|News | Sport | TV | Radio | Education | TV Licenses | Contact Us|
Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 17 April 1996
Location EAST LONDON
Names NYAMEKA GONIWE
Case Number EC0080/96
The name of Matthew Goniwe is known not only throughout the Eastern Cape, not only throughout South Africa but in many many parts of the world, but your name is equally well known and we are very grateful that despite the ordeal that you have been through in facing two inquests, one of which lasted a very long time, which didn't end satisfactorily as far as you're concerned, but you still have the grace and the willingness and the courage to come and tell the story, we believe that that is right and we are very very grateful to you for being here, we hope that you will feel amongst friends and that you can be very relaxed and take your time and John Smith will lead you as you tell your story to the nation.
Chairman I would ask, this is somewhat of a departure from the manner in which evidence has been produced before but in my consultation with Mrs Goniwe, she has felt more comfortable to present her evidence in this manner, and now I therefore ask the Commission to allow her to present her evidence. Thank you Mr Chairman.
MRS GONIWE: Thank you very much. The talk about Matthew Goniwe, including my life was quite a daunting task, because I didn't know where to begin, to piece together this story and our story. I tried my best last night to bring together the events which eventually led to his death. I'm going to bring in as well a little bit of our background and his background. I also ask the Commission to bear with me a little bit.
My name is Nyameka Goniwe, a social worker by profession. I am now working for the Social Changes Systems Trust. called SCAT in short, a funding organisation based in Cape Town. I got married to Matthew Goniwe, a teacher in 1975 and have two children, Nabuswe who's going to turn 21 in June and Nyanisa, who's going to turn 14 in June as well.
Matthew came from a politically family and his political activism was strongly influenced by the death of his brother Jaques, who died in exile in the 60's. His active involvement began when he took up the post as a teacher at a village school in Kandule, in what was known as Transkei in the early 70's. He was arrested with four friends in 1976 for setting up a political discussion group or cell in Transkei. He was subsequently convicted under the Suppression of Communism Act and sentenced to four years imprisonment in 1977. After spending 15 months awaiting
My ordeal started then. In 1976, the year Matthew was arrested, I was enrolled at the University of Fort Hare to do a degree in social work. In pursuit of my studies, I decided to leave my eight month old baby, which is Nabuswe with Matthew's mother in Cradock. My biggest challenge at the time was to be available to my baby as often as possible, to attend to my studies and also give support to my husband in prison. I remember that year being one of the toughest years I have faced in my life. I was short of money and had to rely on my brothers in law for assistance, and the small grant I used to get from the Dependants Conference of the SACC.
When Matthew was released in 1981 I had already completed my degree and was employed by the then Department of Cooperation and Development as a social worker in Port Elizabeth. During the same year I requested a transfer in order to with him and my family. In 1982 he got the post of deputy principal at Nqeba High School in Graaf Reinet. The following year on his own request, he was transferred to Cradock as the deputy principal of the same kind of Semquale Secondary School. In July 1982, he was fully appointed as the principal of the same school.
Matthew was a brilliant maths and science teacher, but also a strict disciplinarian. These qualities earned him a lot of respect and praise in the community. His influence permeated to all the schools in Lingalishle. His interest in the youth attracted the attention of the security police towards him. He was also seen as a person who took an active role in rekindling the politics of resistance, especially during the Kenneth Calata funeral in 1982.
In August 1983, a new section of the town comprising of 279 houses was built in Cradock in the Lingalishle Township. This resulted in a new rental system being introduced which was based on a salary sliding scale. This was met with fierce resistance by the community and discredited the then community council. Matthew was at the forefront of this resistance. He also became instrumental in establishing a civic organisation in Cradock, known as Cradora and the youth organisation known as Cradoya. He was then elected as the chairperson of Cradora and Fort his friend and a fellow teacher, became the chairperson of Cradoya. The two organisations became UDF affiliates in 1983, linking up with other progressive organisations in the Eastern Cape, like the PEPCO civic organisations in Grahamstown, Port Alfred, all over the Eastern Cape.
At the end of 1983 he received a surprise transfer from the Department of Education and Training to go back to Nqeba High School in Graaf Reinet, an act which he perceived to be politically motivated. He then refused to go in January 1984, a move that was fully supported by the community.
