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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type 1 P HLONGWANE, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 29 April 1996
Location METHODIST CHURCH, JOHANNESBURG
Names PAUL HLONGWANE
Case Number GO/O093 JOHANNESBURG
DR BORAINE: ... was that the previous witness requested witness protection and when people request that, unless there is some very good reason we have to grant them that and the place of safety where he has gone closes at five o'clock and the witness protector did not want him to travel later in the evening. So the request came from our witness protector and I can now announce that because he's actually in protection and will be looked after.
I call and invite the next witness Mr Paul Hlongwane. Mr Hlongwane welcome. We are pleased to see you, you've had a long wait. Can I ask you to please put on the headphones so that you can follow. Can you hear me now and you can hear the translation.
DR BORAINE: Thank you very much. Mr Hlongwane in a moment you are going to tell us a story which covers a very long period of time. In fact there are two distinct - starting briefly in 1960 and then again much later on in 1987, so there are two chapters, if you like, to your story which we
MS MKHIZE: Mr Hlongwane it has been long. At the moment we can see that you are very tired, but maybe before I talk to you I think it is necessary to remind you, the Commission and those people who are here, especially from the time when you started being harassed.
On 30 March 1960 a state of emergency was passed. The Act gave the Minister of Law and Order, Commissioner of the SAP, a magistrate or a commissioned officer the power to detain any person where in their opinion this was desirable for reasons of public safety. It allowed detention without trial and it authorised any commissioned officer to detain without a warrant any person suspected of political activities and to hold them without access to a lawyer for 90 days. Under this legislation we have been told that you are one of the first people in South Africa to serve the 90 days in detention.
MR HLONGWANE: I greet the Commission. My story is quite long and so much that in the 1960 affairs I wouldn't be able to give you the dates, it's quite long. As you see this is my last born. It's quite long. But then the reason that got me into jail it was the Sharpeville affairs.
We went to Orlando Police station to protest against the innocent children and women who were shot and killed at Sharpeville. I remember very well it was a few days, few months after Verwoerd had ordered ten Saracens, and those
very ten Saracens were used in Sharpeville to mow down people. So we were busy campaigning and fighting against the influx and pass laws. So we decided to protest and we got to Orlando East. Thereafter we were locked in.
In fact we were the first to be sentenced for three years. Before that it was three months with the defiance campaign, two months, so forth. We got to Leeuwkop where we dug sand and all that. Now in this final sentence we were 300, three years option of 300, 300 ...(indistinct). We were together with Robert Sebuko. He's the first man to get that severe punishment. We were sentenced to hard labour. We had to go to Pretoria ...(indistinct) for classification because we were over one or two years. From there transferred to Stone Yard where we lost one of our men who was a carpenter. Well he died due to food which was not correct for him.
In the meantime for six months we were at Stone Yard preparing to be transferred to a destiny which was Stoffberg where we had to build and dig a lake which was 75 feet deep. I remember one of our men there, the late Mr Mtuping who was bitten by a snake whilst we were in prison. And what we required seeing that we were sentenced, we wanted to improve the life of prisoners in jail. We ordered many - you know in the first place we wanted prison regulations and we were punished for demanding prison regulations because the food was not normal, it was inhuman, and sleeping we would sleep on concrete with mats that people use outside for cleaning their feet. So life was really unbecoming.
call that battle, it was the Battle of Pick. We got, some of them unfortunately, the people who were badly hurt, they are now late. Now that is the first instance which I wouldn't embark on it for a long time. We did our sentence. By the way during that period Sebuko Robert number four, he wrote a letter with a toilet to Kwame Nkrumah appealing to him to send us 45,000 pounds by then. And then Verwoerd declared a state of emergency. So the money was transferred to Basutoland, to Msimghtele. All the same we had to continue with our sentence up to the last.
