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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 07 May 1997
Names KEVIN P DOWLING
Case Number JB3606
PROF MEIRING: Bishop Dowling, it is my privilege to help you to relate you story, your testimony. Just before we start talking about what happened in March and again in November in 1991, would you just please tell us how long have you been ministering in this area? How long have you been here when this incident happened?
MR DOWLING: I am a Pretoria-boy. I have ministered in different parts of South Africa, in the townships, Cape Town, Pretoria, but in the area where I am now, I have been ministering for six and a half years.
MR DOWLING: I would like to begin by stating that in comparison to the suffering of my Black brothers and sisters, what I went through is rather insignificant. I was really part of the struggle of my sisters and brothers and I was involved with them and to that extent I suffered harassment and so forth, and their sufferings really became part of mine and deeply affected me.
Also I would like to state, that I was part of a wider group of pastors in this area, Christian pastors under the ReverenD Johannes Selapedi and linked to the SACC, who gathered around the issue of Human Rights. And that group, we went to Mmabatho in 1992 in great distress over the human rights violations and avoided road blocks and managed to have a demonstration in Megacity as pastors against human rghts violations and we were manhandled and so forth. But it is to that group I want to also pay tribute, I was part of that.
What I am specifically concerned with is the area around Phokeng and its environs, Rustenburg in 1991 and it went on into 1992, where there was a whole series of very brutal human rights violations, teargassing of funerals, the Isweletu homeless people in Tlhabane who were harassed and took refuge in our church and we took up an action against the Boputhatswana Government, interdicting the Boputhatswana Supreme Court to stop this, the homeless on our property in St Joseph's mission and so forth, these were the people that we were with and that were suffering at that time in a very serious way. But what has to be understood, I think, in terms of what I was involved with, is where I was living. On St. Joseph's mission in Phokeng, which is about 15 kilometres outside Rustenburg on the Sun City road, the unique situation there was that our Catholic mission, St. Joseph's was right on the border of Phokeng village. And Phokeng village at that time, was in Boputhatswana, but our mission, right on its border was in South Africa. And therefore that gave us the unique opportunity of offering our facilities to all the groups who had very great difficulty or it was made impossible in fact to meet in Phokeng and places like that. I am talking about the political organisations, the civics, the unions and so forth and also the Baphokeng people who could not meet in Phokeng, because it was banned by the Boputhatswana Government and therefore I gave our facilities and supported always the right of whatever group could not meet, to give them the right to meet on our property. And that is what brought me into conflict with Mr Mangope and the Bop Government. With also certain people in the mining community and with the rightwing Farmers, and those three groups in particular gave me grief.
But what specifically happened was that in February 12 1991, I was called by Mr Mangope to appear before him, his cabinet members and security force personnel to explain why I was giving our church property for use by groups which they said are opposed to Boputhatswana. I explained that our stance was one based on what I perceived was the Gospel message, to bring peace and reconciliation which has to be based on justice and that the basis of all this is a respect for human rights - freedom to meet, freedom of association, freedom of speech and so forth. And that only through respecting human rights like this and allowing ourselves to meet, can we proceed to discuss problems and find the way to peace and reconciliation. I explained that clearly to Mr Mangope and his cabinet. They refused to accept this, saying that I was in fact supporting agents and groups that were bent on destabilising Boputhatswana.
Shortly after that, in March, this is where the first major incident happened, in March 15, which was a Friday, the whole ANC executive in Phokeng was arrested in the early hours of the morning. One of the members, Mrs Bopolamo, was a Catholic of our community. They were taken in and they disappeared and we did not know where. She was taken away in her night clothes. They did not even allow her to dress. I struggled all day to find where she was and I took a chance and went to the Phokeng Governors' Office where the Security Police were also and I just went in and I took a chance and said to the Security Police officer, I think you are holding Mrs Bopolamo here. And he said, yes we are, and I said, well I have brought clothes and I have brought food. He said we can't take food, but I will take the clothes. They were released that night.