The Department of Education and Training dismissed him on the pretext by refusing to go, he had dismissed himself. Protest in the form of petitions to the regional manager of DET , Mr Meerbold and successive delegations that were led by the community to present his case, proved to be futile. It was clear that the arrogance that was displayed by Mr Meerbold had the backing of the security police. The response of the State was to bring in its forces to try and intimidate and break the community resistance. Running battles between the police and the youth became the order of EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE
The demands of the students that were put forward were the immediate reinstatement of Matthew Goniwe. The resistance intensified and this resulted in meetings being banned. In March 1984, Matthew, Fort Calata, Madoda Jocabson, Bulelo Goniwe were detained under Section 28 of the Internal Security Act, which allowed for six months detention. It became clear from this action that Cradock was regarded as a flash point by the past government and the detention was ordered to try and neutralise the situation.
The situation in the township worsened in their absence and violence escalated on a scale which was never experienced before. All school committees resigned. The pressure forced the security police to release Matthew and his colleagues. They were released on the 10th of October 1984 and were given a hero's welcome by the community.
Matthew's unpopularity with the security forces intensified. He was rated and regarded as an enemy of the State. This was also proved in the evidence which was led during the inquest court, the second inquest court proceedings in 1995, last year. He was also denied the right to own a house by the Linglishle Town Council for a long time, forcing him to live with his mother in law and his family, in an extended family home.
His movements were closely monitored by the security police, especially when he had to leave town. The whole family bore the wrath of the security police which took the form of harassment, early morning house raids, constant surveillance, death threats, phone bugging, short term
detentions for questioning, mysterious phone calls, tampering with cars, etc. Of all the death threats that Matthew received, there are three which stood out and also serve as a pointer that Matthew was a marked man. The first one involved the former head of the security branch in Cradock, Major Henry Fouche. It happened in an early morning while Matthew was taking me to work in town. On the way our car was stopped by Fouche and Matthew was pulled out of the car. He then pointed a gun at Matthew's head, shouting, I'm going to kill you. We were then driven to the police station, we were both searched, bodily searched and released later on. Matthew laid a charge against Fouche, which of course. never came to anything.
The second that happened was in Queenstown, when Matthew went to meet a friend and a fellow ex-prisoner. It became obvious that his movements were monitored from Cradock to Queenstown, because he was stopped on arrival and detained for a short while. He later told his family that he was threatened with death by the then head of security in Queenstown. I'm not sure of the name now, it's between Venter of van Wyk. I'm sure it can be established later.
The third one happened whilst visiting Port Elizabeth to attend a UDF meeting. He was Fort Calata's Farm Umkonto. Fort and Matthew were stopped and detained for a short while. They were threatened that a better and sophisticated police officer will be replacing Fouche at the beginning of 1985 and that one is going to sort them out. Indeed, a new head of the security branch Eric Winter, an ex-Koevoet officer took over from Fouche early in 1985.
aimed at assessing him, after reading his file. I also got the impression that he came over to come and assess our house. The then Major Venter kept a lower profile than Fouche, making Matthew and the other activists in Cradock wonder what he was planning.
Matthew on another level, as if he was counting his days, worked with dedication to mobilise the community, using public meetings for political education. He also introduced street and area communities which became known as the G-Plan. His other aim was to broaden the leadership base and groom layers of leadership with the youth and the civic structures. The UDF supported his talent to organise people and elected him as a rural organiser in the Eastern Cape. His influence grew and spread to other areas in the
(Tape 11).......stated that Matthew, I suppose that the person you are relying on is unable to give you water, unable to give you electricity. It was one of those hearts and minds racists. Pamphlets denouncing Cradora and Cradoya, including the leadership as terrorists or terrorist organisations were distributed all over the township. The houses of activists were searched, all this was done as a show of force and a show of military might. The message was clear from this event that the attention of the state, through its security forces was focused on Cradock.
Eastern Cape Region, Derek Swarts, informing him that he won't be coming to the usual Wednesday meeting due to other commitments, but will be coming for a briefing on the 27th of June 1985 instead. He made a second telephone on the 27th of June 1985 to confirm that he was coming. Both conversations were taped by the security police and a transcript of these telephones was produced as evidence during the second inquest. This confirms what we long suspected, that Matthew's movements were closely monitored for 24 hours, in fact on the day he left for Port Elizabeth, with his friends and colleagues, his movements were monitored.
On the 27th of June 1985 he left for Port Elizabeth in the company of his friends, Fort Calata, Sicelo Mhlawuli, and Sparrow Mkhonto and that was the last time we saw them. They were due back on the same night and when they did not come back, we knew that something serious had happened. Early in the morning of the next day, I telephoned the UDF offices in Port Elizabeth, I also phoned Derek Swart and Molly Blackburn, to establish their whereabouts. Derek Swart informed me that Matthew left with his friends for Cradock the previous night of the 27th of June 1985 at about 9 pm. You can imagine the shock, and I shivered to think what might have happened to these comrades.
