Sins of the father

Protesters marched to Parliament to protest against the rape and killing of South African women last Thursday, September 5.

The daughter of the man charged with the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol has laid charges of historical child abuse against her father.

Tilana Stander went public last year with allegations that her father, former apartheid policeman Joao Rodrigues, had sexually abused her from the age of 8. The alleged abuse had been from 1972 to 1976, continuing into her teens.

Last Tuesday, Ms Stander laid criminal charges against her father at the Wynberg Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual (FCS) Offences offices.

Unit commander for Pretoria FCS Captain Temeki Sekgala said the case would be transferred from the Wynberg FCS to Pretoria where the crimes are alleged to have been committed.

Joao Rodrigues was charged in July last year with the murder of teacher and activist Ahmed Timol in 1971, allegedly by staging his suicide.

Mr Timol died in 1971 after falling from the 10th floor of the then John Vorster Square police station in Johannesburg, where he had been detained.

The original inquest held in 1972 concluded that Mr Timol had committed suicide, with most of the evidence centred around Mr Rodrigues’s testimony. Mr Rodrigues claimed at the time that

he had seen Mr Timol jump out of a window, but had been unable to save him because he had tripped over a chair.

However, in 2017, Judge Billy Mothle ruled that Mr Timol had not committed suicide but had rather been murdered.

In June this year, the South Gauteng High Court denied the 80-year-old’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution for the murder. Mr Rodrigues has filed an application to appeal that decision.

In a press statement, Women and Men Against Child Abuse said Ms Stander had contacted the organisation, saying several historical child abuse cases and the recent “Frankel Eight” amendment to the Criminal Procedures Act (overruling the 20-year prescription period for prosecution) had encouraged her to press charges.

In a radio interview in November last year, Ms Stander described her relationship with her father growing up as devoid of love and fraught with fear and intimidation. She had suffered sexual, physical and verbal abuse at his hands and been brainwashed into staying silent.

In the radio interview, Ms Stander said her father would give her severe beatings and drag her into his room to assault her. She would often be scared to go home.

“I’d come home scared, with the white bakkie parked in front of the yard,” she said.

Ms Stander said she was the “black sheep” in the family and no longer spoke to her brothers and sisters because they did not believe her, and their relationship with her had further deteriorated after she had gone public.

In the Women and Men Against Child Abuse press statement, Ms Stander said she had been thinking about laying charges against her father since 2007 but had been afraid that no one would believe her. She had felt ashamed and had also feared too much time had passed.

‘”As I grew older, the realisation of what he actually did to me become more vivid and had a very negative impact on my life.

“I made several attempts to convince my siblings to acknowledge what I went through and to speak out about what happened to me, only to be cast out by my family as a trouble maker for speaking up.

“I am now completely estranged from my family. All I ever wanted was for them to admit what he has done, for him to acknowledge it to them.”

Ms Stander said her father’s frequent appearances in the media over the Timol case had dredged up old traumatic memories.

Women and Men Against Child Abuse’s Miranda Jordan said the organisation would support Ms Stander during the case.

“As society, we need to develop a better understanding of the reality of late disclosure and embrace the need to see perpetrators held accountable for their crimes, regardless of their age or the lapse in time.

“Cases such as this one need to deliver a harsh message to child abusers about the life sentence they force upon victims.”