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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type 1 H TIMOL, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 30 April 1996
Location METHODIST CHURCH, JOHANNESBURG
Names HAWA TIMOL
Case Number GO/O173 JOHANNESBURG
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DR BORAINE: Now Mrs Timol the name Ahmed Timol is very, very well known, not only in Gauteng but throughout South Africa. Many of us sitting on the panel remember him and what happened to him and to your family as though it was yesterday. You have come to tell us your story about what happened, and in order to do that Dr Fazel Randera will now take over from me to guide you in that story. We are very grateful that you have come. Thank you.
DR RANDERA: I will ask you the story shortly for you to tell me the story shortly. ....police raided at least 115 homes and offices across the country ostensibly in search of goods and documents relating to banned organisations, offences under the security laws. At least seven people, mainly Indians were detained. Among these was Ahmed Timol a 30 year-old schoolteacher and his brother Mohammed.
Timol had died the previous day after a fall from the 10th floor window of John Vorster Square. Brigadier P Kruger and Sergeant Rodrigues both stated that Timol had committed suicide by jumping out of the window.
I also want to read a little about the investigation and the inquest. After numerous calls for a full judicial inquiry and inquest into the death of Ahmed Timol began in late April 1972. On the 22nd of June 1972 magistrate Mr J J L De Villiers found that Timol had committed suicide and that there was no one to blame for his death. The magistrate deduced that as Timol was a self-confessed communist, and I quote,
"That he had been familiar with instructions given by the party to its members, these instructions included to commit suicide rather than betray the Communist Party".
Furthermore the magistrate believed that Timol had committed suicide because he blamed himself for the information he had revealed to the security police and because he feared long imprisonment. The magistrate summed up the motives for Ahmed Timol's suicide by stating,
DR RANDERA: Auntie Hawa can you hear me. Please do not be scared and please take your time before you answer. Do you remember that I came to your home the other night and that you had issued a statement to Wessels?
MS TIMOL: They came first through to see the son and the son was not there. They said that it was the wrong number. They asked the neighbours where was Timol and they were told no.2 and they came to us. They knocked at the door and my late husband asked who is it and they said it was the police and my late husband opened the door. They came in. They asked for my late son and we said he wasn't in. They went to his room and they saw he was not there. They asked us where he was and they then ransacked all of Ahmed's possessions. They went on to the balcony and found nothing.
I then argued with them that I wanted to see my son and they said that your son is with us. I asked them that I wanted to see him and they said no you cannot see him. They then sat and they interrogated my late husband and then the Azan(?) that is the call for prayer went and my late husband asked to be allowed to pray. They refused him to do so. It was the fasting month and my late husband informed them that he had not missed a prayer for many years and that he be allowed to pray. He said that he would pray in their presence on the balcony, and that he should be allowed to pray. They told him that he would jump off the balcony and he then prayed and the police then left.
There were three policemen and shortly thereafter they came back to look for Haroon and the third time when they came back they took my son Haroon and at quarter past one on Saturday they came back and they again interrogated us. They wanted to know with whom my son fraternised and who were his friends and where were they. They continuously interrogated us and they ransacked the home and found nothing. They then came back at night and again
On Sunday nobody came. On Monday morning the driver, our driver came and they interrogated the driver asking him whether he had a permit. The driver then indicated to me that he was arrested and I had sent him home in the event of the police coming back. In the afternoon on the same day they came back and again ransacked the place. I told them that I wanted to see my son.
On Tuesday they came back and I again told them that I wanted to see my son and they told me that you will not see your son again. I then told the policeman that he should go home and ask his wife what it means to a mother to rear a child and not to see him. I told him - he asked me numerous questions and left.
On Wednesday at about 12 they came back again. They did not come inside the house but they waited outside. They went on top of the roof. They interrogated a cleaner. They asked him who cleans the storeroom. They asked for the keys of the storeroom. The landlord had gone to mosque to pray. They called his wife. The wife opened the storeroom and they asked who cleaned the storeroom and the wife had indicated that it had been cleaned about two weeks ago. They had interrogated the landlord's wife and they were abusive towards her. She asked to pray but they did not allow her to pray.
