Scores of unsolved cases from the apartheid era may never be heard if murder accused Joao Jan Rodrigues successfully thwarts being tried for the murder of apartheid activist Ahmed Timol, according to Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Cajee, who helped the state reopen the inquest into his uncle’s death.
Last week Rodrigues’ legal team filed an application for a stay of prosecution on the basis of the accused’s age and how long ago the incident occurred.
Yesterday, Rodrigues argued that he was being unfairly targeted because those directly linked to Timol’s death in 1971 were all dead.
When the matter was heard in the High Court in Johannesburg yesterday, Judge Ramarumo Monama called on any interested parties who wanted to add their voices to the application to make submissions before November 5.
The trial date was set yesterday for January 28 next year, but Rodrigues’ application could stop the matter dead in its tracks.
According to Cajee, this meant the stakes were higher than ever for his family, and that of the many families who lost loved ones during apartheid in a similar fashion and wanted answers.
“The Timol matter is not the only matter that has been managed by the Foundation for Human Rights, the Legal Resources Centre and Webber-Wentzel.
“They represent a number of other families so you can rest assured that by November 5, the rest of these institutions will be serving their papers because they are a vested party and they have a lot at stake regarding other families,” said Cajee.
The battle lines had been drawn, he added, and these institutions would be watching closely.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwana said the state was confident in its argument opposing Rodrigues’ application.
“In terms of the law, as we understand it, in cases like murder and rape it doesn’t matter how far back the incident occurred as long as the state finds that there is someone who can be held liable,” said Mjonondwana. “Age and the duration argument cannot hold water.”
A group of human rights lawyers and activists is currently pursuing at least 20 cases of apartheid-era killings, including the detention deaths of Matthews Mabelane, whom the NPA confirmed it was assisting yesterday.