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Human Rights Violation Hearings


Starting Date 22 July 1996


Day 1



REVD XUNDU: ... to swear you in. I am then going to ask you to stand.


REVD XUNDU: Over to you Mr Commissioner.

REVD FINCA: Dr Mapule Ramashala.

DR RAMASHALA: Morning. I'd like to ask you to go back and try and remember the circumstances of your child's death. Take your time and tell us as much as you can remember.

NNE PLAATJIE: Luthando Plaatjie was a student at Nonesi in standard 8. He went to school as usual. This was on a Monday in 1986, if I'm not mistaken the date was the 13th of March.

And he came back on time for lunch, and that was at 11 o'clock. He came home out of breath and you could see that he was running.

When he came home, he said that he was in a hurry, because the teachers were in a meeting and had released them from class late, so he was very in a hurry.

He took bread and milk from the table and just had two bites and ran out with bread still in his hand.

I think not even 15 minutes after that, I heard a shot. But I did not pay attention as to what it was all about, because they were busy fixing roads at that stage.

Not long after that there was an even louder shot. I came out, when I came out of the door Spokazi was coming in



by the gate, crying and she said to me, Ma Luthando, Luthando.

I tried pacifying her thinking that she was crying because she was running and she had left him behind, but then I saw the school children coming up the road, coming running up the road, crying.

Some had their hands on their heads, some were saying it is Tiki, it is it Tiki, Oh, my God, it is Tiki. I did not know who this Tiki was, or because I didn't know this name.

But they were just saying Oh, Tiki.

But coming up my road, in stead of passing my house, they came to my house and one of them said is it Plaatjie and from the back said, yes it was Luthando.

And others started running to this place where he got hurt.

DR RAMASHALA: Can I just stop you for a minute. Am I correct that Spokazi was three years old?

NNE PLAATJIE: Yes, she was three years old then. When it was said that it was Luthando Plaatjie, I was downstruck it was as if there were bells ringing in my ears and my - it just blacked out, I just blacked out and my neighbour came and helped me. Jumped the fence and came to help me and said let us go.

We jumped the fence, we didn't even use the gate and went there. Before I even got there, the police, White policemen were there at U9, where he had passed by a friend's house.

They were standing there with their guns in their hands. And I made my way through the crowd since it was full. I got there and he was laying on his stomach with his QUEENSTOWN HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE


head of his arms, bleeding through his ears and through his nostrils.

That was the last time I was at my full senses. After that I just found myself at home, I must have fainted in the interim.

When I came to I was hysterical, I was crying, I wanted to go out of the windows to my child in the hospital. The police had taken him to hospital themselves.

The following day we went to look, we went to the police and there we were asked whether we knew which police had shot him and we did not know.

We were sent to the State mortuary to look for him. We went to look for him at the mortuary and found him there. We were shown him.

DR RAMASHALA: How old was he at the time?

NNE PLAATJIE: He was 17 years old.

DR RAMASHALA: Number 10 on your statement that you applied for a pension and you haven't heard anything.

NNE PLAATJIE: No, I am still not receiving an income but I have submitted a request.

DR RAMASHALA: And you would like the Commission to facilitate this application?

NNE PLAATJIE: Help in which regard? Yes, I want to be helped as far as an income is concerned, because I do not have a husband, my husband passed away last year March.

DR RAMASHALA: Mrs Plaatjie, how has your life changed?

NNE PLAATJIE: The deceased's funeral was terrible. Made terrible by harassment from the police, we did not have any time to think straight and pay him our last respects properly, because throughout while we were waiting, the police would come in.



Others would guard our house, resting on their firearms.

And we would be told that the deceased may not even be taken to the church. Only one person may preach and his older brother said that this was a member of the ANC organisation.

So, it is important that the people speak whichever speaker from the ANC that is.

In the morning when we were preparing for the funeral, they came in hippos, vans and police vans, all the way to the Apostolic Church and at the Church, there were hippos and police vehicles scattered all over the field.

All police vehicles were scattered over the field not far from the Apostolic Church. I was afraid thinking that we were going to be shot.

I wasn't, I didn't have any trust any more. When we got to the graveyard, they accompanied us and that is how the funeral was conducted.

But, we conducted it all the same and we came back. That evening when we went to the deceased's grave, we found that it had been painted. And the only thing that told us that it was his grave, was the LU, it was obviously that it had been disturbed, that is how this boy's burial went.

DR RAMASHALA: Mrs Plaatjie, thank you. Chairperson, I would like to defer to you, but I would like to come back after my colleagues have asked questions.

REVD FINCA: Tiny Maya.

MS MAYA: Mrs Plaatjie, I would like to ask you one or two questions. According to your knowledge, the police who shot Luthando, were they ever arrested?

NNE PLAATJIE: Yes, they were arrested. When they were



arrested there was, nothing much came of it because we had already given up by then, because it was 1987 or 1988 by then.

