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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 16 April 1996
Location EAST LONDON
Names FEZIWA MFETI
Case Number EC002O/96
MR BONGANI FINCA: Your Grace, the Chairperson of the Commission, Commissioners and Committee members present. I wish to report that the office of the Commission in the Eastern Cape has received the following applications of persons who wish to testify on violations of their human rights. The office has looked at these applications and it's believed that they qualify to be placed before the Commission. I recommend in the order in which they will appear before the Commission today.
Chairperson may I draw your attention to the fact that there are two matters which were held over yesterday. We will start with those in the order for Tuesday 16th April, I wish to report that Mrs Nyameka Goniwe has requested permission, and we recommend that it be granted that she appears tomorrow. The list for today then stands as follows:
Singqokwana Malgas appearing on the matter pertaining to himself, and the nature of the violation is torture in police detention, Bessie Mdoda appearing on the matter of Xola Martin Jebe, the nature of violation being suspected in ANC camps or by security forces, Robert and Cecelia Kohl appearing on the matter of Bully Aliston Kohl, the nature of the violation being killing by police, Joyce Mtinkulu appearing on the matter of Spioms Mtinkulu, the nature of violation being disappearance and torture and poisoning in detention, Nonceba Zokwe, appearing on the matter of Sithembile Zokwe, the nature of violation being killing by Transkei police,
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. Could I introduce the panel, I did not do so yesterday. My apologies. June Chrichton is a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee in this region. Domisa Nstebeza is a Commissioner and he is head of the investigative unit, nationally, and Tiny Maya is a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee in this region. Dr Alex Boraine the Vice Chairperson of the Commission and Bongani Finca who is a EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE
member of the Human Rights Violations Committee is a Commissioner and he heads up our regional office in the Eastern Cape Province, and Ntkisi Sandi is a member of our Human Rights Violations Committee representing this region, Hlengiwe Mkhize is a commissioner and she is chairperson of the Reparations and Rehabilitation Committee, Professor Piet Meiring is a member of the Reparations and Rehabilitation Committee, representing Gauteng region, and Mcebisi Xundu behind here who is a newly appointed member of the Reparations and Rehabilitation Committee for this region and Dr Ramsahala, a commissioner and member of the Rehabilitations and Reparations Committee. MR BONGANI FINCA: Chairperson, the commissioners presiding today are the Archbishop Chairperson, Dr Boraine Deputy Chairperson, and Domisa Ntsebeza.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, I have not also reported that there would always be three commissioners for each day of the hearing assisted by a panel that would vary but the three would be there for throughout the day. Maditi Nqobela? MADITI NQOBELA: The thing that I would like to say is that I want to thank everybody who has carried himself very well, you behaved because there was a big audience and I request that you should carry forward and convey this dignity, because we've said we've come here to cry and give support and give condolences to all those who have suffered. And those who are going to give testimony today, we would like them to feel that there is this acquiesence and I
request also that when the person is giving his or her testimony, we should be aware that there should not be people who are going up and down and disturbing all these occasions, because we are unable to hear very well. But I'm EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE
DR BORAINE: Thank you very much, on behalf of the Commission I send to you a very warm word of welcome today and to say immediately that we appreciate very much your cooperation. You were waiting all day yesterday, it must have been very anxious and expecting to be in the witness stand telling us your story and you've had to sleep on that all nigh. We hope you feel comfortable and relaxed. The story you have to tell has of course to do with your husband, Phindile who as a young student almost ten years ago now disappeared from the university where he was studying, you will tell us about that. It is not easy to tell these stories, but I hope it's going to be of some relief to you and we are very grateful that you have come and we await your story now. The person who is going to lead the Commission in asking you questions about this is Mr Domisa Nsebeza, who is almost on my right here and I will hand over to him now, thank you.
MR NTSEBEZA: Thank you Mr Chairman. Mrs Mfeti, before we begin I would merely like to add to what the Chairperson of the Commission has said. And as an opening statement to relax you we would like you to know that today the people of EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE
South Africa and the whole world would like to hear you, perhaps for the first and the last time how your life has been, being the wife, the lover, the partner of a man, who almost a decade away, just disappeared from the face of the earth. These people who are gathered here and the whole world will be watching your testimony. We would like you to tell in your own words what it has been like, your hopes an your despairs, your moments of encouragement if there had been any and your moments of disappointment. your high notes and your lowest ebbs, all the emotions that have gone through your body in this decade or so, during which you have had to come to terms with the reality that you will never see your husband again. And therefore I would like you to be relaxed, to know that this is your moment to tell us in your own words how your life has been in these last harrowing, almost ten years. Do you understand that? I know that you want to testify in Xhosa and I would merely like you to raise your voice so that all who are here can hear the original version. Do you understand that? Are you now ready to testify. Right.
