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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION HEARINGS
Starting Date 11 June 1996
We now call Dora Williams to the witness stand please. Mr and Ms Williams, we would like to thank you for coming to the Truth Commission. Before we begin your evidence we would like you both to take the oath please. Ms Williams if you could you please stand.
Good morning Mr and Ms Williams, thank you very much for coming. We know that it has been quite a long wait for you as well. You have been coming here since the weekend - Friday and we know that it has been a long wait.
Thank you very much for your patience and I wonder if I can start with you Ms Williams. You are coming to tell us about the story of your son Rakubu Williams and - and what had happened to him, we are talking about his disappearance. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself and then also to tell us what happened.
I am Ms Williams - Dora Williams, Iíve got nine children and married by Mr Williams. In 1977 the police arrested my son in that year and in 1978 he was in prison for an entire year. He was released from prison in 1979 and then he went to Thaba ĎNchu for a teaching course - when he came back after the teacherís course he then went to Lydenburg and he trained as a welder there. And then he went to Finch Mine and that is where he worked. He supported me, he looked after me and then the police started looking for him again and then he left his job.
In 1980 he then just disappeared, we did not know where he went to and we lost contact, we did not know his whereabouts and I canít remember when exactly it was but somebody phoned from Lesotho and said that my son was in Lesotho and from then onwards we never heard another word. I was very-very afraid of the police when they came to my house then I knew there would be trouble and I didnít know what to do. And I heard nothing more about my son, I just hoped he was still alive.
In 1993 when I came back from my grandmotherís funeral in Port Elizabeth, my daughter told me that a boy came to our house and - it was Pakati and said that he became so sad just looking at us because our child had been killed in Tanzania. Yes he told us that my child had been killed in Tanzania.
I went to that other boy whoís mother - what is her name now, I canít quite remember - Iíve forgotten now but her sonís name is Johannes. And he said that my boy had been killed in Tanzania in one of these camps and that Johannes had been shot dead at the airport - we donít really know what happened. So I went to Johannesís mother and I went with her to St Paulís Church, thatís where the PACís also work. We went there and we told them what we had heard and they told us, this Joba man - he said yes he knew him and had seen him in Lesotho but after that never saw him again and he told us to go to another secretary. I think it was Tsidi - he told us to go to Tsidi.
We found Tsidi and Tsidi went to a lot of trouble, he went to Lesotho to try and find out what had happened to our children. When he came back he told us that he just heard that they were in Tanzania, but that he was going to try and find out from the PAC offices in Johannesburg - to find out.
When he came back he said he said that they did not really want to tell him the truth about our children and we tried everything, we went to the Red Cross for instance to ask them to help us to look for our children. The Red Cross also tried various avenues, but to no avail. All the people who left with my son returned, but my son never returned.
And there all of a sudden in Finch Mine I think thatís where they planned the whole thing and thatís why the police followed them there to Finch Mine and thatís - thatís where they disappeared after that.
No, he never said anything, he always just came home and he went straight to bed. But one morning when we got up I realised that he hadnít slept in his bed, he never came home and I told the other children - my husband had already left for work. And I said to my children, we call him Thabiseng, I said: Thabiseng didnít sleep here, I wonder what happened, why hasnít he come home. And I said: I am going to go to Johannesís mother, I was very fond of Johannes. All the young men who came to our house were very fond of playing games, I canít remember, Chess, they played Chess.
Now Johannes was always around our house and used to play Chess with my son. So I wanted to go to Johannesís mother, but at that moment she arrived at my house and she said Ms Williams, Iíve just come to ask you, is Johannes here and I said to her thatís what I was coming to ask you because Thabiseng also didnít sleep here. And from then onwards we donít know what happened, the police arrived again and then I was totally confused.
Any of the people who had worked with him at the time or who were friends with him, did they know what had happened - did they try to understand what had happened and where he had gone to? The friends who came to play Chess with him?
No, none of them knew anything about my son. The one who said that he was in Tanzania - he did not tell that to us, he told one of the other friends who is also a PAC member - and he said that he was too scared to actually tell us that Joba was dead, that Joba had been killed in a camp and Johannes had been shot dead at the airport.
Okay, I understand that - I need to just find out a little bit more from you. The attempts you made to try and find out what happened. Could you take us through that again? Can you tell us what you did to try and find out what happened to your son?
Ja, because most of them are the PACís and the one man there told me that he had last seen Williams in Lesotho. He knows about Williams and we said we heard that Williams had been killed and he said he hadnít yet heard that, but then he went to a different room and he stayed for a long time speaking on the phone and when he came back he took our phone numbers and addresses and told us to go home, he would contact us later and we waited.