I kept the news secret for a while from all the families, excepting my brother in law who was planning what to do next. The brother in law, Alex and I, we picked up a few activists and went and looked for them. We decided to drive towards Port Elizabeth, and on our way we stopped over at Cookhouse and Bedford police stations, to check whether they have seen them, but we drew a blank.
I just want to say something mysterious happened then, well not mysterious but very interesting. As we approached the police station, of course they didn't know who we were up and till my brother in law identified himself. Immediately their whole mood changed and all the young police officers stood on guard, just in front of the door and we asked them whether they had seen them. And they said that the last time they saw them was a t 12 o'clock the previous day. And that also made us to wonder, because the police station in Cook House is far from the National Road. Something clicked, it could be through their monitoring network that they picked up that Matthew was passing by at about that time.
A similar search party looked for them in the Port Elizabeth area with no result. We drove as Patterson and returned back home. On arrival at home we were informed that the police had phoned, they left a message with a child, my brother in law's son, to inform the family that Matthew's burned car had been found near the Scribanta Racing Course outside Port Elizabeth. Immediatly we knew that something serious had happened.
Of course we had pointers because in May, you know, the PEPCO Three had disappeared without a trace. Relatives and the Community were informed and some members of the family had to go to Port Elizabeth to establish what had happened. It was this group that also assisted the families to identify the bodies later on. So I alerted the press, the national media, international media and everybody of influence to try and put pressure onto the police authorities, or the government to produce them. Of course, during those days anything could have happened, I mean we
The community immediatly embarked on a school and a shop boycott to add more pressure on to the government. n Saturday the 29th June 1985, the bodies of Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicele Mhlawuli were found first and those of Matthew and Fort were found on the 2nd of July 1985. All the bodies had multiple stab wounds and were badly burned.
Our lawyers during the second inquest argued that Matthew was monitored for 24 hours, a factor that was confirmed by Winter and Snyman who was regional head of the security branch of the Eastern Cape at the town station in Port Elizabeth during cross-examination. He couldn't have slipped the police monitoring networks. Whatever befell him on that night of the 27th was known to the police and they killed him.
We have stated why we believe that Matthew had to die. We think that it was because he was seen as a person who was responsible for the collapse of the community councils discipline in Lingalishle. We also think that he was also held responsible for disrupting the schools by instigating the students to engage in school boycotts and for the resignation of all school communities in Cradock. He was also accused for mobilising the people of Cradock and the neighbouring towns under the banner of the then banned, ANC. They hated him for raising the level of political awareness of people in the rural areas. He was seen as a communist, a terrorist and therefore a dangerous man, who was threat to the state.
MRS GONIWE: Well of course our tyres were slashed, sometimes we would wake up and find ...(indistinct) they poured some, I think it was sand in my brother in law's petrol tank. Yes those were the things that we thought they did while we were asleep because the cars were parked in an open yard.
MR SMITH: Can you recall when Matthew left for Port Elizabeth on that evening of the 27th, can you recall whether he said anything to you regarding when he was going to return? Anything at all of importance at all to the Commission?
MRS GONIWE: Yes normally Matthew and Felix used to come back at about 12 and obviously their meetings would go on till late in the evening and he used to go every Wednesday to a briefing or to a meeting in Port Elizabeth. Of course the family used to warn them all the time, because this was a marked man, and there were pointers that the security police were after him. So we warned them not to come back very late at night but rather to stay over than to come back, but that evening they came back.
security last week, and please don't travel at night! Rather sleep over. They laughed at me, of course they didn't take me seriously. I don't know why, perhaps they never thought that they would be killed.
MR SMITH: Now you realise of course that it's quite possible for persons to come forward and to actually admit to the killing of your husband and to apply for amnesty to one of the committees of this Commission. What would by your attitude to that. How would you feel towards these people if they were in fact identified and that you were to know that these are the people who are responsible for the brutal slaying of your husband?
MRS GONIWE: Well I look forward to that. I mean I know it's difficult after suffering such pain and trauma. But we need to know what happened and who they are, and also, I mean they have to need to show some remorse.
MRS GONIWE: Yes. They have to show us remorse, that they're sorry for what they did. I don't say that, I mean it would immediatly make us happy, it's a challenge, we're going to be challenged in that kind of way, and grapple with that, inside and it will take a long time. Healing takes a long time.
