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Human Rights Violation Hearings

Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Starting Date 05 February 1997

Location BENONI

Day 1

Names VICTOR NKWAMBA

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CHAIRMAN: I would like to welcome you all on behalf of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee to this the second day of our hearings in the East Rand. Yesterday we were in Tiduza, today we are here, tomorrow we will be in Vosloorus.

We are very pleased and grateful to the local Council for letting us use these facilities. We are very pleased that you are all here. We would like to welcome you very warmly to this hearing and what I will do first is just to explain some of the procedures so that you get a better idea for those who had not been at hearings before, to get an idea of what happens.

Firstly, in terms of interpretation you will see that we do have interpretative facilities here for everybody and there are earphones, microphones available for everybody. Those who need them, the three channels, if I could explain: English is on two; Zulu is on three; Sotho is on four.

I must make one appeal on behalf of all of us about these earphones. They are intrinsically tied up to this system. They do not function outside of this system. So the message is, please make sure that when you use them, you use them here and here only and when you leave, you leave them behind. Thanks very much.

Secondly I would like to explain, you have copies of the programme for today. I would like to explain that Committee member, Tom Manthata is with us but is not chairing. I will be chairing the session today. My name is Hugh Lewin. I am on the Human Rights Violations Committee and I would like to introduce the rest of the panel.

We have with us today, from my left Tom Manthata, who is a Committee member of the Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee; on my immediately left is Dr Russell Ally, who is a Committee member of the Human Rights Violations Committee; on my immediate right is Ms Joyce Seroke, who is also a Committee member of the Human Rights Violations Committee and then on my extreme right is Dr Fazel Randera, who is a Commissioner of the Human Rights Violations Committee. He is also the Convener of the Gauteng area of the Commission.

What we will do during the day, you will see that we will do the cases. There is a break for tea and there is a break for lunch, but those who have not been here before will see how the day proceeds.

I would like to make one appeal. Cell phones please, off. We do not need to be interrupted by cell phones.

I would also like to make the point that these hearings are essentially a day for the witnesses to come forward and tell their stories. Everything we do, everything about the day is geared quite specifically for those who are coming to make statements. If you think about it you will realise that it is quite an undertaking to do that.

We welcome the witnesses very warmly and we ask

everyone to respect the fact that this is their day. This is their time for telling those stories.

I would also like to explain that those who are

appearing today as witnesses, their statements have been chosen from a large number of statements that we have had. The areas that are covered specifically today include Benoni, obviously, Wattville, Actonville and Daveyton.

And, what we try to do with the hearings is to make the statements as representative as possibly, both in chronological time, also in terms of the activities and the events that are taken place in the particular areas.

What we need to stress as well, is the fact that some people are chosen to appear in public and some people who have made statements and do not appear in public makes no difference at all to the way in which these statements are treated by the Commission.

Every statement that is made to the Commission by people, recounting their pain, their suffering during the years as covered by the Commission, 1960 to 1994, every statement is treated exactly the same and will be treated in exactly the same way in the final report of the Commission. I think that does need to be stated.

I would now like to ask is we could please stand and I would call on Rev Mbanda, who is from the Anglican Church in Daveyton to lead us please in prayer before we start our proceedings. Rev Mbanda thank you.

HEARING IS OPENED WITH PRAYER: .

MR LEWIN: Excuse me, before we call the first witness I would like to ask Joyce Seroke just to run through the names of all the witnesses and cases which we will be hearing today.

MS SEROKE: Thank you Chairperson.

