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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 04 February 1997
Names THABISO ESAU XABA
Case Number JB01675/01ERKWA
before the 14th of August. There was a conflict between the ANC and the IFP. The week before I was injured there was a funeral of three Comrades at Ratanda. On the day of the funeral more Comrades were shot by the IFP members and thereafter we decided that there should be a self-defence unit formed, because the IFP was attacking the people in the township and the ANC branches and the COSATU decided that we have to form a self-defence unit to defend the people. This was headed by the ANC.
Now, what happened was on the 13th, a day before the 14th, we were patrolling the township of Ratanda to make it a point that Inkatha does not get an access to the township. I also took part in this self-defence unit because my parents were also involved in this thing. Their lives were at stake and I said I should go so that we protect every innocent citizen of our township, because they were so innocent that they did not even know what was going on between the IFP and the ANC. Now, on this day, the 13th of August, a day before the 14th, it so happened that I was in the self-defence unit called Eboto. It is a Zulu name. In English it is self-defence unit and we were the leaders in this Eboto. I do not know what happened, but I was shot at and I was never given an explanation as to who shot me and what happened. I was bleeding.
My fellow Comrades took me to the hospital. It was at about three o' clock when I was injured and we arrived at Polosong Hospital, that is in Sakane, and I was admitted on the 14th. I was never given an explanation as to what happened because I got involved in the self-defence unit because I wanted to protect the community, but I got injured. I was injured by one member of the self-defence
unit. I am now here before the Truth Commission, I want to get an explanation why did this happen to me and why is the ANC and other structures ignoring me as they are doing now. There has never been a single person to ask me about my health, not even one person bothered to ask me and when I was in the hospital I heard that it was discussed in their meetings.
I was admitted on the 14th and I was unconscious for two and a half months. That was in 1992. I could not speak, I could not eat, I could not see, I was just lying there. I was never given support from our leaders and the leaders were present in the self-defence unit. It was discovered that they met, while I was in hospital, and it was discussed that I am a known person in the leadership of the school. Now, what are they going to say to the people and it was immediately discussed and concluded that the answer will be that I was injured by the IFP people. This rumour even went to my parents and up to the school principal. Now, the whole community knew it that way. I was shot by the IFP members. I do not understand why, let me put it this way. I do not understand why was I taken to Sakane from Ratanda. The other thing that I do not understand is that why did they lie, why did they say I was injured by the IFP and yet they know that I was not injured by the IFP. They lied to my parents who are not residing at Ratanda, they went back home, that is Harrismith. I was only here for school purposes, my parents are in Harrismith.
When my mother came to see me at hospital she could not just gain access to any other person. This is what she did everytime before getting into the hospital. She would take a glass of water. She would first trace where the tap is
and get a glass of water. I do not know how should I explain to you my conditions. I was dead, but alive. Even my visitors would definitely know that we are going to see a dead person who is still alive. Now, my mum use to take a glass of water to give her strength and come to me. As she was an unemployed person, Comrades from Ratanda said to her, do not worry, we will come and help you. If you want to see your son, we will organise you everything and they said to her, we assure you he is, he is so keen he wants to further his education, we will help him. I was doing standard ten in that year and my parents were looking up to me to be the breadwinner because they were unemployed and both of them were uneducated. I was the only person who could reach standard ten. I only received promises.
I did not take this case to court because I told myself this is the ANC and it is a reliable structure. The people within the ANC will see to it that I get a necessary support, but up to today there has never been any kind of help from the ANC. There was this only one person who was trying to show sympathy and he was helping me. This person went on helping me until such time that he got tired of helping me and I was told that this will be an organisational responsibility, but at the end of it all, this was a burden to this person who individually volunteered to help me. I never reached my goals of educating myself. I sent letters to all the levels of the ANC, the national province and the region, but up to today I have not received any response. I sent them these letters, I think it was last year. I mean it is now four years and nobody came up to apologise for what happened and they could not even come to tell me what motivated the
I only did it because I wanted to protect my family which was residing at the same area where the whole community was residing and that was when a decision was taken to start a or to form a self-defence unit. As I have indicated before that four Comrades were shot. Now, this SDU was going to protect the Comrades as well on the day of the funeral. Unfortunately, I did not make it up to that day, because I was shot on the 14th and the Comrades were buried two days after I was shot at and they were going to be buried on the Saturday. I could not make it up to that funeral. I still maintain I was just protecting the innocent people who did not know anything about the conflict between the IFP and the ANC. I do not know what happened, I have not received any explanation, I am left in the dark.
I already told you that my parents were struggling and they could not come to me at the hospital as they have, as they may want to come, but a certain Comrade went to them and said, listen, go and wait at a certain spot, that is at Mr Nkosi's house, and they went to Mr Nkosi's house to wait for my, to wait for him, but unfortunately this man never went to them. My clothes were taken from me and they were taken to a doctor, a traditional doctor. It was alleged that this doctor will work on them so that I do not get killed, but I have not received those clothes. I was taken to this doctor really and he told me that he cannot remember where he put my clothes and I was expecting another explanation from the Comrades as to what happened to my clothes, but I did not get anything.
MR XABA: I was taking responsibility for defending the people. I guess the people in the hostel and the whole village. There was a, that the local people were innocent and they did not know what was happening.
MR XABA: Yes, I did go to the leaders. I wanted to find out about why I was, I was shot whilst I am a member of this SDU. I was trying to go to this person who shot me, but he was unable to talk to me. He was always referring me to the other person and that person whom I was supposed to talk, it was his, he took his responsibility to try to solve the problem because he knew that the person who shot me was not working. Now, last week I got work at Heidelberg. I am working at that place at Heidelberg.
DR ALLY: Would you, because that would help us to try and establish from him his side, because it is very important if people are mentioned in statements that we give them an opportunity to give their account. The last question I would like to ask you is was this a deliberate attempt at trying to kill you or was this an accident? Was the gun actually aimed at you or what is your recollection of the way this actually happened?
MR XABA: As I explained, I would not explain how he shot me. I was just sitting on the floor, on the ground and we were just about to leave. My problem is the direction where I was at that time, I could not say where he was pointing the gun. That is whether it was his intention to kill me or not and I do not know that, but I have, I am suspicious that maybe for them not to explain me what happened and to ask for forgiveness if it was an accident, but up to now they did not tell me anything.
CHAIRPERSON: Hugh. We thank you Mr Xaba. I believe that if you can give us the, Hoko's address and try to find out as to whether at that time the, this defence units which you were a member, who was the leader at that time and, again, your incident was taken to the higher offices, that is the responsibility of the Truth Commission to try to investigate. We have hope that in that way we will be able to know what was the intention and what was the situation between the SDU in Ratanda and we will be able to know the, what did the leadership within the ANC, what was their aim for not bringing, you know, the words of conciliation and forgiveness in your family. You will pass our regards at home. Order, order. Could we please give Mr Hugh to make one announcement.
MR LEWIN: Sorry, before the next witness, there is a message, please, would Steve Magadulela please go to the Media Room outside and meet Andrew Sitega of SABC. Steve Magadulela to the Media Room please.