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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 18 July 1996
Names SIDWELL RAMMATLA
DR ALLY: Unfortunately, because everything that is said here has to be under oath, we cannot take testimony if a statement has not been made. You have made a statement, a sworn statement and that's why we can take your testimony. So what I would ask is that after you have given your testimony, if there's anything that you've left out, she can tell you, but we cannot take a statement or testimony from her. How is she related to you?
DR ALLY: I would suggest that sometime today she can make a statement to one of our statement takers who is present and we will use that statement together with your statement when we look at your case, but I'm sorry, unless people have made written statements, they cannot testify, I hope you understand that?
DR ALLY: But welcome to your sister in law. So you're going to tell us about what happened to your father, Mac Rammatla and this was an incident which also happened more or less the same time as the other incidents which we've been hearing about in Hammathla village. I'm going to ask you now to relate your story.
MR RAMMATLA: In Hammathlala in 1979 the former government people came there to take our animals. They took donkeys and goats and cattle. After that, only after two weeks, they came back to burn our huts. They burned them and all the property inside them, nothing was left. My father and others were assaulted and the reason was because of the apartheid government and the members of the African National Congress were assaulted by the traditional chiefs. They were sent by our chief called Ghaube Mathlala. We resisted their rule, that was the apartheid government, we wanted our own government by the Congress.
MR RAMMATLA: I'm finished but I don't understand the way you asked me the question, because the way they were injured, before a person is injured and does not go to hospital is treated at home and the old people did not want to go to hospital because they thought that when they get to hospital they will be killed. During those times, if it was these times, we the people, the youth go to hospital because those people were injured severely. I think my father, the way he was assaulted, he was assaulted at home, he was assaulted in the veld, he was just crawling, it took two days before he arrived at home because they threw them away, he was not able to come back home, he could not even stand.
DR ALLY: I don't want to interrupt you, so I wanted you to first finish so that I could ask you some questions, just to try and piece together what happened. But if you want to continue, if there are any other things that you want to relate, then please continue.
MR RAMMATLA: It took time because he was treated at home. It was a long time and after that he died, and the time he died he was always saying that he was going to be better, because during that time of the ANC, when Mandela took over, he went to Pretoria but he needed crutches to walk.
MR RAMMATLA: Yes it is true, because when they were assaulted he was a person who was working for himself, he was confident. After being assaulted, he was a person who stayed at home and he was just a person who was not happy at all. We would just see him as a person because he's breathing at home.
DR ALLY: At that time during 1980, how much of that feud did you actually understand, or you telling us now what was told to you or is this something that you understood yourself at the time about what was going on?
MR RAMMATLA: They told me because I was in Johannesburg working and they wrote me a letter and I came back home and when I arrived at home, I realised that it's true. We didn't even have a family, even a single house. We would just go around to ask for a place to sleep.
MR RAMMATLA: Yes it's Benjamin Mathlala. He is the one who sent the people of the traditional chiefs, because we were the African National Congress and because we were resisting his rule and he said it's better for him to take us and kill us. So that's why he did that.
DR ALLY: All the witnesses who have been testifying today about what happened to them, so you know if these incidents were happening at the same time or closely after each other, do you know if they're linked in any way, are you aware of that or are you just aware of what happened to your father?
MR RAMMATLA: These things happened because of one thing, and they are the people who know it, but they are afraid to come with the truth. That's why I decided to come with my sister in law because she's the one who saw all these things.
DR ALLY: We are going to ask your sister in law to write down a statement for us. You say that Chief Benjamin Mathlatla wanted to kill you because people were resisting his rule. What was it about his rule, can you give us some idea of why people were opposed to his rule, what was it about, this resistance and opposition to his rule?