We have Victor Nkwamba; Matilda Mavundla, who is here to represent Kenneth who was shot during a school boycott; Victor Serrano who is coming to testify in the case of his daughter, who was killed in the Boksburg Wimpy Bar bomb blast. We have Mary Beech, who is testifying in the case of her son, who was killed in Zimbabwe; Rose-Mary Tshabalala, who is coming to testify in the case of her brother Emmanual, who was run over by a Hippo. We have here Sikhumbuze Zwane, who has come here to testify on behalf of her uncle. We have Tiny Mokgoshi Matlakala, who is going to testify on behalf of her husband, who was killed by the police; Alegria Nyoka, who is here to represent his brother Caiphus who was killed by the police. We have Lawrence Mbambo who is here to talk about himself and his wife who were harassed by the IFP. We have David Sam, who has come here to testify on his own behalf regarding the shootings in the Daveyton Massacre. We have Samson Zolani Xakeka, who is here on behalf of himself regarding the Daveyton Massacre. We also have Lazarus Shabangu, who has come to testify on his own behalf regarding the train attack.

CHAIRMAN: I would like then to go straight into the proceedings and ask Victor Nkwamba if he could please come forward to the lower table.

Good morning Victor. Thank you very much for coming. Thank you also for agreeing to be the first witness. It is not easy. Please feel relaxed. Are you comfortable there? And are you comfortable with hearing in English? Will you testify in English? Before you testify I ask you please to take the oath.

VICTOR NKWAMBA: (sworn states)

DR RANDERA: Victor good morning. Can you introduce your friend or your brother or your relative who has come with you?

MR NKWAMBA: Yes, he is my friend Amos Masinga.

MR NKWAMBA: Welcome to Amos as well.

Victor thank you for coming today. You are going to tell us about what happened to you in 1976. I want you as Hugh Lewin has already said, to take your time. This is your period to tell your story. It happened a long time ago so I am sure some of it has gone a bit rusty but that does not matter.

Could you please start by telling us something about yourself. How old you are now. How many members are in your family. Are you working or unemployed? And then go to tell us what happened in 1976.

MR NKWAMBA: Ja, I am Victor Nkwamba and we are family of five, my father, my mother and my two sisters. I am there only son.

So, in 1976 I was 17 years old and I was at Edward Secondary School, doing Form Two and on 21st of June 1976, it was a Monday and I was on my way home from school and the roads that I usually used was occupied by the police and it was very tense at school. We had to be out of the classes. So, I was avoiding the roads that I usually took. So, I took the other roads that I thought was safe, that was Mokwatsi Street. So when I was in the middle of the road I heard a bullet shot, but before that when I was just in the middle of the road I saw a police, aiming a gun at me, but before he could shoot I ducked swiftly and started now running up the street.

So, when I was a few houses up the street then I heard a shot. Then I was shot and I was down. So they came with a Hippo and stood next to me and the police was looking at me like that, while I was bleeding, holding my hands just like this.

So, one of the police told the other police just to finish me off. He said this in Afrikaans, skiet hom dood. So before he could shoot, they were disturbed by the school kids who were in a distance far away.

So, they drove off. So the kids, they school kids, took me to hospital on the same day and I was admitted and I lost my consciousness at the hospital and I recovered after four days.

Then I did not know where I was until I was told by the nurses that I was shot by the police.

So, I stayed a long time in hospital and I suffered a lot. I am still in pains even today. I am using pain tablets each and every day. And it is really hard.

It was an operation after an operation. I had to undergo about four operations. One was to remove the bullet and my right arm here, I cannot use it fully, because now the bullet went through my right arm here and penetrated my school bag and right on here in my back. So, the spinal cord was affected. So, I cannot use both of my legs, of which I am classified as a paraplegic.

After a while I was discharged from hospital. I started to write letters to the Ministers to inform them about this matter, what they have done to me. The first person I wrote to was Le Grange, the Minister of Police, that was in 1981.

So, they came to take a statement at my place and

they asked some questions, which I answered very well, because I know very well what happened to me.

And after some time I received a letter from them, informing me that they heave dealt with these matters, all the claims that emanated during the period of 1976 to 1977, they have dealt with and no longer now can they consider my case.

So, I kept on writing letters to the Ministers. It was Minister after Minister, until before the election then I wrote a letter - because I know the Government was going to change - to inform them about these, because I wanted now to be compensated for the suffering I have encountered.

