not hold new evidence, the Timol family are hoping that what they contain may be looked at differently by a more objective court. The move to lift the veil of secrecy off the case is a step in the right direction, they say.

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