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Essop Pahad calls for notorious Joburg Central Police Station to be renamed Martyrs’ Corner

Johannesburg Central Police Station Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Johannesburg Central Police Station Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Oct 28, 2021

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Johannesburg - Former Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad has called on the Johannesburg Central police station to be renamed Martyrs’ Heights in honour of the anti-apartheid activists who were killed in the 10-storey building.

Pahad was speaking on Wednesday at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol outside the Johannesburg Central police station, formerly the notorious John Vorster Square.

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Timol was killed by security branch officers who later falsely claimed he had committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of the building becoming the 22nd political activist to die in detention on October 27, 1971.

”I am now suggesting that the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation fight to call it the Martyrs’ Corner because I think that is the more appropriate name for it,” said Pahad, who was Timol’s friend.

Foundation for Human Rights executive director and former Truth and Reconciliation Commission commissioner Yasmin Sooka backed Pahad’s proposal.

“I agree with Essop’s suggestion that this police station should be renamed and called the Martyrs’ Corner,” she said.

According to Sooka, the reason apartheid-era cases need to be pursued is that all victims and their families are entitled to the truth about what happened to their loved ones and the South African society is entitled to know who was responsible.

“But we also need to know if the state is still riddled with apartheid informers and whether the old order is still calling the shots,” she said.

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Sooka said in October 2017 South Gauteng High Court Judge Billy Mothle ruled that other security branch officers involved in the cover-up of Timol’s assassination should also be indicted.

“We are now in October 2021.

“We are also considering bringing an application to compel their indictment,” she said, adding that it is also important that those who died for freedom and gave their lives get justice.

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Sooka also provided an update on the case of uMkhonto weSizwe operative and courier Nokuthula Simelane, who was abducted, tortured and forcibly disappeared by security branch members in 1983.

The case of ex-security branch members – former Joburg DA councillor Msebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius and Frederik Mong – implicated in the death of Simelane, whose younger sister is deputy cooperative governance minister Thembi Nkadimeng, is going to be heard next year.

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