And after the ANC Government took over, I wrote a letter again to the Minister of Police and Safety, Mr Mufamadi, to inform him about these, thinking about that he would do something about this. But, unfortunately he referred the matter to the Commissioner of Police in

Germiston and all these other places and they did not really do nothing about this.

And until the TRC was formed, I think there was a chance for me to tell my story what happened to me. Because I really want to know who shot me and for what reason, because I was still very young. I had a future. So he destroyed all that and being now the only son in my family my parents had high hopes for me. So all their hopes were put down the drain.

So my mother still suffers. She still cannot really sleep. So, they are now very old. So, we are struggling in the family, without getting help from anywhere.

So, is only the Truth Commission can do something

about this then I think we can be on our way to reconciliation. I can start now try to forget about what happened to me, though it would not be an easy thing to forget about it, because really I have suffered enough at a young age, like that 17 years old.

Really I want to know who shot me for what reason. Before that person really come out and tell me why he shot me like this. Then that will be something.

DR RANDERA: Thanks Victor. Is there anything else you want to add?

MR NKWAMBA: I want to add that I never had the chance to proceed with my studies I want to be assisted in that aspect, to be assisted so that I can be able now to proceed with my studies, because right now what I want to do is study, because I was doing Accountancy and I think I can be good in that. And to be able to, to be helped in order to support myself as well as my family.

DR RANDERA: Victor, can I just ask you a few questions? And I am sure my colleagues would also like to ask a few.

You were shot five days after, what is now known as the uprising in Soweto, June 16, 1976.

In your statement you say the police were shooting indiscriminately.

MR NKWAMBA: Absolutely.

DR RANDERA: What was actually happening in the township so soon after June 16 that brought the police into the streets and made them shoot indiscriminately?

MR NKWAMBA: As I have said it was tense at the school that day. So, we were told to come out of classes. All right? So, later on we were told to go back to our homes and as I have said, I have avoided the streets that I was

always using, taking the other street which I thought would be safe for me. So, down the street, next to the railway line I saw school kids fighting with the police, throwing stones at the police and the police shooting back.

And someone said, the police are coming into the

township from Actonville, using the bridge and the crossing line. So, that is where I took now Mokwasi Street on my way home and that is what happened.

DR RANDERA: Were you a member of any student organisation at the time?

MR NKWAMBA: I was not, I was not.

DR RANDERA: And what standard were you in?

MR NKWAMBA: Doing Form Two.

DR RANDERA: Did you finish your schooling?

MR NKWAMBA: No.

DR RANDERA: Victor, you said earlier on you wrote to many Ministers and other Government officials, but before

that, did you lay a charge at a police station?

MR NKWAMBA: I forgot that. While I was at the hospital the police came and took my statement and at the hospital I was under police guard and when they saw that I was about to be discharged from hospital they told me from hospital I am free to go home.

And they were always visiting at my place after I was discharged from hospital.

DR RANDERA: Now, can I just come back to this police guard in hospital. You have told us already that you were on your way home. There was unrest in the township. Again you said that you had seen young people throwing stones at Hippo's and at police vehicles. Why the police guard?

Was that common at that time? Even an innocent person was has just been shot, paralysed, has a police guard all the time, or did they suspect you of something?

MR NKWAMBA: Ja, I think they were just shooting at anyone, because now I was not the only one who was shot that day. Before I was hurt, I saw someone who was shot as well, but he was not shot as I was shot. He was rushed to the city doctor.

So, basically they were just shooting at anyone.

DR RANDERA: So, all those people who were in hospital besides yourself, had police guard.

MR NKWAMBA: They were in the hospital.

DR RANDERA: Right. And the response from the Ministers that you wrote to, what was said in those letters?

MR NKWAMBA: Ja, my first letter was to the Minister of Police, Le Grange. So, he referred the letter to the Minister of Justice and their response was, they have dealt with such matters for a certain period. I have the

letters with me. And my letter now, I was told that nothing could be done about it.

