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Human Rights Violation Hearings


Starting Date 18 April 1996


Day 4


DR BORAINE: We invite Mrs Thembisa Constance Mginywa to the stand please.


DR BORAINE: You have come from Grahamstown and you have come to the Commission to talk about what happened to your son who was murdered at a political funeral. It's a tragic story. We are grateful that you have felt it was of some help to you to come to the Commission. We are trying to give as complete a picture as possible of what happened in this country and you will help us by the telling of your story. Miss Tiny Maya will assist you and I am quite sure that she will make you feel comfortable and relaxed.

MS MAYA: Hello Mrs Mginywa. Mrs Mginywa how do you feel this afternoon?

MS MGINYWA: I am very well, thank you very much.

MS MAYA: Are you Mrs Thembisa Constance Mginywa from Grahamstown?


MS MAYA: This afternoon would you like us to know about your son Mgcini Matthews who was murdered in Grahamstown?

MS MGINYWA: Yes it is so.

MS MAYA: Could you please inform us about Big-Boy and who was this Big-Boy?

MS MGINYWA: Big-Boy was my son. He is the third born in



my family. He was attending school at Nombelelo Secondary School. On the 13th of April 1986 it was in the morning because I went to work at the time, leaving the children as usual. When I arrived from work I was advised at five o'clock, when I arrived in the afternoon I asked where Big-Boy and his sister replied and said she doesn't know and she is afraid. She said she doesn't know where he went to and this is quite a long time ago. A day before Big-Boy said to his sisters please wake me up. I think they woke him up because I went to work.

MS MAYA: According to your knowledge did you know that he was going anywhere?

MS MGINYWA: No I didn't know anything that he was having any journey to undertake but I knew that there was a funeral which was in the vicinity. Usually when there was a funeral we were becoming very anxious because we knew that boys would go to the funeral and some of them would never come back. We knew that if one of your sons went away you would be very grateful if he comes back intact.

When I stayed there there is a neighbour called Mr Ghalo who is working at Settlers Hospital. When she asked after my health we exchanged small talk then she asked me if I know that Big-Boy was in hospital. I was shocked, and then she said to me I must not be shocked because really he is able to talk. He was able to give particulars about himself, but he is in hospital.

MS MAYA: What was the cause of admission in the hospital.

MS MGINYWA: He was shot.

MS MAYA: What was the extent of the injury?

MS MGINYWA: The thing that he mentioned is that he was injured, he was shot in the leg, just between or above the




MS MAYA: Did you make any efforts to go and visit him?

MS MGINYWA: Definitely I rushed to the hospital and my children and my brother took me along, they accompanied me to there. When I arrived there Mrs Ghalo is the nurse who used to knock off at 7 o'clock, but we didn't stay long at home. At 8 o'clock we were already at the hospital. When we went to the hospital the nurses told me that Big-Boy is late.

MS MAYA: What was the reason for his death because it was said the extent of the injury was not serious?

MS MGINYWA: I met some of the nurses and they were getting on duty at 7 o'clock. The nurses who told me that there was only an injury on the leg had already knocked off, but the others said they tried their best but they failed to resuscitate my son.

MS MAYA: Did you get any details of the efforts made to resuscitate your son?

MS MGINYWA: No I didn't understand what they meant by that because they said the injury was minor.

MS MAYA: Can I ask what is the reason for attending the funeral and whose funeral was this?

MS MGINYWA: What I know is that the funeral was belonging to the Dokwe family, the child there was the same age group as my son.

MS MAYA: Was the type of funeral which was being undertaken? Did you get any details?

MS MGINYWA: Yes this child was also shot by the police and he was fatally wounded.

MS MAYA: Did you get any information what caused the death of this child of yours?



MS MGINYWA: The people who attended the funeral told us that during the procession we got a further report that as usually used to happen at the time we would always bury children because if each time there was a funeral one child would be shot and this became a habit and the reverends and the ministers of religion were always ready for funerals because they knew that the majority of the youth was being shot at each time there was a funeral. Most of the time then the procession would be led by the ministers or the children or youth would be in the forefront and then the ministers would be at the back. I further got a report that he was part of the crowd that attended the political funeral. And then during that procession people saw him just collapsing. It is said that the ministers were also available. We had a minister Seboto and the other one was there because they waited so that he can be taken. The child was taken away. The policemen were the people who took the child away to take him to hospital.

