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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type 1 R N STANFORD, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 18 April 1996
Location EAST LONDON
Names ROBERT NORMAN STANFORD
Case Number EC0078/96
MR STANFORD: Before I start I start I would just like to thank the members of the local committees who interviewed me and who spent endless time with me in helping me, taking my statement and so on, who showed undue patience and I'm deeply grateful to them, as I'm sure everybody else is as well.
MS CRICHTON: Good morning Mr Stanford, thank you, my thanks as well to you for coming again today, to relate to us a little of, or as much as you can remember of the attack on the Kingwilliamstown Golf Club on the 28th of November 1992....(intervention)
MR STANFORD: To save the Commissioners time I have made notes here yesterday to try and cut down on what I would have to say to try to save you time. I know how much you have to try and ge through in your limited period of time.
I was born in the Transkei in 1922, in the village of Lusikisiki, my father was an attorney there, he was also born in the Transkei and basically we have Transkeian and a fairly much African background, if I can use that word.
The educational facilities there were very limited and I was sent to boarding school when I was quite a young age at Hilton College in Natal and my mother was a Canadian from overseas, and together we as a family had a very happy time growing up in the Transkei. In fact I could speak Xhosa before I could speak English because most of my playmates when I was young were African's, not whites.
When I left school in 1940, my father who was an attorney in the beginning of the Second World War, and everybody at the time that I knew wanted to become part of the armed forces if they possibly could, but he insisted very wisely that I start a career before I do anything. I was only 17 at the time, and so I did start a legal career in Cape town and in 1941 I joined the air force. After a year and a half of training I qualified as a pilot and was sent up to the Middle East where I spent a few months and then I was recruited to go to the Far East where I spent about three years before returning home.
My experiences there taught me a lot about human suffering, human nature, man's inhumanity to man, I was present for example in Singapore, we were one of the first batch of Allied troops to get to Singapore when the war ended to see the release of the prisoners from that notorious Changi Jail, about which a book called The Rat was written, and I saw their physical and mental conditions, and very disturbingly, also the results of the Japanese torture of other people, the way they were treated and the way that came about and you learned a lot from that and, you carried forward in your mind and you do forget it.
came to Kingwilliamstown where I practised law for many years and married my wife at the end of 1948. She happened to be a missionary's daughter from a mission station called Fairly Cross which perhaps is known to some of you in Pondoland, and we had a close and happy life.
I built up a very big and a very thriving legal practice, I think I was a good lawyer, I gave good service and I worked long hours, 12 to 16 hours a day to keep up with my work and I had a successful practice, and a very happy one. After the death of my wife in September 1991, then I seemed to gradually deteriorate mentally. That only occurred in retrospect, not at the time, I didn't realise really what was gradually happening to me mentally, but I gradually lost a lot of the accu...(indistinct)I had had, although a lot of my work was, I still think of a very high standard at the time and I think I can say I was quite a good lawyer.
Unfortunately, I didn't pick up what was going wrong mentally with me quicker and so in a way this attack which Beth described in detail yesterday, was rather a blessing in disguise as it certainly forced me to take some dramatic steps. After it I spent a long time in hospital, I think about six weeks first in Frere Hospital and then when I was moved to Kingwilliamstown where we have a very nice clinic I spent about a month there.
When I was in hospital I was surprised at the number of ANC visitors who came to me and said emphatically that the ANC would never have been involved in the kind of that sort. It must have been orchestrated by outside, it must have been part of a campaign by extreme other organisations and the PAC and APLA did claim responsibility for the attack,
but the mental effect on one is not known to you until other people tell you exactly how bad it is. And when I did go back after my discharge from hospital, I was on crutches and my staff immediately noticed a change in me and they reported it to my doctor who sent me straight away to a psychologist in East London, to Dr Woods where I spent some time in his clinic with him and he reported on me in detail. I have his report here, I've got all the psychiatric reports here which I am free to hand in because, although they're part of a court action, they were used primarily in support of an application brought by my family to have me placed under curatorship, and that case has been disposed of. So while I am under a subjudicative obligation at the moment, I discussed
They do show the pattern of my mental disability from the attack and from previous to the attack onwards, and the advice that I was given by Dr Woods, not to practise law, not to drive cars, I wasn't in a mental condition to do so.
