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Human Rights Violation Hearings

Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION HEARINGS

Location PIETERMARITZBURG

Names EDMUND ZONDI

EDMUND ZONDI: (Sworn, States)

MR SINGH: Mr Zondi, can we commence by you telling the Commission what your occupation is? --- I am a teacher by profession.

How old are you? --- I am 51 years old.

Would you like to start by giving the Commission an overview of the events that led up to the Seven Day War? --- Could you please repeat the question.

Would you like to start by giving the Commission an overview of what led to the Seven Day War? --- Yes, but I will start on the 25th.

Yes, please proceed then, thank you. --- Okay. On the 25th of March 1990 - I love music. Let me first start by telling you about myself, and after the Inkatha buses had passed by heading for the Inkatha rally I was with my brother, Denis Zondi, Tim Zondi. We went to Elandskop(?), and Philip Thabani was rendering a performance there. When we got to Elandskop there's a certain businessman who was our neighbour, that is Themba Njilo, came by and he related to us that people had been attacked in our area, and he told us that a certain person had been injured. After the performance that we had gone to attend at Elandskop we went together with Themba Njilo to the area, and when I got there I discovered that my son had been shot and killed. And I was later told that the buses which were coming from Durban, one stopped at Mabeza, that is a shop, and when it stopped there at that shop the people from the bus alighted and they were armed. They were Inkatha members. They got off the bus and they provoked certain youths who were sitting at the shop. And at that time my son was with his aunt, Grace Khabengani Zondi. He was from work. Grace was from work. She was a domestic worker and she was off for that weekend. She was weekend off, then she decided to go home. She came across my son in the taxi and they got off together at Mabeza, the two of them. And when they got off from the taxi there a certain bus which was waiting there and it was shooting certain people. And they were not aware that this bus was carrying Inkatha members, and they came across Inkatha members who accosted them and they shot them, and they both died on the scene. Then the following day on a Monday the investigators came to call me to go and identify my son's corpse, and I went with and identified my son, as well as his aunt. And we came back on a Monday. And at that time I could see that the atmosphere was tense at Xaluza, and I was not going to be able to stand by and see what was going on because I was preparing for the funeral, which was going to be held on the following Saturday. Then on Wednesday morning I went to make some preparations with Msima Funeral Undertakers in Eden. When I came back home it was at about 10.00 midday, and when I got home, as I was staying at Mnyandu area, and the Shange area was just across the river, across Umsunduzi River, and I saw houses being burnt down. I also saw white lorries, and I could not see whether they were ZG lorries or not, but when they were approaching us I could identify them as ZG lorries. And they were ferrying Inkatha members from the scene, and there was the sound of gunfire. As I was standing there in my yard, just watching all that was happening, and to me it didn't occur that from that area they would proceed towards our area. And as I was just standing there I saw these two big trucks which unloaded people, who went around attacking the residents. That's when I started to realise that now we were going to be attacked. According to our culture when there's a person who has died the relatives would come and stay for quite a few days to pay their condolences, up til the day of the funeral, and at that time there were relatives - my aunts, my cousins from far and wide. Quite a number of people had come to our home and the place was full. I left these people in the house because I realised that there was a imminent attack, and they had started burning houses, that is my neighbours' houses. They also burnt my neighbour, Mr Khoza's house, as well as Mr Ndlela's house. All the surrounding houses. They also stabbed the goats and the stock and burnt down houses. And I decided to go to other members of the community and neighbours to try and find out as to what was happening. And I saw people proceeding towards the mountains. They were running away from their homes. They were seeking refuge in the mountains because the houses had just begun burning down. I will never forget what I saw that day. Immediately thereafter I came back from the mountains. I ran up to the mountain to seek refuge, and I thought of the people that I had left at my place, and when I thought of them I decided that I should go back home. And I risked my life and went back home. The members of Inkatha were still busy attacking people and killing them. I went back home, and I tried to crawl towards my area because I wanted to save the people that I had left at my place. I used to use taxis to ferry me to and from work, and unluckily on that particular day my taxi was not roadworthy, so I took my Escort. If I can tell you maybe you will not believe it, because it can only take five people, but the whole family fitted into the car that particular day. I even put some of the children just underneath or next to the pedals, the driving pedals. We ran away and we got to Eden, and I went to my other relative in Imbali. That's where we stayed. From that time on I've stayed at Imbali, and I've never been able to go back to where I was staying before. And I am quite scared to go back there. They tried to burn my house down and they looted it, but the house was not totally burnt down. They just burnt my kombi and vandalised the house, looted whatever they could lay their hands on, and they dismantled the doors. Presently there is a person who is staying there, but I don't think it's in a habitable condition. But I am also scared to go back because I don't know how safe I would be if I went back. I think that's about all I can say with regard to this matter. But the most disturbing thing is that my son who died was the breadwinner. He was very brilliant, very diligent, and he was quite courageous, and I was hoping that he would be really my breadwinner. And he wanted to continue with his education. He had a very bright future, but it never happened. I will stop there.

