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Type AMNESTY HEARING
Starting Date 07 December 1998
Location PALM RIDGE
Names BHEKINDILE DAVIS NDWANGU
Case Number AM 7055/97
MR SIBEKO: In front of me here, I have got your application on page 155, where your membership to any political organisation is referred to and you say you were a member of the ANC and then in 7(b) you state that you were a Commander of Polla Park Self Defence Unit, Maxembo groups, do you confirm that?
MR NDWANGU: I can say I was also involved because the fight was, the people were attacking us and I was the one in control of my soldiers and I would tell the people, I would deploy and give them instructions.
MR NDWANGU: I would request for permission from this panel to give me a turn to elaborate to give a picture, a background that led to me being a Commander. If you allow me that opportunity, I would like to let you know the fact that it was on the 12th of August 1990, the time was round about four o'clock in the afternoon.
I saw a group of people, a large group of people coming from the direction of the hostel, Kutuza hostel, Madala hostel, Mshayazafe hostel, those people were going down, moving from the direction of the hostel, going down Khumalo Road. That was quite a large number of people. They had some headbands and they were wearing some skins around their waists.
They were half naked, they had no shirts, they had no trousers on, they had knopkieries and things like spears. There was also, there were also some police caspers in front of them, and others were, it looked like they were escorting them, others were behind them.
Some of them had some firearms. They were not that far, we could see. Although we were afraid at first, we were scared of them, but we realised that they were not harmful, they were just walking down the road.
They were going straight to a hostel called Kalanyoni. They went into that hostel. Just after a short while, we saw people coming out of the hostel, they were jumping, taking the direction of the shacks at Polla Park.
Please give me the opportunity to tell you where was I stationed actually when I was looking at this. As I was looking at this, I was in Mr Nyati's van. I just came from the wholesale to buy some stock for my spaza shop and we just saw this thing and we ran and they ran into the hostel and came from another direction.
We were looking at them, we watched them until they reached the hostel. We managed to go through and get Polla Park after they got into the hostel. I delivered the stock. I think it was past six o'clock in the evening, and the other people were running out of the hostel, Kalanyoni hostel, going to the direction of Polla Park.
We were also waiting to see what was going to happen. There was a corner, a certain corner at the back of Kalanyoni hostel. We were standing there, a group of people. Amongst us there was Sam Ntuli, who was the Chairman of the Civic in Thokoza.
He was still trying to explain to us because we did not know what was going to happen next and hew as warning us to take note all the time. It looked like something was about to happen, because that large group, IFP group that was coming from the other hostels was in Kalanyoni.
When he was still busy telling us that, from another direction and there was an open space next to a (indistinct), the police came, four uniformed policemen came. As I was looking at these policemen who were actually facing us, but they were outside the hostel in the openings, a group of people came out of the hostel and they were shooting at us, as we were standing on the other side, and even the police themselves were facing us.
We were actually facing them too, we ran away because the police chased us away, but even those who were coming from the hostel, they came out and they started firing. We left our shacks and we went straight to the bridge as if we were facing Eden Park, this is when this whole thing started.
The police were coming from another direction. As from that day, on the 12th, there was no way for us to stay in our shacks, we were running away from our own homes and we were all over the place, trying to find a place to stay. Even the IFP people didn't stop chasing us away from our shacks.
Whenever we would get a rest, we would wake up early in the morning and rush to our shacks and we would hear them chanting inside the hostels. When we tried to get into our shacks early in the morning, at about five o'clock or half past four, we would see them coming to our shacks and they would chase away and we would be scattered all over and we would stay in the veld, that used to happen every day until the 18th, where we had to sit down and talk and discuss as the community.
As you heard Mr Ngwengwa talking about the meeting that was held at a place called Ndangeni. At that time I was appointed at a place behind the Polla Park shacks, just under the bridge, that is where the meeting of my appointment was held.
That was early in the morning, where men had gathered. After I was appointed, I want to tell you what I did. I did this, though I can't remember the date. I collected some men in the community, each and every man. No one had a firearm on that particular day, no one of us had a firearm.
I said to them, all of you, you know very well that IFP will come from that direction and come and attack us in our shacks every morning. Today at five o'clock, we have to surround their hostel, but we are not to get into the hostel. There was just a street between the shacks and the hostel, then I just decided that we should just surround the hostel in a way, but inside our shacks. They did so.
