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Human Rights Violation Hearings


Starting Date 04 June 1997


Day 1


Case Number JB2405

CHAIRPERSON: May I call on Noah Nkosi?

Mr Nkosi, welcome. Will you just tell us who do you have sitting next to you?

MR NKOSI: This is Josephine Makaghula.

CHAIRPERSON: Is she related to you?

MR NKOSI: My sister.

CHAIRPERSON: We welcome you too. Thank you for accompanying your brother. Mrs Sooka will be assisting you in leading your evidence and she will also be administering the oath.

MS SOOKA: Good day, Mr Nkosi. Can I ask you to stand so that I can ask you to take the oath please?

NOAH M NKOSI: (Duly sworn in, states).

MS SOOKA: Thank you, you may be seated.

Mr Nkosi, you've come today to tell us about your son, Eric, who was shot and killed. I wonder if you could tell us what happened and what you know, in your own words first. And then I will ask you questions if I need to get more clarity on some of the things you're saying. Will you tell us your story please?

MR NKOSI: I would say, he didn't die, he is still alive. I just have to correct that from the beginning.

MS SOOKA: Oh, sorry. Yes, you're quite right.

MR NKOSI: It was on the 21st of January 1990 and it was on Sunday. I was at home, preparing to go to church. It was about 11, somewhere between 11 and 12.

My sister came crying and I was so surprised when she entered the door and she gave me the message that Eric was shot by the police.

I wanted to enquire. She couldn't perfectly relate as to what happened as she was terrified and crying at that time. And I asked her to accompany me to show me the scene where the incident took place.

We went together and we arrived at the scene. It was about half a kilometre from the place, from my place at the place where he was shot.

At the scene, I found the constable who shot him. He was still there and he had called an ambulance. I started asking the constable as to why did he shoot the young child?

He didn't answer. I also asked, is it the law that you don't arrest people any more, but you come and shoot them? He didn't give me an answer to that question too. Therefore I left and I got into the ambulance together with the shot child and we went to a hospital in Middelburg.

We got the child to be admitted into hospital. Thereafter I went back home and the following week, I don't remember well, may it was the week after, or two weeks later we had to go to court.

Because while we were on the way to hospital, I asked him as to what happened to him? He said he was just standing in one of the grounds. This ground is near Germain street.

On that particular day, on the 21st of January there was a meeting of the ANC, the African National Congress, and we were going to discuss about the rent boycotts.

He related that when they got out of the meeting, they were marching on the main street and they were going to the direction of one of the policemen who was working with the municipality.

I don't know what exactly they were going there for, because I didn't get time to ask him that question. This house he's talking about is so close to the ground or the field.

When arriving at that house, I should think the police knew everything. They were already there. Then the people discovered the police were there. The police started shooting and people started running to the direction, different directions and some of them ran back to the field or the ground.

So this child also joined them and ran with this people and ended up in one of the houses under a bed. That's where the constable came and shot the child under a bed.

This worries me a lot. On the court date, I thought the child was lying and I hoped that maybe when the matter goes to court, they will call the child to give evidence.

Unfortunately the child didn't appear in court. One of the White station commanders who was there; I managed to talk to him and ask him as to, since my child was there and was shot and the matter is on hearing now, why is he not called in to give evidence?

The station commander said he didn't know anything. So the answer was not satisfactory. And that hurt me so much. I started talking to the lawyers. The lawyers for human rights. If I remember well, they were from Johannesburg.

I tried to tell them the story. I related to them that I also had my child shot on that particular date and that my child was not invited to come to court. And I asked them why is he not in.

They asked me where he was. I told them he was in hospital in Middelburg. What's painful is that when I went to Middelburg to visit my child, I discovered there were two policemen who were told to guard the child.

I don't know whether they were given this instruction by this constable to guard my child. They were standing right next to him, holding big rifles.

The child was so thin at that time. He was so thin, just like an unfed dog. That hurt me so much and I had to ask one of the lawyers to help to remove the lawyers (guards) from the child's bed, because the child was still young. He was about thirteen at that time.

I thought he couldn't sleep. He'd be frightened to see the police standing with big guns next to him. And this lawyer managed to talk to the people, the administration. And when I came back the next time, I found out that the police had been removed.

