The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) has called on prosecuting authorities to redouble their efforts in seeking justice into the death of anti-apartheid activist Ashley Kriel in 1987. The IJR’s views were expressed after the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to charge, Joao Rodrigues, a security police officer during the apartheid regime. Rodrigues was a member of the security branch administration and was allegedly the last known person to have seen Timol alive before the 29-year-old activist fell to his death from a 10th floor window at John Vorster Square (now known as Johannesburg central police station) in 1971. The Pretoria High Court last year found that Timol had in fact died at the hands of apartheid police while in detention in 1971.
Rodrigues briefly appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrates court earlier this week, he was granted bail and the case was postponed to September for pre-trial proceedings.
“The arrest of the former police officer in the Ahmed Timol case serves as a reminder of all the extrajudicial killings during apartheid that have not seen justice, of which the Ashley Kriel Killing is one. Though it has been far too long it, it is not too late for justice to be served,” said the IJR.
“It is in the wake of this historic case that we appeal to the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority to give urgency to the case into Ashley Kriel’s death and to bring justice to the killing of a young man who committed his life to, and who paid the ultimate price for the struggle against apartheid.”
It has been 31 years since 20-year-old Cape Flats freedom fighter Ashley Kriel was fatally shot at a ‘safe house’ in Hazendal, Athlone by apartheid security branch officer Jeffrey Benzien. Police maintained at the time that Kriel was shot while resisting arrest when a scuffle broke out. However, a forensic investigation by Professor David Klatzow concluded that Kriel was murdered by police, shot from behind from a distance while his wrists were cuffed behind his back, that evidence was planted and that details of the crime scene were omitted. Benzien was granted amnesty at the TRC.
Since the announcement by the Hawks in March 2016, that they were reopening the investigation into Ashley Kriel’s shooting, the Kriel family have not heard from them since. The Kriel family have long maintained that they have twice been done an injustice. We call on the NPA to not only ensure justice is served but to clarify the status of the ongoing investigation.
Michel Assure, Kriel’s sister, said she “calls on people, everyday South Africans, to put pressure on the investigation while they wait in anticipation for a real resolution, not for the Kriel family only but for all families affected by these types of killings”.
This was echoed by Stan Henkeman, executive director of the Institute, when he said: “The family has a legitimate expectation for justice to be served. It is unacceptable that the Kriel family still does not have closure on the death of Ashley after three decades.”
Henkeman continued: “Ashley Kriel’s death is an unhealed wound from apartheid, especially on the Cape Flats. As the family has carried deep pain for decades, we also want to recognise that the Bonteheuwel community will be well served when Kriel’s killers are brought to justice.”
Henkeman elaborated by saying Cape Flats communities like Bonteheuwel and beyond served as shelters for anti-apartheid fighters. And the ongoing injustice exemplified in the Ashley Kriel killing serves as a powerful reminder that these communities have not yet seen healing or growth because the injustices of apartheid have been baked into the physical landscape, denying those living there the social, economic and political opportunities a democratic SA promised.
‘Without justice, there can be only false reconciliation and in turn bring about only false healing. If we are to continue to build a new country, then the foundation on which we do so can no longer be lies or a denial of the past,” he said.
“As the Kriel family seeks closure, let us remain ever vigilant to protect our hard earned freedom, paid by the spilling of blood of countless sons and daughters of Africa, and what that means for justice individually and collectively.”