She was born in Botswana, married to Chief Lebone of Phokeng and she was therefore a Botswana citizen, but had the right from the South African government to residence. Now Mr Mangope, after the coup in 1988, the attempted coup, when Chief Lebone had to go into exile, he increasingly focused on Mrs Semane Moloklegle, because she became the focal point of resistance to the Bop Government among her Baphokeng people. And therefore, at the beginning of 1991 I heard from her, because she visited me regularly, that they were giving her a monthsextension on a Boputhatswana residence permit. And then in February she was told that this would expire on March the 21st 1991. She would therefore have to go voluntary or would be deported.
Just before that, on the Monday before that march on Thursday, March 21st, which was Sharpeville day of course, quite ironic that they chose that day to deport her, I went down to Mmabatho to meet the Minister of Internal Affairs, Chief Victor Suping, who is now the chairperson of the house of traditional leaders in Cape Town. He was Minister of Internal Affairs at that time and I went to him with great concern to ask him to please talk to the cabinet and to Mr Mangope because the potential for violence and harm around the deportation of Mrs Moloklegle was great. Could they not reconsider this and give her an extension of her permit? He was nervous, but he promised to bring that to a meeting of the Cabinet the next morning, Tuesday the 19th.
That afternoon, Tuesday the 19th, Mrs Moloklegle herself was called down to Mmabatho to appear before Mr Mangope who spent ten minutes basically wiping the floor with her, telling her he had every right to deport her and that was it. And she had to leave. He even told her supporters, Chief Pilane and his supporters to leave the room. He would not allow them to stay with her. So she came back, saw me that evening, very concerned.
So what happened on March the 21st then, was that all the civic organisations and the little groupings were meeting on St. Joseph's Mission to commemorate Sharpeville. And then the committee around which the whole concern about Mrs Moloklegle was responsible, this committee, decided to then turn that gathering into a protest march in Phokeng itself. They asked the group of pastors I referred to, myself, to lead that with the political leaders. Because it was all the people asking for this, all the organisations of the people, we as pastors decided we would lead this march. So on that 21st of March, Thursday, after the Sharpeville Commemoration, we gathered on the Mission and we marched out into Phokeng village. Of course they knew this was going to happen. There was a very, very heavily armed Police presence, Security Force presence with armed vehicles and as soon as we turned into the village, they all jumped down from their vehicles. They had automatic rifles and these were cocked and aimed at us. We walked right up to them and then the Commander, Colonel Pitse, came forward, stopped us, and then we negotiated with him, a group of us, about what we wanted to do - to hand over a memorandum on behalf of the people to the Governor, Mr Morake of Phokeng, and then to allow the people to walk in peace with us to Legato, the home Mrs Moloklegle to say goodbye to her. After a long time he agreed to that, but he said only a small delegation of us could go forward and walk to the Governor's office and hand the memorandum. The people had to stay behind on the side. So we agreed to this. We explained it to the people.
So we then walked forward, the small group of pastors and political leaders, towards the Governor's office. Before we got there, a car stopped right in front of us, coming the other way. Out came Colonel Pitse with the Governor and Colonel Pitse's attitude now was very different, very hard. He told us we could hand over the memorandum there and then we had to go back and tell the people to disperse. But we said you had already agreed to allow them to go down to Mrs Moloklegle's house and we've told them this, there is a potential here for trouble. So he said agreements are there to be changed.
So we went back, strategising on the way what we could do. We told the people then what we have decided to do was please go back to the Mission. We took up our position behind them in case there was any harm done to the people from behind by the police or the Security Forces. They were told on the Mission what had happened and it had been explained that if they went down now, without the protection of the political leaders and pastors, the potential for getting injured would be very great. They said there, that they would still want to go. So I knew then that we could be facing trouble. I went down then to Mrs Moloklegle's house, warned her of this, I had avoided the road blocks, going a back way, as I came out of the front entrance to her house there was a huge roadblock just ahead of me. And I drove up to it. I was stopped. I was told that we have to go away. And it was just then that I noticed between the armed cars on the side of the road, one of our pastors and one of our religious personnel sitting. They had not gone back to the Mission, but had tried to come down to Mrs Moloklegle's house and had walked into this roadblock.
So then the police were very aggressive. They told me we would have to go. I said, at least let me get these people out. And as I walked forward I noticed then that the crowd of people was just approaching the roadblock, coming down from the Mission. It was then that the trouble started. Because without a warning to the people to stop there was some command shouted out and the police from the -Security Forces from the vehicles opened up with water canons and then with these terrible teargas projectiles, which are very heavy with teargas. If they hit you it could cause severe injury. If they hit you on the head it could cause even more serious injury, perhaps death. They fired straight at people. They went beserk.
