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Human Rights Violation Hearings


Starting Date 15 April 1996


Day 1


Case Number EC0035/96

CHAIRPERSON: We invite Mr Karl Webber to take the stand please. Please do be seated. We would like to welcome you very warmly to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Do you wish to take the oath or to make affirmation?

KARL WEBBER: (sworn states).

CHAIRPERSON: Mr Webber, five years ago will stand for ever in your memory, not only in your mind and in your spirit, but also on your body. It was a very tough and difficult time for you and many others. We are grateful that you have come to us because we still don't know who did this to you and why, and we're hoping that your presence here and the evidence that you lead will be of some assistance to you. Mr Ntsiki Sandi will lead the evidence and I'll ask him now to take over, thank you.

MR SANDI: Hello Mr Webber.


MR SANDI: How are you today?

MR WEBBER: Fine thanks.

MR SANDI: Mr Webber, you have made a statement to the Commission in which you set out what happened on the First of May 1991 when you were on your way home and you visited High Gate Hotel.

MR WEBBER: That's correct.

MR SANDI: I will ask you to tell us briefly about yourself. What your life entailed, where did you work



before, what sort of work you were doing, then I'll go on to ask you about the actual events, as you have related them pertaining to the First of May 1991. Now I start off asking you about your personal life. What were you doing before this thing happened to you.

MR WEBBER: I was employed at the Animal Health Organisation in East London for nine years, where I worked as a senior inspector to the cruelty of animals. At the time of the accident I was employed up until May 1993. Then on the first of May 1993, I went to the East London Airport to pick up a friend of mine that had arrived from Cape Town to spend a weekend in East London on business. I arrived at the airport at approximately 08H30 that evening where picked him up and took him down to the Dolphin Hotel in East London where he was going to stay during the course of his business that he had to do during his stay in East London.

At approximately a half an hour to an hour after that, we decided that it was time for me to go home where my residence was in a suburb on the northern side, Summer Bride, East London. On the way home we, myself, him and two other friends, stopped at the Highgate Hotel to have a refreshment. We were sitting there, ordered our first drink and we heard what sounded like automatic firearms which was in the bar next to us which was the mens' bar, and long after that we heard a bang as if a hand grenade or something had gone off. At that time someone shouted that we were under attack. We then realised that we were under attack but before any of us could fall sown or take cover, this guy was standing by the entrance door , he had an AK 47 on his hip and he was swinging the firearm around and sprayed bullets throughout the bar.



At that time we had both fallen down, not realising who had, what the injuries were, and I had fallen down next to the friends of mine and I fell down with my head facing the door where I was watching this guy all the time. After this he stopped for a moment, I don't know if he was going to reload or what but as I turned around I could see he was busy with a magazine. He then took another magazine, reloaded the AK 47 and started shooting again. It carried on for some time, a couple of seconds or a minute, whatever it was, and at this time, I was still looking at this guy, I could see that now he had now done what he wanted to do. I couldn't identify the guy as he had a sort of a bluish overall on with balaclava, with doves on his hand. After he'd finished shooting he took this AK 47, he slung it over his shoulders and he folded the but up and he threw a canister of tear gas into the bar.

After that time I he'd realised that there people were seriously injured and wounded in this. I was lying there realising that I couldn't move but with the tear gas I couldn't breathe, so I asked them to cut my clothes off me. After they had taken the clothes off me and I was just lying in underwear, everybody, the police and ambulance people had already arrived at the scene and they had started to give treatment to the injured people, and then after that I woke up in ICU in Frere Hospital East London.

MR SANDI: It was yourself and your friend. Were there any other people around?

MR WEBBER: Were there any, I'm sorry.

MR SANDI: Were there any other people around at the table where you were sitting?

MR WEBBER: Yes there were, he was killed with five other



people who were sitting in the ladies' bar with us.

MR SANDI: Is there any one of those people here today?

MR WEBBER: There are two people that have come to the secondary hearing.