He never called us - he never contacted us and that is when I realised that I must ask for help from some other quarters - and I went to the Red Cross and asked them for help in finding my son. The Red Cross tried various things, also tried to investigate but to no avail. And thatís when we met Tsidiso - Tsidiso he was the one who went to Lesotho and reported back to us. And he then heard that they were in Tanzania. He went to a lot of trouble, he went to Johannesburg as well - he went to the offices in an effort to find out what had happened to my son.
These people were from Red Cross and from the SACC offices and the PAC offices but you also tell us in your statement that some detectives came to your house, why did the detectives come to your house?
Those detectives are the ones who came before my son died. Before my son died the detectives used to come to our house quite often asking about my sonís whereabouts and we just said no, we donít know.
I think in about 1992 two policemen arrived at our house. They werenít detectives, they were just young policemen - white policemen and we didnít ask them who they were - we didnít give them our names but they asked us whether we had heard anything about our son and we said no, we have no knowledge about what had happened to him. We still donít know where he is. And they told us that we should not worry as my son was being looked after, he was in good hands. Thatís all they said and then they left. And it was after that that we heard that our son had been killed, that he was dead.
To tell you the truth I never liked the policemen and when they came to my house I didnít really like it because Iím a sickly woman, and I would sometimes just faint I was so afraid of the police because they always spelled trouble when they came to my house. They were always thickly built policemen with large arms and loud voices and I was always very-very afraid of them.
Mr Williams, I am aware that you share your wifeís grief, that you too are carrying a lot of pain in your heart about the disappearance of your son. I wonder if you can tell us from you side about what happened to your understanding and whether you have any clues about what had happened to Williams.
I am John Williams, I live at Vergenoeg - I have a wife, children. I am an ex-volunteer, four years and six months and in this particular year, the year of all the bitter struggle, I did not expect something like this to happen, but one morning we were woken up very early in the morning between 2 and 3. There was a knock at the door and I asked who is it and they said - police they said. There was another knock and I said well just hang on, just wait. I put on the light and I opened the door. When I opened the door they were immediately inside the house and they were also surrounding the house, there were lots of cars and vehicles and I said now what is going on - we are looking for William they said. Why - why there so many of you here, has he killed somebody - whatís happened? No they said we are just looking for him. We want to find this Englishman and put him right - is he here, can we search the house?
I said thatís not necessary, here he is, here is William. Get up they said and then they checked through all his books. He was very fond of books and they looked through all the books and they took away a couple of pamphlets and they said - get up and he said, hang on donít be in such a hurry, just give me a chance.
He was a good man but if you crossed him then he was - then he was very difficult. And then he first washed, when he got back he continued to prepare himself very neatly and - and then he came forward and said here I am. They said we are going to take you away now and I said the only thing you must not do is to lay a hand on this son of mine please. And I repeated you will not lay a hand on him - they left with him. I said where are you taking him - we taking him to the police station they answered.
Around about 7 oíclock I thought to myself, how can I sit here and go to work. Let me go to town and try and find out what happened. I went to town and asked them what is going to happen and they said, no we just want to ask him a couple of questions and then we will release him. I said, please let me know if anything happens or phone so that I can come and fetch him because he doesnít have transport. They never phoned me. A bit later end of Tape 2, side A Ö
[indistinct] such a person there and they said, yes, he is here. Are we entitled to see him we asked and they said no, you canít speak to him but nevertheless if you come to the prison perhaps you can speak to the Welfare Officer and maybe he can give you permission to speak to your son. So that weekend we went there and yes indeed he was there. And I said to him what is going on - well he said I have been sentenced to a yearís imprisonment. - now how could this have happened. A man we trusted, now he had to spend his life in jail.
Itís very-very hard to repeat this kind of thing, things which still havenít been finalised. Anyway he served his sentence and he was released and then he fell about a bit and then finally found himself a welding job. He trained for it, got himself a certificate and we relied on him and we trusted him. He knew where his home was he knew where his parents were. He was one of my supports as far as financial matters were concerned.
But the special branch policemen they were harassing us all the time, so much so that we had sleepless nights at times. It was really extremely unpleasant because they would come to our house and my wife could not stand it. She had to have constant medical treatment as a result of all this stress. Eventually I learned that they would go around to each and every member of my family, whether they were in Kimberley or wherever, to try and find out where he was.
One day I arrived at home - my wife was there and she was in such a state - she was so sick and she told me that the police had been there again and I thought what am I going to do? The end result will be that they will lock me up as well and I knew that I just had to make an end to this and thatís when I met Ntsiko and I said Ntsiko please forgive me if I am mistaken, but just please speak to your guys - speak to your men and tell them to stay away from my house because my wife is suffering, my children canít take it any longer. If they want something let them come to me directly and ask me. I will always give them an answer but please let them leave my wife and children in peace so that they will be in the same situation and condition when I arrive home in the evening.
