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Human Rights Violation Hearings

Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Starting Date 07 February 1997

Location DUDUZA

Day 2

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 NKONDO: It's my wife.

CHAIRPERSON: Welcome to your wife as well.

MR NKONDO: I used to reside at Spruit Twala Section.

CHAIRPERSON: Sorry before you begin I'm going to give you over to Mr Lewin who's going to assist you and assist you with he oath as well.

MR LEWIN: Thank you Mr Chairman, Mr Nkondo before you tell us your story could you please stand so that you could take the oath?

PAULOS NKONDO: (sworn states)

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 LEWIN: Thank you very much Mr Nkondo. Could I ask what effect you've had from that attack, can you tell us what happened to your left arm for instance?

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 LEWIN: When these people were accosting you in the train, you say they spoke to you, what language were they speaking?

MR NKONDO: Zulu, they were speaking Zulu. Those were the people who came into the train at Jeppe Station because when we left Park Station we were simply people coming back from work.

MR LEWIN: And about how many of these attackers were there?

MR NKONDO: There were many, I think about 10 of them standing and seated. Some were in the passage.

MR LEWIN: Why did you think they might be ticket inspectors? Was it form the way they were dressed?

MR NKONDO: Yes.

MR LEWIN: So did they have coats or cloaks, particular sort of coats?

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 LEWIN: The weapons that they carried, you say they were knives and pangas, that was all was it? They didn't have guns?

MR NKONDO: From the other coach I heard a gun shot and when I was trying to peep and look to see what was happening I just received this bang on my head and that was from a panga.

MR LEWIN: They were spread throughout the whole train were they, they weren't just in your one coach?

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 LEWIN: I mean it's obviously an absolutely hideous event, this whole thing that was happening with the train going, was there no way that you could stop the train?

MR NKONDO: There was no way absolutely, because the train was in motion and you could not stop it.

MR LEWIN: It's very difficult for those of us who weren't there to understand how hideous it was. When you were pushed out of the train, had other people in your coach already been killed?

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 LEWIN: And you say in the hospital you met, was it two other people who survived. Do you know how many people were killed in that particular incident?

MR NKONDO: There were many. Many people from the place where I came from were killed, people from the location were the victims.

MR LEWIN: And there were none of you who were attacked who were armed in any way that you could defend yourselves?

MR NKONDO: No one was armed.

MR LEWIN: Did they give any reason for the attack?

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.

MR LEWIN: Thank you Mr Nkondo, I'll pass you back to the Chairperson.

MS SEROKI: When you were asked where you came from, did you tell them where you come from or did you simply say that you came from a shack.

MR NKONDO: I told them that I came from Mandela.

MS SEROKI: And what did they say after you said that?

MR NKONDO: He never said anything further. He only asked where I stayed and I told him that I stay in Natalspruit at Mandela Section and that was it, he left me.

MS SEROKI: But in your statement you say they said, this is not the Congress Train?

MR NKONDO: Maybe I'm getting confused now also because it's been quite some time since this event. I think I went into a wrong coach, you know, simply thinking that it's a train.

MS SEROKI: But tell us, you think those trains had different coaches, one coach belonging to the Congress and the other belonging to some other kind of group. Couldn't you just go in any coach?

MR NKONDO: Yes there were coaches that were described as Inkatha coaches and the others were described as ANC coaches. Now that one is naive who will just get into any coach.

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.

 
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