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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 07 February 1997
Names JOSEPH MASHIANE
Case Number JB00785/01 VOSLOORUS
DR RANDERA: Thank you Thaba. Thaba you are taking us back to 1990 to an incident that changed your life and I'm sure that what was happening in your area was already changing your life. So just take your time and tell us what happened.
MR MASHIANI: Thank you. It was in 1990 and I was just from work. I was working at Whiteville Airfreight and there was violence at the time, the taxis were fighting amongst each other, taxi drivers, and as I was getting off from the taxi I came across Oupa Modise and they told me that we had to keep vigilant during the night because we were going to be attacked and I went home and we collected ourselves and gathered, being the residents of Msilike, and we took our petrol bombs to go around and patrol in the streets. We went to stand next to the tar road waiting, as we were still waiting there, I think at the time it was round about 8 o'clock as we were still chanting freedom songs, the police appeared.
We used to call them Chigogos, the municipal police who came to stop their cars where we were and they said we should look out for a red golf as well as a brown toyota combi, and these cars were going to pass by with weapons, and the police went back. As we were still waiting there I think fifteen minutes elapsed when we saw a red golf, and when we saw it we got into the road. We saw the red golf driving into the location and we tried to chase it but we failed. Then we went back to the road where we were standing and another van approached. We asked the driver to ferry some of our brothers to go and wake up some of the residents so that we could add to our defence and it brought back the other members of the community.
We kept on patrolling, and at that time we saw a caspar from which they threw tear gas canisters and even shot at us. We ran into the nearby yards and the hippo or the caspar went away. Thereafter we saw a brown combi, the one that was mentioned before, and the caspar came back without the brown toyota now. We tried to run away because they were shooting indiscriminately and I also ran together with the other people. I ran to the right hand side and my home was on the left hand side, and when I looked I saw that I was all by myself and this car stopped near the passage and I tried to jump the fence in order to try and escape. The distance could have been about two houses and they shone a torch on me and when I tried to face these people or caspar, they stared shooting towards me. I do not know what they threw at me, I thought it was a tear gas canister at first and I continued to run, and I ran past my home.
I could feel that there was something coming out of my eyes, I first thought that it was tears and as I was still running I fell and I came across another man who was also running, we held each other and I realised that he was wet with blood and he took me to my place and he apparently recognised me as Joe's brother but he didn't know that I was Joe. He told me that I was bleeding and he took me inside the house. When I got into the house I put the light on trying to see which part of me was bleeding. I switched on the light and I kept on switching it on and off without seeing anything. That's when I realised that I had turned blind.
They decided to take me to the hospital because they had washed the blood off but still I could not see but still I did not want to go to the hospital. I asked them to call my girl friend, then girl friend, now she's my wife sitting next to me and I asked them to go and call her because I was scared to go to the hospital, I knew whoever attacked us was going to go to the hospital to check for us. And at that time the caspar was still attacking the people and they were scared to go and call my girl friend. Oupa as well as Timothy and my younger brother took me forcefully to the hospital and by that time the caspar had stopped attacking people. We proceeded to the hospital.
Along the road we came across the very same hippo still shooting. We got to the hospital and I was admitted while my younger brother went to prepare a statement. They washed me up and started bandaging my eyes and I slept that day but I wanted to go home because I was scared to remain at the hospital, and I had to be restrained. They took me into a certain ward, that's where I slept.
When I woke up the following morning, I took off the bandages because I wanted to see what was my happening to my feet and to my whole body, and I hoped at the time that everything was going to be alright. The doctor came to examine me, I told him what had happened the previous day and he checked my eyes, and said that I had to be operated upon. I signed consent to undergo an operation. I was supposed to sign a consent but I refused and asked them to call my mother and when she came she also had the hope that I would get better. I was admitted for two months at the hospital and the bandages had to be taken off. They thought that probably I would see but I realised that I was still blind, I couldn't see anything.
That's when I started losing hope and at the time there was a strike that erupted at the hospital. The doctor who was treating me said I should be discharged because there wasn't any to look after me at the hospital and that I should come back later on. I went back home and I had to go for some check-ups together with my mother and the doctor called my mother aside and when she came back she said to me that we should go. I asked her why she said we should go because I had the hope of being readmitted and undergoing an operation, but my mother consoled me and told me that it wasn't the end of the world. I wouldn't be able to see anymore and I had to be taken to St Johns Hospital, an eye hospital and my mother went to St John and she told me she doesn't have the money to take me there. And there's another gentleman by the name of Oupa, my mother decided that she will go and ask for some help from Oupa and we went to St Johns Eye Hospital and I was admitted but they said that I should go back and return the following day because there are no doctors.
The following day I went back with my wife and I was then admitted. They examined me and they later told me that there was no way they could help me. They told me that the hospital at which I was admitted at first had severed some veins or they had done some damage during the operation, so there was nothing they could do to help me, and I remained at that hospital for two months.
Marsika a white lady as well as Musa who stays in Vosloorus and another one, a social worker who stays at Spruitview, called me and they asked me as to what did I see when the attack took place. Did I see the number plates of the vehicle that attached us. And they said they were going to try and get me some legal representation so that I could institute a civil action and they said to me I should not disclose this information to anyone. I went to that lawyer together with Oupa who used to take me to and fro whenever I needed transport and we went with him to the attorney. They asked me whether I saw the number plate of the Caspar. I told them that I could not see the number plate because it was dark and it was a violent situation. We were fighting. They asked me as to the date and this I knew. The attorney promised that he would try to find out as to which caspar actually attacked us or which was operating on that particular day. Then he said he would come back to me and tell me as to how much the civil suit would cost and he would continue with my case.