Just as they started that, I was so close to the vehicles, I heard a command, going up. Shoot the Beruti, shoot the Ministers. One of the Security Force personnel, jumped down and I was fully clothed in my white cassock as a Bishop, as were all the ministers that day in their robes, he took aim with fortunately a teargas gun and aimed straight at me, fired straight at me, I could see the gas escaping from the projectile and so I ducked. And it missed me fortunately and hit the car behind me. About five or six of these projectiles, I could hear them whizzing past me as I tried to get this priest out. They all missed me, but other people, as we found out later, were hit by them, they were sjambuked by the police. It was terrible. They just went beserk all over the village.
I want to say also that as they began the firing, I heard the staccato-fire"to-tto-to-to" like that and I said, oh my God, they are firing live ammunition and it turned out later that we found that one person named Johannes Mafatse had been shot dead and his body had been taken into the clinic which was very close by. Another person had taken a bullet in the shoulder, which we found out later, that they had opened fire with live rounds.
That night, Mrs Moloklegle, came very, very late to me, it was around ten o'clock at night, to the Mission and in tears said to me that she had decided for the safety of her people, and to prevent this kind of violence, she would go into exile. And she asked me then to phone a friend of hers in Johannesburg, to meet is somewhere on that road and asked me to drive her away. And she got into my car and we drove out and we passed the road leading down to Legato and that is when she burst into tears. She was leaving her home and her people and I will never forget the pain of that drive. We went to one of church residences on the Johannesburg road where she was picked up and went into exile. A brave woman who came many times in secret back to our Mission to meet her people, to discuss their problems and to support them in the on-going struggle for justice and human rights.
After that, the group of us who were responsible for the march, decided to collect together the many injured, old women who had terrible wounds from sjamboks, people who had been hit by these and had wounds and so forth, to hold a press conference to publicise this, but unfortunately that weekend something happened in Johannesburg, another series of killings and the press went there.
The official media spokesmen for the Bop Government, Colonel David George, came on television to state that Mr Mafatse had been stabbed and his body thrown into the clinic. I then went down and through a contact at the clinic we got a copy of the entrance register for the March, the 21st, where it clearly stated, a man had been brought in with a bullet wound, bullet wounds and dead already. And another one with bullet wounds in the shoulder and he was transferred then to the hospital, George Stegman, up there by Saulspoort. So that was where the incident itself finished.
But then three pastors and myself, Reverend Selapedi Reverend Tawana and Reverend George Dalker, all of Tlhabane, were called to the police station in Tlhabane some weeks later and told they were going to drive us to Mmabatho to appear before a committee, concerning the march. We then gathered and we decided, no, we could not trust being driven down there, so I said I would drive us down.
We went and we appeared before Mr Gert Nkau, one of the Ministers in the cabinet and the security police people, and they questioned us about the march and wanted to know who had drawn up the memorandum. We refused to tell them and in the end we agreed that we would go back to the organisations and see what they would like to do about this invitation to a meeting. They all refused of course. And so the incidents of human rights violations continued. The teargassing of a funeral in September of that year in Lesung.
And then we came to the second incident I speak about, which was in November 23rd, 1991, the bombing of the church on St Joseph's Mission. One week before that, on a Saturday, one week before that meeting, I was visited by a delegation from the Boputhatswana Government, Reverend Segwe, Colonel Pitse, Governor Morake and one of the army personnel or Security Force people, I can't remember his name. They expressed their grave reservations, serious concern about the meeting to be held on the 23rd, why, because that meeting was an ANC meeting to be addressed by Mr Rocky Malebane Metsing. It was a welcome home meeting for him and it was also a meeting called to highlight the fate of political prisoners in Boputhatswana, who were still in jail. There were some hundred prisoners still in jail at that time, several of them on hunger strike.
Again I was put under pressure to forbid the meeting. I refused, saying that this was our stance in support of human rights, in support of peace and reconciliation, base on justice and justice can only come about if we respect human rights. And they could not accept this and I refused to bow down and they went away.
