Ahmed Timol would never have committed suicide‚ says Essop Pahad
Former minister in the presidency and SACP stalwart Essop Pahad says the late political activist Ahmed Timol would never have committed suicide.
Pahad first detailed to the Pretoria High Court where an inquest into Timol’s death is being held‚ the strong relationship he had with Timol and the role that he played in his political life.
Having known Timol since they were both children‚ Pahad said there was no way he would have committed suicide as the inquest held in the apartheid era had concluded.
“One‚ Timol was a Muslim. His parents were very religious people. A Muslim‚ in terms of Islamic ethics should not and cannot commit suicide. If you do‚ you will not be buried in a Muslim gravesite. The other reason is that while he was in exile he met Ruth Longoni ... They fell in love. For me‚ Ahmed was going to come back to Ruth and Ruth always thought that he would come back to her. Therefore‚ the idea that Timol would commit suicide does not seem possible‚” Pahad said firmly.
He explained to the court how the two had been friends for decades. Pahad’s grandparents came from the same village in India as Timol’s. Also‚ Timol knew Pahad’s brother Aziz and other members of the liberation movement like Yusuf Dadoo. While Pahad was living in Johannesburg‚ Timol visited him frequently when he was being trained as a teacher.
But their relationship grew stronger when they met in exile in London. This is where Pahad was able to properly provide political education to Timol. They shared a flat together. Timol later found employment in London and was able to contribute to the group of about 20 to 30 people who lived together in the flat.
Pahad advised Timol not to get publicly involved in political protests in London as this would create problems for him when he returned to South Africa. It was also in London that Timol was trained in making petrol bombs which were frequently used during the underground operations of the African National Congress.
Timol died on October 27 1971 while in police detention at John Vorster Square.
An inquest held in 1972 found that he had committed suicide.
However‚ Timol's family asked for the inquest to be reopened because new information had come to light.
Pahad explained to the court that he had lengthy discussions with Timol on what would happen if he were to be arrested.
One thing he was bound to face was extreme torture from the police.
“There are individuals who manage to withstand the worst form of torture… [But] there is a limit to what one can endure. The important thing to us as a movement was that if you do break down and give information‚ what you should try to do is limit the information that you give. If you work with a number of people you limit the number of names that you give out.
“Secondly‚ you would try as much as possible to give this information gradually so that those who had been working with you in the underground would realise that you are under arrest and therefore they would have to take the necessary measures to protect themselves. Either leave the country or go into hiding. That is what we discussed‚” Pahad said.
Another tactic used by the comrades was to agree to give evidence when being tortured but when they arrived in court they would refuse to give any information and only talk about the torture they endured in custody.
Pahad then brought to the attention of the court a document which had been doctored by the police to suggest that comrades had to commit suicide as the last resort.
“I have been a member of the SACP for a long time. My view is that it has never been part of the policy of the party or the ANC or any protocol; and you will never find it in any document of the ANC where anybody would have been asked to commit suicide.”
The inquest continues on Wednesday.