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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 07 February 1997
Names OLGA NYATHI
Case Number JB00469/01 VOSLOORUS
CHAIRPERSON: These hearings in the East Rand have been focusing on different parts of the East Rand, the next..(turn over tape)...come to the witness stand. Olga Nyathi, welcome. Thanks for coming. You've come to speak about two brother, David and Peter Nyathi, and what happened to them. Dr Randera is going to assist you with your statement. I'm going to hand you over to him now.
DR RANDERA: Thanks Olga. you've come to tell us about your two brothers David and Peter who within a very short period, I think it was within a period of three months, both of them were shot and killed. Other friends also lost their lives but I'm sure you want to talk about David and Peter and also what happened to your family in the conflict that was taking place in the area. So just take your time and tell us what happened.
MS NYATHI: I come from Tokoza and I live with my mum and my brothers and sisters. My mum is working, I'm not employed. In August 1993 we were at home when the fight erupted and we saw the Zulus coming to us, telling us to get out of the house and my two brothers were not at home and my mum was asked where they were. She told them that they had gone to visit but they were adamant saying that she was lying and demanded that she tell the truth and tell them where were. She told them that they had gone to Springs to visit their grandmother and she did not know what to say further because they didn't believe her. They informed her that they were going but that she'd have to tell the truth when they returned.
I was renting a room at Khumalo Street. They came back at night to my mother's place and she told them the same thing that she had told them earlier but they were adamant that she was not speaking the truth. As I was still in my room that I was renting, Sibongile came on Friday, Sibongile Nyathi, and said that David had been shot by the Stability. I asked her where and she told me at Nkosi Street at Mr Mbajwa's place. I asked her with whom he was and she said that he had been with Bongani. Upon enquiring what had happened she mentioned that he was about to iron his clothes when he was shot.
I immediately went to report this to my mum and gave her the news as well as the caspar registration number. Mr Mbanja at Nkosi Street is the one who took the caspar registration number. They were telling the people not to come close to the scene. Bongani was with him and he fled and Mum she would go back home and see what to do as she was at work when I had gone to her. When I got there I was told to go to the hospital in Natalspruit and I found them busy taking him out of the caspar. I ran to ask why they shot him to which they replied that they did so because they thought he was a comrade. I asked them whether the comrades were labelled and they asked why he did attend the school the previous day. I replied that they should go to the school to find out whether he was a student there, as he is a student enrolled at this particular school whose name I gave them. David lifted up his hand and he said to me that they covered his mouth with a towel in an attempt to extract the bullet from his body and there was a river of blood where he was lying.
They had covered his face with one of the jackets trying so hard to extract the bullet from his body and asked me how we were related. I told them that I am the sister to which they responded that they didn't know that he was a student and thought he was a comrade. They took him into another room while I remained fighting with the other police, white police outside insisting on asking them why he was shot. He repudiated the fact that he had done the shooting but he pointed at some other black policeman that had fired the shot. They asked my name which I gave them.
He was taken to the theatre and David was crying and asking what was happening. I tried to comfort him and told him that the nurses were surrounding him and that the people who attacked him had already left. Now a policeman kept guard and I asked him why he had to do that, was it necessary. He confirmed that it was because on discharge he would have to be arrested. His arm was swollen and I asked the nurse for the cause of this but she responded that we should not worry and panic about that as everything was under control. Now when my mum came back from work I told her that. She was approached by some Zulus who told her that her child who was a comrade had been shot and that he would die, and had already, in fact, died. They also told her to take her child and bury him.
The following day we went to the police station and we talked to the station commander who said that that was a pathetic story that the police did to her child. And we were wondering why the police were patrolling in the streets of Tokoza because the situation had calmed down. My mum asked the station commander, who actually said to her that she should sue the police that undertook the whole attack and unfortunately we did not have the money to do that.
