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Human Rights Violation Hearings


Starting Date 09 June 1997


Day 1


Case Number EC368/96 ELN

REV FINCA: Weíll now call Thembakazi Tuku to come forward.

MR THEMBAKAZI TUKU: (sworn states)

REV FINCA: June Crichton?

MS CRICHTON: Are you wanting me to speak in English to you?

MISS TUKU: Yes okay.

MS CRICHTON: Then I can take these off and that will be nice. Youíre here this afternoon to speak about your brother, Thembisile and to tell us what happened to him when he went into exile. Iím going to let you tell your story uninterrupted but before you do that just let me get it quite clear that he went into exile in Ď78 into Botswana, is that correct?

MISS TUKU: Yes thatís correct.

MS CRICHTON: Would you like to just carry on and tell us the story please.

MISS TUKU: In 1990 the ANC sent us a ticket to Botswana for my aunt and myself. When we arrived in Botswana on a Friday afternoon we were told that somebody from exile was going to meet us but we didnít see anybody there.

MS CRICHTON: Can I just interrupt you, I actually think itís going to be easier for you if you speak in Xhosa. Do you mind if you start again because I would like everybody to hear and I can perfectly all right through these, all right?

MISS TUKU: Alright. In 1990 we received tickets from the Border Council of Churches because we requested to go to my brotherís grave. We left on a Thursday evening and got to Johannesburg where we were going to take a flight on the Friday morning to Botswana. We had been promised that there would be people who would meet us at the airport however there was nobody.

We tried to phone the ANC Headquarters and told them that nobody had come to meet us at the airport and we requested help. They said that theyíd sent two people from Lusaka but these two people had been arrested by the Botswana Security Branch because they had no visas and were told to go back to Lusaka. They then said they would phone somebody from Botswana to organise accommodation for us and we went to a motel. This man said he was scared because the ANC had been banned in Botswana. This person said he would organise a lady from Botswana, a lady that my brother and his girlfriend had been staying with. It was these people who were going to take us to my brotherís grave, but nobody came the whole of Friday and on Saturday morning we phoned Lusaka again asking for help. We needed direction and we had no money. It was the ANC that promised that everything would be organised. My aunt knew somebody who lent her some money and we tried to buy some food at the motel.

Late on Saturday ANC men who were in the underground structure came to us and told us to wait for a lady that was going to come and tell us everything. I said that I didnít even want to know what happened, all I wanted was to see my brotherís grave. The report then was that if the Botswana police found out that we were ANC people, our lives would be in danger. Sunday morning I phoned Lusaka and they told us that Comrade Chowa was on his way from Lusaka. He apparently used public transport to come down. Sunday evening these people arrived, Chris was his name.

The following morning we were supposed to go with them to the grave. I begged them for information and the one tried to tell me that Comrade Thembisile died in a way that they too could not explain. They said they found him in his room and heíd already passed away. His gun was in his hand and he was under a mattress. What shocked them about the situation was that nobody was allowed to go to his funeral except for three people who were allowed to attend, the Priest, his landlady and his girlfriend. All I wanted was to go to the graveyard.

Late on Monday Chowa who was an exile phoned, he was in the Botswana Sun Hotel and he came to our motel and told us that he arrived in Botswana on the Sunday, the police arrested him and interrogated him with regard to our presence in Botswana as well as his presence. We thanked Chowa and came back to South Africa on the Tuesday not having found anything about my brother and not having seen his grave.

MS CRICHTON: Thank you, I need to ask you a few questions now. Lets go right back to the beginning, he was resident here in East London before he went to Botswana, is that right?


MS CRICHTON: You say that when he was found in his room you were told that he was already dead, he was under a mattress and he had his gun in his hand. Who was it that gave you that information?

MISS TUKU: It was one of the Comrades who were there.

MS CRICHTON: What was his name?

MISS TUKU: It was Victor?

MS CRICHTON: Somebody Victor, is that his surname or is it a first name?

MISS TUKU: First name.

MS CRICHTON: His first name?

MISS TUKU: His first name.

MS CRICHTON: Were there wounds on the body or was he just holding his gun, was he shot or was he just ...?

MISS TUKU: I really donít know.

MS CRICHTON: You donít know about that? So youíre then saying that the funeral took place and even now you have not been told where the grave is? When last did you approach the ANC for help? When you went up there it was in 1990, have you been back to the ANC since?

MISS TUKU: I didnít go back to the ANC.

MS CRICHTON: In your statement and in your requests you actually say that if the body was ever buried in Botswana, you seem uncertain as to whether body was actually buried there, is that correct? Are you uncertain about it?

MISS TUKU: Iím uncertain about it because I didnít see the grave.

MS CRICHTON: You might have heard us earlier speaking about the second submission of the ANC to the TRC in which a public commitment was made that records of circumstances like this that people are unsure about, they are prepared to assist us with information and so all we can say to you now having heard your story is that we will look at those records and see if more can be found out. Is there a particular request that you have to the Commission other than the fact that you want to know where he was buried and that you would like his body to be brought back?

MISS TUKU: Thereís nothing else.

MS CRICHTON: How old was he when he left?

MISS TUKU: He was about thirty five years.

MS CRICHTON: Did he leave dependants behind, children?

MISS TUKU: No children.

MS CRICHTON: And there were no children in Botswana that you know about?


MS CRICHTON: Thank you, Iíll hand you back to the Chairperson.

REV FINCA: Thembakazi I would just like to clarify the issue of Thembisile being shot under mysterious circumstances according to your statement in his flat in Botswana. If we are going to successfully investigate this matter please tell us what do you suspect happened to Thembisile?

MISS TUKU: We think that he was shot because it does not make sense that somebody would be found under a mattress with a gun and that person and that person committed suicide. We would like to know what happened.

REV FINCA: Are there any rumours that he perhaps was shot by people from Botswana or maybe ANC Comrades?


REV FINCA: Therefore you have no knowledge of what happened to him at all?

MISS TUKU: No, after we received a telegram from Lusaka Mr Mzamu of the Special Branch wanted to find out where the telegram was and the contents of the telegram because he said the ANC was cruel, filthy and it does not care about itís people. We only received the telegram quite a while after Thembisile had died and after he died the ANC did nothing. There was no compensation and no financial support whatsoever.

REV FINCA: I think you endeavoured to find out what happened after the ANC was banned, did you try?


REV FINCA: Any particular reasons why you didnít or didnít you think that youíll find any substantial information?

MISS TUKU: No reason.

REV FINCA: You said only the Priest, the landlady and the girlfriend were at the funeral. Did you ever talk to this lady?


REV FINCA: Do you know where they are?

MISS TUKU: No not at all.

REV FINCA: Thembakazi, I will thank you together with those that are going to give their evidence just now. Please step down.

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