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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 30 April 1996
Location METHODIST CHURCH, JOHANNESBURG
Names SYLVIA DLOMO JELE
Case Number GO/O183 JOHANNESBURG
DR BORAINE: Mr Chairperson the following witness is Mrs Sylvia Dlomo-Jele and I would ask her to please come forward. My first words to you are a very warm word of welcome to you this morning on behalf of the Commission. We are very pleased that you are here and we are looking forward to hearing your story even though yet again it's a very tragic one involving the death of your son. Before I begin to ask you about that though I have to ask you to take the oath so I would be grateful if you would stand please.
In 1986 a state of emergency was declared in South Africa, not for the first time, this was in June, this resulted in many, many people being detained. In fact in 1986 26,000 people were detained and the main targets of this action by the State were students and youth activists. In 1986 children aged 18 and under made up 40% of those who were detained. It was during these years that your son Sicelo Dlomo, who was then under the age of 18, was detained at least four times.
MS DLOMO-JELE: In the beginning I would like to tell this Commission that the harassment and the pain didn't start at the time when my child died. The whole thing started in 1985 when he was still very young when he started getting involved in student's organisations and then he started being harassed by the police. Until other organisations also got involved in conflict with his organisation. He was also being harassed during school hours. Soldiers and police used to go to school to look for him at school and the headmaster would take him away and hide him among other children. Until there was a conflict between him and the other organisations so the cops were looking for him and other organisation. These things really worried me a lot because this other organisation wanted to kill him as well. I don't know if they were influenced by the White people because these people who were looking for him they were riding in flashy cars but they were looking for him, and they had guns. Until our house was burnt down, it was petrol-bombed. When our house was petrol-bombed I suffered quite a lot and I was also very worried that because my mother nearly died during the petrol-bombing. When my mother tried to take the blankets, to retrieve them from this fire we asked my mother to get out and then when she tried to take the blanket the bomb hit the bedroom and we had to take her to the hospital.
and out of our place harassing my child. The police used to urge me that I must tell my child to stop being involved in politics. I said to them I do not know that he is involved politically but I do know the organisations he's involved with. I really didn't understand what was the relationship between politics and student organisations. I did try to tell my child to stop being involved in political activities but he said to my mother these are our rights, I cannot stop being involved.
He just said to me that he was worried that his involvement in politics would also lead his family to being harassed. And because the police were after him he started living in hiding. They moved from one place to another. All those things harassed me spiritually as well.
Now I am going to talk around the period before he was killed. In October 1987 my child was taken by the police for the whole day. When I phoned the school they said my child was not at school. I was very surprised. I thought perhaps he had a special meeting at school with the organisation. Sometimes they had meetings and he wouldn't attend school and I thought maybe he had run away from the police. But in the afternoon he arrived and I told him what had happened.
He told me the police had taken him to the police station the whole day. They were talking to him, urging him to be their informer. He says we know what your parents are suffering, they can't afford to take you to school. Your mother is very sick, she is a street vendor, and once you start working for us we'll give you money, we'll give you cars and your father earns very little. We will also give you a house for your parents and yourself. My child said I
The most painful thing that happened is that I phoned the lawyer who was in Commissioner Street asking them if they could help me put my child away in hiding somewhere because these cops were after him. They wanted him to be their informer and I knew that if he refused that, as he had refused, they would kill him. That's why I tried to find a safe place for him.
In January, when he was in Khotso House, because when he had free time, when he wasn't at school he used to assist at DPSC, it was the organisation that was assisting the detainees. He said I am going to help this organisation because they have also helped me looking after me while I was in detention. That's how I came to know DPSC.
When I went to DPSC the cops took him there for the whole day and asking him why does he say DPSC - why did he say DPSC had asked him to appear on television and have a programme and the police said he must stop relating all those things and they are going to kill him if he doesn't stop this.
But on the day that he left, and the day that he died, on the week that he was going to die, on the Wednesday he came to me. He was always in hiding. He was no longer living with us. He was staying somewhere in town with an elderly boy. He said to me mother and father, he called us by our traditional name, he said today I have come to sleep at home and I was very happy to see him. And I was very, very happy and very relieved on that day because I knew he
Sometimes I used to see him that he was very tired. He looked very fatigued and he said he had a headache. I used to take my nerve tablets to give to him because he was always harassed. Because he was a child he understood all those things and realised that he was fighting for his rights. I also let him go. I allowed my heart to accept his situation. I released him.