Mr Zondi, you have lost your son who was only in standard six. Even way back when we used to fight he would be regarded as one of the women because he was still very young at that time. They even killed his Aunt Grace. This is an unheard of situation in our culture, where women are killed by men, and especially armed men. We do understand the trauma that you went through, not physically, but psychologically as well, and mentally. In your statement you also made mention of the fact that your wife suffered from high blood pressure thereafter. Is there any help that your wife is getting medically, or is she receiving any treatment? Or just give us a brief background as to how the whole family was traumatised by this incident, that is from yourself down to your wife as well as your children. How did this affect your whole family? --- What I can say is that I had a very bright future for my children, and I decided to build a home for my children so that I could be able to further their education. But the way that this happened I was not able to use that house to keep my children and help them further their studies. The whole situation traumatised me unbelievably. Even today my wife is suffering. She has got so many diseases that attacked here. She's got sugar diabetes as well as high blood pressure, which she didn't have before. And whenever we speak about the Seven Day War she always avoids the topic. I think it torments her mentally. Maybe she was even more traumatised than I was. We are not free even where we stay.

Is there any help that you are getting medically or psychologically? Maybe have you seen psychologists or psychiatrists who can possibly help you? --- We are not getting any psychological or psychiatric help.

Do you need this type of help? --- I think we do.

You must get in touch with our support staff, who are going to take your further details, because we've made specific arrangements with the Minister of Health that people like you should get some psychological as well as psychiatric help in certain hospitals, where they do not have to pay. You must get in touch with our support staff so that they can take your details. How many children do you have? Are they still at school? --- Yes, I do have schoolgoing children. The last one is 10 years old and she is still at school. She is doing standard four. And the boy is attending school at Eastwood. He is 12 years old. And I have another daughter that is attending school at Xaluza. There is another daughter who is attending school at Zibongodunga. My son is at Msinga. I had six children all in all, but I am left with five now.

Can you tell us about your family, that is your children - how traumatised were they? --- As I am talking not even a single member of the family was not traumatised. They don't have a home, we are destitute, but we are scared to go back to the area because we don't know how safe going back would be.

I think your children need to get some psychological as well as psychiatric help. You must give your full details to the support staff.

Mr Zondi, I have got one question with regard to your statement. You have made mention of the fact that many people who died were children, as well as women. So that we can get a full picture of the war that took place, do you think that many people who died were children as well as women? --- That is quite true.

