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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 29 October 1996
Names MARGARET MADLANA
COMMISSIONER: As usual I will ask one of the commissioners, Mr Hugh Lewin, to help you in giving your testimony. As you have already said that you ask God to give you the power we will give you over to Hugh Lewin.
MR LEWIN: We thank you for coming to the Commission and we would like you to feel as relaxed as possible. You are amongst friends. You are coming to tell us of a very terrible incident that took place in February 1986 and we would like you in your own time and in your own words to tell us what happened. This concerns your son. Thank you.
MRS MATLANA: It was during 1986 February, it was five in the morning. I was at home and there were some young youths who came to my house asking people to get out of their houses and one of my sons who was about 12 years, about to be 13, was also taken out of the house to accompany the young men. After they had gone for some time he is the kind of son who like food so if he doesn't get tea or some food I get worried because he didn't eat breakfast from the
morning and I was worried as to why he is not coming back to have breakfast. Therefore I decided to go to my sister who was staying at 5th Avenue. I left my home and I went straight to 5th Avenue. When I passed one corner at 24th Avenue I found that one child was shot in the yard and they were pulling this child. On the road there was a very big rock. He was pulled by white police. He was not yet dead. Then when they arrived at the rock they pulled him up and they hit him against the rock. We were standing by trying to find out to identify the child. Unfortunately they chased us away. We passed the place but when we looked back we could see police arriving and they were becoming many in number. The police whom I know were Mr Mtebi, Sindana was one of them and this Sindana was a friend to my uncle, Piet Maseko. I passed that police. As I was passing going to my sister they took this child of mine and when I arrived at my sister and told her that they have killed a young child on a rock and explained that I didn't know to whom the child belonged, my sister told me that I don't have to worry because I don't know where the child comes from. And I told her that I am looking for my son because he didn't come for breakfast. My sister told me that you don't have to worry about that, children just go around, running around the streets because police are chasing them. Just sit down and relax, maybe he ran back home. And I said to her how could that happen. Bongani can't run, I know he likes food, he should be home by now. I was not satisfied. I told my sister that maybe one of the child who was killed on the way it might be my child because I couldn't recognise the child. My sister just said I mustn't worry. Therefore I went back home. When I arrived at home I asked his sisters whether he
came back and they said no he had not yet arrived. I told them how I saw the police killing a young child, hitting him against a rock. However, the way they hit him I couldn't identify the body so I don't know whose child it was. They said to me don't think that was Bongani, we hope that he is still alive wherever he is. He might still be running around the streets. I wasn't happy, I couldn't sleep. It was the 17th February and it was a Monday, 1986. It was the 17th. When I woke up in the morning about five o'clock Bongani hadn't come back home. Therefore I went straight to Alexandra clinic to enquire maybe if he was injured or sent to the clinic but however when I arrived at the clinic they tried to search their records and they couldn't find my child's name. However, on the 18th I went back home. Thereafter I went to (indistinct) police station. When I arrived at the police station I asked them about the whereabouts of my son. The police were just walking up and down, they didn't even listen to me. I just stood there confused. However, one policeman, a Xhosa-speaking policeman, asked me what am I looking for. I told him I am looking for my child because I saw him the previous morning and he didn't come back home. And he asked me how old he was, I told him he is 12 years and he was about to be 13. They opened on their records and they couldn't find his name. The police told me that most of the children are not there because some of them were hit with iron bullets and one of them has been sent to Khotso House, you might find him in Khotso House, just go there and check and he said if I don't find my child at Khotso House I had better go to the government mortuary. I left the place and went to the company where his father worked and explained his
disappearance and I told them that the Hippos were running around the township, people saw the Hippo running down to the bushes. I didn't know what it was carrying. Maybe my child was also carried in the Hippo. His father gave me the money so I travelled to the government mortuary. I took a taxi and I asked this driver to take me to the government mortuary. I didn't go to Khotso House. The taxi driver told the occupants of the taxi that I was asking him to take me to the government mortuary and they agreed that he can take me to the mortuary. Therefore they took me to the government mortuary. When I arrived there I found that there was a queue. I stood in the queue and then one of the people there came to me and asked me what am I looking for. I told them that I am looking for my son. They asked me where is your son from, I told them I am from Alexandra. They asked how old was my son. I told them he was 12. He said Mommy we have seen one child but we don't think - there is one child here but we don't think he is 12 years old because he came alone, he was carried in a Hippo, he came alone and he is from Alexandra. I don't know whether this is the one that you are looking for. And I told them mine is 12 years old but he is short and they asked me are you strong enough to come and identify your child. I said yes I can. Therefore they took me into the mortuary. I found so many bodies lying on the ground. This one of mine was sitting on top of the plank and they asked me is this your child, I said yes I found this is my child. I said Bongani you left me behind. And they said to me since you have identified the body it is okay and they asked me the name and I told them it is Bongani Madlana. They gave me his number. They gave me a letter, they told me to go and sit