On the Friday, the day before the meeting, at two o'clock in the morning, there was a massive explosion on the Mission. We heard this terrific explosion and we checked the buildings. There are religious communities who live there. If the bomb had been placed in any of these houses, near any of these houses, there could have been severe injury. We did not think to check our church, because the year before, in 1990, our church and our commercial school had been fire-bombed, causing a lot of damage, but we did not think to check the church, only in the morning, we found this devastation in the church. A powerful bomb, which the police explained to me was specifically designed to cause maximum damage through suction and so forth had caused severe damage to the church. I then said the meeting was still to go ahead. The ANC came in that evening and one of the things that I noticed, was that a bakkie, no not a bakkie, a mini-bus from one of the mines, came in with a whole group of White miners and they said they were coming to see the damage to the church. The ANC martials turned them out. The meeting went ahead. Mr Malebane Metsing came in by helicopter. The meeting did go ahead on Saturday, the 23rd and we then just had to repair our church.
And then from there, I was called again by Mr Mangope. A delegation came to me to say he wanted to see me in April of 1992, where I was specifically threatened during that meeting. I was called to appear before Mr Mangope and his cabinet and Security Police as have happened in February 1991. This time, Mr Cronje was there and the whole tone of the meeting was very much more aggressive. Because there was trouble on the mines at that time, a lot of injuries and killings had gone on at the mines and I was being accused of contributing to this by allowing the National Union of Mine Workers to hold meetings on St Joseph's Mission, because all other South African Unions were in fact banned in Boputhatswana.
And so I went in there and this very aggressive meeting where I was asked by Mr Cronje, in a very offhand way, you always talk about human rights, give us one case of a human rights violation. And I said, I will and I took up the case of Mrs Maggie Bopalamo, who is now the district manager of education. She, I think has given a statement to the Commission. I was deeply involved with her where she was arrested for two weeks at the time of the attempted coup. Her husband got five year's jail. Some weeks later, she was taken in again and spent ten months in jail without trial and I kept saying this to Mr Mangope and the cabinet. They tried to interrupt me, but I got my story right through. It was the help of the Spirit as we read in the Gospels. When you do not know what to say, the words will be given to you. That happened to me that day. And I went right through all the incidences where she was kept in prison for ten months without trial, then released, cancer was diagnosed, she spent three months in hospital. She was banned, house arrested, she had to report twice a day to police. Then the next year, her so-called court case came up and there was no evidence. She was being accused of sedition. She was then banned form teaching. She was a teacher at Tlabane. She was head of department at Tlabane College of Education. Her permit to teach was withdrawn, she had no job. And then I went right though this with Mr Mangope, but then I kept quiet about something that was happening just then.
To get some kind of income, she had been given a job as running a tuck shop at Mankwe College, the Teacher Training College. While she started there she got visits from the Security Police and Mr Morake and then the Rector of the College was told that she had to be sent off the premises. She had no permission to do this. That came from Mmabatho. The security police came to her and said that he wanted her to be a spy, to inform on ANC and all these. She came in great terror to me.
I went to Pretoria and met a lawyer friend of mine and we met Mr Brian Currin and we organised a trap for the Security policeman. I hired a sophisticated recording device in a briefcase. Mrs Bopalamo, a very brave woman, invited him to her house and they recorded a two hour conversation in which he gave all the promises and threats related to her being an informer.
This was officially translated and then I organised with lawyers in Pretoria to bring a court action against Mr Mangope and several of his Ministers and the Security police to exposed this whole thing, and on a technicality, because we were not given a court case, for a period of about nine months, the judge found against us for taking too long to bring this case to court.
Mr Mangope at the end of that meeting in April 1992, at the end of this acrimonious meeting, said to me, since you will not agree to stop these meetings, since you are supporting groups that are bent on destabilising Boputhatswana, we will take whatever measures we think are necessary to safeguard ourselves against you. I took that to be an implicit threat against us at St Joseph's, perhaps against myself. So I took it up with our bishops' conference who protested to the Foreign Affairs. I had a meeting with Foreign Affairs. They said but of course you must realise South Africa recognises that Boputhatswana is an independent homeland, an independent state, but they did agree to contact them. I received some assurance that perhaps they would not cause any problems to us at St Joseph's and they said that I must try and stop having these meetings. I said I cannot do that. And that was basically the end of that saga and we continued with our struggle, which I wanted to just simply say was my own struggle, being part of the people who were struggling. Thank you.
