‘Political meddling delayed prosecution of apartheid era crimes’
This was admitted to by Dr Torie Pretorius, head of the Priority Litigation Crimes Unit in the NPA, in a supplementary affidavit filed this week.
In it, he is opposing the stay of prosecution application brought by former apartheid era policeman Joao “Jan” Rodrigues.
The now 80-year-old Rodrigues is facing charges relating to the death of Ahmed Timol in 1971. The anti-apartheid activist allegedly fell to his death from the 10th floor of the notorious John Vorster Square in Joburg while in detention.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, during the re-opening of the inquest last year, concluded that Timol did not commit suicide but was murdered.
Judge Billy Mothle recommended that Rodrigues be charged as he did not play open cards with the court during his evidence.
Rodrigues is due back in court for his criminal trial on April 8, but his application for a stay of prosecution will be heard by a full bench on March 28.
Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Cajee, in opposing the application, in his affidavit said: “In the post-TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) period the NPA and its officials dealing with my uncle’s case, as well as other so-called political crimes from the past, became subjected to severe political constraints.”
He blamed the NPA for the delays in prosecuting the perpetrators of apartheid crimes who did not receive amnesty during the TRC.
But Pretorius, in his latest affidavit, denied the NPA was at fault. He said the unit always wanted these cases investigated and prosecuted.
Pretorius said: “It is surprising that the fourth respondent (Cajee) does not take issue with the people responsible for the cover-up and does not seek any punishment against them.”
He said Cajee instead seeks to lobby for an inquiry to be conducted in relation to certain officials of the NPA, which officials he accepts were subjected to severe political constraints and interference.
Pretorius said: “When regard is had for the nature of the crimes, it should not be surprising that the government of the day may have taken steps to find a political solution to the political murders which were perpetrated by agents of the pre-1994 government.”
He also said the NPA “does not deny that the executive branch of the state took what one can describe as political steps to manage the conduct of criminal investigations and possible prosecutions of the perpetrators of the political murders such as that of Mr Timol”.
Pretorius said the delay in prosecuting Rodrigues was not as a result of the NPA’s doing.
He again confirmed that it was as a result of the political inter- ference and the “severe political constraints” to which the NPA was subjected.