MR SMITH: Nyame, you were also involved in the last suit which were mentioned by the other three yesterday. Now I dealt with that matter when I was questioning them, and maybe the Commission would then formally inform you if they have done anything about it, so I'm not going to ask you
PANEL MEMBER: Mrs Goniwe, I have been listening to your horrifying story, and yesterday when I left this place, I was asking myself the question, what kind of a human being can do such horrible things? What kind of hatred is this? I'm going to ask a question about this child. You said you had gone out to Port Elizabeth and when you came back the police had left a message to say that the car was found somewhere. How old was the child to whom the message was given?
MRS GONIWE: He was then 14 or 15, I mean, we were furious, this was a serious matter, a matter of death and the police treated it, you know, casually, and I think we confronted them. Matthew protested a number of times in the media about that, that what kind of system would give a child such a message. I mean they are supposed to summon their police officers to come and address the family. But this is what happened, or we suspect this is what has happened. And treat the family with dignity and respect.
DR BORAINE: I just want to persue a little bit the question that was asked by John Smith. You have said publicly that you hesitated to come to the Commission because it was now the turn of the people who were not so
well known and perhaps whose stories have not been heard, and we honoured that, but we still felt it was very very important that your story should be heard by this Commission and by the Nation. I'm wondering, part of your reluctance to come to the Commission, did it stem from almost cynicism that you had spent so many weeks and months attending an inquest and the final result left you really no further than where you had started, was that part of your reason?
MRS GONIWE: Very much part of that. I guess I was protecting myself. We had two inputs, the one was such a circus. It ended after a very very short while. You know after the family was engaged in trying to get the first inquest to be opened up, you know they wanted to have just a closed matter and deal with it as quickly as possible, we fought over that, using our lawyers and then it was opened up a little bit. But as you know, nothing came out of that, the first one.
And then we had to go through a long inquest, and we were bruised by it, emotionally and physically, and I guess we had high hopes as well. I remember when the finding was announced, we were so disappointed. I don't know what we were expecting at the end, so I suppose we are approaching the Commission in the same sort of light. That is me.
The second reluctance was over not knowing what it is, that's going to happen here, I had little information. But now that I am here I'm sort of humbled by the experiences of the others. I'm happy to say, I'm happy that I came.
MRS GONIWE: I could write a book about that, but I mean. if you know what has happened in the Eastern Cape during that time, the state security councils, the army working together with the police, it's a sort of combined thing. Maybe each force giving backing to the other force, but I think the whole thing started at home. I would start at home because I've traced Major Venter, from the time, how he came to Cradock. Obviously maybe the then government was quite frustrated with the former head of the security branch in Cradock because he was so very casual and very unsophisticated in a way. He lost all the cases against the community, so they were angry, the State was angry and they couldn't pin down Matthew in a way and they felt that this person was advising the community and they had to bring a better man, and I think the heart of the matter started with the security networks, I mean Venter really monitoring Matthew's movements. Not him alone but also all the Eastern Cape, you know the Eastern Cape Security, the head of the then security branch would know who was then based in Port Elizabeth and of course, what I think and we have a picture of what happened, though we cannot prove it to the courts what actually happened, and I think that they might have used the death squad. That's why we are hopeful that the Commission, whatever comes out from the De Kock Trial could shed light or what came out from the police bombing in Port Elizabeth, that case would shed light on what happened in the Eastern Cape during those days. Because the fate of the PEPCO Three, the same tactics, the same strategies, were
DR BORAINE: Thank you you're being very patient with me and I'm nearly finished. There are two possible ways in which the truth can be made known about who killed Matthew Goniwe. One is to persue the investigations which you have referred to and obviously the Commission has the opportunity, has the resources to continue that. The other way is through someone who was involved, who witnessed it or took part in it, who knows something about it, finally cannot contain it, coming to the Commission in another way, in another place and telling the truth. how would you feel about that?
MRS GONIWE: WE have two inquests running and it didn't come nearer to who was the killer, maybe, you know that it is with those people within the security forces but who they were, we don't know, I think we need to crack that, we need an inside person, we need a witness and i would appeal to those people who are still out there and still concealing the truth, to come forward. Thank you.
