Ahmed Timol, a teacher from Roodepoort, was a student activist and later became a member of the South African Communist Party. He went to London in 1967, where he took up a teaching post, supporting his family in South Africa.
He also met with former comrades and friends from the Communist Party and the ANC who selected Ahmed Timol to attend the International Lenin School in Moscow from February to October 1969. Back in London, and before leaving to go back to South Africa, he received training in underground political work. He returned to South Africa in February 1970, resuming his teaching post in Roodepoort.
Ahmed Timol was arrested at a roadblock in October 1971, together with Salim Essop, and subsequently taken to the John Vorster Square police station. Timol died in police custody on October 27, 1971, after after plunging ten storeys from the notorious John Vorster Square police station. His body however, sustained bruises and injuries indicative of the type of interrogation and torture he would have underwent following his arrest.
Among key “missing” information in the case are the classified records of the former Security Branch. Was the roadblock set up specifically to entrap Timol? Were police informers involved in his arrest? Precisely what information were they trying to extract from Timol under torture? If he was pushed from the window, who pushed him? These are some of the questions that remain, as-yet, without answers.
An Inquest was opened on 1 December 1971 at the Johannesburg Magistrate by J.J.L. de Villiers, with D.W. Rothwell and A.L.T. Beukes as Public Prosecutors, and Advocate I.A. Maisels QC and Advocate G. Bizos, and instructing attorneys M.S.H. Cachalia and M.A. Loonat presenting the Timol family.
The hearing had to be adjourned due to Advocate Maisels request to access documents in the case. After lengthy interventions hearings were resumed in April 1972. The post mortem was carried out by the pathologist Dr Nicolaas Schepers, assisted by Dr J. Gluckman at the request of the Timol family.
The Magistrate announced his findings on the 22 June 1972, saying that Ahmed Timol had committed suicide whilst in police custody, and that nobody was to be blamed for his death.
The inquest papers into Timol’s death are now public for the first time, and will be announced at the commemorative event. The documents were handed over to the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation by Attorney Mia Loonat, who was one of the lawyers representing the Timol family in the 1970s. The documents have been digitised and are now available via the Wits Historical Papers website. The Inquest records in this collection were donated by Advocate M.A. Loonat to the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
Timol was posthumously awarded the National Order of Luthuli, in 2009.
Learn more about Ahmed Timol by visiting the website: http://www.ahmedtimol.co.za/