MS MAYA: When you say he fell down what do you mean by that?

MS MGINYWA: It's because he was shot.

MS MAYA: Who shot the child, did you see anything?

MS MGINYWA: Nobody saw who shot him. But what I can say there were caspers and the police were there but nobody could identify who shot the child.

MS MAYA: Was there any conflict between the police and the community and the funeral attendants?

MS MGINYWA: No we didn't receive any information about any conflict because the procession it was orderly.

MS MAYA: During the time when you were preparing for the funeral what happened?



MS MGINYWA: During the course of the week preceding the funeral arrangements the police came in their caspers. They brought a letter and said I must sign a letter and they gave me the orders that there are restrictions in the way in which the funeral should be conducted. It was said that the people should not be beyond 200. We were given restrictions about who should talk there. I was surprised because usually we don't say a certain number should attend the funeral. Everybody gives support and the people came voluntarily to give condolences. It was difficult for me then to come and inform the people that they should not come. I didn't see any reason that why should they come and give orders after they have murdered my child.

MS MAYA: I get the information that there is an incident which took place during the night of the vigil, what happened during that night?

MS MGINYWA: On the night preceding the funeral while people were attending the vigil there were so many people and there were also children and a youth group, the age group of my child. At the time I heard a big sound, listening to the sound immediately it was dark and there was smoke all over the place. At the same period there were so many children, those who were outside wanted to come inside. I stopped for a while but some of the people were also rushing, there was a commotion then and those who were outside wanted to come in and those who were inside wanted to go out. There was teargas smoke and we didn't know what was happening because at the time we were not well accustomed to teargas.

MS MAYA: Where was this teargas?

MS MGINYWA: We found out that there was a canister inside



our room. Again we found another one and after a while we discovered that in each room there were teargas canisters and also on the premises there were others. We picked up six canisters. In each room I still insist there were many canisters.

MS MAYA: Was there any damage?

MS MGINYWA: Yes there was big damage. Firstly some of the people were trying to rush out. There was a stampede and everybody wanted to save his life. The windows were broken. The others wanted to hide into the wardrobes. The wardrobes were broken. Everything was just broken. The dishes everything, furniture and cutlery was also affected. It was a pile and pile of rubble.

MS MAYA: On the day of the funeral what happened?

MS MGINYWA: On the day of the funeral if I can explain very well I could just - I am glad because on the night of the vigil the hearse was not yet at home. I am asking myself what could have happened there, so the hearse came in the morning and we were having our funeral and we wanted to go to the funeral at the stadium. There were not many people who were allowed to talk at the funeral because of the order which was brought in by the police.

Also I can remember that because I was in front there was something which happened at the back. One of the speakers, Mr Moorcroft who was the Speaker of Parliament at the time, went to the police because at the time everybody knew what was happening, Mr Seboto invited people trying to make information and evidence to be available to give details about what happened during the funeral.

When we went around we were going past the school where my child was attending, as I was in front, as I was the



chief mourner I saw a terrible sight. It seemed as if it was at a battlefield because we were surrounded by the police who were heavily armed. When we went past them then the gunshot fired. There was stampede again, the commotion and everybody, the cars were unable to move. The people were also unable to move and everybody was again trying to save his life.

The teargas was then available. When we reached that place about a few metres to the graveyard the person who was driving me to the graveyard said we must go back home. I informed him that I do not care what happens I want to pay the last tribute to my loved one. I wanted to see where the grave of my son, child was. So this gentleman, though he was reluctant, he took me to the graveyard. Some of my family members were unable to go to the graveyard and they had to go back home.

MS MAYA: But the funeral went on?

MS MGINYWA: Yes despite all those the funeral could take place.

MS MAYA: Do you anybody who was arrested?

MS MGINYWA: What I know, I didn't know what happened thereafter. Firstly let me mention this before I can answer your question. When we came back from the graveyard the ministers who were there at the graveyard came home and they were together with Mr Moorcroft to check the extent of damage. They saw what took place there. There was a feeling that I should go to the police station to lay a charge. But before then the case continued and then we were supposed to go to court.

MS MAYA: Did the case continue?




MS MAYA: What was the result?

MS MGINYWA: It was said the people were acquitted, nobody could be charged. They said because Big-Boy had petrol bomb in his hands, throwing it at people then nobody could be found guilty of the offence.