DR RANDERA: Victor, my last question. I am sure it must have been extremely difficult for you, physically as well as mentally to suddenly find that you cannot walk, play football with other young people of your age in the streets.

MR NKWAMBA: It was.

DR RANDERA: I am interested to know, in the community that you lived or nearby, what facilities were available to help you with suddenly being made disabled as you were?

MR NKWAMBA: Nothing at all. I was always at home. Always in my room. Always. It was even difficult to go to the streets. I was always at home. If sleeping, I am on my chair. No counselling whatever, nothing.

DR RANDERA: And the hospitals you went to were Boksburg and Benoni or Natalspruit Hospital.

MR NKWAMBA: Ja. I was in Boksburg after I was shot and they treated me until November of that year 1976 and I was just in and out of hospital, Boksburg Hospital, until I had

to change hospitals.

Then I went to Natalspruit Hospital, hoping now that hospital would treat me much better, because everyone know that Boksburg Hospital has not facilities enough, because in Natalspruit they had a ward for people who were in wheelchairs, so I thought now it was going to be better for me to be in Natalspruit, as well as treatment.

DR RANDERA: Victor may I ask one last question. Since the Commission started we have heard many stories of young people and not so young people who had been made disabled during this period that we are looking at. You talked

earlier on what you would like to have for yourself and your family. Would you like to make any statement about assistance that can be provided or need to be provided for people with disabilities like yourself? (Tape ends.)

MR NKWAMBA: ... because my .... was not enough. So I just love to become ...... and to have enough space and to proceed with my education, because I think that is the only way that can help me, in order to survive

DR RANDERA: Thank you Victor.

MR LEWIN: Thank you Fazel. I will ask other Commissioners if they have any questions. Joyce?

MS SEROKE: No questions, thank you.

DR ALLY: Victor just two short questions. The first one, when you were shot, was there anybody else shot at the time? You said that you deliberately avoided the place where the confrontation was taking place. You moved into a street which you thought safe and deserted.

Were there any other people in the street at the time, any other people who were shot who you are aware of?

MR NKWAMBA: You now mean in the street where I was shot?

DR ALLY: That is not the question.

MR NKWAMBA: All right. As I have said those guys were fighting the police next to the railway line, so I saw this guy coming from that direction and I said to myself let me just go back home, because I can just get hurt as well. That is why I took Mokwasi Street, trying now to be on the safe side.

DR ALLY: But my question was, are you aware of any other people who were shot at the same time that you were shot at?

MR NKWAMBA: No.

DR ALLY: Were you on your own, completely on your own?

MR NKWAMBA: I was.

DR ALLY: And was there any warning at any point that you should stop or that you should not ...

MR NKWAMBA: Not at all. I just heard a shot and I was down.

DR ALLY: So your back was turned?

MR NKWAMBA: As I said. The bullet went through my right elbow here and penetrated my school bag. So, I think I was just running on my side, not on my back, because the guy would have got me on my spinal cord here, but he got me ... I do not know what happened really. Maybe I turned, I do not know really what happened.

DR ALLY: We have your letters, your correspondence with the different Ministers of Police. Now the last letter we have is dated the 28 of September 1995. That is the date the letter was sent out to you or the 22 of the ninth, 1995, where the Commissioner writes back to you and says that they have received your letter. That in your letter you request an ex gratia payment.

MR NKWAMBA: No...

DR ALLY: Let me just continue then you can come in.

MR NKWAMBA: All right.

DR ALLY: That you had asked for compensation. Originally you were told that when you first asked for compensation you were told that in terms of the Indemnity Act which the then Government passed, nobody would be liable for any compensation for any event which occurred between 1976. So the police had covered themselves with an Indemnity Act.

You then later wrote again and asked for

compensation. You then wrote again to the new Government, to Mr Sydney Mufamadi's office, the present Minister of Police. You were told then that your demand for compensation had expired because of the date. It was in 1976 and this was now in 1995 and it had expired.

