NEWS

The Timol Family Is Still Overwhelmed By The Testimony From Witnesses

“We continue to feel overwhelmed by the information that keeps coming from witnesses.”

25/07/2017 12:28 SAST | Updated 25/07/2017 12:29 SAST
Gulshan Khan via Getty Images
Former anti-apartheid activist Mohamed Timol, brother of the late Ahmed Timol anti apartheid activist brutally murdered in police custody in October 1971.

After the second leg of the Ahmed Timol inquest on Monday, his family told HuffPost SA the family "continue to feel overwhelmed by the information that keeps coming from witnesses".

Timol's nephew Imtiaz Kajee said on Monday the testimonies heard during the inquest into Timol's death just showed how "apartheid police had no respect for the law". But the family remains optimistic that the truth will be revealed, he said.

On Monday three witnesses took to the stand at the High Court in Pretoria to give their account of the operations at the notorious John Voster Square, now Johannesburg Central Police Station.

Advocate Ernst Matthis was at John Vorster Square during the incident and watched as Timol's body fell, from the 10th floor. According to his testimony, when he looked out of the window to see where Timol fell from, there was no sign of an open window. At the time, he reported the incident to Parliament, but his testimony was never used in the first inquest in 1972.

Timol died in 1971 while in police custody at John Vorster Square. The cause of his death remains a mystery to his family. In the first case of inquest in 1972, Magistrate J. J. L. de Villiers agreed that Timol committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor. The courts said he was guided by the Communist Party to take his own life.

But Timol's family has never believed this that he committed suicide. Decades after his death his brother has maintained that it is unlikely that Timol wanted to take his own life. That is why they decided to approach the National Prosecutions Authority to open a case of inquest.

One of the testimonies was from former security branch officer Paul Francis Erasmus, who was stationed at John Vorster Square. He spoke on Monday about how he was part of a smear campaign against Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He decimated posters which said that Tutu was responsible for killing children. He also admits to spending much of his time trying to perfect Tutu's signature which he forged on many documents.

Erasmus was part of a group of officers assigned to torture prisoners for information. He said on Monday torture was "a standard practice" at John Voster Square and he was only part of acts of common assault. This included slapping and pushing detainees for information.

Erasmus said Timol was a regular topic of discussion.

"There was a policeman who was nick-named Timol Kotze," he said. According to Erasmus, room 1026 at the police station was used as a bar for police officers. He said he regularly heard jokes of how Timol's ghost would linger in the room.

Erasmus was also involved in an operation to make the death of trade union organiser Neil Aggett, who died in detention in 1982. According to Erasmus, he was told the police could not afford "another Timol or Biko situation", and he was told to gain evidence that Aggett was a "born suicide case".

Kajee stated that although Monday testimonies were shocking, but that the truth will be revealed.

During the first day of the inquiry in June, Timol's brother, Mohamed, addressed a crowd outside court where he said God would deal with those responsible for Timol's death.

"If they believe in God, they will answer to God. This is what my mother said during the TRC. She said, 'I want to know what happened to my child. I want to know who was responsible for killing him and if I cannot get it in this world, those that are responsible will have to answer to God'," Mohamed said.