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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type 1 B.SHIYANI, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 17 April 1996
Location EAST LONDON
Names BILLY SHIYANI
Case Number EC0009/96
DR BORAINE: Mr Shiyani, you have come to tell the story of what happened to you. Obviously there were other people involved, and other people who were not here to tell their story because they were killed. So you will be speaking in one way for them as well. It's not an easy story to tell, it's not pleasant, it's not funny, it's very tragic. So I want you to feel that you are amongst friends and that we want to hear you and in order to try and help you through the story, Mr Tsiki Sandi will lead the evidence.
MR SANDI: Afternoon Mr Shiyani. The story that you're going to give an account of is that on the 25th of December 1988, you were with your friends and you were enjoying yourself. At the time you were assaulted, there were bullets over and rifles all over. Let's start from the beginning, and try to talk about yourself. You as a victim would like to know who is here, who is Mr Billy Shiyani. Probably if you can start there, we'll be able to have an estimate and imagine what caused this assault. Thank you please give a brief outline.
MR SHIYANI: The Vice Chair and all who are here for the Truth Commission, I'd like to greet you. My name is Billy Shiyani and my second name is Vuyisela. I was born in East London in the location which is called Tsolo. The place was also called Duncan. When we moved from Duncan to go to Ezpumzni Location, which was a Duncan extension. I attend school at St Phillips, that was my primary education, I went on to attend school at Duncan Village Higher, like any child there in East London I went to Welsh. My mother died when I was in standard 3, and my father died when I was in standard 7 at Welsh High School. My parents were poor. When I finished studying at Welsh, I went to Pedi.
I came back to East London again, as the bread winner. Both for my family and also my nieces and nephews. We were a very religious family and in 1970 I went with my aunt Mrs Sinjlani to stay at Mtansani. I was exchanging these families, my paternal aunt which was Mrs Ncumbuti. There was a mayor at the time at Mtansani location, he was Mr Gordon Nqumsa, he's dead now. There are many units there at Mtansani, Unit 1 and 2 were macadamised and the other roads were untarred in the other units. The people started complaining about this, especially those who were in new units, from Unit 3 upwards. There was a meeting and Mr Nqumsa was taking the problems and complaints from the people. I was one of the people who went there together with my friends and we attended this meeting. We requested Mr Nqumsa and mandated him to come here in East London to the municipality to come and present our case.
meeting was in another area in an open space called Highway. When his efforts failed he resigned as mayor because, at the time, the white person didn't want to do anything to lift the standard of the blacks.
In 1973, there was a bus boycott, and this was called because of the problem of the increase in the bus fares. I was with my colleagues while travelling back to my place, we boarded a taxi, and when we were there, there was a child who was being chased. We couldn't board the taxi as we felt that we must protect this person, it may happen that she might be one of our relatives and we resolved to make an effort to assist the child. This girl ran and we followed her, but we realised that she was being chased by the vigilantes and the councillors of that time.
When we went back to our cars, we were surrounded by some men. If you cab remember well, the homeland was very suppressive and oppressive. What used to happen, they would enlist the help of the businessmen and the people who were from the rural areas, and they would have...(indistinct) and then would assault everybody who refused to board the busses. We decided that we wont run away from this and decided to walk peacefully. They started to ask us where we were going to. Without responding to them, we were assaulted, but I stood my ground and decided that I wont run and was severely beaten. I realised among the people who were assaulting us was Mr Nan. My front teeth were broken during that day.
fortunately were policemen whom I knew at the police station. They were Ndusquabawe and Mulandeliwe, and they promised to make an arrest. True to their words they arrested Mr Nan and there was a court case. There were many people who also went to report these assaults done by the business people and the vigilantes. I remember one lady who was highly expectant, and she was assaulted terribly by the vigilantes. The person who was handling the case ...(intervention)
MR SHIYANI: These people were the people who were the henchmen for Mr Zibo. The case went on, Mr Masisa was my lawyer, the prosecutor was Mr Popo. It was now clear that Mr Masisa would prosecute these people who had been assaulting people. Then after some time we were told that he's been transferred to Nunjwa. Then we heard that Mr Masisa will stop working for the government. He would not even be taking articles as an attorney. Now a white person handled my case. You know what happened in this case, I was not even informed about the dates for the court cases. Denthonga helped me a lot. He's an advocate today. Ben was doing articles at that time at Mr Makabi's and Mr Makabi represented the vigilantes who assaulted the people.
MR SANDI: Excuse us Mr Chairman, I understand that many things were happening during that time, I would like you to, can we save time, let us concentrate on the incident of the 25th of December 1988. I'm not really saying the things that EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE
you are now talking about are not important, they are. I just want us to respect time. Let's go straight to December 1988, according to your statement you said you were at home and Jeff Wabena arrived, he is the late Jeff Wabena. That was the explanation you gave. He was together with others. Can you start from that point and proceed? Thank you.