outside. They wrote me two letters. They said that one of the letters is mine and they asked me do you have a mortuary and then they gave me another letter to take to the police station and the other one you keep it and they said if you hand this letter over to the police station they will give you another one. I left the place and went back to his father's work place and told him about Bongani's death. And then his employers gave him the time to come with me to go to the mortuary. However, we went back to the office, probably this is the police station and we found Mr Mtebi. He took the letter and he said is this the child that was killed at number 24. That is where I found out that the child that I saw being hit against the rock was my child. Therefore we gave statements. After giving statements we went back on burying our child and after the funeral I got a letter saying that I must come to court. We didn't go to court exactly but we went to private offices and there was Mtebi and the other white policeman who was handling the case. And they asked me what happened to your child and I told them that I don't know anything. I told them I just found my son in the mortuary and there is nothing that I know as to what happened. And they asked me whether you can show us about the leaders of these children who were running around the streets and I told them I don't know them. From that time we left the office they never came back to me to tell me as to what had happened to my child. However, later this white policeman wrote a letter, he gave his name in the letter and said you sent me some letters. However, he never sent letters to me. After some time, about two weeks passed. They called us to Randburg. When we arrived in Randburg they took out photos, they shot him - the shot
shows him holding a whisky in his hand. However, we couldn't find that but on the photos we don't know when they took the photos and he was holding this half a jack which was a petrol bomb. This worries me a lot because these people who killed my son it means that the police knew him and they knew me and they had to take him alone to a government mortuary. As it happened that most children died and their parents couldn't find them. They took him to the mortuary alone because they knew me.
MRS MATLANA: While I was then after my child's death this white policemen came and they came to one house where there was a tent and they were running after some children. The children ran towards the house and got into the house. When they arrived and entered the house I asked them, I didn't know that they understood Zulu and I asked in Zulu what are they looking for because they have already killed my son and one of the white men answered me and he said to me we are looking for (indistinct) this is the young kids. There were so many people in my house and they said they are going to take me and kill me in the house. However, the people tried to ask them not to kill me. I don't remember - I would like to apologise before God, I don't think of anything if ever I was to be employed I was going to poison the white man's children. The way they killed my son hitting him against a rock and we found him with a swollen head, they killed him in a tragic manner and I don't think I will ever forgive in this case, especially to these police who were involved and who were there. What worries me the most is that the Alexandra policemen were the people who were running around, they were called (indistinct) those were the people who
started all the altercations between them and the children because on the 1st January until new year they were guarding one women's hostel where this incidents where there was this first child to be buried. He was standing in front of his gate and he was shot by police from the (indistinct) police station. This boy was playing for a soccer club called Mighty Quin. They came with their guns and they shot us, we were cooking, they poured some tear-gas in the pots in which we were cooking and from there up to the time where there was this six days war. Thereafter they continued in February and came to kill one child at 3rd Avenue. I would say that children got angry because they could see that the police were finishing us. The very same police that were staying with us. The (indistinct) police from Alexandra, this it the people who were doing that. Those are the people who started the violence and killing our children and they started the whole violence because children got angry, there was no need for them to go and guard the hostel and kill the child from the apartheid family. Why did they kill him. They killed him because they knew he was a leader of the youth. I would say that they are the ones who started the violence within the community. If they don't come Mtebi and Sindani, these two people one of them, Sam who have already died, he has followed the children that he killed. However Sindani is still alive. We are very much angry about this because one child from Tembisa was also a leader. He is the one who was calling people around the children, organising them to go and burn his house because he was angry because his mother had left him behind. This Sindani came to me to tell me that he has not finished the killings, they are still going to kill and Mtebi himself came to say
the very same words. They said they are coming to kill all the young kids and the dogs and they are also coming to kill the leaders. Therefore I don't think there will be any reconciliation or forgiveness because today the police in Alexandra, they promote crime because they eat together with these criminals. They are crooks, they are still doing the very same things that they used to do and therefore I don't think I will ever forgive police. (Witness upset).