MS MAYA: Was there anybody who was alleged to have shot him?

MS MGINYWA: No, nobody was produced.

MS MAYA: So the person was acquitted because it was said the child was the one who committed the offence?

MS MGINYWA: Yes it is.

MS MAYA: I went to Mr Sandi who was a lawyer and then he was together with another lawyer who was a White man. They promised me that there are no fingerprints, there were bottles which were there as evidence but there were no fingerprints which they could produce to say there were signs of the fact that my son was guilty.

MS MAYA: This one, the case which you sent to the police, what happened to it about the teargas?

MS MGINYWA: There was a letter which I received and this letter said the case was closed.

MS MAYA: Was there an explanation of closing the case?

MS MGINYWA: No there was no reason and no explanation.

MS MAYA: Was there any follow-up to this?

MS MGINYWA: No there was no follow-up to the case because when I went to the police they told me that they were going to get to my house to get the statement, they promised to come. When they came I showed them these canisters. I didn't collect the others which were on the premises. The only ones which I could produce were those which were in the house. They took those teargas canisters and went away.



They never returned.

MS MAYA: Was that the end of it?

MS MGINYWA: Yes that was the end of it all. What I realised is that when they took it they wanted to remove the evidence so that I cannot have anything to lay a finger on.

MS MAYA: Is there anything else which you would like to say?

MS MGINYWA: No, I don't think there is something which I didn't say, which I was supposed to say. The most important thing which I came here for is I knew that the teargas canisters were taken away and the people who took them they had a hope that I would not have evidence, but fortunately during the period when there was this commotion there was youth group who took photos of everything that took place there. They even took photos of the canisters and that can be used I believe as the evidence, because even if they have destroyed the canisters the photos I believe they are still there.

MS MAYA: What do you wish as you have appeared before the Commission? This is my last question, what would you wish as you have become before the Commission, what would you like the Commission to help you with?

MS MGINYWA: Firstly, usually when there is funeral we always assist and give a hand to one another, I was borrowed some of the items by my neighbours, there were chairs, there was cutlery, there were dishes, pots and everything that was being used during the funeral, what I am disturbed about is that the people, my neighbours who assisted me are not happy about the fact that things were lost there. During this ten year period I am always anxious. On this Saturday it was the tenth year after the funeral, each time I look at the



people who assisted me I have the conscience that everything was destroyed and my neighbours were trying to give a hand and support me. I would like to be compensated.

Secondly, I would like the person who killed my child Big-Boy, should be brought forward. I cannot state and I cannot explain the reason for them to kill him.

Another fact is, as a mother who is widowed, Big-Boy's father died whilst this child was only six years old. I brought him up. He was at the age where when I looked at him I would be reminded of my husband. Each time I was looking at him I would always think of his father. I had a hope that at a certain age he would also be able to support and assist me. As Big-Boy was growing up, the house that I am talking about, as this commotion and this incident happened in 1986 there was nothing. I tried to build a house but I couldn't finish building the house. Because I am widowed I did not have anybody to help me except Big-Boy. Everything which wanted a male partner to assist, Big-Boy used to take the role, so it was a great loss to lose him. At times even the door, after he had died, I was unable even to fix the door when it was damaged but he was my handyman. For everything which got damaged here he was very skilled and would assist us. Even on the premises he would assist by keeping it orderly. I was very proud of him and was ambitious and I was wishing that when he finished schooling I would be resting and be able to relax because I have taken the responsibility of taking them for education, all children. I am earning meagre pay because I am not well educated but I had wished that all my children could get the best of education.

During the time when I was widowed I had felt that I



was hopeless. When I see other children whom I know that were the age group of Big-Boy I always get emotional because I always compare him to those children that I see. Probably I would be relaxing and having somebody to assist me. Today I don't have a shoulder to lean on. I have to take the responsibility because the girl next door is my daughter. She was also 20 months when the father died, so I had to take the responsibility and bring them up. I would request that the Commission should assist me if I am trying to educate this child because I have inadequate means I would like their support.

My hope has fallen and I don't have anybody to assist me. Thank you.

REVEREND TUTU: Thank you very much. We thank you very much for your presence. We really thank you once more for the part you had in the struggle and your son Big-Boy was a sacrifice. We hope that the Commission will try by all means to see if there any possible ways of helping. Thank you.

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