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Human Rights Violation Hearings

Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Starting Date 28 October 1996

Location ALEXANDRA

Names RAMATSOBANE MASENYA

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RAMATSOBANE MASENYA (s.s.)

MS SOOKA: We would like to welcome you to today's proceedings. Is that a family member who is accompanying you?

MS MASENYA: Yes, it is my aunt. We would like to welcome her as well. We have asked Dr Randera to assist you with the leading of your evidence and I will now hand over to him.

DR RANDERA: Ramatsobane, can I call you that?

MS MASENYA: Yes.

DR RANDERA: Good morning to you and to your family member. You are 38 years old now and you have also come to tell us about what happened on 18th June 1976. I think we should just remind ourselves that that was two days after June 16th, the uprising that took place in Soweto that is now an historical day in our calendar. But in Alex itself on that day our researchers tell us that 25 people died and 250 people were injured. When the previous witness said Alex was burning we can well believe it. Before I ask you to tell us about - it is your mother who died on that day, is that right?

MS MASENYA: Yes, it is so.

DR RANDERA: Can you please tell us something about yourself and about your mother before you tell us about what happened to her.

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MS MASENYA: I am the second daughter of my mother. The elder one, the one who was left at home because really I was an apple of my mother's eye. So on that unfortunate day I was there so what I can tell about myself is that my father died before my mother could die. So I have got a son by the name of Cilo who was born on two days after my father's death. When they went to fetch my father I was not there. My mother liked Cilo a lot. Because my father away and Cilo was born we believed that Cilo is replacing my father. I am just an ordinary person. I am literate but I have got a good rapport with people, just like my mother, she was very friendly although she was a sangoma. But she was a very friendly person all the time. Even when people came for consultation without funds she would be willing to help them all the time.

DR RANDERA: Miss Masenya will you please tell us what happened to your mother on that day, on the 18th June.

MS MASENYA: On the 18th June 1976 there were riots in Alexandra. It was black power as we called it. My father was supposed to go to the Commissioner's office. They had asked her to come so that she must get funds due to my father from his employers. The situation was not peaceful even in Tembisa. She said that it might be possible that this will happen in Alexandra as well. But when we woke up everything was normal. Therefore my mother decided to go to the Commissioner to attend to these matters and to be accompanied by my elder brother. I did try to accompany her, I put my baby on my back. When we got the 13th Avenue bridge we met a Putco bus driver who wanted to know where are we going to. He just advised us to turn back because the situation is disrupted. As she was telling me that she

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is tired now I told her that she must balance on me for support until we got home. I locked her in when we got home. I asked her that she must still stay indoors. I will just monitor the situation outside. She did that. At that time the beer hall was set alight on 13th Avenue. She wanted to know where are the children because they were at school. I just told her just take the baby, I will go and look for the other school children. I gave her the child, Cilo and then I went out. When approaching 14th Avenue there were Caspers approaching and school children were running down the street and the Caspers were following them. When she saw that there was burnings she went outside to try and look out for her children because they were too young. When she was approaching between 129 and 123 she came across Caspers and they were just shooting randomly. They shot her on an empty stand. It was a vacant land. They shoot her at the back. The bullet penetrated right through her left breast. She tried to walk. A lady called Elste told us that our mother has been shot. I wanted to know how did they shoot her. And I found her bending on the grass. She was praying that her ancestors and God must help her pull through. I managed to get a car in order to take my mother that she would be taken to the clinic and fortunately when we got to the clinic the nurses knew her well and they transferred her to the General Hospital and we did take her there and she did survive but she passed away on the 19th June, on the Saturday. It was 20 past 11 midnight.

DR RANDERA: Are you okay? Would you like to have a glass of water to drink?

MS MASENYA: I will have some water please.

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DR RANDERA: Miss Masenya I just want to ask you a few questions. In your statement you say your mother was shot in the head. I think just now you said she was shot through the breast and the bullet went through the back, is that right?

MS MASENYA: The person who took the statement down didn't hear me properly. She was shot on the left-hand side from the back and the bullet came through her breast. Not on her head.

DR RANDERA: You said that you went to go and look for your brothers and sisters. There were seven children in all as I understand. Is that right?

MS MASENYA: Yes, all in all we are seven children at home.

I was going to look for the other three younger children that are still alive, which is two girls and one boy.

DR RANDERA: You were 18 years old at the time.