The case was concluded. I mean the whole case involving all the people. However the case concerning this young child didn't go any further.

I find it so difficult as to why they guarded him at hospital if there wasn't a case concerning him. I used to go to the police station or the court with him, all during the times of the hearing, but nothing happened until the case was concluded.

What worries me this moment is that the way he was shot is so dangerous. I think there is this kind of a gun, that when you shoot it, the bullets have to spread. And he was shot and the bullet went through and end up shooting - went through and also shot through the hand.

The problem now is he cannot work. As I'm here today, I don't have money myself. I can't support him.

This is what I came to say before the Commission.

MS SOOKA: Thank you, Mr Nkosi. Mr Nkosi, you, I heard you in your evidence state that your son was thirteen years old at the time. Is that correct?

MR NKOSI: That's correct.

MS SOOKA: Was he still at school?

MR NKOSI: That's correct.

MS SOOKA: What standard was he in when this happened?

MR NKOSI: If I remember well, it's about seven years ago. I think he was in standard one or two

MS SOOKA: Was he involved in any political organisation at the time he was at school?

MR NKOSI: I'm not sure about that, but he was a very good child and he didn't like to be involved in other outside things which were not acceptable at home.

MS SOOKA: So you won't know whether he was a member of any of the youth groups at the time in the township?

MR NKOSI: I will say, to my opinion, I don't think he was a member of any political organisation. Because if he was a member, I shall think he was supposed to be together with those who were protesting at the Roman Catholic Church.

MS SOOKA: So he actually just got caught up in the cross fire between the police and the marchers then?

MR NKOSI: What do you mean?

MS SOOKA: It seems that you mentioned in your evidence that there was a meeting about the rent boycott on that day.

MR NKOSI: That's correct.

MS SOOKA: Your son got caught up in the crowd and ran into a house and they were followed by the police. Because you say he was under a bed when he was shot by the police? Is that correct?

MR NKOSI: That's correct.

MS SOOKA: You have given us the name of the policeman. Tell me, when this matter came to court, was this an enquiry into the march or were the people who were boycotting that day, were they being charged by the police?

Can you remember what the details of the court case was about?

MR NKOSI: What I remember was that, is that people were called before the court. But I don't have enough information as to how the court case was conducted. The only thing that I know is that my child was not called to appear before the court. And thereafter I didn't go further to follow the hearings.

MS SOOKA: So when you went to court you went out of your own and not because the police issued a subpoena or asked you to come to court? Do you remember whether you received a document from the police asking you to come to court?

MR NKOSI: No, I wasn't asked to appear before the court. The only reason why I went to court, is because I felt since he was guarded at the hospital, I thought he was one of the suspects. So if the others were to be called before the court, he was supposed to appear too.

MS SOOKA: Do you remember when you spoke to Lawyers for Human Rights, do you remember the name of the person that you spoke to at Lawyers for Human Rights?

I know it's a long time ago.

MR NKOSI: The lawyer's name, I can't remember well, but he was an Indian man.

MS SOOKA: Was it a Mr Colepin?

MR NKOSI: I can't say that, I might be lying. I don't remember. However, he was a young man.

MS SOOKA: And can you tell me; did you discuss taking, bringing a case against the police, with these lawyers; for the shooting of your son?

MR NKOSI: I didn't talk to him about that, because I thought my child will also be charged or maybe if he doesn't get convicted; then they might start some civil proceedings.

MS SOOKA: But you never brought any civil proceeding?

MR NKOSI: Yes, we didn't.

MS SOOKA: Also, just a little about the injuries that your son sustained.

You say that the bullets, that the bullets that were used, actually past right through his leg. And can you tell us a little bit about the injuries that your son sustained and about the hospital treatment the he underwent at the time?

MR NKOSI: The injuries; I would say that he was shot just right through the ribs and then the bullet went through from the front to the back and I shall say that the bullet opened a very big hole and some small, a number of small holes at the back.

That's what made me suspect that it was another kind of bullet, those spreading bullets. Small bullets or splints happened to hit him on the arm. And there were five stitches. And through the navel to the back there are about 12 stitches.

