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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 07 February 1997
Names ZONDI NGOBENI
Case Number JBO00314/01 VOSLOORUS
Mrs Ngobeni welcome. You've come to speak about something that is obviously still causing you a lot of pain, a lot of distress. I'm going to hand you over to Ms Joyce Seroki who is going to assist you to go through your statement and who will also ask you to take the oath.
MS SEROKI: Zondi You've come to tell us what took place on the first of August 1983 when your husband went with his friends and they were attacked. Can you briefly explain to us what happened on that day?
MRS NGOBENI: On the 1st of August 1993 I woke up and went to church. My husband was already up and I left for church and when I came back I discovered that the house was locked and I went to my neighbours place and tried to find out where they had gone and was informed that they had gone to Tokoza to fetch my sister in law's clothes because she had run away from Tokoza and she had run to Mfundi Park.
I waited at my neighbour's place because I did not have a key with me as he had left with it and I stayed up until seven in the evening and a gentleman by the name of Doctor came and my neighbour asked him where the others were. We were informed that they were still coming and as we were still sitting after about twenty minutes my neighbour's husband came in but I could not hear the car and he also sat down. His wife asked him where my husband is since all of them who had come in and he said he didn't know where to start.
He told us that they had not even reached their destination because there was some fighting there and when they tried to turn around to come home they discovered that all the streets were barricaded and they were unable to come back that way and had to take Khumalo Street. When they were in the middle of that street a group of Inkatha men accosted them, stopped them and took out guns and they said they should drive into the hostel. The van which they were driving was forced into the hostel gates and one of them men asked where they were coming from. My husband told them that he came from Vosloorus and they asked another lot of questions demanding money at the same time.
A combi arrived and they started shooting at the people who were inside the combi. As they still did not know what was happening the other gang who had arrested them or forced them into the hostel went to the combi and that's when they started scattering and running in different directions trying to save their lives. I asked Doctor how they managed to escape and where the others were to which he replied that he mingled with the Inkatha members and pretended to be one of them and he went with the group, a police group into the residential area and that's where got a chance to escape.
I asked how my husband will be able to come back because he was not familiar with Tokoza and they responded that we should wait, maybe he will be able to escape. I started to panic at that time, two of my neighbours went outside of the house and I started to suspect that something was wrong. Now the three of them disappeared leaving me alone in the house so I also decided to go out but couldn't find them outside. I went back into the house and as I was still sitting there I saw them coming, the three of them and they told me that they had been to the police station to report that they had been attacked but they assured me not to worry as they felt that my husband would probably manage to escape.
I slept at my neighbour's place because my husband didn't come back with the key. The following day was a Monday and I woke up to discover that the house was still locked and my husband hadn't yet come back and they suggested that he might probably have got lost because he didn't know the area. I went and related my story to another neighbour and he commented that he probably would be dead by then as there was no escape once you went into a hostel. She followed me out in my state of confusion hoping against hope that he would come back but at the same time I did not want to entertain any false hopes and felt that I had to face the reality that he might probably be dead.
I decided to go to Gosport where there were public phones where I phoned his home to tell them that my husband had disappeared the previous day and I related the whole incident the other one had returned but my husband had not come back. When I went back from the phone booths a woman asked me how I was going to be able to cope. Doctor came and asked me what the matter was and after I explained to him my state of confusion he suggested that I go back home and that they were going to try to go back to Tokoza and search for my husband. When I went back to my place I noticed that there were many cars at my neighbour's place and people had already gathered around the house and were planning to go and look for my husband. Some decided to go to the mortuary to look for him. My sister in law's children who were quite grown up approached and one of them got into the car and we went to the mortuary but could not find his body anywhere and we asked from the authorities whether any bodies had been brought in the previous day or that morning. We were told that it was possible that some bodies would be delivered at 2 o'clock that afternoon.
We went back home without having found my husband. We told his elder brother about the tragedy that had occurred and he also came. We went to try to find out some direction from some witch doctors and upon return his brother asked us whether we had opened up a case and they said they had opened one regarding my husband's disappearance. We proceeded to the police station in Vosloorus and informed them that we had come with regard to a case that had been opened the previous day. And they said that we should fetch the case number which we fetched from my neighbour's place as well as the statement. When they looked for the file or the case they said Rhadebe had come to report a car, not with regard to my husband's disappearance and they suggested that we should phone him so that he could explain why he reported regarding the car and not to my husband's disappearance.
The following morning we went there with Rhadebe and he did not go to work that morning so we went together with him to the police station. When we got there they told us that they do not take Tokoza cases and that we were supposed to go to the Tokoza Police Station because they wouldn't be able to deal with that case and they also reminded him that he had reported his car hijacked the previous day.
When we got out of the police station my elder brother approached me and said that we will not be able to get into Tokoza because the situation was quite volatile and they went away as males leaving me and they tried some means to get to the police station at Tokoza. They asked some soldiers to accompany them to the hostel to look for their brother but even the soldiers did not want to go to the hostel as they were scared because the hostel dwellers were armed to the teeth and they submitted the statement.
Now it was a usual occurrence for me to wake up every morning and go to the mortuary in search of my husband. We went to different places, even to Diepkloof and when they came back they explained to me that they met soldiers who were very scared to get into the hostel because they said that they were scared of the hostel dwellers. We went to the Spruitview Peace Officers together with my elder brother and we explained that there was a disappearance of a family member and we told them the name of the hostel which I think is Mishayazafe and they told us that they would get in touch with their other office and that they could not locate the person. We kept on going up and down looking for my husband a month passed without us getting him back or the body. Up to today I do not know what has happened to my husband. ( witness emotionally overcome)
MRS NGOBENI: On the day that I came to submit the statement the statement taker told me to give the letter to Rhadebe and I asked him as to whether he was able to come and submit the statement and he said yes he did come but he was told that he had to book for an appointment before he could submit a statement and he was told that he had to phone before submitting the statement and he was not able to submit it.
MRS NGOBENI: They did call me but they told me that I should get a death certificate, but it's very difficult for me to get one because I don't know what happened to my husband and this is what is delaying the whole process.
MRS NGOBENI: To tell you the honest truth I always harboured the hope that my husband would come back, I remember in 1993 and 1994 I heard over the television, when they were talking about people who had disappeared, and they said there was a private prison where people were kept, maybe he could possibly be there. I was always nursing that hope that he could possibly be there.
MS SEROKI: Or maybe you could accept it if we give you the addresses of legal aid attorneys who would help you without you having to pay, because it looks like it's going to take quite some time for this matter to get sorted out. Maybe as attorneys they would try and help you.
CHAIRPERSON: Mrs Ngobeni, thank you. Just to let you know that our investigators are trying to follow up this both with the Vosloorus and the Tokoza Police to ascertain how far they are with their investigations into the disappearance of your husband and just to repeat what my colleague has said, that the Commission can assist you to get legal advice around this question of your husband's disappearance, as to whether enough time has elapsed for your husband to be declared officially dead and all the benefits which would come to you, but that is a very sensitive and delicate matter obviously. But the police are being asked to report on what they have been able to establish with regard to your husband. So we will certainly be maintaining contact with you but thank you very much and we know that this is something very hard for you to have to deal with. But thanks for coming to speak to us about it.