Timol murder accused Joao Rodrigues petitions SCA not to stand trial

16 October 2019 - 09:24
Joao Rodrigues, the apartheid-era policeman charged with the murder of slain activist Ahmed Timol, at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on July 30 2018.
Image: ALON SKUY Joao Rodrigues, the apartheid-era policeman charged with the murder of slain activist Ahmed Timol, at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on July 30 2018.

The legal team of Joao Rodrigues, the retired Security Branch administrative clerk charged with the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol in 1971, has petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The petition is in relation to a Johannesburg high court order which in June dismissed Rodrigues’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

Rodrigues had applied for a permanent stay after being charged with Timol's murder in July 2018.

The full bench last month also refused Rodrigues’s application for leave to appeal the June judgment, prompting Rodrigues to petition the SCA.

Timol died in 1971 after falling from the 10th floor of the then John Vorster Square police station in central Johannesburg, where he had been detained.

While the original inquest in 1972 concluded that Timol had committed suicide, the reopened inquest in 2017, headed by judge Billy Mothle, found that his death was a result of being pushed. It also recommended that Rodrigues be investigated.

In his petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal on Tuesday, Rodrigues said he was at all relevant times an administrative clerk in the Security Branch stationed at the police headquarters in Pretoria.

“It appears to be common cause that I was not part of the Investigation Units of the Security Branch and/or that I did not participate in the interrogation and/or investigation of any of the cases of the Security Branch,” Rodrigues said in his affidavit.

Rodrigues said the gist of Mothle’s inquest finding relating to him was that he was not present at the time of the death of Timol, but that he was brought in later to legitimise a cover-up narrative for the conduct of the investigative officers Johannes Gloy and Johannes Van Niekerk.

Mothle said Rodrigues, on his own version, participated in the cover up to conceal the crime of murder as an accessory after the fact of that murder, and he went on to commit perjury by presenting contradictory evidence before the 1972 and 2017 inquests.

After Mothle’s inquest, the National Prosecuting Authority charged Rodrigues with premeditated murder.

“It has to be emphasised that the prosecution took the decision to charge me on a count of premeditated murder, directly contrary to the findings of the Honourable Mothle J in the inquest proceedings,” Rodrigues said.

He said the main issue for determination was whether the prosecution, instituted about 47 years after the alleged unlawful conduct, infringed his constitutional right to a fair trial.

Rodrigues said it was important for the SCA to hear his appeal as there were still a substantial number of these alleged crimes which were committed by members of the police in the apartheid era in different provinces.

He said further prosecutions would be instituted and these issues relating to fairness of such prosecutions would be raised.

“It will therefore be of utmost importance to get clarity and finality on the approach the courts should follow in this prosecution, as well as future prosecutions based on the same principles.