As you know, no one is prepared to accept that you're not quite normal, and you tend to fight against it and you tend to try and uplift yourself, you tend to try and show that you've returned to a state of normality whereas in fact, you haven't done so. After some time in the clinic here, I then started a series of medical operations I had to undergo and they were very expensive because I had very bad wounds to my legs, to my ankles, to my back, to my buttocks, my hands which I can hardly use and for about a year, or year and a half I went through the operations from time to
time. I think that altogether I had eight operations, two in Frere Hospital in East London, sorry it's St Dominics in East London, where the specialists who operated on me told me that unfortunately they didn't have the facilities here to detect and extract the shrapnel from my ankles and from my legs to get me on a better footing, so I was sent to Johannesburg to specialists there and one specialist to whom I went to three times. The first time I went he couldn't do any operations because the doctors here hadn't diagnosed that I had a broken fibula in my left leg and it was the first thing he had to cure, when that came right he operated first on my right ankle. I went back again and he operated on my left ankle, but a lot of the stuff he was unable to take out because it wedged between the bones and that is still what I have now, and I'm still having medical treatment for it.
My right hand was very badly damaged indeed and I couldn't write for a long time. I still have difficulty writing and the ordinary and the ordinary (...indistinct) medical circles where you have a couple of people in the country who specialise only in hands and I got a friend of mine who is a specialist in Johannesburg to trace one of these. I went to him and he did a long operation on my right hand, a very painful one, at least I am able to move it now and I am able to write but these two fingers are still extremely sore, and the build up psychologically and mentally of pain, continued pain. I was on pain killers for an extensive period, I still am, I take sleeping pills so I can sleep at night, and the stress of it all, built up eventually to such a condition that I was unable to completely control my legal practice.
I did silly things, I made bad decisions, the Law Society took action against me, which I couldn't oppose because I wasn't in a mental condition to do so. They moved top stop me practising and started an application to remove my name from the role of attorneys some two years ago. I'm opposing it but I'm applying for my earned name removed at my own request because of my mental condition. I believe that what I did wrong was not caused by me but by factors beyond my control and that case is pending, I don't know why, for over a year now. The stress build-up has now resulted in me having a heart problem and I have to go to Cape Town on Monday to see the heart specialist....(end of side A of tape 17)
MS CRICHTON: Now my first question to you, you were seated at a table as Beth told us yesterday, a long table. Were you able to actually see the people who threw the grenade as they came through the door?
MR STANFORD: Well I can remember gun firing starting, and I looked up and I saw the person that Beth described standing in the door holding a rifle, and you could see against the skyline, when a bullet is fired it makes a light, and he was firing shots, and I remember thinking at the time of my experience during the war, he must be a very
bad shot because all the bullets seemed to go over the heads of the people he was aiming at. He was using an AK 47 and any automatic rifle kicks up when you shoot them. He was obviously aiming at the peoples' heads and the bullets were going over their heads. I can remember that, except for the person next door to me, Mrs Macdonald whom he killed. I remember that, slumping forward and blood pouring out.
MR STANFORD: I think a shot killed her, I'm not sure, but that's my impression, because as far as I recollect, the grenade exploded right behind me, I was the closest to it, behind Beth and myself and Beth, you know what happened to her, well I was like...(indistinct)I was told by the specialist afterwards, because we were sitting in loose chairs, it was a hot evening and I had my blazer hanging over a loose chair at the back, and I was told that if you fired a bullet or anything of force into something that's hanging or flapping, it either won't go through or it loses about two thirds of its impact.
MR STANFORD: I only saw one person, then I heard this explosion and then I saw an extraordinary thing, a ball of light suddenly appeared in front of me, like a flash of flame, and that was the last thing that I remembered there.
MR STANFORD: No I saw nobody else, then I flaked out. Apparently, I was told that I was pulled out with those that were dead, there was fortunately a trained nursing sister there and she was able to organise drips and things for Beth and myself and she actually saved our lives I think by putting these drips into us. The next thing I woke up was in the ambulance, we went to East London and my own personal physician from Kingwilliamstown was with me. I remember him saying to me, "Yawn, yawn", I didn't know why but I kept on yawning and then I got to East London. The next thing I remember was them cutting the clothes off me, the next thing was the sister on one side and me and the doctor on the other side of me, and I remember the sun was up, I can remember that, and I had stitches and bandages all over me. They said, "You're going to sleep for 24 hours, pass water!", and I said I can't and with that I became violently sick and I think I brought up all the food I had eaten for the last two weeks.
MS CRICHTON: From what you've explained to me, it sounds that you had consequences from that ever since. Your medical health has been very poor as a result of that together with your mental performance.
MR STANFORD : It struck me as being quite extraordinary that after I had been in hospital for two days, the minister of police and another minister, I remember he was a very big man, I can't remember his name but it began with a B and two other very senior officers came in to see me. And the TV
crew was with them and I remember I tried to hide under the seat so they couldn't recognise me when they started taking TV photographs of me, but apparently some people did recognise me when they saw the TV replay, and they asked me at the time what I remember and I said, nothing.
