The death in police custody of Ahmed Timol, political activist and underground operative, is confirmed

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Ahmed Timol Image source

Thursday, 28 October 1971

On 28 October 1971, the death of anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Timol, was officially confirmed. It was revealed that the thirty year old teacher at the Roodepoort School and one of nineteen Indians in detention, died after he had plunged from a window on the tenth floor of John Vorster Square Police Station (now Johannesburg Central Police). His death was confirmed by police officers Brigadier P. Kruger and Sergeant Rodrigues, who alleged that he had committed suicide.

Timol became the seventeenth person to die in detention under security laws. He was a member of the banned South African Communist Party (SACP). Following calls from the opposition and others for a judicial inquiry into the deaths of police detainees, Prime Minister B.J Vorster stated on 29 October 1971 that he found no need for such an inquiry. 

The suspicious nature of Timol's death was the subject of a documentary film by Enver Samuel in 2015. Finally, on October 12 2017, a South African court ruled that Timol's death had been no accident and that he had indeed been murdered by the Aparthied police. 

References:
• Department of Justice(1996). ‘The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’from Department of Justice [online]. Available at www.justice.gov.za[Accessed: 19 September 2011]
• Kalley, J.A., Schoeman, E. and Andor, L.E. (1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997. Westport: Greenwood.

Last updated : 30-Nov-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011