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Type AMNESTY HEARING
Starting Date 07 December 1998
Location PALM RIDGE
Names SIMON ALTON NGWENGWA
Case Number AM 7299/97
CHAIRPERSON: The next application is that of Simon Alton Ngwengwa, it is reference number AM7299/97, and the application appears at page 176 in the Lusaka B bundle and the applicant is being represented by Mr Sibeko.
MR NGWENGWA: Yes, that is correct. I used to be a member and I am still a member of the ANC. I am also the Chairperson of the Polla Park branch. That started in 1989 up to 1998, and after the elections I was the Deputy Chairperson.
MR NGWENGWA: What necessitated the fact that I make an application for amnesty, the fact that at the time of the attacks of the people of Polla Park in 1990, they came to me as the Chairperson of the Polla Park branch and they needed a solution because we were being attacked and I could see it because I was among them. We were being attacked.
What I said to them, first of all I called a meeting, I told them that there is no other way of protecting the community, except uniting and trying to get some solution, because there were a target, they were victims. That is the reason that made me to make this application.
When they met, as they were complaining, I told them to defend themselves. During the attacks by the people who were doing that, it would happen that after a fight, there would be people who were left behind and they were dying. As a person who had a jurisdiction over that area, I think that as I have already said that the attacks that were taking place in our place of residence in Polla Park, I mobilised the people and I told them to get together and try to find some ways of protecting or defending themselves.
After the fights that would take place there, there would be some dead bodies at that place, Polla Park, and we would look at those dead bodies, we wouldn't be able to identify them. Although we couldn't identify them, but we knew that those were the dead bodies of the people who came to attack the Polla Park. Among those dead bodies, there would be people who were coming from the nearest hostel, hostel number 4, that hostel was called Kalanyoni.
When these conflict would take place, that is when we were involved as the people of Polla Park. Though I am not sure about the date, but I think it was the 12th of August 1990. There were people who were attacked in that hostel, and they were being forced to take membership, IFP membership.
Part of those people who were attacked during those days, ran away. They went to Polla Park, since the Polla Park was the nearest. Polla Park used to be shacks at that time. That is why, as we knew that this was actually taking place in Sebokeng, it was not true, the fact that only Xhosa's were fighting the Zulu's, that was not true.
That is why I see myself as a person who had a contribution, because I did suggest to people, because I did not have a choice, I did suggest to people to do something, to protect themselves. During that process of trying to protect themselves, some people were killed.
MR SIBEKO: Mr Ngwengwa, will I be correct to say that your application is mostly for firstly, convening meetings? You will correct me again if I say in those meetings, you encouraged and incited people to stand up and fight so that they could defend themselves? Is that what you are actually saying in essence?
MR SIBEKO: In your testimony you said you were approached when the attack started, you were approached. I would like you to tell us whether you were approached in your capacity as the Chairperson of the branch of the ANC or as an ordinary member of the community?
MR NGWENGWA: People approached me as the Chairperson of the African National Congress branch of Polla Park. If the other people came for other reasons, I won't disagree with you, but all I know is that the people came to me as the Chairperson of the branch.
MR SIBEKO: In your testimony again, you said unlike in other areas like in Sebokeng, where the violence was branded to be between Xhosa's and Zulu's, in Polla Park, it was different such that people were forced to take up membership of the IFP.
MR NGWENGWA: That is partly true, but I want to correct something. The fact that people were forced to be IFP members, that was not taking place in Polla Park, it was taking place in Kalanyoni hostel.
The people who ran away from Kalanyoni, they were running away from Kalanyoni hostel as they were forced to join the IFP and they were running to Polla Park. What you have said is true, that is actually what caused the disagreement among the people.
MR SIBEKO: You convened those meetings, you incited people to stand up and defend themselves. How did you hope to achieve such a defence? What took place so that the people could defend themselves? What emanated from the meetings?
MR NGWENGWA: First of all, I knew that there is nothing that can come among the people who are united. That is the reason why I called that meeting, because I wanted to unite these people so that they can be able to defend themselves.
As the Chairperson of the African National Congress at Polla Park, I indicated to them that according to the policies of the ANC as a leader, I will never be able to suggest directly. They have to devise some means when it comes to the fights and the conflicts.
I will never be directly involved. They have to get someone who will facilitate such things. Indeed they appointed a Commander whose name was Daniel Mbamba, I think he is also one of the applicants today. He is the one who got directly involved in discussing the issues as to how to prevent the people after I had mobilised them.
MR SIBEKO: In the forms of defence that were taken up by the community members of Polla Park, it is common cause, it is a well known fact today that there was violence from both sides, from the forces outside Polla Park and from the forces within Polla Park, as a result of which people died and many were injured.
MR NGWENGWA: Yes, I do associate myself as a person who united them, and I suggested that they have to try and defend themselves. I had a contribution, because I called them together and I showed them the need to protect themselves.
MR NGWENGWA: I never suggested anything of that nature. As I have already told you that after addressing the people at a meeting, telling them to try and unite and protect themselves, there was another meeting that was convened, where a decision of appointing a Commander was reached.