MR STANFORD : It's very difficult to do so. You know when people claim responsibility, they either do so out of bravado, or for factual reasons. I don't have the faintest idea whether in fact APLA did do the attack or somebody else did.
MS CRICHTON: Now let's just look at your feelings as a result of all of this if I might. If you feel you can answer these questions. What are your feelings towards the perpetrators now, you've explained how you feel about the war and the way this brought it all back. What do you feel about the perpetrators now?
MR STANFORD : Well, i believe one must be very objective in this regard. There were so many wrongs committed that I can understand that perhaps untrained, overzealous persons, seeking revenge might try and do something of that kind. And it is very difficult to bear, well at the time and
afterwards when I had trouble with my legal practice, in my mental condition I was very resentful, but after giving the matter a lot of thought, one comes to the conclusion which I think is the right conclusion, that maybe the people who did it were misguided, maybe they did it for reasons which they thought were justifiable at the time, maybe they didn't realise the harm that they could cause. I'm quite sure they were young people, I'm quite sure also that they had no concept of the results that could occur and did occur, and obviously at the time there must have been malice on their part. Maybe they regret it now and as I sincerely regret what happened from the other side, I have always been a liberalised figure all my life.
MR STANFORD : Well I think it must be uniform. I think that any amnesty applications have got to be dealt with on their merits obviously, I mean not a person to really voice an opinion in this regard, but I wouldn't object to them seeking amnesty in the same way as I wouldn't object to people like Malan seeking amnesty now. If they more or less on both sides were on boiling point, it boiled over and now, thank goodness, it's back to normal.
MR STANFORD: Well I obviously followed closely the reports in the newspaper about the unfortunate victims, far more unfortunate than me, who lost people close to them, dear to them through terrifying circumstances. I feel that where there has been some substantial suffering and financial loss, if possible, that should be compensated for in some
way. I'm not in a position to say how, why and where, but I'll give you and example. I phoned up my medical aid yesterday to get some details because I thought you might ask me this question, and they told me that they had paid out between 90 and 95 percent of the medical costs incurred, my share of it according to them is R 7 690, which means that they paid out close to R100 000 in medical expenses alone, and I of course had enormous losses in my legal practice, terrible expenses flying everywhere, I could not recover my psychologist's costs because medical aid don't cover that. I was sent to a medical institution in Grahamstown, luckily for only one day because when my son arrived the next day he said, "You might be mad but not as mad as some of the people here, I'm taking you out", and luckily being a voluntary patient, he was able to take me out and I was then taken to a psychiatric clinic in Port Elizabeth where I spent a good deal of time, and went back a second time, and that did me a certain amount of good.
But all in all this was at the time when I was supposed to be running a legal practice, and you can't cut yourself in three pieces and be in three places at the same time. Luckily I had a competent secretary who managed to keep me going, but from that side my losses were very substantial indeed. But maybe that's a fact of life, I don't know. It's up to the people who are going to decide whether or not what will be, and I will accept whatever they say, but I do think that where there has been a substantial loss to all the victims, no please, I don't doubt that myself in any way, and I think that if it's possible they should be financially assisted in some way by somebody.
MR STANFORD: Yes certainly, I must mention that I was warned by my advocate yesterday to be careful in what I say, and what I answer. May I hand in these reports please which we think are very relevant and they will help.
MR STANFORD: Well there is already a memorial erected to them on the golf course in Kingwilliamstown. It is impossible I think for me to make a suggestion in that regard, I don't know, I'd be lying if I tried to make a suggestion. I haven't thought about it at all.
MR SANDI: Mr Stanford, I don't like to ask people to give me their personal opinions on issues but it does happen sometimes that you have to ask people what do they think about this and that. As you are aware that this is a truth
MR STANFORD: Well I think reconciliation is taking place right now. It seems to me in the broader sense, in the narrow sense there are prosecutions pending and taking place I understand, for both sides. That is a matter of law, isn't it, it's not for us to interfere with that, but I think that reconciliation is essential if the country is to succeed at all and I think it's vital that it becomes part and parcel of everyone's life. Does that answer your question?
CHAIRPERSON: Just before I say thank you and ask you to stand down, I just want to let you know that we keep being struck by the extraordinary quality of people who have come before us, and I think it is unusual for someone to be able to speak as openly as you have done about your medical condition, and that you should be speaking with such remarkable lack of bitterness, and we just want you to know that on behalf of ourselves, and I think on behalf of many in our country, that we are enormously grateful and thank God for you.