Is it according to your opinion? Why was it that many children as well as women were killed, because usually men die in a war situation? --- Firstly what I would like to say is that elderly people especially men, were at work, and some ended up staying in the centre of town because they realised that the situation was becoming tense at the rural areas. So many people moved and stayed at the centre of town as well as at their workplaces, and when this outbreak of violence took place there were children as well as women at home. That's the reason why I am saying that a lot of people who died were children, as well as women. Even on the following day when the attack took place women and children were at home. Even though I haven't mentioned this in my statement they came on a Thursday, that is on the 29th. They got there and they killed a woman who had just given birth. They also killed the newborn baby. Even the elderly people who could not run away were killed. It was quite a terrible situation. It was something like something from a horror movie.

Mr Zondi, you mentioned three families. You mentioned the Khoza and the Ndlela families who were your neighbours, and a third one which I didn't get the name of. --- Could you please repeat your question.

In your evidence to us you mentioned the Khoza and Ndlela families, and then you mentioned a third family whose name I didn't catch. Can you repeat the third name, and then can you just briefly tell us what's happened to those three families? They were obviously your neighbours. --- At the time when these attackers were coming from KwaShange and towards our area a certain group went further down next to Msinga School, and there were certain houses. There was a Ndlela house there. They burnt Mr Ndlela's house, and I heard later on that they had killed Mr Madlala's wife. They went further up towards the road. That is Mr Khoza's house. That is where I witnessed them burning the house down. Then just opposite me they stabbed the stock that was there. The people had run away and left the stock, and they went around stabbing the stock and they killed all the goats.

Mr Zondi,you've made mention of the fact that the fact that you are not staying at your place traumatises you, as well as your family. Is there anything that's being done by the community in order to bring back the situation to normal? --- I do not know. I haven't seen any efforts that have been done, or any mechanism that has been put forth, because people are still staying in shacks and they are still staying at neighbouring areas.

Maybe as a former resident, or a person who's got information as to what the area looked like, would you have any opinion or suggestion as to what can be done in order to bring the community back? --- I think what can be done is that people should preach peace. The Government should also assist the community in trying to create some peace so that the people or the former residents don't feel threatened. Even the help to rebuild their houses would be appreciated, because the residents have lost quite a great deal and it's difficult ... (incomplete - end of Side A, Tape 4) ... a lot of children are being maintained by their grannies. Because the grannies are getting meagre pensions they cannot maintain the households. I believe that the Government should devise a mechanism whereby they can support the community in order for it to rebuild itself, to get some security that they will be safe when they go back to their respective areas.

Just one question, Mr Zondi. You said that you saw large white ZG lorries carrying groups of armed men. That was in KwaShange and KwaMnyandu, is that right? --- That is correct.

Now, do you recall what lorries those were? Had you seen those sorts of lorries before? Do you know what department they were from? You said that they were white lorries. Did they have a ZG numberplate? Can you tell us anything more about them? --- I was not in the street at the time that the lorries went past so that I could see their numbers, but I could see that they were ZG registrations. They were Toyota trucks, and everybody knew - it was common knowledge that they were ZG trucks. They used to go past our streets every day.

Do you know which department they would have belonged to in the KwaZulu Government? Were they Health Department, were they police, were they - what were they from, which department were they from? --- I would not be certain of that because I was not quite close to them. I could have seen if they were written Justice, Department of Justice, Department of Works or Department of Welfare, but I could not closer to see as to from which department these lorries were coming from.

But you're satisfied that they were ZG lorries? --- I am fairly satisfied.

Mr Zondi, we have heard many tragic stories in the months - in the past few months that we have been holding hearings like this, and like so many of these stories yours is a very, very sad one. Your young son and his aunt had just been shot dead, an unarmed child and a woman shot dead by armed men. And whilst you were in the process of mourning them, preparing to bury them, your house was attacked and vandalised and looted, and you had to flee with the few possessions that you could fit into your car. It's difficult to understand - it's difficult for us to understand why and how people can sink to this level of brutality. You've told us that your wife and yourself are still suffering the aftereffects of this event, but you've nevertheless come here today and you've had the courage to come and repeat that story in front of not only the public, but the television cameras, and we thank you very, very much for having had the courage to do that. Thank you very much indeed.

 
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