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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION HEARINGS
Names NKOSI NELSON SHABANGU
MR SINGH: Thank you, Mr Shabangu, you may be seated. Just for the record do you wish to testify in Zulu or in English or Afrikaans? I am aware that at this stage there is no Afrikaans interpreter available, however. --- I want to render my testimony in Afrikaans. If it's easier I would give my testimony in English.
Thank you. Mr Shabangu, just as an introduction, can you tell this Commission where you have served, or the various departments in which you have served in the South African Police? --- I would first start by telling you when I started working for the police services.
INTERPRETER: Please be quiet. This is a very important moment, an emotional moment in our history. Could you please keep quiet and listen. Contain yourselves please. We cannot hear. The technicians shall fix the problem.
MR SINGH: Yes, Mr Shabangu, the Commissioner asks that you just speak a little bit louder so that the people can hear you at the back. --- Okay. Firstly I'm going to start to say I feel very happy now on this moment. All the time when I was working on the police services there was no chance to come forward. The certain place when I was working, I was working at different places of branches. Firstly I was working at Riot Unit No 8, and then secondly I worked at Internal Security Branch, and the third one I was working at Murder & Robbery, and then fourthly I was working at the Uniform Branch.
Please carry on speaking. I just want to check whether the audience can now hear the interpreter. --- Well, I'm going to put on this people's mind first why I came forward. I'm going to put a short briefly on a firstly. The man who was a policeman was serving under our unit, Unit 8. That man was killed. Because of this man was killed - this man was killed because of he killed one of the commander from Pietermaritzburg. (intervention)
MR SINGH: Mr Shabangu, could I just interrupt you and ask you to - you're quite welcome to name the people you're referring to. --- Okay, the man I'm going to specify here is Constable Ray Ngcobo. He was killed because he killed Major Deon Terblanche. That's why I put in the people's mind on this specific moment I am sitting here - I am freely on the moment, but on outside - outside I won't feel free. I am going to start firstly on this - during 1990, March. That specific time I was working at Security Branch. On one day at one stage a certain man came, that's David Ntombela, and he came to speak to one of our superiors. On that moment I couldn't specify who was that. And he came to tell us that the ANC has blocked the road of the Edendale Road. And our superior he told us we must out onto the area to patrol that area. If I say our superior on that specific basis I refer to - he's a captain now at the moment, Captain Brookes. We're doing the patrols during the time when he told us, and also the part of the people from the unit. If I say the unit I specify the Riot Unit. On that specific moment there was nothing happening there, and up to the stage on one day there was a bus coming from town going to Elandskop. And there was a lady who was injured into that bus. There was a youngster who was standing next to Mavulala bus stop, and he threw a stone into the bus. And then on this stage we went to the scene and the specific man I was talking about, David Ntombela, told the bus must go into the N3 side. That mean all the buses going to come to Pietermaritzburg they must use the N3. The bus was using this road for quite a while.
Sorry, you're talking about the N3 now? --- That's correct. And up to this stage I was working at basic again back at the unit. One morning I was sleeping at Ansonia Hotel and Special Constable Duma approached me. That was round about early in the morning. And he told me I must accompany with him to pick up the special constable. And because I know this man I put my uniform on and I went with him. We already collect all the special constables from that ... (incomplete)
Yes. Sorry to interrupt you yet again. What vehicle were you using, and about how many special constables did you pick up? --- That was an Isuzu truck, and it was white in colour, and there was approximately 25 constables. And we came down up to the stage where the area called Gezabuso. At Gezabuso I saw a lot of crowd in front of the truck, and this group of people, a lot of them had this assegai. And some of them they're wearing Zulu tradition things. And this man, David Ntombela, he stopped the truck and he called this special constable by his name. Then he told him no one's going to go down. All the special constables must get out from the truck. All the special constables they went out of the truck with their shotguns. By that time they left into the ground after the truck, and this Duma assist - he asked me to drive the truck now. I must follow them. Well, I followed them on the gravel road, the road leading into KwaShange. And next to the school - there's a school on the left-hand side if you come to the hill - there's where I parked the truck. And they ran into the houses. By that time it was starting to be daylight. You can see the people from far away this time. And there's a gunshot was carrying on. By the time the gunshot carried on then I saw a lot of houses was burnt down. The house was burnt down by the special constables because they were running watch to these houses. They were running watch to these houses. I stayed behind to the truck because I couldn't leave there, up to the stage I pick up the radio, I call for the assistance. But on this stage there was no vehicle around. And about a hour ago the red Husky came there.
