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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 07 February 1997
Names PAULOS NKONDO
Case Number VOSLOORUS
CHAIRPERSON: ...stand please, this is somebody where there was some confusion about when Paulos was to appear and I think we have to take responsibility, Paulos was supposed to appear yesterday according to our programme but he was informed that he would be appearing today, so could we have him on, he's not on today's programme.
Good day to you Mr Nkondo, welcome. Sorry for the confusion with the programme, we apologise but we are glad that you have made it and we are able to hear your statement, I'm going to, before I hand you over to Mr Hugh Lewin who's going to assist you with your statement, do you want to tell us who's come with you?
MR LEWIN: Thank you very much, we are very pleased that you could join us today. If you could tell us the incident that you are going to tell us about which is a very shocking one, it dates back to July 1991, and if you could just in your own words and in your own time tell us your story, thank you.
MR NKONDO: In July I was employed and coming from work where I worked at Dankuil, I used the train for travelling to and from work. I knocked at half past four and I would catch a train at half past five. I occupied a shack at Mandela and my wife was sickly so I told my employer that I had to rush home because my wife was not well. I was allowed to leave earlier and could begin to prepare myself to leave. Indeed I did that because my mind was at home because my wife was not feeling well.
A half past four I left Dankuil premises and headed towards home. When I got to Park Station I went to the platform and caught the Vereeniging train. I managed to board the train, it almost left me, it stopped at Jeppe Station. People working at Wadeville caught the train at Germiston Station, they came aboard and when we got to Germiston Station, the train stopped and some came in. We were full in the train and different people and women were with us from Tokoza. The train left at 6 o'clock instead of at 10 to six and some people came into the train whom I thought were ticket examiners. I did not pay any attention to them.
When the train started to take off the platform in Germiston I saw these very people whom we thought were ticket examiners changing their moves and they asked me where I was going and where did I come from. They asked all of us the same question and suddenly I heard some noise on the other coach and it stopped at Kuthalo and suddenly people were being assaulted. When I tried to I tried to peep through the window I just received a blow on my head from a panga. I was lost and confused about what was happening because suddenly the situation was no longer calm. We were being beaten up and chased away and I had already been chopped on my head by a panga by someone I don't know. I was asking what was going on but there was no explanation and they continued chopping me all around using pangas. I could see that there was no way out, some had tomahawks and some had knives and I had to hold on to the train door and if I tried to go back inside they pushed me back to the door. I was bleeding profusely, I had to hold firmly onto the door, all the things I had with me were lost including my papers and my bags. I rolled out of train and I lost consciousness.
I woke up suddenly and saw a group of people approaching me and I said to myself that these are coming to finish me off, so I tried to crawl since I could not walk because my stomach was open. I tried to crawl as fast as possible and when I looked at the back I saw them approaching. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a police vehicle and I thought to myself, I'm safe now. I screamed and shouted and the police van came in my direction. I looked and saw many people, some dead lying in the back of the police vehicle. Those people were those who drove around picking up all the corpses of the people that died from that train attack. We were taken to the old police station and then I was dizzy.
Only three of us survived that whole attack. We three were taken the Benoni-Boksburg hospital that very night and there I lost consciousness. After three days I came to and asked one of the people around what had happened and I felt completely lost. When I looked at my left arm it looked terrible. I had white bandages around my body but said to myself that the Lord had helped me to survive that brutal attack and will live to support my young children.
The first week I was home, the second week a lady came to my shack and said that they had been looking for me and could not find me. I asked where my wife was and they said that she too was surprised because nobody knew where I was and she left some stuff for me and left. After the fourth week my wife came and could not recognise me due to the severe injuries to my face and my body. I had to call her to come to me.
I heard that the people who attacked me came from Jeppe and I related my story to my wife and asked her if she had any money with her and she replied that she had nothing especially since she was a sickly woman. I think I spent three weeks at the hospital and the doctor told me on the fourth week that I would never be fit for work again. I complained to him that I had a family, how would I survive, and he said that he would write a letter for me to take to the social workers at Wadeville and in that way I would be able to receive some help from them to support my family.
I was discharged, went back home and told my wife that I had been given these papers to be taken to the social workers and that I would nurse myself until I'm fine and strong when I would tackle this matter again. Neighbours came around to console and comfort us. I therefore went to the social workers at Wadeville to submit my papers and they told me to go back home and come back after three months.
I went back three months later and the social workers told me that there was some money for me and they asked my residential address. I told them that I was at No 2 Mlelike where I had bought a stand and they replied that they would give me some money and although it was very little I took and appreciated it and my wife and I went back home to see how we could make ends meet. The kids were at school and I continued struggling to make ends meet. One man came and said that he would take me to Johannesburg where I would perhaps receive help from the Commission. I'm not employed nor is my wife. Maybe I'll be given some way or means of getting a job so that we could survive, so I agreed with him and joined him and that's why I'm here today.
MR NKONDO: I was chopped and my hand was cut and I had no arm after that. The doctor asked me where the other piece of my arm was and I told him that I don't know because I was trying to retreat using both my hands and the first time I managed but the second time I lost the other piece of my arm.
MR NKONDO: They had dust coats when they got into the train and that led me to think that they were the ticket examiners. When the train took off from Germiston suddenly the people changed and I was so surprised because in my mind they were ticket examiners and suddenly now they were carrying-,
MR NKONDO: Yes they were all over the train, not necessarily confined to our coach, and we were sitting down with other women and they were standing. Some were standing on the other side of the coach and in the passage.
MR NKONDO: Yes there were. They were killed and they were thrown out of the coaches. When they were thrown out of the train I therefore decided that maybe I should do something. I stood up on top of the sieve so that they could not chop me any further and they came directly to me and I had no opportunity to escape.
MR NKONDO: No reason was given, except one person who came asking where I came from who never responded when I answered him. The next thing I experienced were blows from left, right and centre and heard gunshots in other coaches. I said to myself that I must be on the wrong train. I was then severely beaten and pushed out of the train.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Nkondo, thank you for coming. I think that in the past these events that happened on the train, these train killings, that they were presented as just simply conflicts between different political organisations or faction fighting, part of the black on black violence. It was the Inkatha Freedom Party, it was the ANC. In fact the incident you're speaking about, there were 11 people that day who were affected by this train violence and people thrown off the train and people attacked. But what is beginning to emerge from our own investigations and from amnesty applications that are beginning to come into the Commission, is that these issues are a lot more complex. That yes there may certainly have been political strife, political conflict, but it's also beginning to emerge that there was involvement of different sections of the army, covert operations, names that have emerged like Battalion 32 involved in some of the train violence, some Vlakplaas operatives, military people, and we're hoping that soon a clear picture will emerge of what was actually happening and that with more and more people coming forward to apply for amnesty and more and more people coming forward and the Truth Commission having this full disclosure, maybe we'll be able to find answers to some of these questions, because I'm sure one of the things that is of concern to you is to know who did this and why, that you would like to have answers to some of these questions.
So thank you for your statement, we have it and some of your needs, particularly what you experienced, injuries which you experienced, the psychological impact that this had on you, these issues will be followed up through Reparations and Rehabilitation Committee, and as we said over again, at the end of the life of the Commission, recommendations are going to be made to parliament, so you certainly will be hearing from the Commission in the future. Thank you for coming and sharing your experiences with us.