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Human Rights Violation Hearings


Starting Date 04 June 1997


Day 1


Case Number JB2135

CHAIRPERSON: ... any one of these? Please just take care that you return it before leaving the hall. They do cost a lot of money, but they can unfortunately not be used outside of this system. It is of no value outside. But please check on yourselves, because one can easily walk out forgetting that you have it on you. There are different channels and on the left-hand side, you have a little wheel with numbers on. Channel two will be a translation into English and channel three I think will be into Zulu today, is it?

TRANSLATOR: Channel three is Zulu.

CHAIRPERSON: Channel three is Zulu. Thank you very much. Dr Ally.

DR ALLY: Thank you. Mr Msibi, have you brought somebody with you, is somebody accompanying you?

MR MSIBI: I'm alone.

DR ALLY: There are briefers with you. Msibi, you are coming to speak about a particularly horrific and tragic event; the deaths of both your mother and your sister. Can I ask you ...

MR MSIBI: That is correct.

DR ALLY: I'm going to ask you if you can just please go through these events with us and tell us what happened.

MR MSIBI: I'll start by saying that they were going to a funeral, travelling in a van. There were five inside. On their way, it was about quarter past three in the afternoon and it so happened that on the road they were travelling in, a bomb was planted. It happened that it exploded and my mother and my younger sister died.

My younger sister left some children behind. We are now supporting the children, sending them to school, because the husband also died.

This is what I know concerning this matter. We did not know much, because even the police, they did not come to give us the full reports as to what happened.

DR ALLY: Mr Msibi, you say there were five people on this van?

MR MSIBI: That's correct.

DR ALLY: And were your sister and your mother the only fatalities, the only people who died?

MR MSIBI: I would say my mother and my sister died. The others died, but they were not related to us. There was Mrs Tole and Mr Morte and the two died. Only James Morte survived and he's still alive.

DR ALLY: You said that the husband of your sister also died. Was that in a separate insident? You mention - was he also ...

MR MSIBI: I was saying this was the husband she was living with. He died, but his name is Sithole.

DR ALLY: But in a separate - he died after this event. I am just trying, he wasn't on the van?

MR MSIBI: He died at the same time in the explosion.

DR ALLY: Because that's important, because it's not on your statement. You only mention your mother and your sister. So, now there was one survivor of this bomb blast?

MR MSIBI: Yes, that's correct, his name is James Morte.

DR ALLY: What is, what was James's account of what actually happened. I'm sure you must have spoken to James and tried to establish from him what happened?

MR MSIBI: James explained as to how they were seated in the car. I mean the arrangement come to seating, that's the only thing you can explain and he said he just happened to find himself in hospital and he doesn't know what happened exactly. The only explanation that I'm saying is the explanations to how they were seated in the car, but he doesn't know as to what happened later.

DR ALLY: Now you say you did report this to the police?

MR MSIBI: Yes, we did report the matter.

DR ALLY: And did the police, did they do any investigation? Did they, for example, try and find out what exactly had caused this explosion? Was it a mine, anti-tank mine or a limpet-mine? Did they make any enquiries to your knowledge as to what had actually caused this explosion?

MR MSIBI: We only get into contact with police this year, but the explosion was in 1987. They did come to us to talk to us. They just explained to me as to what kind of bomb it was and that was all that they told me. That was the last time I saw them. They also took me to the scene and we came back. And they did nothing after.

DR ALLY: What kind of bomb did they say it was?

MR MSIBI: They explained that it was a Russian-made bomb.

DR ALLY: Did they say who they thought was responsible? Did they mention names of any organisations or anything like that?

MR MSIBI: They said they suspected someone and are still proceeding with the investigation. I would say this was on the first time where we had encountered bomb explosion at the same place. The first one is, it happened and a policeman was killed. And the second one, about two policemen were killed in another explosion. This was the third one.

DR ALLY: So this road that your family was travelling on, was this near a farming area or near a military area or near a police area? Just tell us a little bit about the actual place? If there is anything significant about it, because in your statement you just speak about the road between Barberton and an asbestos mine.

MR MSIBI: This place is next to the asbestos mine. In that particular place, the soldiers used to exercise by climbing the mountain up. So I would say that the bomb was planted near that place. I think they were targeting these soldiers who were training on the hill. Unfortunately it wasn't the soldiers who were caught in the explosion, but were other people.