DR RANDERA: Olga, in your statement, I just want to finish your story about your brother David. You said that he was in fact shot at about 7:30 in the morning and by the time you got to the hospital when he was still in the back of the caspar, it was 13:30, half past one in the afternoon. And David told you certain things, can you tell us what happened? So in fact, it took the police almost five hours to take him to the hospital, is that right?
MS NYATHI: Yes. The police shot him in the morning and took him with and drove around the streets of Tokoza until late in the day around one. Because after I heard that he was shot I rushed to my mum to tell her the news at her place of work.
DR RANDERA: And David in fact told you, I presume he was in the intensive care unit by then, that the police had in fact tried to extract the bullets from his chest while he was in the back of the caspar. Is that right?
MS NYATHI: It was on Friday. We had left home to the funeral to bury David and Peter had left his school books and he asked his friends Manelo, Msingisi, Eugene and Bongani to accompany him to go and fetch his books at home. When they got there, before they got home they did not see that there were police because of the lawn. People had vacated their houses so no one had taken of the grass and the lawn so it had grown and it was not visible enough and when they got close to home the police shot at them. They were hiding at Sabalala Street and they fired shots at Peter, Manelo and Mswegisi and Eugene managed to escape and ran away from the scene of attack. That was on Friday and it was reported to us that Peter was already shot and the hearse had already gone to fetch the corpses.
I therefore decided to go to the military camp near the hospital and we asked the commander whether three boys had been seen around and he said that there were no living people there, only the dead ones. So in other words they had corpses in the fridge. We went to the government mortuary and that's where we found Peter, Mswigisi and Manelo. That was Saturday morning and they had already died. Peter was shot here and the pullet came through the opposite side, there was no way which they could survive that as it was brutally done.
DR RANDERA: Olga, my last question. Are you saying that your brothers had nothing to do with the self defence units in Tokoza, you said already they were not comrades, but were they not part of community self defence units or the self defence units as we know them?
MS NYATHI: Yes. Because David himself was also saying, let them finish up. And I told him that these were nurses now, those are no longer police surrounding him. And he said those dogs have been trying to extract bullets from me and it's been painful, and when I looked on the side there was a towel soaked in blood.
MS NYATHI: No that was done to just so that people, especially my family would not discover who shot my brother. So that we could not think the police themselves shot him, maybe some other people. Because when I got to the hospital I was asked by the police asking who I was and how I was related to the boy, and I explained to them that I am the sister and one other believed that I was indeed the sister because I was fuming at what they had done to my brother. Even in the registration book I was the one who signed for his admission and so forth, because my mum was at work. I had my little boy with me.
DR RANDERA: Olga, sorry, did you or your mother report the killing of your brothers at the time, either to the police, I know the police were responsible as you say for the killings in the first place or to any other legal organisation?
MS NYATHI: We didn't go anywhere because my mum doesn't have much money. She's only working as a domestic worker and I was not employed at all. Even at the police station it's known that David Nyathi was arrested. Nkatha asked why he was arrested and they did not explain. The station commander said that what my mum experienced was terribly sad because I asked the police not to patrol around because we are around and where there are police that can carry out their duty but they insisted that the stability unit insisted that they wanted to patrol in the location instead of the police.
MS NYATHI: WE didn't go anywhere because the riots and the violence was still on. We didn't know where to go, Tokoza was a terrible place because people looted everything from my house and my mum's employers tried to help us by giving us some clothes and blankets and my brothers received donations from the Tokoza community, and also for the funeral expenses were helped by the community and the neighbours. That's how we managed to carry through the funeral.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Olga. Obviously there's very little that one can say when the family has experienced so much loss, the double tragedy having both brothers killed and what happened to the family house. We can say however that, with the investigations that have been done and with all the amnesty applications, we are beginning to get a better understanding of what was happening in the East Rand and also into the workings of the Internal Stability Unit, we know that this unit was actually disbanded because of concerns about some of the activities of the Internal Stability Unit. So we hope that once all this information is available, we will have a clearer picture and maybe some of the questions which you want answered will also be answered. But thank you for coming, and as soon as we have more information we will certainly pass that on to you. Thank you.