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Editorial

It's time to lay this apartheid ghost to rest

03 August 2017 - 06:58 By The Times Editorial
THE WHEELS OF JUSTICEApartheid-era police administrator Jan Rodrigues gives testimony at the inquest into Ahmed Timol's 1971 death. See Page 4 Picture: Alaister Russell
THE WHEELS OF JUSTICEApartheid-era police administrator Jan Rodrigues gives testimony at the inquest into Ahmed Timol's 1971 death. See Page 4 Picture: Alaister Russell

There's one man who can write the final chapter on the death of apartheid activist Ahmed Timol and that's Joao Rodrigues.

This former apartheid cop, now 78, was the last person to see Timol alive on the 10th floor of John Vorster Square police station on October 27 1971. Moments later Timol was dead after plummeting out the window.

But did he jump or was he pushed? That's the question Rodrigues has been confronted with at a new inquest into Timol's death. He is only there because his daughter, who clearly has no affection for her father, contacted the Timol family to let them know where to find him.

For the Timol family this inquest is not about retribution. It's about closure. Most of all it's about truth.

But the truth appears as elusive as it was at the first inquest in 1972 which accepted a story, now acknowledged as a fabrication, that Timol committed suicide.

Rodrigues has the answer Timol's family has searched for, and the presiding officer will decide on the quality of his testimony.

But to us - based on the medical evidence and the contradictions in his story - it seems that Rodrigues is a man prepared to go to his grave believing a lie.

That compounds the tragedy of the Timol story and if it ends like this it will be sad, but life, even in the drama that is South Africa, is rarely a Hollywood script.

Our story has little redemption in it except for the fact that, while apartheid's violence stole Timol from his family, they lived to see the cause for which he died become reality.

So in the end Timol won and people like Rodrigues lost, left to shuffle through what's left of their lives with apartheid's ghosts whispering on their shoulders.

That's how it ends, unless they are prepared to put the ghosts to rest.

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