Sorry, Mr Shabangu, you mean an hour later? --- And he went past us, myself and to the truck. And then the Toyota kombi came. That Toyota kombi I realised because I know that. That's a kombi was - I was working with this member before.
Yes, thank you, you may proceed then. --- And in this kombi, the Toyota kombi, there was Sergeant Delport, Sergeant de Wet, Constable Mchunu, and a Special Constable Zuma. And they came close to my Canter and then we talk. From there Duma came back to pick up this truck now and to put some goods into the truck.
Yes. Where were these goods coming from, Mr Shabangu? --- These items was coming from the houses what's burnt down. And also I realised some of the special constables and some of the Amabutho they was chasing the cattles.
Yes, where were they chasing the cattle to? --- The cattle was carrying from the KwaShange area and down to Gezabuso and up to KwaMafunze. And by the time when the Amabutho was fighting they was taking the cattles, taking the items, and I realised there was another group the time when I entered to the kombi. There was another people coming from Ezibomvini area. The man who was leading those people his name was - I know him as Gavaza Khanyile. That's a man who's passed away already. And he was belonging to the IFP that side. He was coming on the other side of Ezibomvini, and these people with David Ntombela they were coming from this side, from Gezabuso. And I realised on this moment all the people who are running down, they were running down into the valley, and they were running down to Vulisaka, down to Edendale. And the unit vehicles came. Some of the vehicles were parked at Vulisaka, far away from KwaShange. And on that moment there was no action was taking to attend the scene. And from there we drive away from the kombis, we went to KwaMafunze area. That's where the vehicle was parked, that Cantor, and all the items was inside there.
Sorry, the items you're referring to being the TVs and radios? --- That's correct. And on this stage, while I was sitting in the Cantor, and these people carrying the stuff, and some people chasing the cattle, I realised I saw one of the men what I know him. He was belonging to the IFP. I know this man the time when I was working at Mqonqo area. That's Philip Powell. He was driving - David Ntombela's son was driving the vehicle. That was a white Sapphire.
Yes, thank you, Mr Shabangu. And from there - and then Constable Delport and he recall everything what is happening to the scene. He recall everything that's happening to the scene, and he inform them back at the office.
Mr Shabangu, if I could just assist you. I know there was some disturbance at the beginning. Could I just take you back to paragraph 25 of your statement, which you have omitted in your oral evidence? That's the part where afterwards you contacted the unit, the Riot Unit, and asked them to despatch vehicles to attend to the scene. --- Ja. On this moment in paragraph 25 there was a lot of vehicles near the unit people.
Yes, what vehicles are you referring to? --- I refer the Unit 19 people. That is people coming from Pretoria. And the Unit 8 people. But on this specific moment all the people was nominated they came from the Unit 8. There was yellow vehicles.
Yes, all right, proceed further then over the page. Can you carry on from there then? --- On paragraph 28 I nominated where I saw this specific man. He came in from Ezibomvini. He was driving a Datsun.
Yes. Is there anything else you wish to add? --- (Incomplete - end of Side B, Tape 4) ... where Duma took the Canter. From the school he drive it where these lot of goods was loaded in. In paragraph 31.1, that's where the stuff was - TVs and all the items was loaded into the Canter and was taken to KwaMafunze area.
Mr Shabangu, just to summarise, do you remember when this incident took place? You didn't give us a specific date as to when this took place. --- I think I say from the beginning that was during March 1990.
Yes, but do you remember approximately which day was it? Was it during this period that has become known as the Seven Day War? --- On this moment I couldn't recall everything on a specific date, because of I couldn't remember the date.
All right, but just to summarise your evidence. You said that you went with Special Constable Duma in an Isuzu Canter motor vehicle, you picked up 25 special constables from Elandskop. --- That's correct.
And then how did - did you go from there to KwaShange? --- This is the same time when Duma assisted - he told me I must drive the Canter and the groups of special constables accompany with the Amabuthos and David Ntombela.
And then what happened at KwaShange? What did the special constables do? --- On KwaShange I drove the Canter behind them, and approximately next to the school, there's a school next to the hill there, about two kilometres from the main road, that's where some of the special constables and Amabutho was running down to the houses, and some of them was running up to the houses.