MRS MATLANA: What will make me to forgive is if Sindani and Mtebi, these two policemen come and tell us why he killed these sons of the wars and also ask for forgiveness before the mothers of these children. It is then that I can forgive him. I am so surprised to find out that today that Mtebi is today a reverend and which children is he preaching to and which parents is he preaching to if he killed the children of the wars. I would like Sindani and Mtebi to come and ask for forgiveness. Thereafter I might consider forgiving them, together with his fellow white people who came to kill our children. They just killed these defenceless children with their machine guns. They brought their dogs and hoses running after young children with machine guns with the aim of killing the black nation, the black race underneath the sun. I will say that I will never forgive because this was my last born. Maybe if he was still alive he was going to be married by now have some children and a wife but because they have killed him I will never rest because I used to go out and go and sleep on top of his grave because even today I still go there and pray in his grave. I will never forgive them if they don't come before the Commission.
MR LEWIN: I would like to thank you for telling us this story. We hear what you are saying and I think that we can all understand the pain and the grief that you have and the anger that you have. What we as the Commission are trying to do is to uncover this type of story in this sort of detail so that we are then able to find the people who did this and what you have told us will never be forgotten. You have now told people in public, you have shared your grief and this is something that is actually very important that you do that. We will through our investigative unit follow up as closely as possible and when we find these people yes we will bring them to you, bring you together with them so that they too can feel what you feel. My only other question is because you have given such a graphic description of what happened at that time and shown us your anger, which I think we all appreciate. My only other question is just about Bongani. I mean you say he was 12 or 13 at the time.
MRS MATLANA: The others are all grown up. He was my last boy. The one before him is Woesi is also married now. Bongani was my last boy. The others were daughters. I would like to say that for me to forgive, and I don't see the opportunity of me forgiving anyone, I suffered a lot because of this because I didn't understand why the children were killed but there is just one important thing I would like to say before the Commission, before our children and the whole country. At the beginning of the struggle the
struggle started at Wits University within the white community where white students threw away their books not even a single of them was tear-gassed or killed. However, when black children started fighting for their liberation they were shot by guns. We had to bury a lot of people killed by these guns and I would like to say I have buried a lot, I am only left with four children. However, when their children started to fight for their rights they were not killed. However, our children when they started the very same thing they were killed since from 1976 up to 1986. They never buried any one or where we find them coming to a mass funeral saying that these white people were on strike and we shot them or killed them. Even today they still do that, they fight for their rights but they are not tear-gassed or killed. Things like that we can find out that there was this apartheid system working within the black community, we were taken as dogs, baboons and all such things. These dogs and baboons which work for them, which bath their children, cook for their children however they are still content to kill them.
MR LEWIN: What we are trying to do is to unravel everything that did happen throughout that long time and what you have done is helped the Commission along the road that it is trying to follow so that by the end of the Commission's life, at the end of next year we will have a full description of everything that has happened to you. I would thank you very much and hand back to the Chairperson. Thank you.
come out and be done away with so that things that have happened mustn't happen again. People like police, it is our duty to make sure that they don't repeat their history. However, I would like to ask you to come down in order for the commissioners to pose questions to clarify or get a better picture of your story.
