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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION HEARINGS
Names SIBONGILE CLARABEL MKHIZE
At the time of this incident in 1990 please tell us what you were doing, where you were living? --- In 1990 I was a Xaluza resident since 1984. During the Seven Day War I was in Xaluza, and I was one of those who were disturbed about the things that were transpiring in the area. May I go on? I am disappointed to say we start with the Seven Day War today, and yet this Seven Day War was created by many things that were going on, especially in the community since 1986, when we started to see things changing. As a person who had a role to play to talk about the Seven Day War I am disappointed to tell you that the things that I will say probably that I did not give on my statement.
If you want to tell us about things which happened before the Seven Day War then - which you think led up to it, then please give that information. It doesn't matter if it's not in your statement. --- Thank you. Things that transpired started around 1986. The youth of Xaluza already had started gathering together, making a group - grouping together as UDF, and there was a youth organisation called Edelo. Things started when the Makosi boy was killed by the street. He was hit by the bus. That was the beginning of things changing. The situation now got volatile since then. As elderly people we were not part of these things that the youth were doing, but that day we started seeing that we should play a role in the community. But the incident that I want to start with is the one that transpired in 1987. It was on the 17th December. This was a time when people who had visited us, who had already come to pay a visit, were attacked on that day in Xaluza. When we were attacked we were attacked by police, and when the police attacked us that day, although they will remove their name tags usually, but then they still used to have their name tags, and the vans also had their registrations. On that day when we were attacked a few houses were chosen and targeted to be attacked. Anybody was just killed. People were killed randomly. It was during the day around 1.00-2.00 pm. Many people were injured coming back from work. A few I will mention is the Khumalo family that was attacked by the police, and they pushed the door and stormed in the house. People were just relaxed in the house, and they also had a visitor from Mgoje, and one was stabbed more than 60 times. That was not the end. They also stabbed the father, and a nine-year-old was stabbed on the head. And they met a drunk man on the street and he was shot. He died on the spot. And they also met civilians coming back from work and they stabbed them, and they also stabbed them with assegais as well. They will have traditional weapons and guns, rifles. And one other thing that was happening, it was like the police wore disguise. To show that they were police we could tell because some of those were white men. There were things that led to the Seven Day War, because the community now was separated from Umphumuza and as well Harewood. What I want to emphasise about is that people from Umphumuza, Xaluza, there are people who come from those places being relatives, because as a result of this war those people now were separated as relatives as if they did not know one another. No one would go to pay a visit to some relatives or whatever. This went on up until the Seven Day War. By this time already many people had died. We were being attacked during the day when no one will think of anything evil. All the time - each time we were attacked it was during the day, probably around two in the afternoon. Especially the men will be away at work. We will be left at home as women. Youths used to be killed when they were coming back from work unarmed, and they will be attacked like that. At times we would be forced to go and meet our loved ones in town. Let me now get into the Seven Day War. The Seven Day War approached and came unexpected. this happened in the morning when children were going to school. My house was facing the sheds(?). I saw people, a crowd on the other side watching something. Then I was wondering what were they watching and looking at. I asked my neighbour, "What are they doing there, what are they looking at like that? Is it probably some kind of an attack that is coming, or what?" When we were walking, going upper - my house is down the street, and as we were walking upper, surprised as we were what were they looking at, we saw big lorries. These lorries had many people - had people on board. As we were listening we could hear them singing songs as though they were chanting Christian songs. One would definitely show that those were Christians, and that led us to be confused as to what was happening, who were those people and what was happening. Now, when they got - as these lorries were approaching it got us in a panic state. Suddenly we saw children running, coming in our direction, and shouting, saying, "Inkatha, Inkatha." We diverted now. We went to the other road, which was Kwa Dr Mkhize Road(?), running, running trying to meet the children from school. We actually met them on the way. They told us that the principal released them because it was not safe, they should go back home. When we got there we went back, because I suddenly thought that I should call the Natal Witness to come and combat the situation, because we knew the people were attacking us. I asked the secretary of Natal Witness to report the matter to the police. In my mind I had this thought that even though the police were supporting this violence maybe some don't. And also the journalists as well came. I asked the kids about this, and they also supported me that they had never seen something of this nature. I went through the school nearby to Greenacre Road. This road crosses Xaluza to Sweetwater. When I got there I found the youth of Xaluza being pushed by the police. The police was dismissing that crowd. I met the journalist. I don't even remember whether I asked his name, because I was so afraid I said to him, "It's me who called you. I am the one who called you." He was in such a state, he was panicking and tense. There were police who were talking to him and telling him that as he was there they cannot protect him, he should simple leave Xaluza because they can't extend any protection to him. At that time some police were ... (inaudible) ... the situation was volatile then, and I will transcend(?) to this point when I was talking to the police, and I asked the police, "Why would you dismiss these youths? Why don't you talk to them, because they are the ones who