The inquest into the 1971 death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol has found in which he was murdered, shattering a a few-decade-long claim by security police in which he had committed suicide.
In a packed courtroom, Judge Billy Mothle ruled in which he “was pushed” out of the window of the 10th floor building where he had been detained by the apartheid police.
Applause rang out in court at the end of his ruling – vindication for the Timol family at last.
however what is usually the significant of the ruling for South Africa in addition to different families who have lost loved ones in a similar way?
“After in which ruling we are hoping to see large scale investigations,” says Lawson Naidoo, head of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution.
Many of those who were with Mr Timol at the time have since died however the judge found in which they were “complicit” in his death in addition to recommended in which prosecutions should follow because perjury had been committed by some former state security members who testified at in which hearing.
in addition to so for once inside history of its atrocities, in which seemed as though the apartheid system of white minority rule was on trial in South Africa.
Reliving the past
The inquiry offered a rare glimpse into the gruesome workings of the racist regime – in addition to demanded answers.
For those brief few weeks in which was as though Mr Timol was speaking for himself – in addition to on behalf of those who died like him.
Officially, police records say he leapt to his death via the infamous John Vorster Square, currently called Johannesburg Central police station.
Mr Timol’s family had for years campaigned for a completely new investigation, saying he was not “one to give up” – in which he would certainly have never taken his own life.
Many different families here have for decades struggled to make peace with the deaths of their loved ones – largely due to the secrecy around in which.
Activists say in which between 1963 in addition to 1990, at least 73 anti-apartheid fighters people died in police detention, in some situation their deaths bore an uncanny resemblance to in which of Mr Timol.
Still no-one was ever called to account – the murderers were faceless, protected by the state even after the advent of democracy in 1994.
For the Mabelane family, in which case has inspired desire. Matthews, then aged 23, was said to have jumped to his death, like Mr Timol.
His older brother Lasch Mabelane tells me the family has for decades been haunted by not knowing what truly happened to Matthews.
“The day before he died, the police came to my parents’ home in addition to told them they need to make an appointment if they want to see him. They said: ‘Do you know you have a naughty child?’ in addition to said they would certainly discipline him,” he says.
“Many people like my brother supposedly jumped via the 10th floor, in which’s the same story – the same floor,” he adds.
different activists who died at John Vorster Square police station:
Wellington Tshazibane: Found hanging in his cell on 11 December 1976
Neil Aggett: Found hanging in his cell on 5 February 1982
Ernest Dipale: Found hanging in his cell three days after his second detention, died 5 August 1982
Stanza Bopape: Died of a heart attack after being subject to repeated electric shocks, on 5 June 1988
Clayton Sithole: Found hanging dead in his cell on 30 January 1990
“We’ve never believed in which he killed himself, he loved life in addition to loved his family. The pain of losing him changed all of us, especially my parents.”
His father, Phillip Mabelane is usually 95 years old in addition to a widower – he believes his wife died of a broken heart.
“Our child died in a painful way. We were left with so many questions in addition to couldn’t even ask them. in which trouble my wife until the end,” he says.
“The apartheid police were known to be violent, you didn’t ask questions, you just accepted what you were told. How can you ever find peace in a situation like in which?” he asks.
Taking secrets to the grave
Peace in addition to stability in in which country were paid for in blood in addition to an unspoken vow by those who worked for the state to take secrets to the grave.
in which country’s vast landscape is usually dotted with the unmarked graves of apartheid activists. Dinner table conversations frequently drift into stories of exiles who disappeared without a trace – leaving behind a trail of unanswered questions.
The Timol inquest could forever change in which legacy.
in which was the first inquest in democratic South Africa to specifically look into apartheid deaths in police custody.
While an investigation into Mr Timol’s death was conducted at the time, many had believed in which was a cover-up for the abuses in which were happening at the height of white minority rule.
The long-awaited proceedings took weeks to conclude however had many glued to TV screens as high-ranking security police officers, men who until currently had lived inside shadows, testified about the torture of activists at the height of the fight for freedom here.
Their actions included severe beatings, electrocution in addition to at times crushing testicles.
In August fresh eyes began looking at the evidence led in court.
Some of the expert witnesses testified in which some of Mr Timol’s injuries, his cracked skull, were not consistent with the conclusion the apartheid police had reached at the initial inquest back in 1971.
Files with evidence of his bludgeoned body told tales of assault, witnesses testified to seeing Mr Timol days before his death being escorted by the police inside corridors of the police station in addition to in which he could barely walk.
These records are some of what led to Judge Mothle’s historic findings.
Mr Timol isn’t the only activist to die under suspicious circumstances – Steve Biko also died while in police detention, supposedly because he had been on a hunger strike. No explanation was ever given for the bruises on his body.
inside minds of many, Mr Biko was murdered.
Nkosinathi Biko, through the Steve Biko Foundation, says their research puts the deaths of high-profile detainees, including his father, at 0.
“Many of them have as a cause of death, suicide or slipped on a bar of soap, in which sort of thing. So uncovering the truth is usually important not only for those families however for the country. in which should be a national record,” he told the BBC.
There have been attempts at unearthing the truth in democratic South Africa such as the Truth in addition to Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
However, in recent years the TRC’s failure to compel apartheid loyalists who testified at the commission to “tell all” has come in for increasing criticism, along with granting perpetrators amnesty for their testimony.
While the hearings were hailed as a necessary process to help move the country into a peaceful democracy, many said in which denied justice to victims of apartheid.
inside minds of many, justice will only come if those behind the murders in addition to torture are prosecuted in addition to punished for their crimes.
“You cannot forgive what you do not know, what was never acknowledged. The people who killed our children must be made to tell the truth in addition to face the consequences of their actions,” says Mr Mabelane Snr.