PROF MEIRING: Bishop Dowling, thank you very much. It was an inspiring account you gave and one is humbled by listening to you and your colleagues and the courage the Lord gave to you. I saw that you came with a document in your hand, is that the more comprehensive statement?
MR DOWLING: That I do not know. All I know is he was a teacher and he actually worked with our first witness this morning. I was never able to trace the family. I do not know whether they made a statement and that is precisely why I wanted to make a statement, in case some of these, what I would call the little people of our society, perhaps they would not hear about the Truth Commission and would not give in a statement. That is why I wanted to speak on behalf of him and the family, about that incident on March 21st where he died.
MR DOWLING: I got very great support. Actually Archbishop Hurley from Durban, phoned me in the night of the march, when he heard that I had been ducking these projectiles and he said, he said I see your cricketing days have helped you to duck the bouncers, to duck the bouncing balls.
And our Bishops' Conference of course, Kanya House in Pretoria, was bombed also, in the struggle days, but there our Conference Headquarters had a special fund which they had got from overseas to aid all kinds of action on behalf of human rights of the people. And so all these court actions that I was able to bring against the Bop Government and so forth for Mrs Bopalamo for example, payment of the lawyers, all of this came out of that, with immediate effect. There was no problem. I just had to apply. ...(tape ends). ....about the harassment of people and the church at St Joseph's Mission, because you must remember at every meeting that took place on our Mission, the people from Phokeng, brave as they were, had to go through these roadblocks on their way to the Mission and on the way back and risk being teargassed and beaten up, as I saw so often. So they wanted us, our Bishops Conference gave me complete support and the SACC as well from Rustenburg for the stand we took.
MR DOWLING: I can't speak for all the churches. One fact that saddens me is that, talking just about the Christian pastors community in the whole Boputhatswana area, we were not united. There was a ministers' fraternal called Bomifra, Boputhatswana Ministers Fraternal, Bomifra, whose patron was President Mangope himself and three or four of those ministers were in his cabinet. They, when you heard them speak, sadly, it sounded as if they were talking on behalf of the Boputhatswana Government. They were divided from the other group that I have mentioned, headed by Reverent Johannes Selapedi, who is now the Minister of Agriculture in the North West Government, around the whole issue of human rights.
So we had a pastors' community that was divided, sadly. And I would say that goes for many actual church communities. You had some people who supported Mr Mangope, even right to the end, perhaps did not understand the issues I am talking about human rights. Other people in the same church communities who were totally opposed to Mr Mangope. And that was so in my own Catholic community as well. And I would say possibly in the some of the other communities, but I cannot for them all.
PROF MEIRING: Bishop Dowling, on the 14th of December this year the Truth Commission closes its doors and then it is over to the communities to carry on with the great work of reconciliation. Do you think that the church community, your community, but the other churches too, will be able in Rustenburg to work on reconciliation? Are you optimistic, are you positive about what the churches may contribute to future reconciliation in this community?
MR DOWLING: I would be, I think we've got good leadership in this area. I think the people are wonderful, very forgiving. I always found the people very understanding and forgiving. I think it is up to the churches, particularly the people who suffered, who may need on-going counselling and support and we see the emotional trauma that people have been through. I am just afraid that some of these little people will fall through the sieve and won't be able to be contacted or whatever. I feel perhaps when we get the Truth Commissions' report at the end, the recommendations, the on-going work is going to have to begin in a serious way and, but I believe that even with all the problems, even with the rightwing element in this area, which was so strong, I think we have a chance, provided that people can at least move from the basis of human rights and that we are human beings, people created in the image of God. If we can start from there, whatever faith groups there are, not only Christian. We can do something, I think. But it is going to be a long journey, I think, a long journey.
PROF MEIRING: Bishop Dowling, from my side, thank you so much. We know that you delayed a visit to Rome, all your colleagues, your fellow Bishops have already left for Rome to meet with the Holy Father. You stayed behind for this day. Thank you, so much. You really did inspire me and all of us. Thank you for your testimony and thank you for what you have done to this community and may the Lord bless you and keep you in your Ministry in the years to come. But over to the Chairperson.
