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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type 1 J SIMPSON, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 29 April 1996
Location METHODIST CHURCH, JOHANNESBURG
Names JAMES SIMPSON
Case Number GO/O179 JOHANNESBURG
DR BORAINE: Before I call the next witness I understand that Mr Trevor Fowler, speaker of the Gauteng Legislature has arrived and if he would just indicate where he is, we could recognise him and say thank you very much. You are very welcome. Thank you for coming.
The next witness that we invite to the witness stand is Mr James Simpson. Mr Simpson I would like to extend a very warm word of welcome to you and to express the appreciation of the Commission for your willingness to come and tell the story which really changed your life as well, and many others who were involved in that disaster. You will probably will want to give your evidence in Afrikaans. Could I ask you to stand to take the oath.
DR BORAINE: Mr Simpson your story has to deal with the so-called Church Street bombings on the 20th of May 1983. It's 13 years ago but I am sure that it's very vivid in your memory and in your body as well as your spirit. Mr Wynand Malan, one of our Commissioners is going to assist you to tell that story to all of us here and so many others who are listening outside and indeed across the world. We are very grateful indeed for your being here. I will ask my colleague to take over. Thank you.
before. Thank you very much for coming today and I believe that your first language is Afrikaans so we will do your evidence in Afrikaans. The facts which are coming cause is that the bomb exploded on the 20th of May 1983 and if you look at various sources it would seem as if 19 people were killed and 219 injured. One of the sources indicate that 12 people were civilians and 7 were security force personnel, 8 were Black people, 11 were Whites. An inquest was held and according to the inquest records shows that Freddie Shongwe and Ezekiel Maseko planted the bomb. They were both killed in the blast. It was also found, rightly or wrongly that both of them were members of the ANC. That's common cause and against this background I'd like to hear your first hand account of what happened there.
MR SIMPSON: In 1983 I worked at the firm of Olivetti. We were on the first and second floors of the Nedbank building. I worked on the first floor and we were quite close to the window. Most of the people working close to the windows were injured. When the bomb exploded it was the shattering glass which caused the most damage. It cut people, the doors were blown off their hinges and that kind of thing.
Immediately after the explosion I didn't know what had happened because my glasses were missing, they were blown off my face, my watch had been ripped off my arm, I couldn't see properly and I didn't know what was happening. My face was full of blood. I was led out of the building. When I got to the street down below I saw cars burning, injured people lying around. I spoke to one of my colleagues there, we were waiting for an ambulance there on the pavement. The ambulances had already taken the most seriously injured people away so we had quite a long wait until one of the
sales reps took us to the hospital in his car. The people landed up in different hospitals. That's how it happened. A lot of people were injured, a lot of damage was caused. Now my sympathy lies with the people who were badly injured and never recovered. That is the big thing. That is why I came here today.
MR SIMPSON: I was very fortunate as the doctor told me. I had facial injuries, some glass splinters in my one eye, and on my head, and a lot of cuts but not on the rest of my body. I recovered so I was fortunate. But a lot of people were not as fortunate.
DR RANDERA: Mr Simpson last week when I was in Cape Town some people who were in the Cathedral in Cape Town when the people came in and killed lots of individuals were asked about how they felt at the time and how they felt subsequently. I know you have told Mr Malan already that you would like to find out who were the people responsible, but if you could perhaps just tell us how you felt at the time and what are your feelings now about ...(intervention)
MR SIMPSON: At the time of course I was very upset, who would not be. But at the moment, time has gone by, and one would like to forgive those people but if you only knew who they were. That is the way I think.
CHAIRPERSON: Is there anybody else to ask a question? May I ask a question, just a little question. The process of healing in our country is one to which we must all contribute and I know that it's still a matter of great sorrow and pain to recall these events and that it isn't easy to reveal the painful past here before us today, but if the purpose of it all is reconciliation and the people who gave the order for this bomb to be planted, if they appeared here before you, what would you expect of them?
MR SIMPSON: Well simply to know that those were the people responsible, they gave the orders for the bomb to be planted, then a person would feel more satisfied. I brought along a couple of photographs just to show what this kind of thing could do to people, planting a bomb like this, and if anybody is interested I have them here with me.
MR MALAN: We will take the photographs from you, thank you. I think if I may just follow up on the Archbishop's question when you explained that you simply wanted to know, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but am I understanding you correctly when you say that the fact that you don't know all the facts ...(tape ends)
CHAIRPERSON: I would like to say to you Mr Simpson that all of us here, and even before this Commission was launched we always wanted the world to know that we always condemn violence, all violence, and I want to give the assurance that we have a great deal of sympathy with you and we want to offer up our condolences to all the victims. We also hope and trust that people will know that evil deeds are perpetrated on both sides and that the truth must triumph eventually and that will be our salvation so that we can move towards a beautiful future together, a future which God meant for us to have.