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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type 1 M TIRO, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 29 April 1996
Location METHODIST CHURCH, JOHANNESBURG
Names MOLESENG ANNA TIRO
Case Number GO/00
DR RANDERA: ...Commission, presiding Commissioners and committee members present. I report that the Gauteng office of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission received the following applications for hearing for today.
Thank you to Fazel Randera, the coordinator of our regional office. Yasmin Sooka and Wynand Malan deputy chairs of the Human Rights Violations Committee and to all our other Commissioners and Committee members from this region as well as our region and national staff members.
We say thank you to the South African Council of Churches and the South African Chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, especially for the service that was conducted here yesterday afternoon. We are enormously grateful to the Central Methodist Church, its presiding minister and his staff for availing us of the facilities of this beautiful church and all. Thank you very much Mr Mvume.
Thank you to the Police and Security personnel. They have in the other venues done a splendid job of work and we believe that that is going to be the case here as well. Thank you also to the traffic cops.
An especially warm welcome to those who will be testifying before the Commission and their families. Thank you for your generosity of spirit and your courage in exposing yourselves to the gaze of the world. We have kept saying this in the other venues. It is not an easy thing to do revealing your pain, your hurt and your trauma to the scrutiny of others. We have heard some harrowing accounts in East London and King Williamstown. We have said that our nation and we repeat, that our nation and indeed the world has been touched by what we have heard. We have been deeply JOHANNESBURG HEARING TRC/GAUTENG
moved by the stories of quite remarkable people, who despite their ghastly experiences harbour no hatred or bitterness. On the contrary they want to know the truth so that they should know whom they should forgive.
"If, during any investigation by or hearing before the Commission, any person is implicated in a manner which may be to his detriment, the Commission,
(b) contemplates making a decision which may be to the detriment of a person who has been so implicated,
the Commission shall, if such person is available, afford him or her an opportunity to submit representations to the Commission within a specified time with regard to the matter under consideration. Or..."
That section of the Act does not stipulate when perpetrators should be given notice. We have been generous, and I want to underline that, we have been generous in letting them know ahead of a hearing. It is in our discretion, after they have made their representations whether we invite them then to a hearing and also that they may then have opportunity for limited cross-examination. That is laid down in the Act which was passed by a democratically elected Parliament, in which all parties are represented. If people have problems, it must be directed not at the Commission but at the Assembly which passed the law.
Secondly, we have taken a principled decision that victims, survivors will be accorded the opportunity to tell their stories. Most have not had such an opportunity before. Again this is a requirement in the Act that in its preamble says, "affording victims an opportunity to relate the violations they suffered".
The Act lays down that there must be a bias in favour of the victims and the survivors, and I am not plucking this out of the air. It is in the Act again. "Principles to govern actions of Commission when dealing with victims", section 11.
"When dealing with victims the actions of the Commission shall be guided by the following principles.
discrimination of any kind including race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, age, language, religion, nationality, political or other opinion, cultural beliefs or practices, property, birth or family status, ethnic or social origin or disability.
c. Procedures for dealing with applications by victims shall be expeditious, fair, inexpensive and accessible.
But in fact this bias works to the advantage of perpetrators. Almost all who have testified thus far have amazed us, have amazed the world with their willingness to forgive. They want not to revenge themselves against perpetrators. They are not looking for retribution, but quite remarkably they do want to forgive. Some, even more extraordinarily say we have already forgiven them, Mrs Savage in King Williamstown, the people who testified in Cape Town from St James Massacre.
Our credentials as champions of human rights, of justice, of fairness and reconciliation should not be in dispute. They are a matter of public record. We oppose an evil and vicious system which denied a very large part of our society fundamental human rights. Those, especially in the security establishment, whether they intended it or not, were defending an evil system which did not accord people their rights. We succeeded in our struggle so that today even those who defended that awful system could today claim constitutional and other human rights. It is precisely because of our record as fighters for justice and human JOHANNESBURG HEARING TRC/GAUTENG
rights that alleged perpetrators must be thrilled because we will defend to the death their rights to which it was we who struggled so that they could, they and all of us could today all of us enjoy them.
