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Timol findings inspire Kgoathe family to seek truth 49 years later

Nicodemus Kakadi Kgoathe died in custody in February 1969, with the police claiming he slipped in the shower.

Nicodemus Kakadi Kgoathe died in police custody on 4 February 1969. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG – Families who believe their loved ones were denied justice under the apartheid regime are seeking the truth after Judge Billy Mothle ruled that anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol was murdered and did not commit suicide as was concluded at the time of his death in 1971.

In October 2017, the court overturned a 40-year-old inquest finding that endorsed the police’s version that Timol jumped to his death.

One such family is the Kgoathe family in Hebron, outside Pretoria.

Nicodemus Kakadi Kgoathe was taken into police custody in November 1968 and charged, along with two others, in accordance with the Terrorism Act.

After spending two months in jail, Kgoathe managed to get a message to his family who had, until then, not known of his whereabouts. His eldest son Ben went to visit him and discovered his father appeared to have been assaulted.

Kgoathe died two weeks later, on 4 February 1969 at the HF Verwoerd Hospital (now the Steve Biko Academic Hospital) before his case could be heard in court the next month.

As with the story of Steve Biko and other political prisoners who died in custody, Kgoathe’s family was told he died from injuries he sustained when he slipped in the shower at the Silverton Police station.

With the help of the Timol family, the Kgoathes have undertaken to begin the process of reopening the inquest into their father’s death.

WATCH: Movie, Cry Freedom, shows names of prisoners who died in police custody under questionable circumstances.

Previous efforts include Ben’s appearance before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which found that Kgoathe had been assaulted, although records do not reflect that.

The family is working together with the Modipanes in Hebron who are also seeking answers around the death of Solomon Modipane who had been arrested at Kgoathes funeral.

MINI BIOGRAPHY

Nicodemus Kgoathe, hailed from Hebron, a village about 35 kilometres north-west of Pretoria.

He was a headman of the Madibo Clan and was also on the advisory council of the then Chief of the Bakwena Ba Mogopa tribe at Bethanie.

It’s alleged Kgoathe and others were accused of plotting to dethrone the Chief, who reported this to the then Commissioner.

They were later accused of sabotage and arson.