DR ALLY: So there was a South African Defence Force? Was it a training base, a training centre or a base there, what exactly?

MR MSIBI: Yes, I would say there was a soldier, there was a camp for soldiers. However, the way it exploded was just a way which leads to the training field. There were also some families near the road. As I said they were going to the funeral. So it so happened that they walked on the road, they travelled on the road and they were caught in the explosion.

DR ALLY: Mr Msibi, what I would strongly urge you to do, is to include in your statement, to add to your statement, some of these facts that you have mentioned to us now. You can do it through our statement-taker. We've taken it down as well as you've been speaking, but also about your sister's husband, to include his name and to give that to us.

I mean it is very difficult to know what to say to you in this circumstances, but just to let you know that a few weeks ago, I think it's three weeks ago now, the African National Congress, the ANC was recalled to hearing by the Truth Commission in which questions were put to the ANC, particularly about their campaigns when they decided to intensify, in their language, to intensify the struggle and when land-mines were planted in different parts of the country. Particularly in farming areas and also areas where they believed there were, there was a military presence.

The explanation which the ANC actually gave was that this was - that they considered the planting of land-mines to be legitimate, part of the struggle, in rural areas and also areas where there was a presence of the military, in farming areas, because they believed that the farmers had become part of the military establishment; that they never ever used anti-personnel mines, mines which would explode if a person tramped, stepped on them, because they didn't want to cause harm to civilians as such, but they used what they described as anti-tank mines which required a certain weight to set the mine off.

But they claimed, they went further and said that in a process of this campaign, what they discovered was that many people were caught in the cross-fire; that often farmers would be transporting labourers on their bakkies and that weight would cause the mine to go off; that many innocent people who were also getting caught, and that the then President, the late Oliver Thambo actually called in the MK commanders and said to them to discontinue this campaign of planting land-mines and they stopped doing that as a result of the consequences, what they saw actually happening.

They also made a general apology for deaths caused as result of the campaign that they have been waging. Now I don't know if this is, fits into what they were doing, but I'm just responding to some of the things you've said. The police saying that the mines were of Russian origin and the fact that the mine was planted near to what appears to have been a military base, a military camp.

But we do have their full, we do have a submission in which they indicate places where they were active and they also list some of the events which they say they were responsible for.

But that's what I can offer you as a preliminary explanation now. Hopefully we will be able to follow up on some of this, but I don't really have anything more to ask you; just to pass my condolences and I will hand you back to the Chairperson.

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Dr Ally. Any follow up questions, Ms Sooka?

MS SOOKA: Mr Msibi, you've mentioned that your mother and your sister were in this bakkie and you said that there was one survivor, James Morte. But can you tell me the names of the other people, if you know them, who were also in the bakkie that day?

MR MSIBI: I only know the surname, the only one I knew, his name was James Morte. It's Mrs Tole, Morte, my sister and my mother. There were four. James Morte survived.

MS SOOKA: Does he still, do you know where he lives?

MR MSIBI: Yes, I do.

MS SOOKA: Are you able to supply the, our briefer with his address? We will appreciate it, because it then means we could try and get more information from him.

MS SOOKA: I won't be able to give you his address, but I know where he stays.

MS SOOKA: Okay. We'll ask our briefer to get that from you. Thank you.


PROF MEIRING: Mr Msibi, you said that your mother and your sister died. I need a little bit information about your mother and your sister and the children. How old was your mother when she passed away?

MR MSIBI: My mother was born in 1911 and she died in 1987. I can't calculate at the moment as to how old she were. My sister was born at about 1952 and she died in 1987 too. She was born in 1952 and died in 1987.

PROF MEIRING: And if I remember correctly, there were four children from your sister?

MR MSIBI: That's correct.

PROF MEIRING: How old are they and what are they doing at the moment, the children? Are they still at school?

MR MSIBI: They are still at school. However, I can't remember all their ages.

PROF MEIRING: But they are still at school, they are not working?

MR MSIBI: Yes, that's correct.

PROF MEIRING: Thank you very much.

CHAIRPERSON: Mr Msibi, thank you very much for your evidence. I thought again of the words of Rev Komalu about establishing the truth in a way that would lead to and in the spirit of reconciliation.

I thank you for coming to us and also the frame within which you gave your evidence. Thank you very much.


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