PANEL MEMBER: Mr Chairman, I would like to follow up on Advocate Nzebesa's question from yesterday. We referred to the three ladies yesterday, but today I would like to refer to the four of you, and follow up on the question, I don't know if you've had the opportunity to confer over it. He asked the question, how you would like to have your husbands remembered, and perhaps that might even include the three PEPCO victims, we don't have to have the answer today, if you haven't discussed it, but I thought I'd follow on.
obviously to confer with the others, and I know that I talked with the two because we shared a room, that is Mrs Calata Mrs Mkhonto but unfortunately I didn't have a word with Nombuyiselo Mhlawuli, so we would need to come to some kind of agreement, if the Commission would grant us that stage to come back again.
PANEL MEMBER: Nyami throughout your testimony you have spoken not only of yourself and of you r husband, but you have spoken of the community that supported you. The community that suffered with you. Could you please just say something about the suffering that has been endured by the Cradock community? And whether you see reparation that flows recommendations from this Commission, not only to individuals, important as that aspect is, but also to communities that shared that suffering and I'm raising that question with you because you have grown in stature in our eyes, in this region, as a person who goes beyond just thinking about yourself, but who thinks about the broader sharing in the pain of the struggle.
(side B ).... have a list of names of everybody who have died and we talked about where that could be. You know this is worse than trying to embrace everybody within that community and I mean I guess, this is what I would like to feel, I don't know, of course I haven't conferred with my fellow widows, but I wouldn't like to have all our names put on the stone, but everybody who suffered during that time, and having watched the proceedings during the past few days, I sort of feel that we are going to need a lot of energy and EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE
strength, especially the Reparations Committee, to try and engage people in a healing process. I don't know what kind of process that could be obviously, but really their pain is different and obviously you are going to have to help the process and persons everywhere.
PANEL MEMBER: Mr Chairperson I would like to ask a question that would give us a feel on the impact on the children. I know you've described your own pain, and you don't have to answer this, but if you could tell us a little bit about how the children have been able to cope and, you don't have to answer the question.
MRS GONIWE: Okay. I guess I have to be stronger for them and they draw that strength from me. If necessary I try and protect them against exposure, against many other things, and I think they have coped quite well. Again I'm saying this in a superficial manner. Maybe I'm not that observant, but as a mother, I think they are stronger and they will grow up strong individuals as well, in spite of the fact that they don't have a father. And one other thing which I need to say, with my son, it's really good to have a family, good to have Cradock, to go to Cradock over holidays and of course those are models, his models, so he insists to go to Cradock and he loves it. Of course the family doesn't want him to go anywhere, so they always demand that he goes to Cradock, which has helped quite a lot.
PANEL MEMBER: In your testimony to the Commission, you have made a mention of the name, Mr Winter who was transferred to Cradock, and according to your testimony he is a former Koevoet member. Has he spoken to you after the death of Mr Goniwe? If he was transferred, how soon was this after the
MRS GONIWE: I'm the Cradock people might shed light on that because I think he got a promotion shortly after that. You know how everybody gets rewarded about some of these things in the past, and he got a promotion and he was transferred to Port Elizabeth as I don't what now, a captain or brigadier, or whatever. Just to say as well that the harassment of the Goniwe family didn't end with the death
of Matthew. We were still subjected to harassment and would be picked up and photographed, and it came out during the course of the inquest that a very sophisticated bug was placed in our house, which is called a tomatie. I'm sure the Commission, if you're very interested in pursuing that or what happened or about the tomatie, it's well covered in the inquest document. But that device could pick up the slightest sound, even the drop of a pin, everywhere in that house, in all rooms, so they could hear us sleeping in our bedrooms, everywhere, they could hear us argue, whatever, whatever happened in that family. This was a listening device, and there was a person who testified about this kind of device at the inquest, and they could hear you even if you were in the back yard or the front yard of the house, it was so powerful and I'm sure assisted them quite a lot to monitor the activities of the occupants of the house, what was said and pick up conversations. I was glad not to hear about it at the time, because we would have been paranoid. But we continued with our lives and were involved, and had meetings, numerous meetings in that house and we tricked them in many ways, which made us to be very proud, despite of the fact that there were listening devices in that house.
happened, and one of the things that I think has impressed us is how you have been supporting each other, I mean, even yesterday, just sitting together, and you were really children when this awful thing happened. And so we see, sort of in the age spread when you have Mrs Mazwai over there and you have yourselves over here, and it just makes you say, we are an incredible country with some quite extraordinary people. I mean that you can laugh, you can sing, you have hope even you have been traumatized. It gives great hope for this land, because having heard ...(indistinct) too this morning, I mean just makes you say, maybe South Africa is God's favourite, because, and it's good, that we must hear the pain of everybody, and for people to know that this freedom was not cheap and that people must learn to nurse it, because it was bought at a very very great price. Thank you.