MRS MATLANA: The letter that I got was from the mortuary. I took it and the death certificate I found it from Wynberg police station. We used to go there to fetch birth certificates. May you please excuse me, I would like to say that the clothes which my son was wearing at the time he left my place, we couldn't find them, they didn't give us that clothes, I don't know what has happened to these clothes, whether they have burned them or teared them. Even today I haven't got them.
MRS MATLANA: No. I didn't go to a lawyer because I couldn't go to a lawyer because I didn't think a lawyer was going to be able to help me because my son was already dead. I didn't have any belief that a lawyer will help me because lawyers also wants money so I didn't even have the money and I couldn't pay him money for someone who was already dead. There was nothing because my child couldn't speak for himself.
MRS MATLANA: As I have explained, there was ... (nothing further on tape) the investigating officer in my son's case said to me he is coming back to me. From there that is where I saw these pictures showing him holding a petrol bomb. However, at the time when they were hitting him against the rock he wasn't holding a petrol bomb. When we arrived at Wynberg they showed me the photos where he was holding a petrol bomb in a whisky bottle.
MRS MATLANA: Because they hit him with irons. I think if they didn't hit him against the rock he might have survived if they took him to hospital or maybe they have left him just there, maybe he was going to survive because the committee was going to take him to hospital. However, because they hit him against the rock I think that is how he died because they beat his head against a rock and his head was swollen when we found him. Therefore they smashed his head. I think that is how they killed him.
MRS MATLANA: Excuse me, there is something which I haven't stated in my statement. After the funeral on the very same night there were my daughters Zakele and some other friends. The white policemen came and took them away. After Good Friday we had to go and bail them out. Now I am coming to talk about the Ama Cabasa gang. When we arrived in court
the police there they were talking to each other saying let's work quick today because we have to go, saying that they were going to do their things. On that day the court was empty, there were only a lot of children around. One of the police whom I know said today we are going to enter the township and I asked him what is in the township and he said today we are visiting the township. As they were saying like that they were trying to say that they were coming to attack in the township, killing people. I said clearly that the burning of people, especially this young man who was burned working from (indistinct) it wasn't because of the gangsters, they were burnt by police because when they were passing with their vans they were carrying petrol bombs in the vans. They were holding axes, singing. I would like to state categorically that the burning of people and houses it wasn't done by the Ama Cabasa gang it was the police. The Wynberg (indistinct) police, Bramley, all of them they came as a group along Selbourne Street. When they were about to take a corner coming towards my house direction, however they turned and took 7th Avenue, crossing through 6 and one of them direct them not to come to my place. I walked behind them trying to see where they were going with these arms and petrol bombs. That was the time they went to burn a house, number 31 and number 32. Thereafter when they finished they came down and then they went to 2nd Avenue and burned, this man was working at Benny Goldberg. The next day when I went to 2nd Avenue, because this man who was burnt was my relative, these white people were taking pictures, they asked us did you see the people who burnt this one and I told him straight why do you ask us because you were the people who were running around burning these people with
your police. You are the one who sent the police, the black police, you coming behind them, that they must come and kill their own nation - race. How are they going to stay in the township if they kill their own people?
COMMISSIONER: We would like to thank you about the testimony that you have given before the Commission. Yours is a painful story because it reminds us of our past, how bad it was and how it failed to look after its people, especially the children. When you say that your child was 12 years old. South Africa being known as a Christian country, it is so difficult to find out that a 12 year old was killed in the manner which you have just described. We also pity the situation that have gone through that having stayed for ten years and also that we find that as you have stated that it is difficult for you to forgive as you are expressing your wishes about the perpetrators, we wish that they can come forward before the Commission. It doesn't have to be this human rights hearing, they can come to the amnesty so that they as perpetrators should come before the people and tell the truth so that people like you can be able to forgive and reconcile. We would like to thank you very much. As Commissioner Yasmin Sooka has already mentioned we will keep in contact. Thank you.