were coming to us?" And one police came towards me and said, "There is no one who prevents Inkatha by any means. Just go back home." At that time I had lost hope. I knew that the police would not help in any way. When I was talking to the police at that time the police then were - there were two police vans parked there. When I was talking to them I was just simply talking to them as a civilian, not being aware of other things that were happening. Lately there were two buckets in front of the van. I thought probably those buckets had been filled with water for them to drink, but afterwards I found out that in those buckets there were bullets for Inkatha brought by the police so Inkatha can just sweep the whole community. There was a hearsay rumour that they will sweep that Xaluza area, kill every civilian, and plough cane, sugar cane, and that will belong to the chief. This led to the youths getting so angry about what was going on, and also there were those who were disguising. There were those also who had painted themselves. I was so much scared. I had my baby at the back. We went back. One did not know as to what to do and what to put together. One elderly woman saw the police when he was trying to gather his documents, by-passes. She saw the police setting the house alight. You know, some things that were happening, it was not only Inkatha, but they were being helped by the police colluding with them. Most elderly people missed and lost so many things, documents and - pension documents, stuff like that. They had to start afresh applying for new documents. That was the beginning. That was on Tuesday. That was the beginning of us discovering and seeing the beginning and the outbreak of the Seven Day War. As I have said that the warriors were more than three ... (incomplete - end of Side B, Tape 3) ... the area in the community, that when they get here they should just - everybody will be killed. We were fighting against people who were fully armed. At that time children, the youths, was being injured, more so they were killed because Inkatha had rifles, R1, R5, but they had in their possession major ammunition. Most of the youth was injured and was taken to Eden Hospital. What was said about this was that when you get into the hospital you would be told, "You are coming from Xaluza. Obviously you are a UDF," and you will not get any help from that point. And it was said Comrades don't have any hospital. Maybe I should say that as the mothers of those children we did try to help our children, because the hospital could not come into the rest of the situation. It was said around in the country that people in Eden were faced with such a sad situation. I had never been trained as a nurse, or probably I don't have any preliminary medical knowledge, but I had to try my best to enlist help to the youths that was injured. The first aid kit were given by Monica. She forgot to put in the kit something that was so important, because we did not have the tweezers. But one thing that was so sad and painful is that when we were being attacked, and not getting any help from the hospital, we would head towards Umsunduzi. We will get there. Many people we did not bury them in Xaluza, but they were taken by the river. The big question was what kind of water were we drinking at the time if the river was flooded and packed and loaded with corpses. This was tragedy, because one will not be free walking on the road or on the street because it was not safe any more. We will cross this river even when it was over-flooding, but it was not even safe then to come near it. One other thing that bothered us was that when people were injured, because they were being injured coming back from work, they will be fired from work and now stay at home and be such a burden, and UDF had to face with this situation as their members. Now, the problem was not that alone, but it will so happen that during the day when we were relaxed, thinking that everything is over, or hoping that there won't be anything that will happen, you will see an ambulance, Eden ambulance. Relaxed at home, in such a jubilant mood, so to speak, you will see the ambulance approaching and you will think there's an attack somewhere, maybe it's rushing there. And yet the ambulance was the very one which was killing us. You will hear gunshots from the ambulance, and the youth - the majority of the youth was killed as well. We have people at Xaluza who have been killed by these bullets from the ambulance, and also we were no longer safe seeing ambulance nearby because we know there are killers in there, up until to the time when we decided we will not use the ambulance services any more, we will rather suffer our way. I will never forget Thursday morning. I am happy when I hear some others say they were relaxed or they are happy, but as for me Thursday morning was the day when I heard a gunshot around seven, half past seven in the morning. We started asking one another in the house, "What's happening now?" and the sound - the way it sounded one would wonder what kind of a rifle was used. On top of the roof in my house there were eight bullets. We did not even know who was shooting. We ran and we discovered that it was Kihla Mbuni, a policeman. He was just shooting at random early in the morning, and that brought questions to us what was happening, and we always have this questions in our minds, that who will come to our rescue as Xaluza community, because the way we had been attacked I had never seen it before. And we were not being only attacked by police. There once was a helicopter which would fly around the bush. Maybe you will escape from the location and run towards the bush, and the helicopter will find you there, and you will be assaulted and be told that you will be killed so they can plough sugar cane. This went on in the community as it was. People came who were called Comrades, coming from Umphumuza. We welcomed them in Xaluza. One question that makes us happy today is for the Truth Commission to ask on our behalf as to where do we belong and who are we? The identity will - we have lost identity, we tend to be like Ruandans as a result of things that transpired at the time. We were so scared of the police. We were so scared and afraid of the hospital. One day I do hope that we will search for an answer, that when a nurse is made to take an oath and join the hospital as a worker is she joining the hospital as part of helping the community or fighting the community? One question that is inevitable for me is that the Water Board - who was in charge of the Water Board, and one thing that we are sorry about is the paying of the tax, because it's the very tax that killed us.