We sat there in our shacks and the IFP came out of the hostel. As usual, they came straight to us. There we were harassed by these IFP members, and we scattered around the veld and the police wouldn't accompany them when they were coming to us. Instead they would take the police caspers and deploy them on that other side. The police caspers would be there every day.
They did that as usual and when they came to our shacks and we just approached them also. I am not saying I had special weapon going straight to a specific person, but I was just actually alerting the people and the others had sharp objects, they attacked them, got into the hostel and we attacked them until they left their hostel and we even chased them, until they took a direction towards Thokoza Gardens.
Please allow me once more to tell you that even on that particular day, though I never hacked anyone with my own hands, but as the guys were not playing, people were dying. People were dying because we were not playing.
When the police in caspers saw that we were the people who were actually chasing the IFP, they came in large numbers and they shot at us in the hostel, up to the shacks. They were chasing us with their hippo's and others were running after us and we went to the nearest veld and they kept on shooting at us. That is the police.
On that particular day, the police were very much unhappy. They couldn't relax, they were all over Polla Park. Even though we were in the veld, they also wanted to come to us. That is what they were doing for that whole day, they were just moving around the place because they were unhappy.
If you - I want to tell you something else about the police. As I am saying that the Inkatha started on the 12th, at about six o'clock in the evening and in the afternoon at about three o'clock, it was on a Tuesday, on the 13th, we were trying to tiptoe and try to get something to eat in our shacks, we could hear them chanting inside and I think they were even dancing in their hostel.
There were also police caspers, a lot of police caspers next to our shacks. On our way to our shacks, there were some youth who were in front of me, and I was following them. In front of the police, there were IFP members who were there and they shot at us and two people were killed, and the police were laughing. We ran away and we tried to take the direction of the police, but we couldn't trust them, we took another direction.
It became clear that this other group of people, Inkatha, had some police involved and we were waiting for the IFP to come and attack any time, and there were also rumours that the Inkatha was going to hit again.
I talked to other men and we agreed to ask for people who know more about firearms. We asked the Tsonga's. We asked the Tsonga guys who were staying with us and we don't even know where they were coming from, they used to come in white vans, loaded vans, and they also asked us to hire them to fight for us.
We couldn't trust them, because they would just disappear until such time that I can say we were hiring them, and they would bring the firearms in their vans and they would collect money from the community of men.
We would collect the money from the community and only men that were involved, but we couldn't trust the other Tsonga's, we had to talk to these that were in our community and we also asked them to sell the guns to us and even try and get people who would be able to operate the firearms.
It is because at the time in Polla Park, among the Xhosa's, no one was able to operate a firearm. That is how I got my own army, it is because of those Tsonga's who were communicating with other Tsonga's and they brought some firearms and with the money that we were collecting from the community, we managed to buy the arms. Those Tsonga's became my army.
MR SIBEKO: Right sir, this incident that you have just - as you stated that you were forced into fighting, and those attacks were launched, people died. Will I be correct to say that from your side, you inflicted injuries to the attackers and at the same time, there could be people who might have died from those who were attacking you?
MR SIBEKO: On the day when you chased your attackers from out of Polla Park to the hostel and from the hostel into Thokoza Gardens, that is the first incident that you referred to when you said you - they were stabbed and everything was used to ward off their attack?
MR NDWANGU: Yes. In 1990, in August, I think the date was the 23rd and the 24th. I think the 23rd was on a Tuesday and the 24th was on a Wednesday if I am not mistaken, when the Inkatha members came, not from Kalanyoni hostel this time, but from Mshayazafe and Kutuza and Madala hostel.
They came behind the brick firm, heading for Polla Park and they surrounded Polla Park from the direction of the brick firm, from Zola to Kayo to A and there was another road that was coming from Thokoza to Eden Park. They came with white people on that day. They were throwing some objects, that I don't even know what they were. They had this oval shape and they were throwing those things in our shacks and they managed to set alight the shacks behind.
MR NDWANGU: As they were throwing these things, I cannot say some were not doing, because as they were doing this, they started by shooting, until such time that we had to run away and when we saw them at a distance, that they were throwing some things in the shacks.
Although they were throwing some things and there was a big fire, as they made that procession, we could see them because of the fire, the light coming from the fire. We came from another direction, a dark direction, from behind them and they were not looking at us, they were actually concentrating on what they were doing.
