24 October 2009

Unanswered questions about death of anti-apartheid activist

On 24 October 1971, former teacher and member of the ANC and SACP, Ahmed Timol, fell to his death out of a window on the 10th floor of John Vorster Square police station, becoming the first detainee to die in policy custody at this notorious apartheid-era torture centre, and the 22nd death of a security detainee in detention. It wasn’t long before security police started referring to the 10th floor as "Timol Heights" and used the chilling term "Indians can't fly" to mock his fate.

Despite physical evidence of torture, none of Timol's interrogators were charged for his death and no further information emerged through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Process. His family want the case of his death re-opened and are appealing to the public who might have further information to come forward in order for justice to finally be done.

An interactive DVD entitled 'Between life and death: stories from John Vorster Square', available from SAHA, looks at detention without trial in South Africa, and includes interviews, transcriptions, documents (including the inquest findings), photographs and press clippings about Ahmed Timol and his detention, torture and subsequent death.

To learn more about the Johannesburg memorial built outside Johannesburg Central Police Station (as John Vorster Square is now known) to commemorate death in detention in apartheid South Africa, please visit the Sunday Times Heritage Site

Kagiso Pat Mautloa’s memorial to those who died in detention is called "Simakade" (the Zulu for "forever standing")