MR SANDI: Did the police do anything about it. I suppose the police took a statement from you, what happened, were there any investigations?

MR WEBBER: Well as a result I lost my left arm, it was amputated from the elbow, below the elbow, I've got 60% use of my right arm plus three fingers are not in operation and there were statements taken from us by the Murder and Robbery Unit in East London at the time while I was in hospital. Still up to this day we've had no contact where no one has come forward to say that a guilty party had been arrested or been found.

MR SANDI: Do you think you would be able to recognise the people who did this thing to you if you were to see them?

MR WEBBER: No, as I say the gentleman had a balaclava over his head. It was as if this attack was planned and they were well prepared and dressed so as not to identify the guys, the one guy.

MR SANDI: Mr Webber, you were working, you were a man who was leading an ordinary life and all of a sudden you find yourself in this sympathetic situation. How do you feel about this, if I can ask you an awkward question. How do you feel about this?

MR WEBBER: Well my life was changed overnight, being a disabled person and it's taken some time. One has to sort of, accept, I've accepted it and I have to carry on with the daily routine of my life. It's not something that will be forgotten about and it's something that I think justice



should be done about. I'm not speaking on behalf of myself,

I'm speaking on behalf of the other victims that were there, and living, financially with a disability grant of R410, I don't think anybody can see or live on that amount. Where I was an employed person, had my own privacy, now I have to rely on charity and friends to look after and help me. So it's a change overnight and it's...

MR SANDI: Are there any people who are dependant on you and what has happened to those people now?

MR WEBBER: I have got a daughter, I'm not married, that is at school. Financial wise, I've asked for assistance from the State and have had no correspondence from anybody to try and sort a way out financially wise.

MR SANDI: If you had to meet the people who did this to you, what would you tell them? Do you have any lesson or moral lecture that you would give them?

MR WEBBER: You know, there's law and order in this country, it's not for me to decide to take the law in my own hands. This is why I approached the Truth Commission, hopefully it will be investigated further, and from there it's the justice that will have to be done and to see it. It's not for me to decide what I would like to do to the perpetrators or the people that did this to me.

MR SANDI: Can you tell the Commission more about the medical operation you've had to go through and the financial implications of that?

MR WEBBER: I was in hospital for plus-minus two weeks, I had no use of my right arm. It was a lot of work up and down to Cape Town to a specialist that could do operations on fingers. I've been back and forth three times on my own expense, all expenses paid for on my behalf. I've had eight EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE


pins and plates put in my elbow which was, the bone graft

was taken out to put in there to restore the use of the arm which was just about off as well, it was shattered completely. I still have further operations to go through, removing the fixtures in my elbow and straightening my right fingers.

MR SANDI: Can you please tell the Commission more about the physical limitations, specifically the kind of things you can't do now.

MR WEBBER: I can't do on my own?

MR SANDI: Yes things that you can't do on your own.

MR WEBBER: Ja it took me plus-minus a year to teach myself how to get dressed, to feed myself. There are things I can't do. I can't get to the right hand side of my face because of the fixtures in my elbow. I need assistance when I need to be shaved, I need assistance when I need to be bathed and there are many other things that I need to be helped with which I can't do, I've tried to sort of cope on my own but it's a bit difficult. So there is someone that assists me, helping me with things and...(intervention)

MR SANDI: Is there anything else that you would like the Commission to know about you and the state you are in as of today?

MR WEBBER: Well as I said, it's, I've accepted the condition, I mean, it's changed my life overnight but I've learned to do things, I've learned to accept a few things and there are still other things that have to be done to improve the conditions of myself on doing certain things, yes.

MR SANDI: I may be asking you the same question as I've asked you before, but maybe in a different way. What do you



expect the Commission to do? What would you like the

Commission to do.

MR WEBBER: Well I've come to through up until now with aid from friends, family, unemployed and financially wise it is a strain, as I say I'm living on R410 a month, whereas I've got to put a bit of support in towards the people that are looking after me. As I say, I can't accept charity for the rest of my life, I can't accept to be looked after for the rest of my life. I want to be independent and I want to lead a normal life again.

