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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 17 April 1996
Location EAST LONDON
Names BETH SAVAGE
Case Number EC0051/96
Mathew Goniwe, Bully Aliston Kohl, Sithembile Zokwe, Gcinisizwe Kondile, Lungile Tabalaza. We pray for these, we present their souls in Your hands. We request Your reassurance and also that their friends should be comforted.
MR BONGANI FINCA: I'm going to report on those who have made application to appear before the Commission today and would like to testify on the violation of their human rights. I read them in the order in which they will appear, which is slightly from the order in which they are written down in the order of proceedings for today.
Mrs Beth Savage who appears as number 5 in our list will come up as number 1 because of work commitment, she appears on a matter relating to herself and the nature of violation is serious bodily injuries.
ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Thank you very much, I want again on behalf of the Commission and in a way on behalf of the Nation, to express our appreciation to all of those who have so courageously and generously agreed to appear before the Commission. It is not an easy thing to, as it were, open your heart and your soul to all of these people and to the world. And we thank you for your courage and for your generosity, and we do believe that you are assisting this Nation in the process of its healing. Thank you.
relaxed. We know that you have a terrible story to tell which affected you personally and many people around you. We know that you were very seriously injured, and we want you to take your time and just tell the story, and to assist you, Mrs June Crichton, will start the questions, thank you.
MRS CHRICHTON: Good morning Beth, if I may call you Beth, and I would like to welcome as well, your son Donovan with you and Mr Bob Stanford, a friend. Beth it was a life-changing experience for you, on that day, the 28th of November 1992, and before we start it would be helpful to us, I think, to get to know you a little bit better, would you tell us a little bit about yourself before the event, where you were born, brought up and went to school, just a little bit about yourself so that we can get to know you a bit better.
MRS SAVAGE: I was born in Nigel in the Transvaal. My dad was the city treasurer there and my mum was a teacher. When I was 10 years old we moved to Grahamstown where my dad took up the post of assistant registrar at Rhodes university, so obviously I did all my schooling at Grahamstown and University education in Grahamstown as well. Rhodes being the usual marriage bureau, I met up with my husband there, married there, worked there on and off and two of my children were born in Grahamstown.
I qualified as a librarian and the last eight years have been employed in Kingwilliamstown a the Kingwilliamstown Public Library, I'm the senior librarian there, I have quite a large staff and I find it a very happy, stimulating job. I enjoy the environment and the stimulation that comes from it.
MRS SAVAGE: Okay, June I think I'm going to need my statement. I'll just basically go from here. On the 28th of November 1992, I attended our annual Christmas Party, it was our wine tasting club. Just to give you a bit of background, it was a very intimate club. We were like one big happy family, it wasn't a sort of a public get together. I was accompanied by my friend Bob Stanford and there were about eighty people present. Jill and David Davis, the club leaders made a wonderful job of the golf club hall, in fact it was the first time I had been to the golf club, I'm not a great pub fly or anything like that, and you know, it was actually absolutely magnificent.
We were seated at one long table, as I'm sitting here, I had Bob on this side, and then next Bob were the Macdonalds. David did his usual thing by coming around and greeting us all and he was squatting, chatting to Bob and I when I suddenly became aware of something that sounded like fire crackers. I saw Rhoda Macdonald throw back her arms and die and Ian did exactly the same thing. I swung around to look at the door to see what was happening and I saw a man there with a balaclava on his head but not over his head, with an A K 47 and my immediate reaction was, "Oh my goodness, this is a terrorist attack!" After that I blacked out and I don't remember anything else until I was on the helicopter being flown to Bloemfontein, when I was aware of
MRS CHRICHTON: May I interrupt here at this point? Just so that we keep the scene set at the actual dinner that you were at. When you were seated at that table, you said it was a happy event, were you seated with place cards?
MRS CHRICHTON: And as the attack happened and you swung around and saw where it was coming from, was the person already in the room, had they stepped in the room, were they aiming at a specific area, do you think?
MRS SAVAGE: No I don't think they were aiming at anyone in particular, you know the gentleman was just in the room and it was I should imagine, completely random, I don't think anyone particular was targeted.
MRS SAVAGE: The next moment I became conscious was actually in ICU, I was aware of my family and friends around me, and the most terrific experience to me in the intensive unit, was the fact that every evening as dusk fell, this man would appear at the window. I initially thought it was a security guard and I couldn't communicate with my family, except through writing because obviously I had tubes everywhere, and I just used to write to them to please tell them to take the man away from the window.
