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Probe into apartheid police police era crimes has to be given prominence, says Imtiaz Cajee

Ahmed Timol's nephew Imtiaz Cajee. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Ahmed Timol's nephew Imtiaz Cajee. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Jun 30, 2021


Durban - Investigations into crimes committed by apartheid era Special Branch police must be given similar prominence to land reform and economic redress issues.

This is the view of Imtiaz Cajee, the nephew of Ahmed Timol, who died while in police custody at the notorious John Vorster Square Police Station, in 1971, who has battled for years to have justice for his uncle – without any success.

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His comments come following the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) over the weekend, announcing that they would be probing apartheid era security police crimes, in which numerous people had died under mysterious circumstances while in police custody, or after being apprehended by police.

The NPA said, at the weekend, that it had established a new unit to specifically look into apartheid crimes.

The unit is to look into crimes perpetrated by the apartheid regime’s notorious security branch police, dating from the 1960s, through the 1970s, and into the 1980s.

Speaking to Independent Media yesterday, Cajee said that there were a lot of questions around the lack of justice for families of apartheid era crime victims at the hands of the security police, dating back to Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

“That is why it now makes sense that families – like that of Imam Abdullah – did not go to the TRC because they did not have faith in the TRC process. There are many of us from the apartheid era victims family group, who feel that finding truth and justice for all our loved ones must be equated in the same context as the issue of land and the economy in this country.

“This issue is at the level of who controls the economy and the issue of the land, it cannot be relegated, it’s been relegated for too long,” Cajee said.

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He said that the establishment of the unit by the NPA and Hawks was an exercise in damage control, following the Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA) dismissal of former Security Branch police sergeant Joao Rodrigues’ permanent stay of prosecution application for Timol’s murder.

Cajee said that the numerous avenues – that were meant to bring apartheid era security police, who had committed murder, to justice – had not worked out, as there did not seem to be political will to bring the perpetrators to book.

He slammed the TRC – established to deal with bringing justice to victims who suffered crimes during the apartheid era, both inside and outside the country – for failing to bring most apartheid era perpetrators to book.

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He said that, at the TRC, the truth was only spoken by the victims and very few apartheid era perpetrators had come forward to make full disclosures of their crimes before the commission.

“How many other cases are there where the perpetrators were given amnesty, where the TRC did not subpoena apartheid era perpetrators. The TRC merely gave families of victims the platform to relive those experiences and to tell the nation what they had endured.

“But, what effort did the TRC put into engaging with apartheid era perpetrators? In the Timol case, if they’d subpoenaed Rodrigues (as recommended by a TRC investigator) and everybody else that was involved, we would have had a completely different outcome,” Cajee said.

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