MR SANDI: Thank you Mr Webber that is all I've got to ask you. I don't know, the members of the panel will have one or two questions maybe to clarify something.

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. Questions?

MEMBER OF PANEL: Mr Webber thank you very much indeed. You say that you would not be able to identify the person or persons who did this to you. In the course of the investigation, did the police at any time show you photographs or ask you to attend an identity parade or anything of that kind at all?

MR WEBBER: I was shown several photographs of guys that were responsible for a few attacks in Eastern Cape which could have been linked to the Highgate Hotel. I was in a state of shock in hospital where I was brought the photos to identify. As I say if I had seen or identified the guys, it would have been a problem with the guy wearing a balaclava, having all the necessary equipment to do such a thing, so at this time I could say I can't identify them.

MEMBER OF PANEL: Just one other question, you mentioned some of the responses which you would welcome from the Commission and you've talked very bravely about your own



determination to try to lead a normal life, would you want the Commission to investigate further, to find out who did this to you?

MR WEBBER: Ja, I would like to, you know, I would like justice should be done. I don't feel someone can do this and just walk away a free person, and it should be fully investigated as to what political organisation, who was behind this? What the reason was, who gave the orders to do such a thing? And I feel that, as I say again, justice should be done.

MEMBER OF PANEL: So you would not object us, the Commission taking this matter further.

MR WEBBER: Not at all.

MEMBER OF PANEL: I'm sorry I have one other question, it's not an easy thing to do what you've done, there are other people that you know who were hurt, injured, in that or perhaps similar operations in this time of conflict. Would you encourage them to come to the Commission if they ask you to, how do you feel about that?

MR WEBBER: Yes I would. You know it's hopefully something to start a new beginning. Hopefully things will become of what everyone who's sitting here, telling the Commission of what has happened in the past to them, to myself and to other victims, and I would advise or suggest people to come forward, if they can't testify, to give statements.

MEMBER OF PANEL: Thank you very much Mr Webber, that's all I have.

MR WEBBER: Thank you.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Can I just ask one question please, what would be your attitude to perpetrators of this sort with regard to the whole hope for unity and reconciliation in



the country?

MR WEBBER: What my attitude would be?


MR WEBBER: As I say it's not for me to decide, there are laws in courts for this. I've got a normal life to lead, I've got to think about myself. What happens to the guys that did this to me is for the courts to decide, not for me.


MEMBER OF PANEL: If in the course of the Commission's investigative process, the perpetrators were to become known, and they applied for amnesty in terms of the law,and the Commission, which has a committee to look at that, were to be satisfied that they've made a full disclosure and that

in terms of the tests for the granting of amnesty, they are entitled to amnesty, what would your attitude be? If they were granted amnesty in terms of the law?

MR WEBBER: This has happened to me, it's not forgotten about, it never will be forgotten about. It would be deep down inside, hurt to know that the guy would be a free man on the street if he applied for amnesty. To walk away a free person where he has killed innocent people, disabled innocent people and one just has to, if it is granted, to accept it. I'm not a magistrate or someone to stand up and give my say, what should happen to the guys but I think they should be tried and hear what their side of the story is before amnesty is granted to the perpetrators or to find out from them what their purpose of it was for doing innocent people with friends.


CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: I had suggested that we might go on till EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE


five, but it probably is right to accept the suggestion of the Regional Commissioner, no the National Commissioner. The proposal had been originally that we end this session for today at four o'clock. The two witnesses have very graciously agreed that they would be willing to stand over until tomorrow and they would be the first two witnesses to be taken tomorrow. We would not normally want to do this but I think that we, as the first day and the pressure of hearing the stories, order please, will you please sit down until we've finished, nobody should leave. Can you just stop the people going out whilst I address the Commission. We will be breaking to resume at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning. Thank you very much.


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