It is a matter of public record that we are independent. We have not been afraid to criticise even the new ANC led government of National Unity to the amazement of many. In this Commission in all three hearings that have taken place so far, or the two and you will note here, we have heard and we will hear accounts of human rights violations right across the political spectrum. In East London we had people who were the victims of an alleged APLA atrocity. In East London we heard from victims of bombing in Highgate Hotel. In Cape Town we heard someone come to speak on behalf of a necklacing victim, necklaced allegedly by so-called activists. Here we are going to be hearing from victims of the so-called Church Street bombing in Pretoria.
People have said this Commission will degenerate into a witch hunt. Far from this being the case we have hardly paid attention to the perpetrators. Last week in Cape Town one of the witnesses claims she recognised a police officer who was on the scene when her daughter was killed, and she broke down. Now if we wanted to engage in a witch hunt we would have immediately rushed out to apprehend that police officer. We did nothing of the sort because our concentration, and I want to underscore this, our
concentration is on the victims and the survivors of apartheid: . We hope that people coming before the Amnesty Committee will be the ones who are going to provide us with most of the information we require.
I appeal to those who may be aware they were perpetrators willingly or involuntarily to respond to the incredible generosity and magnanimity of victims with a matching generosity. Don't try to do the impossible. Don't try to defend the indefensible. There will be no gloating. If some, like the Dominie whose letter I read in Cape Town could get up and say "sorry", they would be overwhelmed by the response of the victims, of the survivors, of this foul, of this evil, of this vicious system.
"We accept that some of the perpetrators and victims of gross human rights violations come from the ranks of the churchgoers, the Dutch Reformed church-goers. We offer you our assistance and to those who apply to appear in front of the Commission regarding these applications. We accept responsibility to assist these people by means of counselling and to help them to be healed from the trauma of the past, and to offer the reconciliation that Christ has offered us. We are appealing to all our churches and church bodies by means of its official mouthpiece to assist this counselling service with devotion and commitment".
themselves in helping to tell the stories of the victims and survivors of apartheid and the victims of those who fought against apartheid. I commend the Media warmly. There are some whose conduct is less than commendable, particularly certain newspapers. Some have already been reprimanded by the Honourable Judge presiding in the so-called Malan trial, e.g. for calling in question the credibility of witnesses. I am myself and out-and-out libertarian and believe in the freedom of the Press, passionately. I strove for it. But I am concerned that some of what certain papers are doing is beyond the limits of proprietary of fair comment. They are introducing an insidious poison, they are almost seeking to bring the Commission into disrepute. We have powers vested in us by the law. I would advise journalists and their editors to acquaint themselves with this Act. In certain respects we have the powers of a court of law. And again let me read, so that you don't think I am making it up. Section 39 reads,
"If any person does anything in relation to the Commission which if done in relation to a court of law would constitute contempt of court then they are guilty of an offence. If anyone does anything calculated improperly to influence the Commission in respect of any matter being or to be considered by the Commission that person commits an offence"
I have said I don't want to invoke any of those powers, but I do hope that the newspapers especially will take count of what I have said. There is a nobility of spirit in our land and we must give thanks to God for this extraordinary spirit, this wonderful "ubuntu".
suffered previously by actions from both sides of the struggle can tell their stories. That is the main purpose of these hearings. The recovery, helping people to recover their human and civil dignity.
The Commission will not be making a finding immediately whether such persons are victims of gross violations of human rights. That will happen a little later. The testimony given enjoys the same privilege as if it were given in a court of law, and we have already indicated what is the case with that to the naming of alleged perpetrators. If a witness deliberately gives the Commission false testimony then he or she will be guilty of an offence as will be the case in a court of law. This is not a court of law, but we know you will conduct yourselves with proper decorum. As I have said I hope we will not need to invoke the powers vested in us.
We want to thank all who have prayed for us, who are praying for us. We receive quite a few letters, but we've received one or two that I want to refer to. One is a fax from a Church in Harlem, the Church of the Intercession who assure us of their prayers. But even more wonderfully is a letter from a junior youth group in Mitchell's Plain. The letter says,
"Our programme focused on our present renew theme, the Cost of being a disciple within the Community, and the children needed to identify how they could be instrumental in our community by trying to turn bad news into good news, and while we were looking through the past weeks' newspapers we noticed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and how you are trying to do just that, healing the wounds of
the past and thus turning bad news into good news. The children then wanted to send you messages of support and encouragement by thanking you for your efforts at attempting to create a society which will be open to all its children. Thank you for your willingness to deal with the past hardships and pains, so that like Christ we may first die before we can experience new life".