MS MKHIZE: Just to assist you or to help you rest a bit maybe I will direct you. I just wanted the Commission maybe to get clarity from you as to what exactly happened to you especially during 1960 because it's important for us as we will be comparing with your experiences in 1987. You mentioned the beatings that you were beaten up badly. If maybe you can remember during that detention time what else do you consider to have been bad treatment?
MR HLONGWANE: The food we were given, you know beans, spoiled beans that is usually given to the pigs, that's what we used to be fed on. And the punishment we would get randomly was to be isolated, solitary confinement, for instance if you feel sick or anything they would take you to solitary confinement for observation. You would only get water from ...(indistinct) which would really make you sick, because it would take you about two or three days having one meal which was what do you call it, (speaks Zulu) spoilt mealies, there was no ...(indistinct) whatsoever. When you would complain they would tell you that look you're a prisoner, yours is to serve or die. We were in a maximum term, no privileges whatsoever.
Then we finished our sentence, three years. Well fortunately we didn't lose our men, we only lost one man at Stone Yard. Right, we were released after finishing our sentence which carried another three years suspension.
We were hardly back, hardly two or three months, we were again rounded up and detained. It was the beginning of 90 days. It started with us because of the incident that took place at the Cape ...(indistinct), something like that, you see. We were rounded up and detained.
If you remember well Goldreich the lawyer, advocate was dealing with our case. Unfortunately he had to skip and the way he skipped he acted as a minister, Anglican minister with cassocks and all that. He went to Swaziland. Okay. The detention took a year. Eventually we were released, but in between they would pick us and detain us so much that I didn't have time to go and work or be employed. I only survived because of the knowledge I got from school doing carpentry or building. I don't know if that is sufficient for 1960?
Commissioners to know your activities, what exactly were you doing in between, because they were detaining you? So if maybe there are specific activities you were engaged with which you think might have made them to keep on locking you in.
MR HLONGWANE: Political? Yes I was political. My activities was to fight for liberation of fellow men because I was actually convinced that men are all equal in the eyes of God. So I had to fight to free our people. That is one reason that brought me into this trouble, and I don't regret it because of the outcome we see today.
MR HLONGWANE: That is the second issue. Well in 1987 we actually saw that there was chaos going on in the township. Our children could not go to school. Hooligans took an upper hand in so to say police became their sweethearts. So we formed what we called a street committee. Children were being raped and people robbed of their properties so we organised ourselves to fight this evil.
It was so ...(indistinct) that people would come to us with complaints that they had been robbed of their TV's or wirelesses. We had a task force who would go and get hold of what people had been robbed of, free of charge, not charging anybody. So it went so much that people came to us, and - we had no problem with Orlando East Police, but we got into trouble with Protea, the White police, who eventually heard of our activities. In that organisation I was the chairman. Then we were rounded up and locked in.
I had to be treated. I had tablets and the way I had before of getting my insulin I had to wait for 15 minutes before I could take any meal, and my meal was specific. I was told what to eat and what not to eat. Right, when we got to Protea I told the Captain in charge, I don't know his name, that I was a diabetic case and I asked him, I pleaded with him to please try and get my tablets because we were kept at Protea. He kept on saying to me well I'll send my men to your place. Till eventually they decided to send me to Sun City. They told me there I would get the right food, I would get the right treatment. Now my diabetes was very high, in so much that I was starting to lose my sight. I remember with the assistance of, the man today, I think he is in the Ministry of Health, Masondo, we had to write and make applications that I should be allowed to go to Baragwanath. Still it was difficult but eventually we told Mr Smith who was in charge, look he will bear all the consequences if I die. Then he decided to send me to Baragwanath. My sugar was up and a lot of complications took place. Well I stayed there for a month with the treatment. The doctors did their best, till eventually we were released. I came back and I was taken to doctors, as you see in that - my lawyer was not allowed to see me during my time of - that is Mr Whitey, he is in there, to come and pay me a visit at Sun City.
