The administration of justice and the hopes of the families of many anti-apartheid activists believed to have been murdered by the security police would be thwarted if former security policeman Joao Rodrigues’ bid to permanently stop his prosecution for the alleged murder of Ahmed Timol succeeded.
This was the view expressed by veteran prosecutor Torie Pretorius in a lengthy affidavit opposing Rodrigues’ high court application to permanently stay his prosecution.
The brother of the late Matthews Mabelane, who also died while in custody at John Vorster Square in 1977, filed an affidavit in support of the NPA’s opposition. Timol’s family and the sister of the late Dr Hoosen Haffejee, who died in the custody of the security branch at the Brighton Beach police station in 1977, sought to intervene as opponents to the application.
The 80-year-old Rodrigues was charged with murder after a historic ruling last year in the re-opened inquest into Timol’s death, which found he had not committed suicide in October 1971, but was tortured and thrown from the tenth floor or the roof of John Vorster square in Johannesburg while being interrogated.
Judge Billy Mothle found that Rodrigues, the only suspect in Timol’s murder who was still alive, had fabricated a version that Timol had committed suicide to conceal the truth.
Rodrigues contended his prosecution was inherently unfair and infringed his fundamental rights to a fair trial. He alleged the delay of 47 years in prosecuting him was unreasonably long and that the NPA did not have sufficient evidence against him.
Pretorius said the continued suffering of Timol’s family by the repeated denial of the truth of what really happened in the final hours of Timol’s life could not be ignored and justice demanded that the state presented the evidence against Rodrigues.
If Rodrigues succeeded, it would deny the families of apartheid-era victims who died in police custody to know the truth of what happened.
The outcome of Rodrigues’ case would influence the direction the NPA took on the cases of many more families who were seeking closure on their unanswered questions about the deaths of their relatives in detention, he added.