Thank you very much, Mrs Mkhize. Mrs Mkhize, in your evidence you mentioned seeing a number of lorries. In fact you've mentioned there were 29 lorries carrying armed people, is that right? --- That's correct. I counted them. And did you see that they had KwaZulu Government registration plates on them? You said that in your statement, is that right? --- Although I didn't see that at the time, but I was told that those lorries had KwaZulu registration, and also were painted white, cream-white, and that was the Government colour. And most of those lorries one could obviously tell that they belonged to the Government, because who could own 29 lorries?
And do you have any idea which Government department they came from, Department of Works, Department of Health, which - do you have any idea? --- That I may not know as to what department. I was also surprised to discover that some from hospital were there.
Mrs Mkhize, according to your statement you've said the Eden Hospital was not giving any services to the UDF members. Who was the superintendent of the hospital at that time? --- I am not sure if it was Dr Evans then.
What year was it? --- It was 1990. I think it must have been Dr Evans. Tell me about the matrons, who were the matrons? --- Although I don't know the staff at large, but I know for sure Dr Evans was the superintendent.
You did not even hear who were the matrons at the time? --- We'll have to get the truth, open up. There was a Matron Monaheng and Matron Ngcobo, and Shandu. There were many matrons, although I don't know who was it.
Was she also aware about the fact that the Xaluza residents were not welcomed at the hospital? --- Yes. As a person who was coming from your area did you ever ask her a question or probably - with regard to this? --- No, we never asked her anything. Our minds were preoccupied about the war that was taking place that we did not even think of approaching her and asking her such questions.
You said you ran towards the Greenacre Road and you saw a reporter there, and you had a baby on the back. You spoke - you talked to the police officer, and the police officer was with the reporter. --- That time the police officers used to remove their name tags so I could not tell his name.
It means if we can get hold of her she'll tell us and shed more light in this. --- I do trust and hope that she will do that, she will shed more light, and she's the one who released the children to go back home.
I greet you, Sibongile. I haven't greeted you before. I will just make a comment and point a few things that your presence here this afternoon gives me hope, and I am proud about that as a woman as well. Since yesterday and this day you are the first woman to come up front here and tell us from your own point of view things that happened at that time. Maybe we shall say that we thank you, and thank all other women who played an important role at the time. This women organisation which played such an important role, was it an organisation that was dealing with what? Or tell us a little bit about the organisation. --- That women organisation was formed as a result of these attacks. We came together as women because we were all facing this problem of losing our children ranging around the ages of 17. And also one other thing that reinforced this was an attempt of trying to combat what was going on. Xaluza was an area where many people or the youth would run to for safety. We would keep these children and hire some rooms at times to accommodate the children. But the objective of the organisation itself was to face up the situation and try and do something in light of bringing peace.
We know that you did not intend to fight back or revenge probably, throw stones, but you had this aim of bringing and introducing peace, and also protecting those who were injured. --- Yes, that was the aim too, although the situation in which we were was a tough one, because according to our culture a woman will not go to war or to the battlefield, but in our case we had to do that because no one else could do that. So we found ourselves in a position of having no choice but to just go forward. We were not trained to do that, we were doing something that was strange, but we had to do that, take food to those who were directly involved in the fighting.
One other question I would like you to dwell on. You've said that Makozi's boy was hit by the bus, and why would you say that led to the attacks? What led to the bus hitting him? --- There was a youth called Eden - Edendale Youth Organisation, that we were not aware of as adults. It was in the afternoon, though the youth was running on Eden Road. I remember seeing - because we were outside watching them. They were chanting and singing songs, and he was hit suddenly in that scene, and we were lost, we did not know what was happening. That's where the Inkatha realised that UDF was already there. That's why I said that was the beginning of violence. They will come in Xaluza with their dogs and shoot, and that was no big deal at all.