(side B) ....this face at the window, and this was the gentleman at the door with the AK 47, so that actually was a tremendous healing thing for me, because suddenly I'd found him and I knew who that hallucination was at ICU.
I spent a month in ICU, it was quite traumatic, I had to learn to walk again, I came home, my children were unbelievable, they used to fight over who is to bath me, who was to dress me, who was to feed me. I don't know whether I could ever have made it without them.
MRS SAVAGE: Yes, had open heart surgery, I had a hole in the aorta and I actually stopped breathing, but through the work of Dr John Pennel, they managed to get me to live. And I also had half my large intestine removed. I've got really very ugly scarring up the middle and I have a damaged thumb from the shrapnel. I've still got shrapnel in my body, but all that means is that all the bells ring when I go through the airport, that makes life exciting. And I have an injury on the knee, but all in all, what I must say, is through the trauma of it all, I honestly feel richer. I think it's been a really enriching experience for me and a growing curve, and I think it's given me the ability to relate to other people who may be go through trauma.
MRS CHRICHTON: Can I interrupt you there beth and just take you back to the hospital situation? You must have been visited by police at that time, and perhaps other organisations. Could you tell us a little bit about who came to see you and what statements were taken?
me because, you know, I wasn't capable, but while I was in hospital I was really quite touched that members of the ANC did come to visit me, just popped in to see how I was doing. I thought that was very touching, and of course, Bloemfontein and really the whole world, sent out messages and in fact, I was quite spoiled.
MRS SAVAGE: Yes, I did go to Cape Town, I was flown up to Cape Town over a weekend, to an identity parade together with other victims from the St James Church massacre, and I really in the line-up wasn't able to identify anybody.
MRS CHRICHTON: And if they were to seek amnesty, because I believe there are those who are allegedly now in custody, because of this particular act, if they were to apply for amnesty, how would you feel about that?
MRS SAVAGE: Really there's nothing in particular that I would like the Commission to do for me, I think it's fantastic that we're having the Commission, I think the idea of that speaking out causes healing, I think that really a wonderful idea. The only major problem that I've actually had with my injuries is that I'm just unable to take out any insurance, it's less premiums that four times anybody else's. You know that's the only hassle I've had, so then really, but I think it's been a wonderful idea and I really hope that healing comes to everybody. You know there are people here who have had far worse problems that I could ever have.
MRS SAVAGE: It's not important to me, but, and I've said this to many people, what I would really, really like is, I would like to meet that man that threw that grenade in a attitude of forgiveness and hope that he could forgive me too for whatever reason. But I would very much like to meet them.
DR BORAINE: Beth you've mentioned something about your life before, and your life after, and they're very different, but the spirit seems to be the same. Just tell us a little bit more about your immediate family, I mean what's your daughter doing, your son is with you now. And also the impact on your own life in terms of your father, who seems to have influenced you enormously.
MRS SAVAGE: Look I suppose that is something that I did omit. The bomb blast took its toll on my family. I believe I'm a very strong person, I did have a complete breakdown after six months. My daughter also had a breakdown, she was, well all the children tried to be mother, father, sister, brother, husband, everything to me, they really carried me, they picked me up and carried me.
psychologically, it affected my family in terms of them just being able to believe that it could actually happen to me. My father was a great, I grew up initially, when I was a little girl, we used to spend a lot of time in Zululand and I actually grew up in the kraals. I had really a wonderful childhood, and my parents actually put a lot of young African people that worked for them, four that I can remember that they actually educated, and my father was a person that was really ante-apartheid. I think of all the people affected by the bomb blast, it affected my dad the worst. He just went into a very deep depression and he died about six months ago. When I was ill he just used to sit next my bed and cry and say, "You know, I can't believe this".
I feel bad because you know I'm not the only victim, but that is how it affected us, and then my mum, she couldn't carry on without him and she died two months later. Basically it just broke his heart.
ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Thank you, I just want to say, we are, I think a fantastic country. We have some quite extraordinary people, yesterday, I had spoken about how proud I was to be black in seeing the kind of spirit that people showed in adversity, and now we're seeing another example, and I think it just augers so wonderfully well for our country. We thank you for the
spirit that you are showing and pray that those who hear you, who see you will say, "Hey, we do have an incredible country with quite extraordinary people of all races". And it is important for us to know that in the struggle, awful