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Ahmed Timol murder accused Joao Rodrigues 'believes he got amnesty'

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
Joao Rodrigues, the apartheid-era Security Branch administrative clerk charged with the murder of slain activist Ahmed Timol. His appeal will be heard on Tuesday November 6.
Joao Rodrigues, the apartheid-era Security Branch administrative clerk charged with the murder of slain activist Ahmed Timol. His appeal will be heard on Tuesday November 6.

Joao Rodrigues, who is facing a charge of murdering anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol in 1971, believes he was probably among those who were granted amnesty for politically motivated offences.

Advocates for Rodrigues made this claim in the heads of argument submitted before the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). Rodrigues is seeking leave to appeal an order made by the high court in Johannesburg last year dismissing his application not to be prosecuted for the murder.

The high court dismissed his application for leave to appeal its decision, prompting Rodrigues to petition the SCA in October last year. The SCA has set down the application for hearing before a full bench on November 6.

Rodrigues was charged with premeditated murder in 2018 after the reopening of an inquest into Timol's death on October 27 1971. He died of injuries suffered when he fell from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square police station where he was interrogated and allegedly tortured.

The first inquest held in 1972 concluded Timol had committed suicide and no person was responsible for his death. The reopened inquest in 2017 found that Timol was pushed. It also recommended that Rodrigues be investigated.

In heads of argument filed with the appellate court, advocates for Rodrigues, Jaap Cilliers and Fanus Coetzee,  said the state president and the government at the highest level considered amnesty for politically motivated offences after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission proceedings in the late 1990s.

They said a special task force had been appointed for this purpose.

“Unfortunately we do not know what the outcome of the consideration by the state president was in this regard.”

They said that, on probability, the president granted a pardon to a group of politically motivated perpetrators who did not apply for amnesty, which included Rodrigues.

“We know as an objective fact that no prosecutions followed the conclusion of the TRC proceedings for approximately 20 years.”

Advocates for Rodrigues said his envisaged prosecution would infringe his right to have the trial to begin and be concluded without unreasonable delay.

“The objective facts in this case are of course that [Rodrigues] has only been charged more than 47 years after the death of the deceased and at a time when is more than 80 years of age.”

Pingla Hemraj and Reuben Mbuli, for the minister of justice, said Rodrigues was speculating on the possibility of amnesty. They said even if such amnesty had been granted, it would not survive a legal challenge because of the absence of participation of the victim's family.

In opposing the application by Rodrigues, the NPA and the minister of police said Rodrigues can clear his name only through a trial and not by a stay of prosecution.  

“When one has regard to how Mr Timol was murdered and why no one was prosecuted for his murder, the answer to the application should be a simple no and that the applicant's criminal trial should proceed,” said counsel for the NPA and the minister, Kennedy Tsatsawane and Tiny Seboko.


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