Witnesses to include police directly involved in detention and interrogation

The re-opened inquest into the death in police custody 46 years ago of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol resumes in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday. Timol was a young teacher from Roodepoort and a member of the South African Communist Party.

He died on 27 October 1971, four days after being arrested at a police roadblock in the company of a friend and comrade, the medical student, Saleem Essop.

According to the police version of events, which was endorsed by the inquest magistrate at the time, Timol jumped from the 10th Floor of John Vorster Square in Johannesburg while under interrogation.

But family, comrades and friends never believed Timol jumped. They believe he was either pushed out the window by police, or thrown out the window after being tortured to death.

The re-opened inquest heard five days of evidence in Johannesburg last month. Among the witnesses was Dr Essop, who described being brutally assaulted by police in the days after being arrested with Timol.

Dr Essop landed up in hospital. He said the last time he saw Timol, shuffling down a passage, head in a hood, being escorted by his captors, his friend gave the appearance of having been brutally tortured, too.

Over the next two weeks, the inquest will take evidence from witnesses to the fall, and experts on forensic pathology and torture in detention. South African Communist Party members will reveal details of their instructions under interrogation.

And, finally, the inquest will hear from former members of the police who were directly involved in Timol’s detention and interrogation.

Journalists are encouraged to attend and report on these events.


Short biography of Ahmed Timol

 Born in Breyten in 1941

  • Attends Primary School in Roodepoort
  • Matriculates from Johannesburg Indian High School in 1959
  • Graduates as a teacher at Johannesburg Training Institute for Indians in 1963
  • Teaches at Roodepoort Indian High School in 1964
  • In 1965 he completes his Hajj to Mecca, then travels to London to reunite with old friends, the ANC activist brothers, Aziz and Essop Pahad
  • In 1969 he accompanies former President Thabo Mbeki to Lenin University in the Soviet Union for political training
  • Returns to South Africa in 1970 to set up underground structures for the communist party
  • Arrested at police roadblock on Friday 22 October 1971
  • Dies on 27 October, the 22nd political detainee to die while in the hands of apartheid police since 1960.