News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
14 Aug 2017
5:21 am

Timol family bids to dig up apartheid-era security police records

Ilse de Lange

Cajee said the classified records might, for example, reveal if the roadblock had been set up specifically to entrap Timol, if police informers were involved.

Apartheid activist Ahmed Timol who died while in detention 45 years ago. Picture: Facebook

Late anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol’s family is considering approaching the Information Regulator to gain access to apartheid-era security police records.

The reopened inquest into Timol’s death, which will resume in the High Court in Pretoria today, has left many questions unanswered and it seems the full truth about his death in police custody 46 years ago might never be revealed.

This despite the fact that a number of potential new witnesses have come forward after an appeal by Judge Billy Mothle and Timol’s family. The young Roodepoort schoolteacher died after plunging from a 10th-storey window at John Vorster Square in Johannesburg, five days after being arrested at a police roadblock on October 22, 1971.

The first inquest into his death found he had committed suicide. Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Cajee, who fought for a new inquest, has expressed frustration at how difficult it is to get apartheid-era government records, which might shed more light on his death.

Cajee said the classified records might, for example, reveal if the roadblock had been set up specifically to entrap Timol, if police informers were involved, precisely what information the police were trying to extract from him through torture and, most importantly, if he was pushed out of the window, who pushed him.

“Retrieving records from the apartheid archives is a long and tedious process. Bureaucrats who have no understanding of our struggle history are responsible for making decisions to declassify these records. If this information is not declassified, I intend to escalate the matter to the information regulator,” he said.

“South Africa’s approach to these archives differs markedly to that of some other countries that emerged from repression at more or less the same time.

“In Germany, for example, the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Archives is an upper-level federal agency that preserves and protects the archives and investigates past crimes of the former Stasi, the secret police and intelligence organisation of the communist German Democratic Republic.

“The German government has the political will to ensure that what happened in the past is not lost to history,” Cajee said.

– ilsedl@citizen.co.za