Timol’s sister in Eastdene: ‘We served tea and biscuits to apartheid police’

Photo: vocfm.co.za

The sister of late apartheid activist, Ahmed Timol, has echoed calls from the family to finally have the truth recorded in history since the reopening of the inquest into his death.

Timol died in police detention nearly five decades ago, in 1971, allegedly after falling from the 10th floor of the John Vorster Square Police Station.

Read: Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada dead at 87

The security police claimed that he committed suicide but Timol’s family are adamant he was murdered.

A second inquest has been opened and is currently being heard at the Pretoria High Court, with ruling expected today.

Read: On this day in 1915 – Anti-apartheid activist Beyers Naude was born

Ahmed Timol’s eldest sister, Zubeida Timol Chotia (77), is a resident of Eastdene and recalled this week the pain and hardship the family went through at the time of Timol’s death, and the emotional toll it took on her mother.


Photo: ahmedtimol.co.za


“The last time he was seen alive was when the police arrested him. They would regularly raid our home and harass us, late in the night, searching for my brothers. They would search the house, even the dustbins.

“My mother would plead with them to stop beating my brothers, especially Ahmed and Haroon.”

“But they replied that my mother didn’t hit them enough when they were kids, and they deserved a beating,” said Mrs Chotia.

Eventually the women of the house got so tired of getting angry at the relentless police raids, they accepted it and even began offering tea and biscuits to the apartheid police.

Read: Mandela Day – How did we get from hero to zero?

While Timol was in detention, the family were never allowed to see him. They knew he was being tortured but there was nothing they could do apart from praying for his release.

The family was in Machadodorp when they got the devastating news that he had died.

“My mother was never the same after Ahmed’s death. We never believed the police that he committed suicide and jumped out of a window, it made her very sad and depressed.

“She used to always say that if she had a zip on her chest and opened it to show her heart, only then would people understand the pain she was going through”.

Mrs Chotia said that they were never told the truth, and that made it harder for the family to accept her brother’s death. The entire community rallied around the Timol family and supported calls for an inquest to be opened and re-opened again.

Read: 46 years on, family of South African activist call for murder charge

“There are only two policemen still alive who know what really happened. They had a chance at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but they still denied that Ahmed was murdered.

“All we want is the truth, we don’t want the police to be prosecuted or to go to jail, that’s not going to help.”

In 2015, a 48-minute television documentary named “Indians Can’t Fly” was released, and tells the story of Ahmed Timol, a 30-year-old Roodepoort teacher and anti-apartheid activist who fell from the 10th floor of the security police building in Johannesburg in 1971.

The documentary is narrated by Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, author of Timol: Quest for Justice, and directed by Enver Samuel.

Photo: apartheidmuseum.org


“I was too emotional to watch the entire documentary, I only watched a little of it,” said Mrs Chotia.

Read: South African activist jumped to death, ex-guard tells apartheid probe

“Many people loved Ahmed. All the students in school and the whole town were fond of him. That’s why it was so difficult to lose him”.

Mrs Chotia said that now with the second inquest almost concluded, there were positive signs as the family anticipate good news in the form of closure as to what really happened the day Ahmed Timor died.

• Closing arguments at the inquest took place on Thursday, 24 August, at the Pretoria High Court.  Judge Billy Mothle is expected to make his ruling today.

Yaseen Gaffar

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