MR RAMMATLA: His rule, when they resisted his rule, it was because the apartheid government took our animals and kill them, they said we should not have many animals and they said we should come back to the traditional chiefs and we didn't agree with them. They said we should have few animals and our freedom in the Congress, we agreed that each and every person should have as many animals as he can, and they took all our animals. We had a lot of animals and they didn't want us to have so many. They said it is better to be under their rule, under the TC and they took all of our animals.
DR ALLY: I'll just ask you this question, if you don't know the answer, then that's okay. Was this part of the, what was then called the Betterment Schemes, a policy which was introduced especially in rural areas, do you know if it was about that? Or are you not sure what the actual policy was with regard to only keeping a certain number of cattle?
PROF MEIRING: I would like to ask a question on how your family were affected by the injury of your father and after so many years, the death of your father. Your mother, how did she suffer from what happened to your father, and the other children in the family, can you tell us about that please?
MR RAMMATLA: Actually, what happened at home because of the attack, we suffered a lot. We didn't have anything, we could not do anything, and then we realised that this government is not doing anything and we just have to follow where they want us to go because we didn't have anything. We didn't have any intentions or anything we could do.
MR RAMMATLA: There was no time to go and open a case, because we were guarded just like slaves, we were not even in a position to go out, we were afraid of those people, we were just waiting, we just had to stay at home and couldn't go to the police. Even in hospital, many people didn't go to hospital, as I've said. They were treated at home by their women.
MR MALAN: Mr Rammatla, can you please tell us, and you would have heard these previous witnesses also talking about resisting the chieftainship of Chief Ben Mathlala and giving evidence that they wanted Dikelele, his brother's wife to rule. Was that part of the conflict where you were?
MR RAMMATLA: Yes Dikelele, that is true, she was supposed to rule, because her husband, they took her husband to the south side and they said he is going to a school of chieftainship but he was arrested and we did not know this.
When he came back at Mathlala, he didn't rule us for a very long time, and then he married Dikelele and he died, and we were ruled by Dikelele and the people of the TC started fighting with Dikelele and she was expelled and the family was banned, they were assaulted and after that, we don't know where she went because she ran away.
MR MALAN: Perhaps one other question, that was one of the reasons for the feud in the township, and you also gave evidence, also in writing, that it concerned the grazing rights, that they wanted you to reduce the number of cattle and goats. Was the fact that they removed the cattle, as you say, the 150 goats and the 24 sheep and the 16 donkeys, was that related to the fact that you resisted the order
MR RAMMATLA: No it was not a law. They took it as a law because their chief, who is Ghahume, is the one who said that they should take our cattle, goats and donkeys, because they said they belong to the ANC and they were many and as a result were doing it by force in this area.
MR MALAN: If I may, you referred to people coming to take your cattle, a group of men, and you later referred to people coming and who injured and beat up your father. Now I assume that these people were supporters of Benjamin Mathlala, am I right to make that assumption?
MR RAMMATLA: Those people were coming from our area and from the surrounding areas, I can just say that they were people of the former apartheid government, and they were supporters of Benjamin Mathlala Ghaume.
DR ALLY: Could I just on this issue, you say you're staying there, you see that as your home but you're presently living in Thembisa, according to your statement. You're working and living in Thembisa as a painter and a carpenter, is that correct?
MR MANTHATA: There is only one question, as you have said that during that time, it was difficult for people to come in and out at Hammatlala, more especially the people who belonged to the Congress. My question is, you the people who were working in Johannesburg, did you have any problem, how did you visit your area?
MR RAMMATLA: When we came home we came to investigate where our parents were. We came there being afraid, because we didn't know where they were. We just came there as people who did not want to be seen because we were afraid that if they saw us they were going to kill us before even reaching home. But it was better because they stopped the fighting and we were looking for our parents.
MR MANTHATA: Thank you Sidwell, we thank you for coming here before the Commission. We see the problems that people were not able to say what happened to them, and who tried to explain everything that happened before. We are going to work with the people of Hammatlala to see how we can bring peace and reconciliation and just greet them at home. Thank you.