When we asked him to sleep he said mum I asked you to be strong, I asked you to be strong Mr Dlomo, he was referring to his father, he said my father be strong, it may happen that I will die. I want you to know that whatever happens to me you must be strong, pick up my spear and continue my struggle. I was very sad, I was very upset. When he told me about his lack of security I said just this tonight, sleep here at home. And he said you won't like to see the police killing me in front of you. So it will be better for me to go somewhere else so that you can only find my corpse but not see them killing me. And he left home.
He was the kind of person who didn't want to be followed when he was going. He didn't want us to know which direction he had taken. But on that day I followed him under the hedge. I saw him turning around the corner. I think he slept in the passage. He woke up in the morning. And on Thursday and Friday and Saturday morning I phoned. He phoned he said please I ask you to ask my aunt to cook for me I am going to come and fetch food to take to the place where I am living. And we cooked for him because he had gone to the meeting on that day, it was a Saturday. He
On Sunday while we were still preparing - because we were hoping he would be coming home his aunt cooked some food for him so that he would take this food and he would store it for a while and he would survive on it for some days. At around ten o'clock the phone rang and I picked up this phone and I said it's you my son, and he said it's you my mum. I said are you all right. From there he just kept quiet, he didn't answer. I was very, very worried. Although I consoled myself. I wanted him to continue phoning so I suspected he didn't have money to put into the phone box so he could continue talking. That was the last day I spoke to him.
The following day the policeman arrived at home. I could feel it, I could just sense it that my child was gone because the policeman came with his pocket book. I said to him have you killed my son. The policeman said why are you saying such painful things, I didn't kill him I just heard people saying there's a young boy who is dead under a tree. I went to see this boy and I found this pocket book on him.
first thing they asked me, they said was your child a comrade. They referred me to Protea Police Station. The second day on the Tuesday I went to the police station. That's really I experienced such great pain although I tried to be strong. This policeman said I had a big mouth. I couldn't contain my child from continuing his activities, now today I make a lot of noise to them. When they saw that my other child was getting very angry they took him away. I think it was because they wanted to continue being nasty to me.
They talked a lot of things. They said to me here it is, it's happened. They said to me are you going to be able to bury your child. I said yes I will bury my child, his organisation will help me, my neighbours will help me, I will not be unable to bury my child. I said you must tell me who had killed my child. I said are these the organisations that they were in conflict with or the police, and I said it is the police who killed my child. They said what evidence do you have to accuse the police. I said I knew one policeman who had really been harassing and was after him. They really ill-treated me.
Every day I used to go to the police station and ask them why are they always bringing me here to the police station. While my child had died I had to go up and down and you expect me to do all those things.
I then phoned the lawyer to ask her to accompany me to the police station because I was getting worried about going to this police station by myself. There was a small court hearing. These cops started whispering and they said they are going to send the cops to school where there was a mass for my child. I asked the lawyer to take me to the school
because I know a lot of children will be attacked by police. When I arrived at the school I saw there were a lot of police and soldiers. I just prayed. I just prayed, I said oh God don't let another child be killed by these police. I don't want to get a bad name. God help until I arrive home. They continued to harass me.
On Friday they came to demand the pocket book that they had given to me. I said I didn't know, I don't have it, I don't know where I've put it. I didn't want to give it to them because this pocket book had names of other children he had been working with and lawyers and friends. So I hid this notebook. They said we hope that you will bring this book to the police. I didn't take this pocket book to the police, I just destroyed the papers which had the names of people.
But they kept on coming and they said I must bury this child and when the child is buried there mustn't be a lot of people. I said I will not be able to stop people, a lot of people do want to come to the funeral of my child. When my child died I couldn't even mourn my child because there were lots of police and I had to go up and down and do all those things. On the night of the vigil they said there shouldn't be a prayer and they said people must just go to their homes, there must be nobody here. Mama Winnie tell them the police that there will be no such a thing, they cannot expect people to go away. People are going to come to the night vigil and they are going to come to the funeral.
We buried the child and there were lots of police. There were helicopters in different forms. They were also beating up other children at the funeral. They beat them innocently. All what those children were doing was just to
sing, but we buried my child. Even when we were in the church the police came right inside the church and started beating up children, tearing off their T-shirts. The most painful thing. Even once we have buried our child the police followed us, they threw teargas at our food. I nearly also lost my niece. They threw the teargas in our bedroom and this child was foaming and suffocating from teargas. That's a most painful - I have never, ever seen such a thing. It's a most painful thing. They came back again while we were still sitting there. They said they didn't want to see crowds in my home. If they see crowds coming here they are going to arrest me and arrest other people.
That's the painful experience I've gone through over my child. Thank you for this opportunity that I am able to speak about this here. I have told myself that today is my day to cross this bridge because many people do not know what happened to my child. Even at the court, I didn't go, when I asked my lawyer when will I appear in court they said there will be no court hearing because I am accusing them, the police, that they had killed my child. That was the end of it.