MS SOOKA: Did the hospital, could they tell you how many times your son was shot? Was he shot once or more than one time?

MR NKOSI: They didn't tell me anything about that. But I think and believe that it was one shot.

MS SOOKA: And this policeman; do you know whether he still lives in this area?

MR NKOSI: He's still around ...

MS SOOKA: Is he - sorry, carry on.

MR NKOSI: It looks like he's an investigating officer and he also got promoted.

MS SOOKA: Could you also tell me the case; did it take place in Middelburg, the case that was heard? Was it at the Middelburg Magistrates Court, the court case?

MR NKOSI: The case was held at Belfast. On the first date it was in Belfast.

MS SOOKA: And did your son return to school after he came out of hospital?

MR NKOSI: Yes, he did go back to school.

MS SOOKA: Did he finish school?

MR NKOSI: He didn't finish and at the present moment he's in Durban at a technikon and we're trying to help him, because I don't think he can do some heavy jobs.

MS SOOKA: What is he studying at the technikon in Durban?

MR NKOSI: He's studying ML (...indistinct) technikon. He's starting information technology.

MS SOOKA: Is he in his last year or what is he in?

MR NKOSI: It's the 2nd year.

MS SOOKA: I see. Thank you very much, Mr Nkosi.

CHAIRPERSON: May I just ask one follow up question on your son? In your statement you say he is not presently in a stable condition. What do you mean? Is it simply that he's weak or is there other complications?

MR NKOSI: His problem is that the operation is so extensive. And also his hands isn't well. They make it difficult for him to cope when it comes to work under heavy conditions or doing some tough work.

CHAIRPERSON: But otherwise he's stable. It's not that there's anything threatening or - he copes as he is?

MR NKOSI: I would say that's correct.

CHAIRPERSON: Excuse me. One other question; in your evidence you said that the community organised this march protesting the rent.

Now your statement was taken through an interpreter. You spoke in Zulu and it was written down in English for us. So something might have gone missing. That usually happens in translations in that fashion.

But in your statement to us, you are saying that the community organised this march against the municipal police who were violating human rights. Is there a connection?

MR NKOSI: Yes, there is a connection. This particular policeman, he was working as a police for the municipality and he was involved in municipality matters, I mean in connection with rent.

CHAIRPERSON: Was he issuing summonses or in what way was he involved in the collection of rent? Don't you pay this at the offices of the municipality?

I'm not trying to put you questions that you can't answer. I want to know, really, what the subject matter of this gathering was? Was it really focused on rent or was it on the violation of human rights by municipal police? And if so, what were you referring at?

MR NKOSI: I would say it was concerning rent boycott. As I wasn't deeply involved in such matters, I just heard that there was a meeting for rent boycott and that this policeman was also suspected as one who abuses people when it comes to rent issues.

And that's all that I know, because I wasn't that fully involved in such things.

CHAIRPERSON: Okay, but the focus was not the human rights violation by policemen. The focus was the rent boycott. So we can strike the other from our record, just for our personal records.

MR NKOSI: I would say the cost was the rent issue.

CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you very much, Mr Nkosi. Thank you for having come to us.

There seems not much outstanding in terms of what we can really follow up to get more information and I think the information as to what has happened is clear in your mind; much more clear than in most of other cases that are coming to us.

Especially where people have disappeared and so on or have died. That does not say that you're not experiencing pain. We acknowledge it, especially if it's your child. We can just imagine what is must mean to a parent, although we haven't personally experienced that. Or certainly not all of us, not many of us.

We wish you well and to the extend that we may be getting more information. We will communicate that to you, but you will in any event be hearing from us in due course. Thank you for coming to us. Also to your sister. May you go well. Hambagashle.

Ladies and gentlemen I think this is an opportunity, time again for us to break for lunch. It seems to be some announcement here.

The idea - just before you get up please - tell me what this is about. I forgot my glasses at home. I'm going to ask Mrs Sooka to read out the note here to you, just a second please.

MS SOOKA: We would like to say that we are very pleased that the following people have come to participate in the hearing and have graced the hearing with their presence: Mrs Mapule Maseko from the local Reconstruction and Development Committee.

Could you stand please, so we could acknowledge you? Thank you. Thank you mama, you may be seated.

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