The inquest documents into anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol’s death in police detention have finally been opened for public viewing. And the move to do so hopes to give more understanding, especially to the youth, of South Africa’s turbulent history.
In launching the digitisation of the 650-page inquest and in an emotional address, Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Cajee spoke of the overwhelming evidence pointing to the truth behind his uncle’s death.
In all probability he did not commit suicide by jumping from the tenth floor at John Vorster Square exactly 44 years ago yesterday, but was beaten to death under detention and his body thrown out of the window by police, he said at yesterday’s launch at Johannesburg Central police station.
Cajee said attempts to introduce a new inquest into Timol’s death is being considered. Timol, a South African Communist Party member, died just a week before his 30th birthday. He was responsible for the distribution of political literature in the country, among other things.
This made him quite a “big catch” for security police, his brother Mohammed Timol said, adding there were no witnesses to his brother’s alleged leap from the building. Timol, however, was just one of many who died under police detention – with answers on his death still left hanging. Mohammed Timol pointed to Neil Agget who was found “hanging” in his cell, and Steve Biko who also “died in his prison cell”.
Veteran human rights lawyer advocate George Bizos recalled being at the prison shortly after Timol’s “body was found in the bushes”. Bizos, who represented the Timol family at the 1972 inquest, remembered medical evidence had shown police to be lying. The magistrate had also disregarded the evidence supported by independent doctors, he said.
“There is no one to blame. He had taken his own life,” said the magistrate, according to Bizos. Rulings such as those left many families in angst over the deaths of their loved ones, fighting for a free South Africa. Some police, however, did shed some light on the truth, Bizos said.
“Some of them owned up. A lot of them remain with the lies …”