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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type SUBMISSION, QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, RONALD BENTING
Starting Date 27 November 1996
Location GUGULETU 7 POLLSMOOR
Chairperson, it gives me a measure of pleasure to call to the stand the last witness, whoís testimony who we will actually hear - there is one statement that will be read, but this will be our final witness to testify in this section of the event hearing. That is Mr Ronald Benting who has arrived - some trouble to get here from an otherwise demanding schedule. Good afternoon Mr Benting.
It was on the morning of 3rd of March 1986. I was not returning from Astra School. At that time Astra wasnít there, it wasnít built yet. I was returning from St Joseph School where I dropped three pupils which attended St Joseph School at std 7. And I was on my way, going over Guguletu bridge to Manenberg area where I have to pick up children to take them to Astra School which was at that time in Wittebome.
On my way, over the bridge, I was stopped. I came upon a lot of policemen standing in the road and what is it now - Army - they were dressed like that and I stopped - pulled my - I stopped the bus. There was a man lying in the road. According to me he was alive, but he never moved.
And then amongst - amongst the lot that was there - a European policeman came up - out of the crowd and he approached the man laying on the ground. And he took out - I donít know if it was a revolver or a pistol and he shot this man twice through the head. In front of me, in front of the 13 children that was in the bus, plus their housemother.
After he had shot this man, he approached the bus - on the drivers side. He came to me - he said to me in Afrikaans - wat de donder maak jy hier? What the hell are you doing here with these children - and I never answered him. So I just reversed back - there was cars behind me - I couldnít - but they gave way for me and I turned the bus around and I went the other way around.
On my way I started picking up children. When I came down to Faroukís house, the housemother that was on the bus, she went inside the house - and then she broke down. So the mother of this child came to me - so I said to her you know - I explained to her what had happened.
And I said to her, she must give her something you know - Lewensessens or in that case, something to drink and this she did. And then we approached and we got to the school, where, after I have unloaded the children, to the various classes - and then I went to the office - at that time Mr Ralph, he was our principle - and then I spoke to him. Told him what happened, what we have seen and then in the office - at that time was our psychologist - Ms Saffier and she also heard what happened, and then she said to me that she is going to call in Mr Van der Merwe. I must speak to him. I must tell him what happened.
And so the story came - that he came to me, and then the court case of Mr Weaver, that just gave testimony - they called - his lawyer called me to appear as witness and then I went to testify in court - what happened.
Yes - Mr Benting - over your right shoulder, more or less, there is a map - if you wouldnít mind having a look at it, and you will see at the top - where the N1 comes straight down, more or less the center of that map, at the top is the bridge.
Itís been reported to us by our investigating unit that Ms Smith had quite a harrowing time and that she is quite traumatized - even up to now and she finds it almost impossible to come to a location like this and to go through this again.
Yes - ja - itís actually from the second court case that we went. Even I myself, I had to tell the judge listen here I am not on here. I am only as a witness, but according to that they wanted to tear me to pieces. Like I am the guilty person and I think she canít take it anymore you see, so I donít blame her.
She wasnít - no sir. You see she is a very soft person you know - have got a soft character. She breaks down easily - I am perhaps a bit stronger you see. Because the principle asked me - how do you sleep? So I said, I sleep normally. After what we have seen - I sleep normally.
We very - we very happy that - at least you are still able to have come and to come and repeat the story that you have told many times, but it was very important to get you here today, because behind you - seated in the first two or three rows are the next of kin, the family of people that was killed there.
A lot of them have never heard the testimony that was given by witnesses like yourself and other people. So, at least today they can hear what you have been telling the court and then they can ask themselves the question - how did it happen that nothing came of this case - in the light of the testimony that was presented by that - that is the important thing of at least having you here and we are very grateful for that.
No, the police wanted to make - asked me for statements, but then a friend of us - Mr Betizaki - she was one of the teachers, the husband of the teacher - then he said to me - to us, you mustnít make statements to them. We must rather make the statements to them - to the lawyers and then in that way - that is what we did.
Ja, because, what he said to me - is, they will turn the statement around. You know what I mean? And in that way - they did come and they were annoyed with us. I canít remember now - I know he was a very big man. And I didnít stand a chance against him. I said to him no - we did say we are going to make statements, but we have changed our mind and our lawyers have told us that we must not do that, so they left.
You see, I had a marker. There was two trees standing and I parked my bus - if I am seated behind the wheel, then I can look over across in - I was facing - I was center between those two trees, that was my marker sir.
We are going to ask you - if it is not too much trouble for you - perhaps just to mark it on the plan. Perhaps somebody can give you a pen or something. There is a pen behind you. George has come to the rescue, perhaps you can mark it on the plan.
Very good - thank you. You have marked it on the plan, so we have an idea where the person was. And then just finally - Mr Benting - from where Ms Smith was sitting, could she also see what was happening in front of you?
Yes, everybody could have seen. You see, the bus - it is a civilian 25 seater. It is a very high bus. You can see, everybody can see. Even there was a child sitting in front of me and he could also have seen. He even said to me - that he saw two people laying under the tree, which I never saw. They were shot in the head. That was Cliffie Witbooi.
Baie dankie. Thank you very much. - I just wanted to say Ms Smith - was a soft person, gentle person I mean and you - you - I think that maybe you are quite right that you felt perhaps as a man you might be - were expected to be stronger.
I would want to say and I mean and I am sure you would agree, that in the nearly one - how many months now - eleven months that we have been listening - we have been struck, in fact, by the incredible strength of women.
Somebody has found out that usually they said - they have been looking at the evidence that has been brought before the Commission - usually when women come, they come to tell the story of what happened to somebody else. Mostly they say when men come, they come to tell about to tell about what happened to themselves. Now it is not the case with you. But generally and we want to pay our tribute to the women folk, but we want to give thanks also to you. That you have not been afraid - I mean in all these years that you have held and sought to speak the truth when it was dangerous.
Now, I have said, we donítí usually make findings until the end of - it is going to much-much later, but all of us know that most of the police we had, were not friends of our society. They were not there to protect people. Mercifully now, they are changing and we used I mean when we were in the Grand Parade after the March in 1989, we said we must now clap the police, because they are becoming our police. They are becoming what police should be - protectors of the people.
But our history is a history that is made up of those who should have protected society, being the enemies of society. We give thanks to God that we are here today. And that we can tell these stories and that we must not forget what has happened - so that we do not allow it to happen again.