Now I will ask you questions and I hope that when you reply your story will unfold. Now let's start with this one, we'd first ask you to tell us about yourself, just five minutes, tell us about yourself, who are you, where did you grow up, where did you go to school, where did you meet with this Mfeti, what do you remember about him, what is it that makes you feel very angry when you think about him, very
born in Insoma in Kwilibram. I started schooling in Insomo and from lower primary I went to Tsongo and then I went on to the primary school. I am the wife of Mfeti who disappeared. We just met when we were busy travelling and there came a time that we married. It was in 1969. We first married in a traditional way and we signed the papers after some time, after he was released from detention in 1977. We have two children, a girl and a boy. Thank you.
MRS MFETI: After leaving school where he was studying he went to Gauteng and then he moved from firm to firm because he wasn't really associated with the treatment. He went to work at Race Relations. From there...(intervention)
MRS MFETI: The time he worked at Race Relations they were organising people, workers but he stopped and started working in 1973 when he was together with Jeannette Tetesi, Bennie Finerhof, Sipho Qubeka and the others. This Finerhof is today at COSATU.
MRS MFETI: Yes he was in trouble at times. When he was detained I was really in trouble. I made an application to go and see him. Questions were raised. Things like boarding the plane, and then I just decided to say that I don't know where he was headed to, and I told them that I will never leave my husband to live in the house not knowing where he was going to. I told the police that my culture does not allow me to question and question my husband.
MRS MFETI: You know, as he was detained now and then, he was detained on the 25th of May 1977 and then was released, excuse me please, I forgot the date, it was 17 May 1976 and then he was released 17 May 1977.
MRS MFETI: No he was restricted under house arrest. Can I please explain this? After being released from the prison, I didn't know where he was, he was at John Vorster and then he was at Kompol, I used to take him clothes, but
we couldn't find him at Kompol, they would look in the register and tell me that he has been referred back to John Vorster. There was a time when I was now seriously sure EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE
MRS MFETI: Helen Suzman took this matter to Chibuka, they decided that they should be charged or be released immediately. Phindile on his return from prison, Jean said must stay in the house. "There's a paper here that I want to show you, you must read it."
"I am 40310017049 Nchlongu Section Katlehong...(indistinct). Notice in terms of Section 10(1) of the Internal Security Act, 1950 Act 44 of 1950. Whereas there is enforced against you a prohibition under Section 9(1) of the Internal Security Act 1950 by way of a notice which is addressed and delivered or tendered to you, I James Thomas Kruger Minister of Justice hereby, in terms of Section 10(1) of the said Act order you for a period commencing on the date on which this notice is delivered or tendered to you and requiring you, and expiring on 31 May 1982, to report to the officer in charge of the Katlehong
between 6 o'clock and 18H00, provided that if such Monday falls on a public holiday you shall report on the following day not being a public holiday. Given under my hand at Cape Town, this 13th day of May 1977. J Kruger, Minister of Justice."
MRS MFETI: They started with him that morning and I was busy preparing myself to go to work. When this was still happening I went to work because the key to the safe was with me. Two black policemen were staying at my place with no movement t all. I told them that I'm going to work. They said, "No you have to stay here and pack your things". I said to them, "No ways, I cannot do that". I went outside because our toilets were outside, I went into the toilet and I came up with a plan. I came straight to the kitchen door
MRS MFETI: We went to the border of Umzimkulu, there was a car standing there on our arrival. It was a truck loading our belongings and a small car that we took together with the children and two white policemen.
MRS MFETI: No, they took us to his place, his home. We did not stop straight to the place, we'd stop at police stations, you know to change cars, even at Guqwa we changed cars, at Umtata we also changed the cars, until we were at his birthplace at Namakwe.
MRS MFETI: He applied for a house at first, but he was told, houses only belong to people who are employed. He went to the Minister of the Interior at Umtata because that department made arrangements with Jenny Kruger that there's a burden on their shoulders so we have to go to Transkei. He told them that he is a married man with a woman, he cannot
MR NTSEBEZA: Tell me, for the deportation, did he visit South Africa more often, did he tell you whether he was going to meetings, or did he just disappear? On his return would he tell you exactly where he was.