MS MASENYA: Yes, it is so.

DR RANDERA: Now your point about the random shooting, when you went out did you also see that?

MS MASENYA: Yes, it is so because it was during the riots. We used to run when we saw Caspers. So even myself I had to run to somebody else's house but at that time my mother was being shot.

DR RANDERA: And were the students throwing things at the Caspers, was there anything being done towards the police that made them shoot at people?

MS MASENYA: They were throwing the Caspers with stones and breaking the policemens' cars. That was what was happening. That is where it all started.

DR RANDERA: Which hospital was your mother taken to?

MS MASENYA: At the General Hospital.

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DR RANDERA: Did you report this to the police afterwards?

MS MASENYA: Yes, it was reported.

DR RANDERA: And was there an inquest as far as you know?

MS MASENYA: I don't know. But all I know is policemen used to come enquiring, wanting to know who told us that she was shot by the police.

DR RANDERA: But beyond that you were not called for an inquest.

MS MASENYA: No, we were never called.

DR RANDERA: And for how long did the police keep coming to your house to ask you this question about the soldiers?

MS MASENYA: They came several times. It took three weeks before burying my mother and they kept on coming all the time, demanding to know who told us that she was shot by the police. But we told her that she said it personally that she was shot by white policemen.

DR RANDERA: Miss Masenya, I just want to know, you talked earlier on about your father dying three months previously and then your mother was fatally shot and died. What happened to your family? I mean you were 18 years old, your brother might have been a little bit older, there were lots of young children about.

MS MASENYA: This hurt us a lot because we were very young. My brother was not working full time, he was just selling newspapers. It is not a well paying job and because my father had passed away financially we couldn't cope. I also had to try to find employment so as to help support the family, moreover the younger ones. And this led to the fact that we had to lose our property because nobody could pay our rent. That is the one thing that happened to us at a very early stage. We were only support by aunts in order to

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survive.

DR RANDERA: The last question is that related to this random shooting, was your mother a member of any political organisation at the time or was she just a ....

MS MASENYA: No, she was not a member of the political organisation. She was just an ordinary person. She was a sangoma.

DR RANDERA: Thank you very much. Chairperson, I have no further questions.

MR LEWIN: Miss Masenya could I ask what afterwards, tell us about what actually happened to you as a family and the house and what are you doing now.

MS MASENYA: At the moment I will try to think. I am a domestic worker in order to support the family because I am also a mother although my husband has passed away. With that money that I earn from this work at least it sees me through but I thank God for all the strength he has given us. The two girls are married and only Bele is dependent but at the moment I am working at Mr Twala's house.

MR LEWIN: Thanks very much.

MS SOOKA: You mention in your statement that the case was heard in the Wynberg court. What was the final outcome of that case?

MS MASENYA: I don't know what happened. All I know is that there was a case but thereafter nothing went on. All that happened was just police coming to us wanting to know how did we know that my mother was shot by the police. My mother stayed for three weeks in the mortuary because they demanded to know who said they shot her.

MS SOOKA: Were you represented by any attorney in court?

MS MASENYA: No, we didn't have because we never even went

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to the court. Because they just took us there in order to ask us who told us that she was shot by the police.

MS SOOKA: Thank you. We are grateful to you for coming here today to share your story with us. We know that it must have been traumatic both to lose your mother and then to lose your home and for you to have assumed the responsibility of looking after all the other children. Is there anything that you would like to add before you finish your evidence?

MS MASENYA: What I would like to say firstly if this killer is still alive he must come forward, there is forgiveness. He must just tell us did he think that because my mother was dressed in black was she seen as a symbol of black power. Secondly I would like to thank God for all the strength that he has given me to face the challenges of life because today I am a strong woman and I became a woman at a very early stage in life. I can survive and therefore I thank God and I would also like to thank our President Mandela who brought us thoroughly trained policemen who can take care of our security now. Thank you.

MS SOOKA: Thank you very much. We have heard your plea and we would urge those policemen who were involved in the shootings during that time to come forward and to apply for amnesty. Amnesty remains open until the 15th December this year and we would encourage people who have committed acts of gross human rights violations to take up the challenge that is being issued to them and to use the opportunity that is given to come forward and disclose what they have been involved in. Thank you for sharing your story. You are indeed a survivor and your bravery shames those who don't come forward. Thank you for coming today.

 
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