DR ALLY: Thank you very much, Chairperson. Bishop Dowling, you mentioned three groups of people, you mentioned three groups of people who harassed you. You mentioned the rightwing groups, the old Bop Government and also the Bop Security Forces. You did not mention the South African Government, or the South African Forces, Security Forces. Were they not part of, did they not play a role in the, a direct role in the harassment, especially given that your Mission was still part of South Africa?
MR DOWLING: I never saw, personally, involvement of the South African Police Force in the, for example on the March 21st demonstration. The Boputhatswana Security Forces were in the village. On the other side of the Mission that same day, there was a South African Police contingent. I also noticed during the demonstration that there were plain clothes White men, in cars, who seemed to be dialoging with the Boputhatswana Security Forces. Whether they were part of the Bop army group or what I am not sure. I could not tell whether they were South African police. Personally I did not receive any, or I never experienced the involvement of the South African Police Services.
I would just like to say that one of the issues that I mentioned was the harassment on our Mission of a group of six hundred homeless people whom we were supporting and giving refuge too, from the rightwing farmers. They had come off the farms, and the farmers wanted them cleared out. And one night we got a tip-off that two hundred farmers were coming in to clear these people out. So we came into Rustenburg, got the South African Police out to come and protect the people and they did. They came and protected the people there. Incidents like that, I was then later on phoned by a mad farmer. He was really very angry and he said if you do not get rid of them, we are coming in to get rid of them. So I went up to Boshoek Police Station near the South African Police force there and I protested and I handed all the legal documents which we had been involved in, in getting a solution which would transfer these people in 1992, to what is now Boitokong. And I showed them this has all been done in court. We are just waiting for this to be ready and so forth, so tell these farmers, you know, to lay off, you know. So I had no personal knowledge or experience of the South African Police involvement with the Bop Police. I am not sure if they were. That is all I could say.
MR DOWLING: That was particularly difficult. At the second meeting I had with Mr Mangope and his cabinet, where Mr Mangope said to me, accused me, he said the fundamental problem here is that the Catholic Church does not support the independence of Boputhatswana. And I said that you have got to understand that there is no country in the world that supports this as an independent state. We do not either. It is not up to me as a Bishop to give official support to Boputhatswana as an independent state, in fact, we do not. It is part of the apartheid creation. I said that does not mean that I am here actively working for the destruction of Boputhatswana, I said, we have schools for example, we have clinics and this sort of thing where we have our personnel, religious personnel involved. Because it happens to be in Boputhatswana, we have to relate with your Government and your Ministers and so forth, because this is where we live. That does not mean to say I recognise, and I refuse to recognise Boputhatswana as an independent state, I said. But because this is the authority in this area, we have to relate to you. But he was very angry that I did not actually give my own personal support and that of the Catholic Church to Boputhatswana as an independent state. So it was that delicate thing, not recognising it, but a fait accompli that we were subject to them, in our schools, our health work and so forth. We had to, as it were, work with them in terms of subsidies or whatever permission to have a school or whatever. I do not know if that explains it. It was a fine line ...(intervention)
DR ALLY: Implicit in not recognising Boputhatswana as an independent state, implicit in that was the idea then of support for those who were working to end the existence of the Bop State, is that not true?
MR DOWLING: Well, you see, the way I approached that was that political groupings, civics organisations, the Baphokeng and so forth, what their political agenda was, was their right to have. I was supporting their right to meet and to be able to express their views. That was my position. Mr Mangope interpreted my allowing St Joseph's Mission to be used as a meeting place, as not only implicit, but explicit support for these groups which he said, were bent on destabilising Boputhatswana. I kept telling him that whatever people's political views were and what their actions were, in terms of bringing about justice and so forth or a new South Africa, was their right to have. And it is only when we can meet in respect and without fear and start sharing these different views, that we could have some hope to build a reconciliation and to overcome these terrible problems we were in.
So I was taking the position that I was not supporting the actual political brief of any group. That was their right to have. Any group could have whatever beliefs they wanted and I said to Mr Mangope, if the foot was on the other - if the shoe was on the other foot, or whatever it is, I said, if you and your political group were banned and harassed and prevented from meeting, I would give you St Joseph's Mission to meet, where you could meet, because I would respect your fundamental human right to meet, even though I might disagree with you, even though I might not think that your political philosophy or whatever, was the right one but I still would support your right to meet and to discuss without harassment. I said, that is my position regarding our church facilities. If you interpret that, I said to him, as supporting the destabilisation of Boputhatswana, I say I disagree with that. I am not supporting any destabilisation of anything, I am supporting justice, based on human rights and that is it.