MR NTSEBEZA: During the time when he disappeared, when was it? We just want to scrutinise these periods and all the happenings of the time. Please try to recall as much as possible. Explain to us, when did you learn about the disappearance of your husband, or can I put it this way, when did you last talk to your husband?
MRS MFETI: On the 25th April 1987, it was on a Saturday. He phoned me from work, he was already in the University of Natal at the time and we exchanged calls everyday. He phoned me this day and told me that he did not have enough pocket money for his belongings.
MRS MFETI: Yes I was a breadwinner and I was buying everything for him. I was working at Smart Centre at the time and I informed him that, he must please go to Smart Centre so that he can take as much as he wanted because they were new jeans at the time. He promised to phone me in the evening and tell me how it went. Fortunately they phoned at Smart Centre confirming my credit rating so that my husband can take over, they told me that he has already got what he wanted.
MRS MFETI: No he didn't, and I thought because we had already made arrangements and communicated during the day, I attributed his silence to that. My young boy went there to a garage because he belonged to a karate club there. I told him that I forgot to mention that his father phoned, so I requested that he should phone his father. When he phoned he could hear that he was being called, but when he came back he said he is not responding. When I looked at the time I estimated that he could be at the library and I was certain that he would be coming back at night and maybe he would phone then, but he never did.
MRS MFETI: No he didn't phone on Sunday. Because he was using the park telephone, he would make a reverse call so that I can phone him back, he didn't phone for quite a long time, and then I had this feeling that maybe there was a problem with the telephones, because when there was supposed to be something that was going to be done, there a tendency to disengage the phones, but I knew that there as also another place where he could get a telephone where they were allowed to receive calls only but could not book them out,
so I requested the child to go and make a telephone call, but again there was no response from him. I said he must wait again so that he can phone maybe after nine, still believing that he might be at the library. He knew that after nine then I will be looking for him.
MRS MFETI: Yes I knew that the first of May was going to be a public holiday, because it was Workers' Day, and also I knew that the policemen would be very aggressive, because they did not like what was happening, because people were observing the first of May. At the time, during that regime, that day was not accepted as a public holiday, but in the Transkei, unlike South Africa, it was accepted.
MRS MFETI: Again after nine, we phoned, and it was said, Phindile is away, nobody knows where he went to and he went to town and was not seen since then. And the person who gave us this information, didn't say what his name was. I was taken aback and I also confirmed that I indeed knew that he went to town.
MRS MFETI: The person also said that they went looking for him at the police stations but will go on looking for him and try to find him the next day when they did not have classes, as it would be a public holiday.
MRS MFETI: I was shocked now and I tried to communicate with Temba Sangule, but it was said he was in Durban. I left a message with his wife that she should please inform him that this had happened because it had now become a problem for me. So the message was also given to somebody who was going to Durban and this person was honest enough to convey the message to Temba. Again it was also confirmed that Phindile has disappeared.
MRS MFETI: The eldest son was the first to receive the message, the little one, I had to explain to him what was happening. They didn't accept what was happening and couldn't believe that their father had disappeared. My
arranged transport for us to go and look for him, we went also to where the people are being taken, we also went to the mortuary, to see if we can't find his remains there. There was also a message that there was a request that there should be a member of the family who should come and give a description of the person who had disappeared. We went to the mortuary, we didn't get him, we went again to the police station to give our statement and an account of what has happened. We also checked his belongings and I could see that everything was there, but there was something that he could not leave behind for quite a long time, his spectacles. They were there.
His pipe, he was a heavy smoker as he smoked to calm his nerves, but those two items, spectacles and pipe were the ones that caused concern to me. His sandals were not there and a pair of trousers and a lumber jacket is not available.
Then these brought concern to me because I knew that if he was going for a long distance or for some time, I knew that he would not go on sandals only. When he was released from the police station from detention, he had this pain where always had to be rubbed because he had a slight injury, so he never returned ever since.
MR NTSEBEZA: There's a letter that I'd like to show you which I think is important and I'd like you to read it for this audience. This letter shows the struggle and the efforts which the people tried to show support and lend
MR NTSEBEZA: It was written on the 17th November 1988. It was a year after your husband's disappearance. Could you please read this letter to the Archbishop and this Commission? They tell us what Kane Berman wrote in the letter.
