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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION HEARINGS
Starting Date 27 November 1996
Location GUGULETU 7 POLLSMOOR
Case Number CT/00108
Victim ZABONKE KONILE
Testimony TSHERDEN MBENYANA
Nature SHOT AND KILLED BY POLICE
Morning to you to, welcome. We have got a written statement from Mr Mbenyana, but Ms Konile will also be giving evidence. So, I am going to ask you both to take the oath and for that purpose to stand please.
So you have come a long way to attend the hearings and we thank you for that. Now, would you like to tell us what kind of child Zabonke was, what he was doing and what you know about this incident and how he was killed?
He had come to work in Cape Town. Some people just came to fetch me. They came to tell me that he had been shot near the forest. He had been shot apparently the previous week. I was fetched from Ndwe. We went from township to township. I am not sure exactly the names of the townships, because I donít stay here.
I was then put on a mortuary Kombi, they took me to the mortuary. I was with [indistinct] at the time. When I got there and I saw him, I could not even breathe, I was gasping for air. He was just lying there, dead. There were a lot of bodies, but his was the first one there. I could see that this was my child, Zabonke, but he was filthy, absolutely filthy. All swollen up around the head. I just fell over, I was taken and put on a bed.
Somehow I had been transported elsewhere. I was given medication. They asked if I was feeling better - I said yes, even though I could sense that I was not fully conscious. I insisted that I had felt better, we then were put on yet another car. Yes we were taken to KTC where he used to stay. There were a lot of people there already. They somehow referred to him as a hero.
The police came with their guns. They said that nothing would be done in preparation for the funeral. The people that were there insisted, saying that they will prepare, they will do the work. I was just - I was not fully alert. I didnít even know what was going on.
We were then taken by the same Kombi - we were asked to choose a coffin. There were quite a few ladies, mothers to the deceased. There were seven coffins. After that, we left. The next morning we went to the grave yard. When we got to the grave yard and all seven coffins were there boers came. They pointed - they pointed their guns at all of us. And we could not continue with the funeral. People dispersed they were running away.
I feel slightly better. I didnít think I would break down, but I have a problem, because Zabonke was my only child. He worked for me, he supported me. I had no problems at the time. He was like my husband.
At the funeral the boers came and people dispersed, but we continued with the burial - we were taken home. I was never happy in my spirit again. Zabonke has a daughter she was still crawling at that time.
The boers came to our house. I was then taken away. Some people went and they helped my hide in the loo - I donít know when Kanyisa was taken too. In all the difficulty, living in fear, because I didnít know that this was the way of life in Cape Town. So, I went home, that is it.
Now as it was indicated earlier, our investigators have looked into the incident and as I have indicated earlier, there are certain conflicting evidence of what happened. And one of the important purposes and reasons for having you present at these hearings over the next two days, today and tomorrow, is for you to listen to what the various witnesses say happened.
Tomorrow we will listen to the testimony of the police - some of the police. Who can testify about the incidents so you will be able to hear, today - what some of the eye-witnesses saw things happening, what they say and you can hear tomorrow what the police are saying. And you can listen to the results of our own investigation. So we thought it is important for you to be present and to at least hear now for the first time some evidence about what happened.
Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. I am going to talk about my brother-in-law John Zabonke Konile. He came to Cape Town with me. I found him a job in a company called Western Province Hardware. After a while, he went to stay in KTC, I was staying in Site C, Khayelitsha.
Around March, 1985, I saw in the Cape Times on a certain Tuesday - I read an article about the Guguletu 7, they were referred to as the heroes. They were referred to as terrorists, sorry. They were not identified, their names or surnames were not in the newspaper.
On the Friday I went to New Crossroads to my uncle, I was from work. When I got there, Zabonkeís mother was there. I was quite surprised. I asked why she was there? She said that a women from Ndwe who was Zabonke Konileís neighbour, phoned her, because Zabonke Konile had been shot dead. This woman was phoning from Cape Town, phoning Ndwe.
It was very shocking, I then went and told the brother in a church. We then all went together to KTC to find out from the community exactly what happened. Mr Chairperson, we found Civic there who was handling the whole matter. They told us, they confirmed that Zabonke Konile had truly been shot. He, as he was working for this timber company, he was able to build shacks. He worked especially for the ladies and the women in the community, building up their shacks during weekends.
We then had no choice, but prepare for the funeral. The police gave orders that nobody was to be buried at home. We wanted to bury him back home, but there was no way, the police refused. Even to get the corpses, and have our own program, it was very difficult. It is the UDF attorneys that helped us. Even they requested a company called Mashlobe to help clean up the corpses so that they could be buried.
One of the attorneys was Ebrahim. They took all the details, how all the bodies were injured. They would record exactly how each individual had been injured. One of Zabonkeís eyes was totally out, his gums were out.
We then prepared for the funeral. We went to the stadium, because it was a mass funeral. We prayed and we continued to the grave yard. There was a helicopter hovering above us. When we were just about to finish off, covering the coffins, there is a field between 108 that divides 108 and N2 - there were no shacks at the time. It was just an open field.
The police emanated from there with Army vans. They came closer and as they approached, they were taking photographs. As you will remember, these were very young men. The entire youth that was at the funeral was extremely grieved. They did not see the police as they approached.
The police then ran away towards N2 - there was a fence around. They drove over it. That day was almost a calamity, because actually the youth wanted to attack all the N2 vehicles that were there, the police vehicles.
