Timol nephew calls for end to state funding for Rodrigues - R3.5m later

Joao Rodrigues, the apartheid policeman implicated in the 1971 murder of activist Ahmed Timol, in the Johannesburg magistrate's court in 2018. The state has spent over R3.5m on his legal fees.
Joao Rodrigues, the apartheid policeman implicated in the 1971 murder of activist Ahmed Timol, in the Johannesburg magistrate's court in 2018. The state has spent over R3.5m on his legal fees.
Image: ALON SKUY

The state attorney should refuse to pay more legal costs for Joao Rodrigues, the former security branch officer implicated in the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol in 1971.

This is according to Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Cajee, who made the plea on Wednesday after a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application he submitted in May revealed that more than R3.5m had been spent by the state attorney in the case against Rodrigues.

These costs have been incurred by the office of the state attorney in:

  • the reopened inquest into the death of Ahmed Timol (where the state paid for former security branch members);
  • the criminal case against Rodrigues, which began in July last year; and
  • the application by Rodrigues this year for a permanent stay of prosecution.

In the reply to Cajee, the department of justice and constitutional development said the amount comprised of legal fees of private attorney, and of junior and senior counsel.

The department said it could not give a breakdown as to who was paid what, as this might encroach on private individuals' rights.

Cajee said Rodrigues was entitled to have his legal defence in his criminal trial paid for by the state. He said this was because as a former member of the erstwhile security branch of the South African police, he was carrying out the orders of his superiors in ensuring Timol's demise.

“However, the state attorney has a discretion to decline to pay his legal costs where it will be contrary to the interests of the state or the public,” he said.

Cajee said Rodrigues’s continued efforts to delay his trial constituted an abuse of the court process and was manifestly not in the public interest. “I accordingly call on the state attorney to immediately decline to pay further costs in his attempt to delay and stop his trial,” he said.

Rodrigues will be back in the Johannesburg high court on Friday, where his criminal case is likely to be postponed as he awaits the outcome of his petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

His petition in October is in relation to a Johannesburg high court order in June that dismissed his application for a permanent stay of prosecution. Rodrigues had applied for a permanent stay after being charged with Timol's murder in July 2018.

Cajee said the case on Friday is likely to be postponed until next year - marking more than two years since the initial enrolment for trial in this matter.

“Following numerous postponements, without a single witness being called, Mr Rodrigues exercises every avenue to avoid his day in court. This is convenient since Mr Rodrigues is not in custody and is out on bail of R2,000 since his first court appearance on July 30 2018,” he said. 

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.


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