An attorney from Cape Town came after lunch on a Wednesday, and was looking for the Plaatjie family. My husband was at home then because it was his day off, he was working at a butchery and fortunately he was in.

This attorney wanted to know how we were related to Luthando and we said that we were his family. He said that he was there for the trial in the killing of Luthando.

He gave us a lift in his car, wanting to know if the place where he was shot, was far and asked us to show him where Luthando had been shot.

This attorney looked at this place and once again we got into the car with him and he brought us back and the following day he came to fetch us and took us to court.

When we got to court they proceeded with the case in a private court. And the trial was conducted by a few people.

During the trial it became apparent that these police are becoming nervous because this attorney has them under cross-examination and he seems to be succeeding.

We were very happy in our hearts that this attorney was succeeding. But then the Magistrate said that he would like the court to adjourn, for them to meet outside.

The Magistrate and the Prosecutor and these two policemen then went out into the passage and we don't know what they said in the passage, but when they came back inside, they said that they apologised because that happened by mistake.

Because those policemen had not shot at Luthando. Luthando was a man standing next to a house. I suppose it



means that he was just a rubbish that was standing there.

It seems as if the police were shooting at a man that they had been looking for for a while, who had run away from Cape Town with dagga and they were chasing this man and had shot Luthando by mistake, not knowing that it was a school child that was going to school.

But Luthando was wearing a school uniform and he was on his way to school, he had on a white shirt, a grey pants, green socks, green and white socks, black shoes. Things that indicate that he was a school child.

MS MAYA: which court did you go to? Where was the trial conducted?

NNE PLAATJIE: Here in Queenstown.

MS MAYA: Do you remember the name of the attorney?

NNE PLAATJIE: I never, ever got his name because the attorney that we were taken to initially, was Class.

MS MAYA: Is there anybody that can help us establish the name of this attorney?

NNE PLAATJIE: Nobody knows it, because even when I go to these leaders, they don't know it any more.

MS MAYA: Without apologising, what else did the Magistrate say to you people by the time you left?

NNE PLAATJIE: Nothing was said to us parents about this child.

MS MAYA: And the trial just ended?

NNE PLAATJIE: Yes, the trial just ended.

MS MAYA: Thank you very much.

REVD FINCA: Revd Xundu.

REVD XUNDU: These people that shot him, did you know what the names of these policemen were?

NNE PLAATJIE: I did not know them then and I do not know



them now, because I do not know policemen.

Because with the Black policemen, I did not really know them either.

REVD FINCA: Denzil Potgieter.

ADV POTGIETER: Thank you Chairperson. Mrs Plaatjie, just one question. What was the situation in the township on the day that Luthando was shot? Was it the time of the emergency, what was going on there?

NNE PLAATJIE: There was conflict, much conflict in the location, it was like war. There was fighting, police were looking for people, especially school children. It wasn't the first time that they had come into my house either and looked for the children, because late Luthando since they had now shot him, they had already picked him up previously and put him into the police van and when I wanted to know what he had done, they did not say.

And I wouldn't let him go, I said that I am not letting him go in that case, in stead just take me and go and lock me up because this is a school child, because you are not saying what he had done and they were saying that you'll hear up ahead, and I said no, I'm rather going and then they ran out.

I stood stark naked in front of them and they ran out.

ADV POTGIETER: Mrs Plaatjie, thank you very much for that explanation.

I was standing naked, I even took of my panties and stood stark naked and I was swearing at them.

REVD FINCA: Dr Ramashala.

DR RAMASHALA: Chairperson, each time you assign me to facilitate witnessing on behalf of a child, I will take the opportunity to remind South Africa that we are enjoying the



freedom today at a high price.

Our children paid for it and that we really ought to be grateful. When a child is born parents rejoice and celebrate and they have dreams. When a child becomes of school age, that child dreams.

I don't know how many role models were in Queenstown, but I know there were Doctors, there were teachers, there were nurses, the Clergy, all kinds of role models around which a child could dream, while everybody else's child was going to school, Black children were being killed left and right.

Black children were not safe going to school, they were not safe playing out on the street.

At the time, Luthando was not in a group, he was going to school. As we enjoy this freedom, let us remember, let us honour and let us be grateful for the price that these children paid.

Mrs Plaatjie, be comforted that although your child at the time was not part of a political group, that he was killed by the senseless parading of the police in our communities.

That the ultimate price he paid was so we can enjoy this freedom. Be comforted to know that as we list all the people who paid the ultimate price, that child will be on the list.

Thank you very much.

REVD FINCA: Thank you very much Mrs Plaatjie for those words that were chosen, we would like to express our gratitude to you for coming to tell your story to the Commission.

And also for the way in which you made us laugh even



though it was something painful, we are people that have been created in an amazing way.

You'll find that we can laugh in - about the way in which we survived these horrible times and we thank you.

The Commission will follow up and we will try and establish who is responsible. (tape ends)

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