DR ALLY: So are you saying that you were not actually taking a position in the political conflict, because there was a political conflict going on? Now, I respect what you say about supporting human rights. Did that support for human rights not extend to taking a side in the political conflict taking place?
MR DOWLING: To the extent that I was supporting the oppressed who happened to be ANC, PAC, AZAPO, NUM, COSATU, NACTU, Baphokeng, I was, to the extent that I was supporting groups who happened to be opposed to Mr Mangope, I was supporting them. I was supporting their right to be opposed to Mr Mangope. Now I think, I had every right to do that and that was what I tried to discern, based on the faith and the Gospel values that I have, flowing into therefore my perception of justice and human rights. I was supporting their right to be opposed to Mr Mangope. And I believe they had every right to be opposed to Mr Mangope, politically or whatever way. And that was my position. I was supporting that. I was not saying to the ANC by doing that, that I agree with your philosophy. We as pastors kept right out of that discussion, this group on human rights. That is why we did not participate in a meeting that was called just by one sole political party so that it would not appear that we were supporting one political party. When all the peoples' organisations came together on any issue, and they came to us as the pastors' group to be supportive of that, then we supported that and we were involved in that. So I was supporting the fundamental right to meet. I was also supporting the political groupings' right to be opposed to Mr Mangope. If that had been a democratic society, they would have been given that right by Mr Mangope himself. He had refused that right. Therefore these people were oppressed, therefore I stood for the oppressed. It was as simple as that. These people happened to be oppressed, because they were political groupings, or civic groupings or the Baphokeng community grouping. Different groups, all of them happened to be oppressed for the same thing, that they were opposed to Mr Mangope at that time. Therefore I supported their right to be opposed.
DR ALLY: Often the Truth Commission is actually faced these same questions. What are you going to write in your final report? Are you going to take a side in the political conflict? Or are you going to be even-handed.
DR ALLY: As you know from the Nationalist Party, in particular, from ex State President De Klerk, he insists all the time that this was a conflict and there were gross human rights violations committed on both sides. From the ANC you hear the position that this was a just war and therefore what the ANC did was justified and you cannot make, you can't put an equal sign between those who opposed apartheid and those who actually fought to preserve it. It is in that spirit that I am actually asking you those questions, because the kinds of responses from people like you and others will assist us when we have to finally write a report in which we make comments on these issues. So I hope you appreciate it it's in that spirit that I have asked those questions.
DR RANDERA: Bishop, just a few questions. The first one is for clarification. When you talked about Phokeng and Chief Lebone, you said he was sent into exile after the coup in 1988. I assume there was some association between the coup and him. Can you just tell us what this association was?
MR DOWLING: As far as I understand, he did not, he was not actually sent into to exile, he escaped and went into exile himself. He was down in - after the coup he was a very sick man and he was in a hospital and it looked like he was going to be arrested and so forth, but he managed to get out.
But as far as I understand, because I was not here at the time of that attempted coup, as far as I understand the People's Progressive Party and Chief Lebone were accused of supporting, masterminding the coup, perhaps Chief Lebone with the Baphokeng, being accused of bank rolling the whole thing with some disaffected officers in the Boputhatswana Security Forces, they actually then led the coup attempt at that time. Some of them landed, in of course, jail on that hunger strike which I mentioned about, people like Bushy Molefe and so forth. So that is the way I understood it. He was accused of being involved, perhaps by actively supporting, maybe that was the perception, the PPP, the Triple P, and by actually being involved with the soldiers and perhaps with the bank rolling, the financing of this whole thing. That is what I heard. I do not know the actual, real details of how that coup was planned.
DR RANDERA: Thank you. Bishop, I just want to pose a similar question to what Dr Ally was posing to you earlier on. And that is to look at it more from the everyday working point of view when you were clearly in your communities seen as someone who stood for justice and human rights and perhaps you became too identified with one particular side of the struggle. We, as you no doubt know, the first amnesty hearing in Phokeng was related to a gross human rights violation that took place there.
