The family of slain anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol have once again reiterated that they are against attempts by former member of apartheid‘s feared Security Branch, Joao Jan Rodrigues, to have the matter thrown out of court.
Addressing the media in the Gauteng High Court sitting in Palm Ridge on Monday, Imtiaz Cajee said his family was demanding that Rodrigues, 79, stands trial for the murder of his uncle.
Timol was arrested in 1971 at the age of 29. The police in the interrogation room at the time, including Rodrigues, said the young teacher and activist from Roodepoort threw himself out of a window from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square, now Johannesburg police station.
His family refused to believe this and, in 2017, the National Prosecuting Authority held another inquest, overturning the 1972 finding that he had died by suicide.
Rodrigues had in the meantime, left the police and carved out a new career for himself as a prolific author of books about nature and wildlife, running a website promoting his work, that has since been deactivated.
Rodrigues sat alone in the packed gallery on Monday, his left hand clutching his white walking stick.
“It is long overdue that he must stand trial for the murder of my uncle. We have waited for over 15 months for Rodrigues to have his day in court. My uncle didn‘t commit suicide as it was claimed before, but was murdered,” he said.
Cajee added that his Timol was killed in police custody and that there were witnesses who earlier revealed that they heard him screaming the night before he was found dead.
“The court delays are frustrating us. Rodrigues is 79 and, every day that passes by, he won‘t be able to live long. On the other hand, his lawyers are asking for a permanent stay of prosecution.”
Cajee said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, had failed to subpoena Rodrigues to testify before it.
“Rodrigues is applying delay tactics to avoid trial. He must face the full might of the law. The majority of the victims still relive the murders of the past.”
He dismissed claims that Rodrigues might testify in court that, due to his age, he couldn‘t recollect some of the events that led to Timol‘s death. Cajee said it would be absolute rubbish that the accused couldn‘t remember some of the events.
Cajee said there was overwhelming evidence from witnesses who were tortured along with Timol and that there was forensic evidence to support their statements.
“Massive torture was inflicted on my uncle before he died. His version is highly improbable and his application for permanent stay of justice must be rejected by the court,” he said.
This case has offered hope to other families in a similar position to the Timols, that they might also get answers from other police officers who have created new lives for themselves.