After the mid-afternoon prayer the landlord came and he was interrogated as well. They then left and they took the maid and interrogated the maids. When the maids came back we asked what happened and we were told that they had interrogated them with regards to Ahmed and said that if they don't get the correct answers they would assault them.
After the early evening prayers they came back again. I asked who they were, they identified themselves as security police. They stood and I asked them to have a seat. One of the police pushed me violently onto the seat. I stood up and I asked what happened, and they told me that my son had jumped from the tenth floor of John Vorster Square and that he had died and that he was ...(intervention)
MS TIMOL: I told them that I do not believe that my son had committed suicide and I showed them the window of my room and I told them it is impossible for him to have jumped and that they did not look after him and they told me that he had jumped and had dis that he worked there for 24 years and that a post mortem normally takes 20 minutes but this is the first time it had taken four hours.
The call for prayer on Friday then went on and after the Friday prayer they bathed the deceased and brought the deceased's body home. I then saw the son and I had noticed that he had been assaulted and was full of blood and that the whole face was covered in blood. At about quarter past
three they took the funeral. They hit my son tremendously. They arrested him on a Friday and they killed him and said that he committed suicide. I want to know who assaulted him and I want to know who lodged the complaint about my son. It took me quite a bit of difficulty to raise my children. It is 25 years now and that I will not forget what happened. I ask the Almighty that I will not forget what happened and that I need to know who lodged the complaint and what happened. I will not forget what happened, I need to know.
MS TIMOL: My other son was arrested. I had told them that you people have already killed my one son, I need to know what happened to the other son, and they told me that I will not see them. They asked to see my husband and they were told that he could not come as he was sitting for prayer. Mr Buys and Mr Ficks and the third policeman I can't remember his name. They asked me about the whereabouts of my husband and I told them that he was in the mosque and that my son was taking food to him and they insisted that my husband should come home. I told them that he could not come as he was sitting in mosque for a period of ten days. And they told me that my other son in Durban, if I wanted to see him I could see him tonight if he would work for us and that the public should not know and they then said that they wanted to see my husband. We took them to the mosque.
English and in Afrikaans, and told him that if you want to see the son in Durban then he's got to work for us and that the public should not know about it that he's working for us. I told them that if my body had a zip they could open the zip to see how I was aching inside. My late husband could not speak and Buys gave him the telephone number and said phone me in Pretoria and ask for Mr Buys, and said that my son will come back tonight.
They interrogated us tremendously thereafter and I still need to know who killed my son and how is it possible that he would jump from the tenth floor to commit suicide. He was a teacher at the Indian school and was well liked by the pupils. And I cannot be expected to forgive at this stage. They hit him very badly. They ripped off all his nails and the coffin was also filled with blood.
She further wants that in the name of Ahmed that his school in Azaduo(?) be named after him. This was actually a popular feeling of the community where he taught. They felt that the school should be renamed after him, and this is what she is requesting.
Further she believes that she cannot forgive. She doesn't know who to forgive and she believes that she can never, ever forget what actually happened to her son. For now that is all I would like to say.
DR BORAINE: Mohammed thank you very much. I wonder if I can actually just ask a few questions of you and I don't want this to be interpreted as being rude to your mother, but if she wants to listen to the questions in Gujerati she would have to put the headphone on.
Mohammed we've heard many a time in the stories that have been told so far in the last two and a half weeks how often the mothers, parents, did not know what their sons, daughters were doing in terms of what we know as a struggle during those years. I have known both you and in some ways your brother many years ago too, and I was wondering if you would be able to say a little more about your brother, because we have heard from your mother that he was a teacher at Roodepoort School and that at the time of his death that is where he was teaching, but perhaps you could just give us a little more testimony as to who your brother was and what his involvement was that led to his arrest and subsequent death.
Living now in a democratic South Africa it affords us an opportunity to actually relate contributions of individuals, one is able to relate the contributions of individuals to bring about a democratic dispensation in South Africa.
To start off I would like to say that Ahmed grew up in a very religious orthodox family of the Islamic faith. He grew up at a time when there was intense oppression in South Africa, and as a young Indian Moslem he too became affected by what was happening in this country, the injustices committed against the vast majority of the people of South Africa, those who were not White.
In his early years he became influenced by the political situation and he became a young activist of the Indian Congress. He completed his schooling and went for training to become a schoolteacher. ...(tape ends) South Africa on exit permit to live in exile. It seemed that this really affected him tremendously.
