Jean-Jacques Cornish

Apartheid era policeman told he’s lying about Ahmed Timol’s death

An apartheid-era security policeman is accused of lying to an inquest 46 years ago into the death in detention of a 29-year-old anti-apartheid activist.

Jan Rodrigues, who’s now 78, told the court then that Ahmed Timol had committed suicide by jumping out of the window on the 10th floor of what was then called John Vorster Square.

Timol’s family maintain he was thrown out of the window by police.

The re-opened inquest in the Gauteng High Court goes into its 14th day today (Thursday).

Ahmed Timol’s family say they are amazed at how much they’ve learned about the young school teacher’s death.

Ex security policeman Jan Rodrigues says Timol was left with him on October 27, 1971 when his two interrogators left the room.

Timol asked to go to the toilet.

When he was allowed to stand, he rushed to the window and jumped out.

Advocate Howard Varney, for the Timol family, put it that the room was so small, Rodrigues could easily have stopped the physically slighter detainee.

Earlier the counsel for the Department of Public Prosecutions put it to Rodrigues that he was tailoring his evidence, as he had in 1971, to suit the police version of events.

The Timol case never came up in the nineties, after democracy in South Africa, when a truth and reconciliation commission offered apartheid offenders the chance of immunity if they gave truthful evidence about their  crimes.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.