Former Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad. Picture: Zelda Venter.

Pretoria - Former Minister in the Presidency and struggle icon Essop Pahad told the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday that Ahmed Timol would never have committed suicide.

Besides it not being his nature, it was against Islam and he was a man who was very much in love at the time.

Pahad took the stand during the second leg of the inquest into Timol’s death in 1971. The political activist was killed when he fell out of the notorious 10th floor of the then John Vorster Square in Johannesburg. 

While the police maintained it was suicide - a finding made by a judge following an inquest held decades ago - his family insisted on having the inquest re-opened as they did not believe it was suicide.

This sentiment was shared by Pahad, who said he and Timol were very close friends.

Pahad told Judge Billy Mothle that Timol joined him at some stage while he was in exile in the United Kingdom. 

Timol was, however, called back to South Africa by the SACP. This was shortly before his arrest and subsequent death in 1971.

Pahad said the last time he saw Timol, they spoke about the possibility and the dangers of being arrested.  

“At that time we had information about others who were arrested and tortured by members of the police’ security branch....I told him it is not traitorous to break under torture.” 

He told Timol that if one broke during torture, the person had to give his interrogators limited information. This information also had to be given gradually and over time, so that those who were implicated could either leave the country or have gone underground.

Pahad said Timol was also aware of the fact that he could go to jail for a long time following his political activities. 

“He was not at all scared to face a long prison term.” 

Pahad said apart from suicide being against Timol’s religion, he was also in love with Ruth Longoni, who remained in London when Timol returned to South Africa.

“She could not join him due to the immorality act in South Africa, but she always believed he would come back to her." 

Pahad also rejected a document purported to have been issued by the SACP, in which it urged its members who were interrogated and tortured to commit suicide.

He called the document a fabrication and an attempt by the police to exonerate themselves.

Medical and trauma expert Professor Kenneth Boffard, meanwhile, testified that Timol suffered life threatening injuries after he fell out of the window. Apart from a skull fracture, he also, among others, suffered a spinal injury and a fractured upper leg and arm.

He obtained this information after he studied the post mortem report on Timol's death.

According to Boffard there were, however, several bruises across his body and an orbital injury, which appeared to have been there before his fall.

He added that the police should have never moved Timol when they found him in the garden of John Vorster Square after the fall. 

According to him, it was standard practice not to move a patient with such serious injuries until the ambulance had arrived, as this could worsen a patient’s condition.

He also frowned upon the fact that the police immediately removed the then still breathing Timol from where he was lying outside the building. 

He said he was very surprised that Timol was moved, as the police were usually reluctant to move a patient as they could be held liable if anything went wrong.

The inquest is proceeding on Wednesday, with two forensic pathologists who are expected to testify.

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Pretoria News

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