I was taken back to St Johns Eye hospital and when I was still there they made me complete certain documents in order to try and get me a disability grant and I came back to the hospital. I was not able to pay for the government doctor and I had to be discharged at a later stage. When I got home Oupa took me to the doctor, he examined me and asked me as to what had happened to my eyes and I explained to him. He asked me as to whether I had taken any treatment to which I responded that I had taken treatment and I had been admitted to two hospitals, and he said he had a different opinion from that that came from these hospitals, that I would not be able to see anymore. He made me fill in certain forms, promising to do something to my eyes that would enable me to see again.
Then in December 1991 I received a letter which said that my application for a disability grant had been declined. I became very depressed and even tried to commit suicide because it was now difficult to keep head above water. My wife does not have parents and is the one who is taking care of me and it's difficult for the two of us who do not earn a living. I tried to commit suicide and I resorted to liquor and ended up having a problem with substance abuse.
I filled in other forms whereby I was told that I should go back in April and when I got there they said the application had been declined and I discovered later on that the interpreter said to me, the way I put this matter is going to be detrimental to me because I was not going to be able to get any help because if I went around telling the doctors that I had been shot by police during a riot that would work to my disadvantage because they would not grant me any disability grant.
Then in January 1992 I received a letter which said that I should go and start earning my pension money. After much suffering I went back to my wife because I had suffered so much and I was a burden to my family because now I was totally useless. I couldn't do anything, I couldn't bring any money into the home and they were starting to get impatient with me. I called my wife back because I was able to get the disability grant and said to my wife that we should share the little that we have and continue with our lives. We stayed together, we had the second baby with whom we had a difficult time because I did not have a lot of money for the whole family. I went to see the social workers, thinking that they would probably lend a helping hand, but they just could not help us and I went to other social workers in town who advised that I should apply for the children to get some money. They said I should go back to Wadeville and explain my situation.
The applications were processed and we then got married. It's only then that everything was sorted out, but we struggled for quite a long time and we had very difficult times until we decided that we should move away and get our own place to stay. Now we are staying in a shack, that is myself, my wife and my children and my wife's parents have since passed away.
My child had to start school at some stage and I did not have any money at hand to help my child with schooling and that destroyed the family fabric because we were for ever having quarrels until such time that we had to see marriage councillors who tried to bring us together so that we could come to terms with our situation. They gave me certain tablets to stop me drinking. That is how I was taking the treatment throughout. I stopped taking liquor but I am still not able to maintain my family because of the shortage of funds, it's very difficult to make ends meet and at some stage I took all the tablets for that treatment in an attempt to commit suicide.
DR RANDERA: Thank you very much for that vivid description of what's happened to your life. I just want to ask you a few questions Thabo. You explained to us how the hospital operated on your eyes and the pension fund that you got afterwards, disability grant I assume. Was there any other assistance that was given to you as someone who had this severe disability, by the state?
DR RANDERA: Thabo I just want to go back to that time, you said when you came off the taxi, I think you mentioned the name Oupa, Oupa met you and said you are on duty tonight. Were you part of the self defence units in that time?
DR RANDERA: But on the night that you received this injury, the fighting that took place was between yourselves and police caspars, and policemen I presume who were in the caspar? And you said you actually threw petrol bombs at the caspar?
DR RANDERA: Thabo I just want some clarification. In your statement you talk about the municipal police stopping first in a white toyota and they told you to look out for this other brown toyota and another vehicle, Hiace. Were there links between the municipal police and the community soldiers like yourself?
DR RANDERA: Thabo, when all this was happening did you just see yourself having a responsibility to the community to protect yourselves? Did you see yourself as a soldier in a war and did you ever think that you could get killed or be permanently disabled as you are now?
MR MASHIANI: I never really thought of this because it was not the first time that I had done that. I had been assaulted before by the police for being a freedom fighter but I was never seriously injured, so it never occurred to me that I would be permanently disabled. I told myself that if I had to die, I would die even if I was inside the house.
DR RANDERA: Thabo my last question, as you know that one of the responsibilities the Commission has is to make recommendations to government. We have heard so many stories from young people who have been permanently disabled like yourself. Is there anything you would like to say to help us to make a recommendation in this respect?
MR MASHIANI: My recommendation would be that I would not be able to work for myself. I do know that there are certain jobs that blind people could possibly do. If the Commission could help me find a job so that I could be able to support my children and further their education. If I could be helped to help myself I would appreciate it and I would like to say my gratitude to my wife who has been supportive throughout this period of difficulty.
MR MASHIANI: I was scared to take action against the police because I knew there was a culture of impunity amongst them and that you could not report a policeman to another policeman. I tried several times, I even approached the government, that is why now I have come before this Commission because I have been scared throughout, I even went to Zambezi House where they gave me an address and I could not further my case because the attorneys had already moved.
DR RANDERA: Thank you for...(end of tape)...the 10th of February where you'll be 29 years old. This is really something very tragic to loose your eyesight at such a young age when you were in your prime, when you did have a job, and as you say it has had quite devastating effects on you. I think that what whichever way the Commission can assist with counselling or any other kind of claims which you need to make, the Commission can assist in directing you to the organisations or institutions which may be able to be of assistance to you. So I urge you to try and make use of that facility. There is a rehabilitation and reparations committee and they do try and facilitate, particularly in cases of desperate need which is clearly your case.