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Thought of suicide never crossed his mind during detention: Timol's comrade

27 June 2017 - 12:38 By Ernest Mabuza
Ahmed Timol died in detention in 1971, with the inquest concluding that he committed suicide. File photo
Ahmed Timol died in detention in 1971, with the inquest concluding that he committed suicide. File photo
Image: Sunday Times

The man who was arrested together with anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol in 1971 said on Tuesday that the thought of committing suicide never crossed him mind.

Salim Essop was arrested together with Timol at a roadblock in Johannesburg on October 22 1971.

They were found with political pamphlets in their car‚ which was driven by Essop. They were then taken to Newlands Police Station. Essop and Timol were separated.

Essop was then transferred to the John Vorster Square Police Station‚ now known as Johannesburg Central Police Station‚ the same night.

Timol died after falling down 10 floors at the John Vorster Square police station on October 27. An inquest in 1972 found that Timol had committed suicide.

However‚ the inquest into Timol's death was reopened at the request of his family after new evidence came to light.

Essop told the inquest on Tuesday that he was tortured for four successive days following his arrest and he lost consciousness before being admitted to hospital.

Advocate Howard Varney‚ who is representing the Timol family‚ asked Essop whether he would have had the physical capacity to commit suicide.

Essop said he could not because he was never left alone during his detention at the police station.

“I don't think I was able to do that. I was getting more and more incapacitated. I was suffering a lot‚” Essop said.

Essop said he did not have the physical capacity to commit suicide.

Judge Billy Mothle asked Essop whether the thought of suicide crossed his mind during the period he was tortured. Essop said it did not.

“Life has been one long process of survival. I see myself as a survivor. Mentally I do not have an inclination to take my life. I have a strong will to live‚” Essop said.

Essop also said he was never left alone after being transferred from Newlands Police Station to John Vorster Square.

He said there might have been 15 interrogators during his five-day stay at John Vorster.

“It was several teams and they worked in shifts. In my case‚ I might have encountered 15 interrogators. Most of the time‚ there were two‚ sometimes three‚ and occasionally one interrogator. I was never at any single moment alone.”

The inquest continues.