In The News South Africa

Former minister Kasrils says new recruits were not instructed to commit suicide

PRETORIA, August 3 – Former Minister of Intelligence Services Ronnie Kasrils refuted claims that the then banned African National Congress  (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP) encouraged members to commit suicide if they had been captured and tortured by apartheid police.
“There was never an instruction to commit suicide. It was never part of our doctrine and philosophy,” he told the court. Kasrils was testifying during the second leg of the reopening of the Ahmed Timol inquest at the North Gauteng High Court on Thursday.
Kasrils is a retired politician and a former member of both the ANC and SACP top structures.
He said he got to know Timol when he worked for a committee led by Yusuf Dadoo, Joe Slovo and others in London.
He dismissed claims that Timol committed suicide in line with a training script which was allegedly given out to recruits.
“There was no such instruction…If this was true, then it means (Nelson) Mandela and (Walter) Sisulu would have also committed suicide.”
Kasrils explained that they always encouraged recruits to hold out for at least 24 hours to allow other members to get away. If confronted by a tough situation, they had to reveal what the “enemy” already knew.
“We took a humane approach and never expected our recruits to hold out indefinitely or never break under torture.”
He said if anything, recruits viewed arrests as badges of honour.
Advocate Howard Varney, who is representing Timol’s family, presented Kasrils with the Inkululeko Freedom document which the original inquest magistrate relied on to rule that Timol committed suicide.
Kasrils went through some of the passages and confirmed that they were authentic. However, he maintained some of the things were manipulated to appear that the ANC and SACP encouraged members to commit suicide.
Kasrils, who contributed in writing some parts of the document, highlighted bad grammar as an indication that the document had been edited.
Earlier, Muhammad Ali Thokan, a man who was filling petrol across the road from John Vorster Square on the morning of 27 October 1971 said he didn’t see the fall but heard a thud.
Thokan said he remembered the day as if it was yesterday because he was on his way to Pretoria to get his trading license.
“I didn’t see the fall, but I heard a thud. I looked around and I did not see anything and then I just carried on.”
Later a pedestrian exclaimed that a body had fallen from a building and when he went to investigate he was told to “F-off” by a group of plainclothes police officers.
Judge Billy Mothle inquired if Thokan was sure about the time of day on which the event took place.
Thokan said he was certain because he wouldn’t have driven to Pretoria in the afternoon as government offices would have been closed, and the trading license was important.
Thokan ‘s testimony contradicts security branch police officer Jan Rodrigues’ version that the incident happened in the afternoon.
A 1972 inquest found that Timol had committed suicide at the infamous John Vorster Square police station, now known as the Johannesburg Central police station, on September 27, 1971 by jumping from a 10th floor window. However, this had been hotly contested by the activist’s family and associates for decades, who believe he was murdered by the apartheid government.
The inquest continues.

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