So after my release we took up the case. We claimed from the State for the negligence of my sugar because I developed - I could not see any longer. Everything was just in a cloud and then I was sent to different doctors to examine me and all that. So the case went on. Eventually my case had to be dropped because it was a question of
finance. I couldn't pay the lawyers. So that's how it ended up. I could hardly even buy a pair of spectacles. I struggled in the way I had after from 1960 I had opened construction, that was building construction of which I was given a place out at Jabavu which I paid for and built and that was a sort-of a show house, an exhibition. So when I came back from detention the comrades, or whatever they call themselves or I don't know what you call them, anyhow at any rate those are civics, they call themselves civics, they said I could no longer occupy that place, it belonged to them, it is their property. I went to the Council and claimed the place. They agreed but I could not use the place because it was taken over by the civics. Now I battled to make ends meet.
Thereafter, let me say, there is something I've forgotten, after six months, after the release, we were again arrested. Then we appealed to Khotso House for assistance. They arranged an advocate, they call him Van Vuuren, well he's late, he had an accident in Bloemfontein who defended us. Now that was the case of detention was all over brought there to us. We went for trial you know for almost six months and then eventually we were sentenced, three years, five years suspension, fortunately the fines were paid. The Khotso House assisted us.
But I could say in short, due to the negligence I had I could no longer drive and I could not even, you know, carpentry you use sharp instruments, I could not use that because it was dangerous. So in short that is my story, and in fact I couldn't go and march or sing. It's a strain. I've been here since this morning and I am a diabetic case you know, it sort of breaks me down, but perhaps if it was
MS MKHIZE: Mr Hlongwane I just want to thank you very much. And as I said earlier on we understand, given your condition also that you must be very tired, so I will give you back to our Chairperson and thank you again.
MR HLONGWANE: I get a bit of money from the old age people and selling some whatever....(tape ends). In '60 I lost my house. Somebody - it was given to somebody. Now with the hope that I would occupy this house at Jabavu these people took over. Right now where I am, I'm at Emndeni where I am paying R200,00 every month, in fact he has put an increase of R50,00 now. I've got to make ends that I pay this man otherwise I'll be kicked out of the house.
MR HLONGWANE: What I would very much like is to assist me to regain, to get my house back because I have been battling with the City Council. They are playing that delay system and I get nowhere. Bear in mind that the houses cost me a fortune. To get into the place I had to pay R5000,00 and the house itself at that time in 1958, it cost me R40 000. That was a show house. I had to build attractively. And I can't - and I've spent on the house.
MR HLONGWANE: Well I could perhaps, I don't know whether it's a dream, but at least I could arrange and have people get material and have people making blocks and all things, in fact I do not know because I've been out for such a long time.
DR RANDERA: Mr Hlongwane I understand what you are saying about your diabetes and how it's affecting you, I just want to quickly, if you will allow me just to get clarification on what you were saying as far as your second term of arrest went at Protea particularly and that you kept telling the prison administrators that you had diabetes, now was the problem that they were not referring you for medical treatment or were you not getting medical treatment?
MR HLONGWANE: The answer I would get was they don't have the diabetic food, they don't have those things in prison. That is why with the assistance of Masondo we had to write this threatening letter. It is only then they sent me to Baragwanath.
CHAIRPERSON: Is that all? Thank you very much. Dadda we are very sorry, but we are aware of how things happen that we are not sort-of totally in control of the proceedings. We started later than was scheduled and some of the people had stories that they told at great length and we, because we have said that the purpose of these hearings is largely to be a forum so that people can tell their stories, some be able to tell their story to the nation as it were for the first time. And so we ask for your indulgence and hope that we have not inconvenienced you too much. We know we have
inconvenienced you. But we also want you to know that we will endeavour to do all we can in our capacity to try and maybe help you to do some of the things that you have asked here. We hope you get better, or certainly that your diabetes can be kept stable.