You said in 1987 you were being attacked severely by the police, and then they did not used to remove their name tags. So tell us their names. --- Although I would not - I may have forgotten some of their names, but I remember we did give statements to the human rights lawyers. We gave them all the details regarding the situation. We gave them things like registration numbers and police numbers, and we also furnished them with some of the bullets that were used.
Mrs Mkhize, you mentioned this helicopter and its activities. Just to give us a clear picture, what year was that when you saw this helicopter being involved? --- During the Seven Day War. There's a mountain called Nontwele in Xaluza, and this mountain has some bush nearby, and that bush goes up to Siniya(?). Now, when there's an attack it will come from Sweetwater and from all areas through the bush, that I would probably refer to it as a bush that was separating Xaluza and Sweetwater, the forest. Now, you will find that our people will be on the other side and they will be on the other side of the forest, and now the helicopter would fly so close that you can be able to see anyone down there. As we were on the other side we could see clearly when it was flying, because it will fly so close and start shooting. They will shoot from the helicopter, shooting those who were lying down or hiding in the forest, and after that you will hear things like someone has died. And Rudolf, for instance, died in that kind of an attack.
The second area I wanted you to clarify for me if possible is, do I understand you correctly to say that the Henley Dam was deliberately opened whenever there was violence so that people couldn't cross the river? Is that what you're saying? --- Yes, that's what I am saying.
Mrs Mkhize, somewhere here in your statement where you elaborate about the incident that took place when the man with R5 gun started shooting. His name was Kihla Mbuni. Where is he? Where is this particular man? --- I don't know presently, because after this violence I had never seen him.
Was he insane, or what was wrong with him? --- I don't know, because it was not the first time he started shooting. And as for that day, for him to shoot, I don't know what led him to do that. One time he shot one boy, Siphamandla - by the name of Siphamandla. He shot him six times and died right on the spot.
Sibongile, I have two questions. You have been asked a question regarding Henley Dam. Maybe to make a follow-up, did you ever get any explanation from Water Board that the dam will be opened when there is violence taking place? Did you get any explanation? --- No, we never asked. We never asked them as to why they opened the dam. It haunted us so much, and bothered us so much, but we never went straight to them. And the Umgeni Water Board, no one will just go freely to them.
Did this occur just once or several times? --- It was common knowledge that when there will be violence or attacks you will see - the sign will be the dam. It will be over-flooded. It will be completely filled, and right then unexpectedly the attacks will begin. They will come from Zaire and from Sweetwater, and also from Harewood. It was not one place. We will always find ourselves in a problem because we have to be careful of three different places.
Now, let me put myself in their shoes. Would you think they were using the Henley Dam as one way of getting through to you? --- All the time before the attacks the dam will be opened, so that was a sign enough for us. And unfortunately that day it was drizzling, but there was no point of opening the dam.
The second question for you. Maybe I did not get you. You said there were those who sent you the first aid kit, and it was not complete. Are you saying so because you suspect that that was done deliberately, or perhaps it was truly a mistake, or you were just relating your story simply as that, innocently? --- No, I was highlighting the fact that we were all confused, and Monica is a nurse by profession and will not forget some other things. She forgot this important part of the kit, but my point was to emphasise on the fact that we were so confused about the situation, not anything more than that.
I just want to clear something about Monica Wittenberg. I am not surprised that she forgot this. Let us not forget that Monica is involved in many things. There were times when she had to sleep at Imbali during difficult times. When some of us could not walk at Imbali Monica with some few people was walking at Imbali, sleeping with the families at Imbali to protect some of the families. Some of the families would have died at Imbali if there was no Monica. So if the history is written about what happened in this area, and the name of Monica is not there, that history will not be complete. I just want to say that.
(Incomplete - end of Side A, Tape 4) ... important evidence that we will hear at this hearing, and because it is an account of what actually happened to you, and other people like you, and it is not affected by opinions and perceptions. In many other areas in this province we've heard evidence from women who have lost their husbands and their sons, their property, but in most of these areas the women were usually not harmed. Sometimes they were, but by and large the women were left alone, they weren't assaulted or killed. But what makes this period different, this so-called Seven Day War, is that the people who invaded your area, and many of the other areas, showed no mercy towards women. And Professor Aitchison yesterday handed in a list of the known dead, and there were, I think, almost 200 of them, people who we know died in that week, and many of those people were women and children. And all we can say is that that is brutal and cowardly behaviour for armed men to attack and kill women and children, and the people who did these things should be deeply, deeply ashamed of themselves. On the other hand what you did you can be proud of, helping to nurse people as an untrained person, and taking them to hospital. So thank you again very, very much for coming in and telling us your story. --- Thank you.