He said all right I will speak to them and so for a while it was a bit better but it never lasted long because they would always come back to me sometimes at work and they would say to me havenít you heard anything. Eventually I did not take anymore notice of them. They were playing games with me so I stopped taking them seriously. I thought they - they just wanted to find out how the Red Cross operates, I offered them tea and perhaps youíre thirsty.
So I also - I stopped taking it seriously. To me it was just a game, and then they would leave and this is how the whole thing carried on. I think it was in 1993 - maybe 1992 I am not entirely sure, no I think it was before then, we heard the news that Fikele had said that William had died. Where - never got a straight answer. Some said Lesotho, some said Tanzania, others Zambia and I thought these people donít know, because since that man left the guys who had - use to come to our house never came back.
I think that that man was here with our Premier, I saw him yesterday and a lot of his friends also Bennie - Bennie also knows him. I think - I can see him sitting there he is writing, I am very pleased to see that. But I am sorry to have to say this but all those friends who were so fond of William, my house is now a place of exile itís like Robben Island they donít want to set a foot in my house, so my wife and I have to cope with life on our own. Nobody comes to us, nobody says how are you - have you heard anything about your son? Have you have enough food - have you got money for coffee. Nobody - nobody shows the slightest concern and interest. We are all by ourselves.
And thatís why I am grateful to this Commission because it is giving us the opportunity to tell the world what kind of love we are dealing with here. If I stab someone in the eye or in his heart then he must forgive me. If I am offending anyone today I ask them forgiveness and I will ask God to forgive those who killed my son, or whatever it was that they did to him. There is nothing we can do, we are powerless. Thatís how it happened and it carried on and on and long afterwards these two white policemen came to us and said - have you not yet heard anything about your son - and as I said eventually I did not even pay them any attention.
Ntsiko and some of the others that I used to pay attention to because we used to meet socially and so on, eventually that changed and they said you donít have to concern yourselves, you donít have to worry, these two white policeman told us your son is in very good hands.
And I thought to myself - though I never have mentioned this to my wife because she would just panic - just I thought to myself someone who is in good hands is actually in the hands of God. There are no other good hands that I know of and that is when I realised they had killed my child - these people know but they had sent someone to go and kill my son, he is dead. If a person is in good hands it means he is with God. If a person who is constantly being hunted like a wild animal and eventually you are told he is in good hands it can only mean one thing and that is that he has been killed, that he is dead. Thatís how I interpreted it that he was dead. So God must forgive me, thank you.
Moss - well no I donít really know Moss but the one who was not involved was Bennie - he went to school in Lesotho and he once came and told us that he had seen our son, but never again, that was the last.
Fikele - Fikele July is that the man we are talking about? Because I have a note here that says your son went from Lesotho to Tanzania in 1986 under the care of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees. Which year are we talking about - 1986 according to the note.
So the report that you have that he was killed in these camps or he died in these camps does not make it clear whether he died as a result of action by the South African Security Forces or the PAC camps or by people of the PAC in their camps - it doesnít make clear - does it?
No I donít think so - but if a person comes to you and says to you that your son is in good hands, now what could they be referring to - whoís hands are good. I am sorry to have to ask you this but whose hands are good - it can only be Jesus Christ and how did my son get there? It must mean that he is dead.
We as a family would like to say please - we want to know if our child - if he is dead, we want his - his remains - his bones and the second thing we would like to ask because you see we donít know how to live henceforward - he was - he was our right-hand, he was our support - perhaps the Government can make some kind of a plan to help us out in our last days. She is 70 and I am far over 70, so we are in the last days of our lives.
Perhaps the Government can make it possible for us to have a pleasant life. You see my wife has been an invalid - she was bedridden for 9 weeks during which nobody except the people from the church came to us to find out how we were. She is stiff suffering. I can no longer work - I have a problem with my leg this is an old Army wound - a war wound from World War 2 - I was never compensated for it, was never even thanked.
And what I now receive is a Government pension of R410-00 and R18-00 a month from the Army - that is my Veterans pension - R18 per month! What can one do with that, absolutely nothing. Thatís all I am asking, please.
I just want to ask one more question for clarity. Your wife mentioned that when you went to Johannesburg you went to see the South African Council of Churches. Could you tell me - I was not sure if that was the church in Kimberley or the Council of Churches in Johannesburg?
Yes Johannes was - was a friend of our sonís and they left together and Johannes also hasnít yet come back. We asked his parents to come here but on the day we went to collect them they said they were too busy.
Mr and Ms Williams one of the hardest things I think for parents is the fact that they donít know what happened to their children. Weíve heard this morning the testimony of another mother who still does not know what happened to her son. We are aware of your pain and the Truth Commission will endeavour to find out what happened to your son.