In 1966 at the young age of 24 he left South Africa and went to Mecca to perform Hadj which is compulsory for every adult Moslem. After completing his Hadj he thereafter went to England and he lived with his very close friends Essop Pahad and Aziz Pahad. Aziz Pahad is presently the deputy foreign minister of this country. And Essop Pahad is a member of Parliament.
The three years that he spent in England he taught as a schoolteacher in London and through his contact of meeting other people in London I think he finally reached a decision that he had to return to South Africa to participate in the underground struggle.
Yusuf Dadoo, I am sure all of us do know him or have heard of him. I think it was Ahmed's commitment to bring about a just society that he felt that he had to return to South Africa during a very dark period when the security police and the securocrenjoying is as a result of Bubla Salojee, Ahmed Timol, Hector Petersen and many, many countless and thousands of other young and old, men and women, who have made it possible for us to sit here today and listen to testimonies of mothers and relatives who have lost their loved ones in the cause of the struggle in this country.
difficult this must be for you. I would also just like to state that at the time of your brother's death you were arrested yourself. The Minister refused permission for you to attend, although I understand you had got to know about your brother's death but refused to give you permission to attend the funeral, and that after your release from prison that you were in fact served with a five year house arrest. You subsequently also left the country, and we are proud that you have come back to this country. Thank you. I want to hand over to my Commissioners.
MR H TIMOL: A prominent Advocate by the name of Issy Maisels who is today late represented the family and he was assisted by another prominent Advocate George Bizos. The feeling of the community at that point was that money is not an issue we need to get the best legal brains in this country in order to uncover the facts, the circumstances of Ahmed's death. It was also felt that Bubla, who was killed a few years earlier, that the security police got away scot free and the popular feeling of the family and the community and friends was that we should not allow the security police and the regime to get away with murder.
MS SOOKA: I note that from your mother's statement that an independent pathologist was appointed and from her story when the body was bathed that it was quite clear that he had been tortured. I know that it is harrowing for her but if you could just let us have some of the details of the pathology report.
MR H TIMOL: As indicated by the Commissioner I was detained at that particular time as well so therefore I was not allowed to attend the funeral, Ahmed's funeral, but I attended the inquest which took place from April to June 1972. The pathologist, the independent pathologist who was an observer at the post mortem was a prominent South African by the name of Jonathan Gluckman who performed many a post mortem of detainees who had died in detention. Gluckman's contention and argument during the inquest was that there were bruises and torture marks on Ahmed's body and he could have only sustained that during the period of detention. But the district surgeon representing the State argued that those bruises could not have happened prior to his detention. He actually argued that it took place before detention and not during detention. The inquest findings was that there were bruises on his body but it actually took place - he must have been involved in a brawl before he got detained. That was the inquest magistrate's finding.
MS MKHIZE: Thank you very much. As I was listening I have been deeply touched by all what you have shared about, but also I have heard, and the Commission have heard that you would like asupport network and that we were never destitute during the difficult period that we experienced. But I would believe that in the South African struggle there have been families who lost loved ones and actually became very destitute and if those families ask for reparations in the form of financial assistance from the State I think I can go along with that.
But as a family I believe that what we would like to have, and I am sure many, many South Africans would like to have, is that their loved ones should never, ever be forgotten, and the only way that one could bring this about is through some sort of - something in their memory and we believe that in Ahmed's case, the fact that he was a schoolteacher that a school in his name would be appropriate.
But here again at the end of the day I believe that South Africans in future generations should never, ever forget those that were killed in the name of apartheid and we should always remember those people for ever and ever.
We thank you very much for coming to share with us and helping us as a nation to cry over things that happened in our nation. We hope that you too will, as your son said, have a pride in the fact that though he died so painfully it was not in vain. I am sure that your son and others will be aware that often and often in the rallies that were held in different parts of our country often you had as it were a roll of honour and our young people got to know names and perhaps know the story a little bit. It is a great privilege for all of us to be hearing from yourselves.
We do hope that we can perhaps take your recommendations about memorialising your brother, your son and all of course we can do is recommend as well to appropriate people that this would be a fitting memorial to a stalwart.