"Re: Phindile Mfeti, date of birth 15.12.1946 I write to you in connection with the above student who was studying for a BProc degree at the University of Natal from February 1985 to May 1987, on a bursary supplied by the government of the Netherlands and administered the Peace Institute. His address at the University was M S Jansen Hall. He disappeared without trace in May last year, and wife who lives at 258 Nsobongo Street Butterworth, Transkei confirmed that he is still missing. It appears that the last time his wife heard from was his ...(indistinct) was when he telephoned from in May from a shop to say that he was on his way back to the University. She had evidently made enquiries at hospitals, mortuaries and police stations but so far without results. It occurs to us that at the time of his disappearance Mr Mfeti may have been visiting a
township falling under the jurisdiction of Kwazulu. I should be extremely grateful if you could direct that the necessary enquiries are made to ascertain whether the Kwazulu Police have any information as to what might have happened to Mr Mfeti. Yours Sincerely J S K Berman Executive Director ".
"The Executive Director, South African Institute of Race Relations. P.O.Box 31044 Braamfontein. Dear Mr Kanes Berman Your enquiry about Mr Phindile Mfeti refers. The enquiry is directed to the warden of the N S Jansen Hall and the Faculty of Law, as well as reference to our records of examinations return, have failed to produce any knowledge of Mr Mfeti
With reference to my letter dated 1 December 1988, I wish to inform you that every endeavour to trace Mr Phindile Mfeti was unsuccessful. His whereabouts could not be established.
MR NTSEBEZA: So it was getting on for the third year telling you that your husband is being searched. Now we just want to summarise. All efforts, South African Institute of Race relations, Attorneys, yourself, all these never managed to bring Phindile back?
was in detention, there was a report, and he came back with a report that one policeman who hit him, said to him, he himself, Steve Biko and Bitja, they are trouble makers. They should take the three of them, put them at the borders, shoot them and leave them there. And then the community will think that their own comrades have killed them.
MR NTSEBEZA: Can you please repeat this because this is one of the things that really troubled our country. I want you to repeat that, any person in this chamber who didn't understand that must really understand.
MRS MFETI: He came out and indicated to me that one policeman, among the policemen that assaulted him during his detention, they said himself, Steve Biko and Bunny Bitja, should be taken to border posts, because they are really troublesome, they should put them at the border post and shoot them and leave them there so the communities might think that their own comrades have killed them.
MRS MFETI: Yes I thought of that because he said to me, I wasn't in a position to know his whereabouts, Steve Biko died at the police cells. My husband was out together with people like Juliet Kettes who received a parcel bomb, and then Mr Berman. If those people were not close to me, I couldn't know exactly what happened to my husband.
MRS MFETI: The little one is at the University of Transkei. The elder one, during the time when it was difficult, he found his way through to Nigeria to study there. He left South at a very young age after completing Standard 7. He is back from Nigeria now, but he's never been to school because we are still encountering problems to EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE
MRS MFETI: We were crying. We didn't know how to think properly. But the first thing in my mind was, maybe he's just taken a walk, but after some enquiries, because in his room there was a bag that is not missing. Mpelelo my son said, I don't think he took anything.
I started realising that something might have happened. One of the things that I was sure of was that he promised me that he will never ever leave this world. They'd rather kill him if than he would. He was actually giving me an answer on the question that I asked him, he had a banning order. During that banning order he had an appointment with John Kerman. He only left, the house was left with police guarding. I went to call John, I said to him, "John, please arrange something for him, I'm not going to stand this anymore. I don't want him to be arrested anymore. John on his arrival, told him that I have called and that should try something, they should find a place for him. He refused, and said, "No I will never run away, I will never leave my mum without burying her, because she really struggled, giving me education".
MR NTSEBEZA: Now summarising or closing, you find yourself in trouble being a widow, having not seen the grave of your husband, is that true? You children they find they are orphans, without a father, but they can not even take beautiful flowers to his grave. Is that so?
MRS MFETI: I have interest in the fact that if the Commission can succeed and make thorough investigations, just to get where my husband is, even if it is his remains, even if he was burned to death, even if you can get his ashes, even the bones belonging to his body, because no person can just disappear without trace. There will always be some trace to say he was found here. If I had an opportunity to bury him, I can already have reconciled.