MR NDWANGU: My soldiers had AK47 rifles, we shot at them and we made them to jump the fire that they made. Some of them did not manage to get out of the fire, they died in that fire. Some of them got scattered and others came straight to our direction.
I want to tell you, I want to tell you the truth about this incident. When they started shooting from the very first time, on that particular day, I was actually facing these white people. These are the people who started shooting, and we had to run away.
Even when they were concentrating on burning down our shacks, and they were even prepared to finish up all the shacks without a disturbance, because the flame was so big, we could see that that was a white person and that was a black person. It is a sure case that they were boers there, coming from South Africa or from wherever, but I am certain that they were white people.
MR SIBEKO: The white people that you are talking about, were they clad in camouflage uniforms, that is army uniforms, Internal Stability uniforms, ordinary South African Police uniforms and what time was it, what time of the day did this occur?
MR NDWANGU: I don't want to lie, on that particular day, they were not in uniform on that particular day, they were in private clothes. They had hats on, they had their hats on but you could see them.
MR SIBEKO: You have already testified that now that your soldiers were armed with AK47's, you fired at them. Some of them died on the spot, some of them died as a result of the fire that your attackers had already started. Are you also applying for amnesty for such deaths or injuries that might have been caused?
MR NDWANGU: I could say that that is about all. I would like to say that on that particular day, the place became small for them because we were actually closing in on them, but they were actually helped or rescued by the SADF, which came to the scene and that is when we left.
MR NDWANGU: It is basically the same thing that happened on the 24th. They came very early, even on that day. The problem is that they used to launch their attacks unawares and at times we wouldn't be armed. They would just come and attacked unarmed and innocent people.
On this particular day, they came and set houses alight. They did basically the same thing that they had done the previous day. On this same day, I also commanded my soldiers to do the same, or to react in the same manner that they did the previous day.
On the 24th, it didn't take a long time for us to chase them out of the area. They had burnt quite a few shacks the previous day and the other shacks that were remaining, were not in the outskirts, they were in the centre or the middle of the area. They actually had to go into the area, deeper into the area in order to be able to burn down the remaining shacks, that is why we were able to catch up with them, before they could cause more destruction to the shacks.
MR SIBEKO: Now these people that you say died as a result of this, or on this particular day, were they - are you referring to your attackers or both, that is from your side and the side of the attackers?
We were proceeding towards the burning shacks. As I approached, I saw a white man who was speaking to Sishumani, saying come Zulu, come - referring to Sishumani. The white man was edging Sishumani on to attack and Sishumani came and hacked this man with a panga.
At the time that he was hacking this white man with a panga, I left, trying to get a glimpse of what was happening on the other side. At that stage we were actually attacking the group of Inkatha with pangas and axes.
MR NDWANGU: Yes, there is another incident. I don't remember the date, but I was approaching the hostel from the back, taking a shortcut to where I was heading. As I approached, I saw some policemen in their caspers. There were some people who were wearing Inkatha attire, (indistinct) and some red bandannas.
I later reported the incident only to find out that there had been a lot of witnesses who witnessed this incident. I could also say I was one of the people who advocated for the destruction, the total destruction of the hostel, so that they could have nowhere to live.
On that day we saw the row of kombi's, these kombi's were just following each other like train carriages. As we were still surprised as to what was happening, we saw a hippo casper, which was driving at high speed in Polla Park as if patrolling the area.
Immediately thereafter Inkatha, or a group of Inkatha members came into the area. On this day we were helped by the SADF, which actually managed to disperse the two groups because had the SADF not come, I think we would have been killed and our houses, or shacks, would have been burnt down, because they were shooting at random, they were attacking, we had absolutely nowhere to run.
MR NDWANGU: When I say the soldiers, I do not notice or I have absolutely no knowledge as to where they were coming from, but they were dressed in military uniform. They also came and shot quite a few times, and that is when the people dispersed, or the groups as well as the taxi's, dispersed.
MR SIBEKO: On that particular day, what you say is you never retaliated, or you were never pushed into a position where you took up your arms and defended your community, but you were helped or assisted by the appearance of those soldiers?