So did you conclude that the shots were being fired by the special constables? --- And they were firing - the reason why I say that was them, because of some of the people were running out from the houses.
And you said that this was at Vulisaka. --- Yes. If I say Vulisaka, if I am putting this estimation from Vulisaka to KwaShange, across to the hill. That's about four to five ks - kilometres away where the incident was took place.
Did you make a report of what you had seen to your unit? --- On this specific moment I think my superior on the vehicle he was busy on the radio. Well, I don't know if he recall exactly what he's find onto the scene.
So, just to summarise the whole thing, are you saying that the special constables attacked those houses in KwaShange, fired shots, and removed items from the houses, and drove cattle away from those houses. --- That's correct, so far as I saw with my eyes. Now, had you worked with special constables before? --- That's correct.
And what sort of work were the special constables doing? Were they doing ordinary police work? --- Basic when the special constables arrive at the unit they was told - because a lot of them they came from Elandskop. They was told - I don't know how can I put these words in Engels. "Hulle was verduidelik om saam met die IFP te werk"
Now, who told them that? --- On that specific thing I can put on this point first. On this kombi what I'm talking about, the kombi was informed by the unit. The only thing on this kombi they was informed to assist the IFP. And these special constables - so I recall one incidence back also where was Constable Ray Ngcobo, he was took out from the special constables to work with them because everything what was done before he didn't like it. And he was put inside to work in the garden.
So are you saying that the special constables were formed - or they were created as a group or as a unit in order to assist the IFP? Is that what you're saying? --- That's correct as far by my knowledge.
Because this is what has been told to us by other policemen. Captain Brian Mitchell informed us that special constables - in fact he used the word that in Pietermaritzburg and Mpumalanga the special constables were the third force. He said that they were specifically created and used to ... (incomplete) --- That's correct.
Mr Shabangu, you've - I am not sure whether I got you correctly. You spoke about your unit, that is the unit working within Unit Eight, consisting of Delport, de Wet, Mchunu, Zuma and yourself. --- That's correct, ja.
So was - are you saying Terblanche was in charge of the specials as part of being in charge of the unit? --- He was the commander of the unit, but the man was in charge of our section now was Sergeant de Wet.
Okay, we'll leave that question for the time being. At the time that you were at KwaShange, and the members of your unit were there - now, by that I mean your specific kombi unit and the members of the Riot Unit who were present. That was the same time that these people were bringing all this property to the truck, is that right? --- You can just come again with this message.
Let me put it another way round. Were all the policemen that you were involved with who were there at the scene - were they present when people were bringing back stolen property? --- From my knowledge the kombi was present there, the members was working with me were present.
Was Mr Powell present at that time? --- He came there with a vehicle, but the time when he jump off from the vehicle that's the time we moved from the scene. Where did Mr Powell go to when you left there? --- Well, I don't know at the moment where he went to.
So, do I get you correctly that it was no accident that you met up with David Ntombela and he forced those specials off the van? --- According to my knowledge the time when the people - everybody jumped fastly, when we meet him there, and also the time when I drive the truck up to the school, and I saw that other group coming from another side, and I realised that thing was planned.
What I am trying to say here, did you have any other associations with him apart from the working contact? Did you know him very well? --- On this moment I will know him very well because he was relative of my father.
Thank you. You said here in your statement, paragraph 30, "At some stage Delport had arrived in the grey and blue Riot Unit kombi. He said these people caused a lot of nonsense and we should leave them." Who were those people? Who were these people who caused a lot of nonsense? --- Well, by the time when I asked them he referred to me for the people from KwaShange.
These cattle which were taken from KwaShange, what happened with them? Were they divided among the people, Amabuthos, or what, according to your knowledge? --- Well, after the Seven Day War there was a party was held, and there was a lot of cattle was slaughtered there.
Did the policemen get any share in that? --- Well, I couldn't say if they took it, or if they didn't took it, or if the people took it. I believe on my knowledge they was helping the people putting the things into the Canter. You can't help the person if you won't get nothing.
And in paragraph 34 you say here, "We later went back to the unit, leaving the Riot Unit patrol vans behind. Some time later the Plessislaer police arrived." When the Plessislaer police arrived what did they do? --- Well, the people from Plessislaer they came to ask first what's happening from the scene.