And there was then a discussion about an ex gratia payment. And the way the ministry explained this, they said ex gratia payments, I think which they do only under exceptional circumstances, and that those payments have to come from the existing budgets of ministries, and therefore ministries only do that if the circumstances in their view, are very desperate.

But then at the conclusion of the letter the

Commission says that should your intention be to proceed with your claim, the courts could be approached for the necessary relief, so they suggested to you to go to the court.

Did you ever follow up on that? Did you try to go to a legal aid or a legal resource centre.

MR NKWAMBA: No.

DR ALLY: Now, I am saying this not because the Commission does not want to take any responsibility, because part of our job is to make recommendations and particularly the job of the Committee which Mr Tom Manthata serves on. To make recommendations to the President for reparation and for rehabilitation of victims, but you have to understand that that process only starts at the end of the life of the Commission. At the end of the life of the Commission we make recommendations, which is only in December.

That then have to go to the President, it has to go

to Parliament and that has to be debated and discussed. We have no powers to pay out any monies or any compensation. We can only make recommendations. The power is in the hands of the Government.

But this is an invitation to you by the ministry to say that if you want to proceed with this thing further maybe you should consider the courts. Maybe you should consider and if you would perhaps want assistance on how to proceed along these lines with either the Legal Resources Centre or Legal Aid. Maybe that is one avenue to try and see what kind of legal avenues are open to you in the interim.

Because as I have said there is a long period between when the Commission ends and makes recommendations and now, at least a year. So maybe that is something that we could consider.

MR NKWAMBA: You see, I was always telling the Ministers that I am not really applying now for ex gratia payment. What I demanded was now to be compensated for the pain and suffering that I have encountered. So by now making that charge I was waiting for the Government, the ANC Government, to do something about this matter. Hence I did not go to the court.

So as I am here now today, I am here now for the TRC to help me in order to be compensated and just to make my life.

MR LEWIN: Joyce, you want to ask a question.

MS SEROKE: Yes, I would like to ask, if the people who were shooting were police or soldiers? My last question is now you are still waiting and at the end of the TRC it is just then we will be able to recommend on your behalf, but for now how are you surviving at home?

MR NKWAMBA: As I have said that we are suffering at home. I do get a disability grant which is not much.

MS SEROKE: How much is that disability grant?

MR NKWAMBA: It is R430 a month.

MS SEROKE: What about the wheelchair? Do you have a wheelchair?

MR NKWAMBA: You can come and have a look at my wheelchair now. At the hospital I found out that if I wanted a wheelchair I had to pay, about R300.

MS SEROKE: Thank you.

MR LEWIN: Victor, are there any other questions or any other points that you would like to make? And of course you are free to make further representations to us.

MR NKWAMBA: No, I said I have said all that I wanted to say.

MR LEWIN: OK. I would like to thank you very much for coming, for telling us this. I mean you are one of those people whom we salute, because of your suffering, I think because of your courage and the way that you have shown, those of us who were not affected in the drastic way that you were, have shown us through the years how to continue, how to survive.

Yes it is a terrible thing for you and we will obviously do what we can. Russell has explained about the way in which we will make recommendations. How the Reparations Committee make recommendations to Parliament, but obviously that will affect both medical support, possible medical support for you, possible support for your education.

What we would, what I would like to say is, you know, continue in that way. The fact that you have come forward as you have, shows tremendous courage and tremendous fortitude. And we would salute you for that and recommend that you stay in touch. You are not alone, do not forget that. There are unfortunately large numbers of people in the same position as you are.

We would recommend that you contact and make use of that network. And obviously come back to other people.

Before you go I think there is nice coincidence. You mentioned in your statement that on that day, 21 years ago, one of the people who was a fellow student who actually helped you to the hospital, was one Cyril Rabotata who is sitting as our Media Officer for the TRC, and sitting with the media. That is a nice conjunction.

Thank you very much for coming.

MR NKWAMBA: Thank you very much.

 
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