DR BORAINE: Mr Chairperson, members of the Commission and those who have gathered here today in underlining the very warm word of welcome that you have already received from Dr Randera and the Chairperson, I want to also mention in particular members of the Belgium Embassy. I understand that there are eight representatives who have joined us for a while. Also representatives from the American Consulate and certainly not least I understand the Mayor is with us. We are very, very grateful for those who have showed their interest in the proceedings of the Commission. We have said many times that without the assistance and care of people throughout South Africa and even throughout the world the tasks that we are undertaking would have been quite impossible. So thank you again very warmly.
I have also been told by the Chairperson that there are representatives from the Jewish Board of Deputies. You will know that you are very welcome also. If I have missed out anyone and if anybody would like to indicate during the course of the day of special guests then obviously we would JOHANNESBURG HEARING TRC/GAUTENG
We want to welcome you very, very warmly indeed. You are the first witness and therefore perhaps a little more nervous than others. They can watch you, learn from you, but you are the first, so you are very special, but it's also quite an ordeal, but we want you to be very, very relaxed and very comfortable. I have to ask you to take an oath and I would be grateful if you could please stand now.
In order to make it a little more comfortable for you and easier for you one of our Commissioners, Tom Manthata will be leading you in the questions he asks, but I want to assure you and assure all witnesses that it's your story. You tell it how you want to tell it. All we are here to do is to help you. So welcome again and I will hand over again to Mr Manthata. Perhaps if you would just pull the microphone very close to you please.
MS TIRO: I greet you all, my elders. I thank you that I am here today after so many years that have gone by. I can actually relate the story from the day I started sending my child to school. He was at school and thereafter he went to further his studies at Turfloop. He completed three years and in his fourth year he graduated and I was called to attend the ceremony. After the function at the hall I was asked to make a vote of thanks. Well I read the vote of thanks that he wrote.
On that same day, the afternoon I went back home. I was staying here in Gauteng. Three days or even four days passed and I saw him coming home and he said I am expelled from school. I said to him why? He said I was reading a speech and they expelled me. I don't know English, I don't know what happened I only gathered information from him.
Well we departed. He stayed at home for a few days. I think it was a month. He was in Soweto. He said Mr Matabata hired me. I am going to work together with him in Morris Isaacson and he went to work. I think he worked a few months there. It wasn't even a year. The school closed and they reopened and I saw him coming home. He was together with another one, it was his companion that I don't know and he said to me Mamma they expelled me again from school. And I asked him again why have you been expelled? No they just said I should get out of the school, I will teach my fellow schoolmates wrong information. That was the last day I saw my son. I never saw him again. I didn't hear anything about him. I don't know where he stayed because he was being sought by the police around Soweto. I didn't see him, even his grandmother didn't see him.
in October 1973 I heard that his aunt saw him somewhere. He saw someone who is our neighbour at home and he received a letter. He said I am from Botswana. I saw Ngopotsi there. He said I should give you this letter. His aunt took the letter and he said aunt I am here, I am in exile. But I must say throughout his aunt was not in a good position to tell where he is. I was at home Nduyangana myself.
Well after reading the letter she went into Botswana without any passport and she found him there. She stayed with him two days and she came back. While she arrived from Botswana she found my second daughter and she said to her your mom is sick. I think it was on a Thursday when they came back home. On Friday she went further to come and tell me that she saw the son in Botswana. Well in those days we used to travel by train. I think it was on a Saturday afternoon she went to Soweto. In Soweto she overnighted there. On Sunday morning I didn't see the aunt. We got a message that Omgepotsi is now dead. His aunt was now troubled. They were still in Soweto and I was in Parktown North. They searched for me on that day and they couldn't find me. They only saw me that night. They said to me your son is dead. He tried to open a parcel and the parcel killed him.
From there I took initiatives to go to Botswana. I saw my son in pieces. The police from Botswana helped me a lot. They gathered all the pieces, only a few pieces were left there and they took that to the mortuary.
Now I wanted to make arrangements for his funeral. We were a family together planning all the funeral arrangements and we asked the South African Government to give us permission to transport him to South Africa to bring him
here, and they said no. I asked the Botswana Government to help us bury my child. Well they did just that and I buried him in Botswana. I don't know what to say because I really wanted him to be buried in South Africa but that wasn't the case. I buried him in Botswana and I came back home.