MR SHIYANI: Yes. I was at home on a Saturday. Jeff Wabena and Windsor Siwisha were heading for Transkei. Jeff told me beforehand that they were going to Transkei. They were very active in politics. Jeff was the chairperson of COSATU in East London. They came back. If I'm not mistaken, it was round about nine. While we were thinking that they are now back, we thought of going to greet them. I said, well I'll go and see them after a while because I'm busy selling at home.
MR SHIYANI: Yes I knew exactly, but it was difficult during those times here in Transkei. We were using terms, we were not even calling each other by name, we had terms, secret names so as to hide any trace.
MR SHIYANI: Well after leaving they came back. I said to them, well you can leave and come back because I am busy. Well they went off, they came back. On their return they said to me they want to get a case of cool drinks because I was selling cool drinks. Now Jeff went into the kitchen ...(intervention).
MR SHIYANI: The three arrived first at about nine and I said, go and come back. Now they came back late, I think at about eleven. I didn't realise who was in the car because there were only four people coming into the house. Well
they went through the kitchen door which is opposite a room, my girlfriend Nori, wanted to go and went on to say that she was also going because she understood very well that it was the 24th, Christmas Eve. So she thought we were really going for entertainment, and my sister said, "No don't let her go", because I had told my sister that I was going somewhere else. She actually doubted that such a place had nothing to do with entertainment.
Nori said, "I am going". Well I didn't have any problem because I knew that I can misbehave. Well all of us went out to get into the car. I said to Joe Jongolo, "Can you please wait for us at Jeff's place?" Now he was already gone 30 minutes before time to wait for us there together with Virginia. Just about 100 metres from Jeff's place, there's a shop and a bottle store, which still operates today. The time was now 12 o'clock. Langamandhla asked, "Why is this bottle store open at this time?" And I replied that being Christmas they may be still selling. There was a big light and you could even see in the car. Jeff was called by people from the bottle store. He went out of the car to meet them.
We said, "Jeff, we'll proceed to your house, you'll find us there". Well Jeff went to those people and he came back while we were still waiting in the car, myself, Hinsa, Simi and the late Nori. He showed us a Christmas present he received. Now were going to put on the lights in his house because it was still in darkness. Because it was the 24th and children are silly during that time, they were so used to burning houses, and we wanted also to get some material to use in this mission. Hinza went out and I was about when I said, "Oh I am not getting our of this car because I am
MR SHIYANI: Well, they came back, they opened the boot, and they put the materials into the boot. He and Jeff climbed into the car. I remember Jeff had his hand outside, trying to close the door. Well we heard a shot. These shots went on quite a long time, and I thought it was a machine gun. I thought, oh well, it was in the next street, I was mistaken, it was directed to us.
MR SHIYANI: Well Jeff stepped into the car, while trying to close the door, shots went off. Well they went on and stopped. A second volley of shots came and he just said, "This is an ambush!". You know, when it's an ambush, you all die. Well when I looked thoroughly into the car the right hand side of Nori's head was badly shot up, I was hopeless. I woke up, I tried to get out of the car, my leg was left behind in the car, it had been severed. I went to the opposite house and knocked at the front door. It was difficult to open the door. People were really scared, I fell and that was the end.
I only woke up at the hospital. That was the following day on the 26th. I had come directly from the theatre. Opening my eyes I realised Jeff was close to me, but the Ciskeian police were there waking us up. Among them, Bopundevu was there. He explained that my case is now in the hands of the police.
MR SHIYANI: I tried to trace him, I went to him to ask him whether there is any information which he can give with regard to this, and he just said the information which he has is so little. I was thinking, because he's a lawyer, he didn't want to expose information and he said, there is too little information available.
MR SHIYANI: I don't know what happened to the case events of the police, because at the time while I was at the hospital, the statement was taken. If Jeff was here today, he would give evidence that the statement was taken with regard to this whole incident. Hinsa was not available, he was at Frere.
I tried to publish an article in connection with this in the Daily Dispatch last year, because there is nothing tangible that is known about this. The spokesman of police, Mr Njoko, said to me, a commission of enquiry was held, but there was no information about who shot at us. I was surprised about this information.
MR SHIYANI: This question is very difficult for me to answer, because the only thing that I know at present is that in the East London community, I don't have any enemy. The only thing that I can think of is that the people who used to shoot us are those people who used to think that we were their enemies.
MR SHIYANI: Yes I would like this to be investigated. Because we are activists we know very well that we were in the struggle. We didn't care about the shots that were directed at us, but I believe that I have a moral obligation, because of the many children who died at the time and they were not involved in the political activities.