Since 1985 we never heard that the case had been taken to court. We just got a short letter from an attorney Ebrahim, from Athlone, around August or September 1989. We were then staying in Mandela Park. The address that you have on your records at the moment.
He was informing us that we should go and listen to the case. I went the one day, because I was working. It was difficult to be there the whole time. I went the first day in Wynberg. The Magistrate there told us that he - he was appointed to handle the whole case. There was a man next to the magistrate - he told us that this man was a professor from the Stellenbosch University. He has also been appointed to help with the case.
This Magistrate then continued to say that Mr Vlok had an attorney for the police. The evidence that was given by the police was contradictory even within themselves. The one said I had a huge gun and the other said I had a small gun in my hand. They were contradicting each other.
The professor from Stellenbosch then asked a question. Asking the police - he then said you are saying this people were fighting and attacking you. How come, why is it that not even one single police has a wound? The police could not answer, but their attorney arose asking the Magistrate if the Magistrate wanted the police to be shot as well?
As the police would go up and down the witness stand, they showed photographs of these young men who had deceased, they were full of blood. They did not show us the photographs, they were actually showing each other. There was just blood every where in the photographs.
We did not get any concrete conclusion about the whole case and it was difficult for me to pursuit the whole case, because I was actually working and my company did not appreciate us being absent at work. They would give us a report that there was - the production was very low at work, because I was constantly absent. I then could not attend the court case as regularly as I aspired to.
Thank you Mr Mbenyana. As I have indicated earlier, perhaps some of those questions that are still unanswered would be attended to during the course of this hearing. Zabonke was not married, is that correct?
He was not married, but he was living together with another lady and he had a child with this woman. This woman ran away, we donít know where she is now. We couldnít find her and in 1986 he had a shack in KTC and we wanted to take this shack and then I asked Zabonkeís mother to come here in Cape Town and then we went to his grave in 1986.
It was difficult for us to get this shack, because there was one policeman, called Barnard. We couldnít get this shack in KTC, the situation was very bad at that time, but we finally got hold of it. There was one time, people were fighting in KTC one night and we took Zabonkeís mother and we tried to hide her and there were gun shots all over, coming from the Nyanga direction and people - the followers from [indistinct] now were coming from Crossroads. And there were cement in the roads and it was written there with red spray, they wrote that Tutu was a dog. And there was a man who was there with the batons, with a white doek in the head and that is all I want to say Mr Chairman.
But we got hold of this shack and we took it to Site C and we moved from site C to Site B and I asked Zabonkeís mother to stay there, but she wanted to go back to the village and we sold that shack for R500. And I sent that money to her, thank you.
Thank you Mr Chairperson, please look at me, here I am maíam. You come far away maíam and we know that you were suffering a lot and you have suffered for 10 years. You had this burden because you lost your son Zabonke. Ö end of Tape 1, Side B Ö what would you like us to do in order to help you to try and forget about this and to try to forget about your son.
My request is that I would like a tombstone for my son and I also request you to assist me about concerning Zabonkeís child. And that I donít have a place to stay in the village and I would like you to assist me about that.
I just wanted to explain to you maíam, that when someone has died, a son, a daughter, or a family member, we know that, that is a very painful thing and we want to investigate about this matters and it is important to people like you who have no husband and a son is important to people like you. Because you have mentioned that Zabonke was your only son, but we know that you have a daughter who is here.
Ms Miya also told us how they suffered because his son was the only son and we know that it is important to many people to have a son, because he was the one who was supporting you and he was like a husband to you. And we know that you didnít only loose a son, but you lost a lot.
And it is clear that we want your wounds to be healed and they will be healed if you explain what happened if you talk and tell us what happened. You have explain to us that you didnít want to cry, but you couldnít help it. And you explained to us how the police destroyed and tried to disturb the funeral of your son. And we could see that that thing was very painful to you, and we hope that the Lord will try and comfort you and strengthen you.
Maybe at the time these people were doing these things to you, they were not aware that they were be found one day. They were not aware that this things would be investigated one day. We were telling them all the time that this is Godís land and God has got justice and everything will come out, the truth will come out.
A day will come when God will show them that he is the one who is ruling this world and that come - the time is - the time is now that we are investigating and we are trying to find out the truth about what happened in the past. We thank you a lot.
Sometimes people ask us, as Commissioners and committee members, how do you feel having listened to so many stories, do you still feel touched? I mean have you not become somewhat blasť? And a straightforward answer is, no. You think that you have got used to the stories and that somehow you are hardened and you listen to them very [indistinct]
But speaking for myself, I mean, I have very-very many moments when it is difficult to restrain tears. I have tried very hard not to cry, because I donít want to have other cartoons. But I hope actually that the people of this country will listen to the stories and let these stories touch their hearts. Because these people who look through normal and ordinary - walk about with a very heavy burden on their hearts.
And we hope so much that people in this country will know the price that is being paid for forgiveness. That I mean, these mothers who come here, it is now 7/8 years since this thing happened, but when they recalled what happened, they weep and yet they donít go out into the streets and say - we want to revenge.
And South Africa should know just how lucky South Africa is. That we mustnít take for granted itís a very deep pain that people are carrying, but they can laugh, they can sing and they can forgive. And we keep saying how much we wish for people as it were on the other side to be equally generous and just say - sorry - sorry. And they will be amazed at the response they get.