Let me say when I arrived home the Botswana police said to me we did some investigations to find out where this parcel comes from because according to the information I got it was from Geneva. Well Botswana CID told me it was hand delivered, it was never at any post office around. When I was told about the parcel he was given this parcel by his roommate and he said to him he took the parcel out of a post box and he gave it to a school child. They were in a mission school, and he gave the parcel to the child and said give it to the man who is sitting on the table writing. Well he went into the room and he gave the parcel to him. He didn't open the parcel. This gentleman came in he said, haven't you opened your parcel? He said no, not yet. Well the one who gave him the parcel told me that he said no I haven't yet opened the parcel.
This gentleman was telling me he tried to open the parcel and it didn't get open and he said to him well I am going home now take this parcel and open it and he went further to Dinokala. He said I want to be early at the border gates because they close. It was about three o'clock and the border gates close at about 8:30. Those who were telling the story said he left at three o'clock. I don't know if it was a bomb or not but it exploded at three o'clock and nobody went in to check.
Lobatse. This child found Tiro's corpse there, that was the following day. Because he was a child he ran away and he said oh there's a man lying on the floor and people started flocking to the house and they discovered that it was true, a man was lying on the floor. I don't whether I should continue.
MR MANTHATA: Don't you say you know the people who killed Omgepotsi? But there are names that are in your statement, names such as Mohapi and Ruben Debaga, do you want to say anything about those people?
MS TIRO: I am sorry that I didn't mention the name of the person. Debaga went to Botswana and my son gave the letter to him to pass it on to his aunt. Mohapi is the person that I referred as the man who gave him the parcel and he said to him well open your parcel. Well I related the story without mentioning their names I am really sorry.
MS TIRO: Well when I want to carry on with my speech I can say I am really happy to be called here today. Maybe the Commission might help me with the investigations. I really want to know the person who killed Omgepotsi.
battling to get him educated hoping that when he completed his studies he would help me a lot. Most unfortunately he didn't manage to complete all the tasks because just after his graduation he died. Well I am left alone with his younger brothers and sisters. While Omgepotsi was still at school I tried to send the one coming after him to school. I sent him to Thaba Nchu, well he sent the certificate as well, even now the certificate has not come back. Well after leaving his brother died. He had a problem with his eyes and he cried a lot and he cannot see now. He doesn't see clearly, he has children, two of them, they are my responsibility. Two children are left behind. I am sick as you see me, I am wearing these glasses because I can hardly see. I am not crippled, I wasn't born this way. There were stairs at work and I used to fall because I would think of many things. Well that's how my legs were paralysed in this way. I went to doctors and they told me that I have had a heart attack and I have arthritis. These are the problems. Well there are so many problems that I can tell the Commission, can you help me with ideas you know of searching who killed my son and maybe help me in this life, if it were possible. Because if I try to gather some money to take children to the doctors there is a shortage of money. I don't have medical aid because I am not working. I was working in the kitchens. I was just a domestic worker. I am finished Mr Chairman.
MS TIRO: There is one policeman I can remember his name even if I couldn't identify him very well. They called him Mr Nonong. I found them having done the job they took the body to the mortuary. Now the very nearest person to me was this Mr Nonong.
MS TIRO: I won't actually know whether he was involved in politics or not because he only had love and understanding. He preferred to be with us at home even during holidays, not unless he was going out for temporary jobs during the holidays. Well I don't understand anything about politics because I've already indicated that I don't understand English or other language. I think I have given you an answer.
CHAIRPERSON: We are all hurt as much as you are hurt. We've heard of Omgepotsi many a times. Most of the times when we were involved in rallies his name was used. We know that you are deeply hurt and maybe there might be a remedy. Our nation regarded him as a very brave person, as a hero. We were part of him. I know that will never bring him back, that is why most of us, even if you say you don't know whether he was involved in politics or not he was one of our people who started saying to the Black people be proud, be proud of your colour, don't imitate the Whites. He's one of those. He had a very great portion of participation in the struggle. We are thankful that you brought him into this world, a brave person. Thank you. We thank you, you can leave.
DR BORAINE: Chairperson before I call the next witnesses I would like to extend a very special word of welcome to Nobel Peace Prize winner, Oscar Arias who is the former President of Costa Rica, and as the Archbishop reminded us yesterday the first President of any country in living memory to ban an army, there is no army in Costa Rica and that's a remarkable thing. We must talk.