MR SIBEKO: Mr Ngwengwa, you also stated that as the Chairperson of the branch of the ANC, you could not suggest to the members of the meeting, or the members of the community, as to how should they defend themselves.
All that you said is that they should stand together and defend themselves? Did you at that time acknowledge that there could be the possibility that arms could be organised and acts of violence could be carried out in the form of defence?
MR NGWENGWA: Yes, I did anticipate that. That is why I didn't want to be associated directly as the Chairperson, because the organisation that I was serving, was actually - the policy was saying that we must not run away, even if the people are hitting us. But now if the people are told to protect themselves, because the people who are fighting the ANC people were having arms, and there was nothing else that they would think about, except having firearms.
MR SIBEKO: A member of the community and secondly a leader in that same community, one would really expect you to start by approaching the authorities, that is the South African Police at the time, or whoever was in charge of the law and order, to let them know about the problems that you were having at Polla Park. Did you do that sir, and if no, why?
MR NGWENGWA: I did that, when the people were being attacked, I would go to the police, but when this went on and on, and we later realised that these people who were attacking us, would come with police sometimes. There was no hope at all, entrusting the police. There was no need to trust the police, because the police would be involved whenever the Polla Park residents were being attacked.
I just decided to report the matter to the ANC region, to the leaders of the region so that they can be the people who would deal with the Commissioners, so that it should be known that the people were being attacked.
MR SIBEKO: You made several attempts to let the authorities know about your problem and as time went by, you lost confidence in the authorities and thereafter you decided to convene those meetings where you encouraged people to sort of mobilise and stand up against the violence?
MR NGWENGWA: The discussions that I was involved in, the decision that was taken was that there would be another meeting that would be convened after that one, whereby a decision will be taken to appoint a Commander.
After that appointment of the Commander, the women were told to step aside so that men can go on because there was a Commander. I used to tell the people that the ANC organisation is actually encouraging negotiations but now, at a later stage, the people decided to take the opposite direction, by trying to protect themselves the other way.
ADV SANDI: Your answer was very long Mr Ngwengwa, I am not sure if I followed you correctly. Is your answer to the question I was asking, is it your answer that you were not at any stage part of a meeting where it was discussed how to go about getting arms? Was that your answer?
MR NGWENGWA: I was never involved in any attack against IFP, but at times, we would wake up during the night and hear gunshots and the people would be fighting. During those times, some means were devised to try and protect the community.
MR NGWENGWA: I made that attempt, trying to negotiate with the police to try and protect or defend the people, though I can't remember the date, when the people were being attacked in the hostels, there was a rumour that there was an attempt for police who were actually taking the people from Mshayazafe hostel to Polla Park. That day I was talking to the police directly.
The people who survived or escaped, when they went out and reached, trying to reach for that police casper, the police casper was no longer there. That is when I lost confidence, because I could see that the police were not prepared to help the people further. That is why I made an attempt to go straight to the ANC region whenever there is a problem and to tell them that the police are not prepared to do anything.
Instead, they are having a greater contribution because these people who are doing these things, are not punished. If there is a fight, if there was a fight, the police would come and harass the people at Polla Park with teargas and searching their houses, and after ten minutes, the IFP would come and attack that people. That is when I lost confidence in the police.
ADV SANDI: Just so sum it up Mr Ngwengwa, am I correct to think that you have applied for amnesty because you think or you believe that you were wrong to tell people to defend themselves when they were being attacked?
MR NGWENGWA: I made that application because of the reason that I have already mentioned. I am not certain if I made a mistake by telling the people to protect themselves. Only law could determine that, but I am doing that because if that was a mistake, then I be given amnesty.
As they were being attacked, they were defending themselves. A person who is defending himself, can do anything. A person who is attacking, is a person who goes out of his way to go and attack the people, but in whatever I said to people, I did not mention anything about attacking, I just mentioned protecting or defending themselves.
MR NGWENGWA: I never mentioned anything like that. I cannot say it was never mentioned by the people who were involved, because after accomplishing my own mission, there are steps that were taken, including the appointment of the Commander, but when I was addressing the people, I never made mention of those things.
MR NGWENGWA: The reason for me to seek for amnesty, as a person who doesn't know much about law, though I can be sure that I was advising them about the right thing, it might happen that when you are paging through, according to law, what I did, was not right.
MR NGWENGWA: I want to clarify this. When I am actually telling the people about the attempt, about them to try and unite, after that, the people convened another meeting and they appointed a person who would be their Commander and they did that, trying to protect themselves.
As a leader at Polla Park, when the people were protecting themselves and they were succeeding in doing that, that was actually making me happy. I was happy to see them, that at least if they are being attacked, they can stand up for themselves.
MR SIBEKO: We therefore agree that in defence of the life and property of Polla Park, lives were lost or limbs were injured from the side of the attackers, which you fully agree with, as it was perpetrated by the defenders of your community?