Timol testimony: 'The Indian is dead'
Johannesburg - "The Indian is dead."
This is what Dr Dilshad Jhetam, a former detainee, was told when she asked a wardress at the John Vorster Square building where Ahmed Timol had been transferred.
Jhetam was testifying on the fifth day of the first sitting of the Timol inquest in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Friday.
Jhetam said while she was detained, she was rushed to hospital after she had woken up one day swimming in her own vomit, and had self-inflicting scratches.
When she returned back from hospital, she was interrogated by a man named Pitout.
"He [Pitout] told me that Ahmed was no longer with us but quickly retracted his statement," she said.
"The next morning, I asked the wardress where Ahmed had been transferred to and she told me that 'the Indian' was dead."
Jhetam said she was previously interrogated by several officers who had accused her of being a communist. She recognised Timol’s screams emanating from another room.
Jhetam said she knew Timol's voice and assumed he was being tortured much worse.
She said she heard Timol scream nearby every night.
Jhetam said she would often hear the screams in the early hours of the morning.
“Ahmed’s screams grew louder and became more desperate as the night wore on. He was begging for them to stop, even crying at one point. He was shouting but I could not make out what he was saying.”
She said, later on, the screams stopped. She explained to the court that on the 10th floor, where she was kept, "officers were scurrying around madly" and "everything had suddenly changed".
'I was shocked'
Jhetam told the court that she knew Timol from Roodepoort where they both lived. They lived in the same street, two blocks apart, she said.
She said Timol was her history teacher; however, when she left Grade 10, they lost touch for a couple of years until they met again when she was at university.
She told the court that at the time of her arrest, she was living her dream as a medical student. But things took a turn when two men came looking for her at home.
"I was shocked. They said they wanted to take me away and question me about my activities," Jhetam told the court.
She said she was taken to Colonel Greyling who said Timol and Salim Essop were arrested for being communists and they named her as the third person who would join them in replacing the apartheid government.
Jhetam said during interrogations, she was made to stand in the corner and relieve herself while still clothed. At some point, the officers brought water in a jug and she was asked to drink it.
"I was standing [in] the puddle of my own urine."
She also added that during interrogations, she was "smacked" by one officer, and later they took turns in smacking her.
The officers had allegedly electrocuted her repeatedly when she continued to deny accusations made about things Timol and Essop did.
Jhetam added that the officers would attach the device to her back and proceed to electrocute her with a higher wattage.
"It was excruciating... I still ask myself how I survived the electrocution. It was horrible.”
She had been interrogated by 16 to 20 officers in about four days, she said.
On Monday, the court heard that, of about 23 security police that were allegedly involved in the matter, only three were still alive.
Judge Billy Mothle gave an order on Friday morning for the police commissioner to assist the court.
Timol's death was ruled a suicide in 1972. However, a private investigation launched by Timol's family into his death uncovered new evidence which it presented to the NPA, asking for the inquest to be reopened.
Mothle has ordered that all the surviving policemen who were involved in the arrest and detention of struggle veterans Essop and Timol, be subpoenaed to testify in court.
Mothle on Thursday said the National Prosecuting Authority must issue subpoenas urgently to the policemen so that they can assist with information as to what really led to Timol's death.
Mothle wants the police officers to appear in the next sitting of the inquest, expected to take place between July 24 and August 4.
The inquest is expected to resume between July 24 and August 4, and August 10 and 11.