MR NDWANGU: Yes, that is correct. On that day we were absolutely powerless, because we were caught unawares and they could have killed us all, but they were not able to. I think the soldiers actually came just before they launched their attack, as well as the cars or the kombi's which drove into the area, sped off after the soldiers had fired a few shots.
MR NDWANGU: Not that I know of, besides the fact that on the 21st of December I left the place, I went to the Eastern Cape. I left the pistol that I had, together with the other guns that we used, and I left the place.
MR SIBEKO: Were there further acts of violence taking place in Thokoza in January 1992, is that what you are saying? When you came back, you left in December and then you came back in January, do you mean January 1992, when you came back?
MR NDWANGU: I think I made a mistake somewhere, when I left it was, I think it was in 1990 when I left. On the 21st of December 1990 I left and I came back during the 18th or the 19th of January 1991.
MR NDWANGU: When I came back from home during 1991, there was already a new Commander called Xeba. When I wanted to know more about the situation, I realised that he was some small time crook and I did not want to have any dealings with him.
I went to Ngwengwa to try and find out as to what happened during my absence. Ngwengwa told me that he also cut his ties with the rest of the group, after I had left, so he had no clarity because he told me that there was nothing constructive that happened in so far as fighting off Inkatha members was concerned.
It looked like now Xeba was conducting his own reign of terror now, he was no longer protecting the community. I went to live at 1156 Inhlapo Street in Thokoza and I didn't want to go back to Polla Park and its happenings.
When the marchers got next to the hostel, they were assaulted and tortured by Inkatha members. The Polla Park residents said or voiced their objections with regard to the leadership that they had at that time. They were complaining about their leaders, that their leaders were collaborating with some white policemen.
They requested me to come back and be their Commander once more. I went back, but I would like to explain to this Committee that at the time that I went back, that is in May during the year 1993, the Inkatha members who had conducted the march from Polla Park to Alberton, after having assaulted people at Polla Park, they did not stop there. They proceeded to the township in Thokoza.
ADV GCABASHE: Mr Ndwangu, I am sorry, I have just lost you a bit. You said that on the 21st/22nd of May 1993, there was a march from Polla Park to Alberton. Was this a march by the Polla Park residents or by the IFP, I am a bit lost there?
MR NDWANGU: As they were marching along the streets, or along Khumalo Street, they went passed several hostels which are in the same street, so they went passed quite a number of hostels, and that is where they were attacked, members of the ANC were attacked by Inkatha members and assaulted.
ADV GCABASHE: Oh, so it is during this march that the ANC people were assaulted? But I thought you also referred to IFP people marching, that was the last bit of your evidence, or did I not get you correctly?
MR NDWANGU: On this day, that is between the 21st and the 22nd, it was on a Saturday, the people from Polla Park were marching, whom I will refer to as members of the ANC, they were marching down Khumalo Street, going passed Madala hostel, Kutuza as well as Mshayazafe, that is where the Inkatha people came out and assaulted the Polla Park residents who were marching.
MR SIBEKO: You were no longer involved, you never issued any commands because the fight now was between the IFP supporters and the community of Thokoza? What happened to the arms that you were using in Polla Park?
MR NDWANGU: At the time that the members of Inkatha were residing at the hostel, they were no longer attacking the residents, there was relative calm and we took back all the ammunition, the arms and ammunition.
MR NDWANGU: Because I was working as a security guard, we collected the arms and ammunition and we came to a conclusion that we should take them back to the stadium where we were required to take the arms and ammunition, as well as unlicensed firearms and I was not present at that stage, when the guns were taken to the stadium, but I think the Commander's name was Keizer, I have forgotten his surname.
MR NDWANGU: Firstly I would like to tell this Committee that even though I had already pointed out that I had my own soldiers, whenever my soldiers had to go on an operation, they would come to me, pick the guns up and go and conduct the operation, then come back, leave the guns with me. The guns had been returned to me and I left them, and went home.
ADV GCABASHE: These soldiers, you called them your soldiers and you have said to us that they were from the Shangaan community, were they voluntarily assisting you or did they have to be paid for what they were doing?
The soldiers that I am referring to, comprised those who resided in Polla Park and also the ones who used to come and visit the area, would also assist whenever we had problems and shortages of soldiers.
I think they were also conducting a business of their own, because we used to buy guns from them, and they would also organise at times. I realised that the Shangaan community would get together, even when I wasn't present. They would talk as to how the guns should be sold and delivered.