Up until today I am still asking, I cry about it, I still don't know. Even though they said that even if I heard that there was going to be people coming forward who committed all these crimes I was wondering if the killers of my child would appear here. He was still so young. All that they could have done was to arrest him and keep him in jail. If he was in jail I would be able to see him. But they chose to kill him instead of arresting him. He was a young child.
DR BORAINE: It's been very painful for you. I am glad that you feel that it was good to be here. I have just a couple of questions which I want to ask you. I will keep them very brief. In fact perhaps you can just tell me if the information I have is correct. Your son was 18 years old when he died?
MS DLOMO-JELE: I didn't go to the inquest. I asked the lawyer finding out when would I be going because I had not received any letter informing me. The lawyer told me that they had said there was no longer going to be any inquest hearing because I was the one who had accused them, the police, that they had killed my child. They said they
couldn't find anybody responsible for killing my child. The lawyer told me to come and he told me that the case was closed. They could not continue with the case because they didn't know who had killed my child.
MS DLOMO-JELE: I cannot count, many things, I am not a very healthy person. Since this child went to school I have never been healthy because of the police harassment. I am a very unhealthy person, my life was affected. Another thing is that his father at the moment he hasn't been working for three years. He lost his job because he wasn't healthy. It was also because of this painful experience. But I got worried that he might commit suicide. I was also worried but I only thank God that he is still there.
I would also like to request that the truth be revealed. I want these people who killed my child to be found out and I want them to appear and explain what happened. I think maybe that can really satisfy me and console my spirit.
DR BORAINE: We have noted your comments and your request and a record has been made of them. I am going to hand the proceedings over to the Chairperson in case there are other people who might want to ask questions.
organise other people in similar positions and experience. At the beginning you spoke about the problems that Sicelo had with other organisations because he was also harassed and worried by this other organisation, can you tell us a little bit more about what happened?
MS DLOMO-JELE: During that time there was an organisation which was in conflict with the organisation, they were called ZimZim, I don't know what that means because there are lots of them ZimZims. But that's what we used to call them, ZimZims.
MS DLOMO-JELE: The role that they played, this other organisation, was to burn our houses, they petrol-bombed houses, because some neighbours saw them and other people inside the house did recognise some of the people who were involved in petrol-bombing our house. It seemed like one of them jumped off into our yard and another one turned around, so some people saw who threw this bomb.
MS MKHIZE: Are there some other names you have in your mind that you could give to the Commission, some people that you would remember that you really worried about them that they might have participated?
MS DLOMO-JELE: I could say this name but I do not know how secure I am because one of these children, I do know he had a gun, he kept on threatening us with a gun. I really don't know if I can reveal this name and if I would be safe after revealing his name.
were relating that during the funeral that the children were harassed a lot and you also spoke about this young baby who was teargassed, the Commission has also got the responsibility of seeing to it that there is reconciliation and unity. As a person who has taken some time thinking about our work what kind of advice would you give to us especially with regard to those other children who are not like Sicelo who cannot come here, what should happen so that there must be reconciliation and those children can be advised?
MS DLOMO-JELE: I would like the Commission to assist us to bring these people to the fore. They must come here and speak about what they have done. There can never be reconciliation till we know all those things, because our children have grown up under this hard and painful experience, but until there's been revelation about the people who did all these things, even if they say they were ordered to do these things, were sent to do these things we will be in a position to understand.
MS SOOKA: Sylvia you are known to many of us as one of the organisers of the Kulamani Group, a victim's support group, what would you recommend to the Commission should be part of the reparation policy towards people who will be found to be victims by the Commission?
MS DLOMO-JELE: What I would like to say, what I would really like to request, although we are not allowed to choose for other people, other people lost their houses, other people lost children, other people lost their husbands, at the moment if the children can look after those orphanages those people who lost their loved ones, especially if our children are going to grow up being
orphans they will be having a very bad experience. But if the Commission can really look after these orphans. This is the main thing for me that the Commission could see to it that they assist the orphanages and the widows of those people who died during that time.
Also that there should be a memorial to these children. These children gave up their lives. They were working for the nation. They wanted to bring about change. We would be very happy if there was some kind of memorial, a historical memorial in South Africa so that other children and other people can grow up and know what happened in our history, as parents and as widows and the fathers who lost their wives, if there could just be this memorial.
CHAIRPERSON: We thank you a lot Mamma. We also thank you that you are involved, you are a leader of Kulamani in helping people who are in a similar position as you. We also hope that as you have already said, so that you came here to reveal and expose your pain here to us, maybe you can find the remedy that will soothe you and console you. Thank you very much.