And you went on, you said Ray Ngcobo got to a point where he did not like the things that were happening and now they turned him to be the garden boy. Now, tell us about Ray Ngcobo, why he was killed, and also why he killed Terblanche and why he was killed, and who killed him. --- Constable Ray Ngcobo - I was just summarising, because on this specific moment I came for the Seven Day War. Oh, I understand you. You say today you are going to elaborate about the Seven Day War, you won't touch anything about Ngcobo? --- I was just summarising because I am sitting here. I put in these people's mind on this old - where are coming from, this old Government. I shouldn't be sitting like that. That's the cause of the death of Ray Ngcobo.
In other words you say Ray Ngcobo was killed as a result of some threats. You know, to summarise this thing here, he was threatened. No, I won't get any further than that, but I will continue to ask you regarding paragraph 37.1, with regard to that paragraph. Maybe you will also say you were just saying concisely, I don't know, but you've said you have difficulties of even falling asleep at night, sleeping sound and peaceful. What you wish could happen is for you to forget everything, the harassment, the torturing, and the killings that took place. Two questions with regard to this statement. Firstly, is there some incidents that you found yourself being part of? --- Some incidents I was involved with it.
Okay, I won't elaborate. Secondly, you go on to say you have difficulties in sleeping so sound at night. Tell us, how is your health faring in as far as that is concerned? --- Each and every evening when I sleep on my dream I saw some of the pictures of the people. And that's why I say I want to put this thing past. Some of the families sitting here today they doesn't know where their parents is. Some of them doesn't know where their children are. That's why I came today.
I understand, Mr Shabangu. There are two more things I will want to make comment on. Out of all the things that happened one will have to thank you for coming forward. Many are hiding, they don't want to come and give testimony, but we want to thank you in a special way that you've been so brave enough to come forward and disclose so much. Secondly, we might have to refer you to the psychologists for your health. After this you should ask the TRC staff as to how you can get there and so on.
Thank you, Mr Chairman, I've got a few questions. Firstly just to establish the dates. I know that you said it's very difficult to remember the exact dates, but to have a better picture can I ask how long after the IFP rally on the 25th of March did the story that you have just related occur? --- You refer to the IFP march that was in Durban?
Thank you. My next question, you mentioned that the special constables were recruited probably exclusively to help the IFP. Where were they recruited from and who recruited them? --- They were recruited at Cape Town, at Koeberg.
Mr Philip Powell. Can I find out his role there? Why was he there? Did he say anything, did he do anything? --- Well, the time when he came with the vehicle, and then at the time when he get out from the vehicle, that's the time our vehicle moved from the scene.
As somebody you knew fairly well, probably you have had - worked with him in the past, what is your opinion about his presence there on that particular day? --- Well, I also put it this way. There is a statement I've been already make it. I was working with him a lot of time.
Another question relates to paragraph 32 of your statement. I just want to find out about Mrs Gasa. You made reference to her. Can you tell us more about her and the family? What happened to them? --- Well, by the time when I saw Mrs Gasa - I know her because I saw her several times. And then I spoke to her, and then also I informed to the unit because her husband's working at the unit.
Lastly - maybe it's a follow-up Professor Magwaza's concern - you mentioned that you want to break with the past. Have you been advised or have you considered applying for amnesty? --- On this moment the people are busy doing that.
I have one last question. I think you are disturbed. You appear disturbed and not peaceful. Would you wish some assistance that would help you to get in touch with other people who also were affected by you and harassed, tortured by you, so you may reconcile with them? --- There is some people, and I'd like to say those people, maybe they're going to hear on the following statement. It's very hard for me to pronounce that front of these people. Maybe some of them they's not here.
What I am saying is I am not expecting you to disclose here of the things that you did, but I do feel that probably some of the people you should get in touch with them. That will be a sign of showing remorse and reconciling with them at the same time. --- There is some people. I'd like to talk to them, to explain them.
Mr Shabangu, thank you very much for coming in and talking to us today. We know how difficult it is for you, as a serving policeman, to come forward and tell us things that you and your colleagues have done. You have said that these things haunt you, and images of the people that have died still prevent you from sleeping at night. And, as my colleagues have said, this Commission provides a forum for people like yourself to come forward and to tell the truth about what happened, and we are glad that you are making use of that opportunity. Thank you very much.