Former apartheid policeman João Rodrigues dies with secrets about Ahmed Timol’s death

Former apartheid police officer João Rodrigues in court. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Former apartheid police officer João Rodrigues in court. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 7, 2021


Pretoria - Former apartheid policeman João Rodrigues has died without disclosing his secrets about exactly how anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol died nearly 50 years ago.

Rodrigues, who was in his 80s, died on Monday evening at his Wonderboom South home in Pretoria.

His estranged son-in-law, Driekus Stander, told the Pretoria News they were still waiting for the death certificate to see exactly how he had died.

Rodrigues, however, in an application for a stay of his prosecution for the murder of Timol, said he suffered from ill health. It was said in court papers he suffered a stroke in April and that a blood clot went through to his brain. This had cut his blood supply.

Stander said his wife Tilana, Rodrigues’s daughter, heard from another family member her father had died.

She had not spoken to her father for decades after he raped her as a child.

She had recently instituted criminal charges against him. The elderly Rodrigues admitted in a letter to the court he did rape and sexually abuse her for years.

In terms of mediation procedures, his daughter agreed charges be dropped against her father, in light of him admitting to what he had done.

Her husband yesterday said she has received closure on the subject.

“It is good that she went that route, because if the trial proceeded, he would have died before the end.”

Stander said he had mixed feelings about the fact his father-in-law was dead, but the most important thing to him was that his wife had received closure before his death.

“Wherever he is going, he will have to answer for what he has done,” Stander said.

Imtiaz Cajee meanwhile said he was filled with mixed emotions as it will now never be known how his uncle Timol had died. “He is going to his grave with his secrets about what happened that day in room 1026 at John Vorster Square.”

Rodrigues admitted he was the last person to see Timol alive after he was interrogated by the apartheid era secret police. He, however, maintained Timol was healthy and fine when he saw him and that Timol suddenly ran to the window and jumped.

Cajee said the government should be held responsible for the fact Timol’s family would never know the truth.

The family pleaded with government for years to pursue the apartheid era killings. It is nearly four years after Judge Billy Mothle’s judgment that Rodrigues, amongst others, should be prosecuted.

He appeared more than 19 times in the Johannesburg High Court, yet the trial had not started. Rodrigues lost his bid for a stay of prosecution and took his plight to the Constitutional Court.

He, however, died before the Concourt could rule on the matter.

All Timol’s family wanted was for him to have his day in court and to be held accountable for Timol’s death, Cajee said.

Cajee earlier said he was anxious for Rodrigues to be brought to book in light of his claims of ill health.

“We are worried about the allegations made by Rodrigues’s attorney that he is not well and that his memory is fading. That is a clear sign that he does not want to face the court,” Cajee said after Rodrigues, as a last resort, turned to the Constitutional Court.

Pretoria News