DR RANDERA: And similarly yesterday we heard the story of a young woman who talked about her father who happened to be a member of parliament in the chief's Government at the time, who was burned to death in front of her eyes. Did this not create difficulty when it came to ministering to people from that, if you like, from the other side, where gross human rights violations took place as well?
MR DOWLING: Yes. I think the reality is that in any humane situation we are not going to have clear cut guidelines, clear cut issues, it is going to be muddied. It is going to be unclear very often. My approach was, and as I said already, we had people in my own community, ordinary people who supported President Mangope, as he was then called, who supported him and who disagreed with me, for the stance I took. I found that very painful. I found it very painful that I was criticised very often for the stand I took, but I had to make a decision in a very difficult human situation, where you had supporters of both sides. And all I could - and I addressed, for example, our community in Tlhabane, I went there on a Sunday when the Iswoletu homeless people had been harassed and beaten by the police and they have taken refuge in our church and I appealed to the people and I said, what must I do as a church leader of this community when this kind of thing happens? Must I keep quiet? Must I say nothing in order to avoid becoming involved, in order to avoid precisely what you are saying? I said, I have got to, I have to stand with the suffering, I have to stand with the people who are oppressed and suffering from whatever side. And so, to answer you there, if in the communities where we served, the violation of human rights was of those people who supported Mr Mangope, then I would say that as a church community, we were equally bound to minister to people who suffered as a result of this whole mess that we were in. And unfortunately it was a mess. We were equally bound to minister to people as people. It does not matter what political grouping or philosophy they followed. That would be the starting point.
How you do this without creating some of the problems you referred to is the real thing. When you are in a situation like that, you have just got to try and do your best and be condemned by both sides, if you take a stand. I tried, as I said, to proceed from how people were wounded, hurt, oppressed, had their rights abused. If that happened, whoever they might be, as I told Mr Mangope himself, I would support that. I would stand with those people and hopefully through dialogue, that was what I was saying, if we could only dialogue perhaps we can come to solve these problems. But in that messy situation where so much violence was happening, if there was no chance for dialogue, I felt I had to stand with the people who were oppressed and that meant that in that context appearing, I think, to take the side of these political groupings and not take the side of Mr Mangope and his cabinet and Bomifra and so forth. That impression was definitely created and I was criticised for it, but in the context it was the only thing I could do. I could not keep quiet about the vast majority of human rights abuses which were happening to those who were opposed to Mr Mangope.
One, your appeal to those people as we get close to this deadline, accepting that this is not about vengeance or revenge seeking; and two, the advice to the Commission as to what recommendations we would make, where people have not come forward in the future.
MR DOWLING: That is a real hard one, because my instinct is that if we can all come together around the goal of the TRC, which is to bring reconciliation, now that is going to take, that is the work for the long term, I mean the TRC is just beginning this process. But what concerns me, I think, is that for many of the victims, even though they are appealed to enter into that process of reconciliation, which means in the end being willing to forgive those who oppressed them or killed their family members. That is extremely hard for people.
And besides that there is the other issue, that the people who have been damaged as we have heard and as you have heard more than even myself, there is an issue of justice here. A clear issue of justice here in the sense that people who have committed real criminal acts against them, I sense from the hearts of many of these people, they are crying out not only to enter into a process of reconciliation, but that sometimes people want justice to be done, perhaps often. And perhaps they are struggling with this. How can there be justice and reconciliation and forgiveness? It is something I am struggling with myself. On the one hand, if people who are responsible for these human rights violations, who have had this ample opportunity to come forward and apply for amnesty and hopefully then we can continue with the process of reconciliation with the people they have harmed, if they do not take up that, that magnanimous offer that has been extended, if they do not take up that, then what are they saying? I would love to talk to them to ask what is motivating you in saying that you need not apply for amnesty when you did this? I would love for them to explain to me how they can stand back and pretend that there is not an issue of justice here. That they have actually terribly harmed people, how can they just stand back and say I am not applying for amnesty, when they are given this opportunity? And they are known and they've been named and there is evidence and so forth.
It is an issue, I and my colleagues in our Justice and Peace Group, are really struggling with, because on the one hand what that means if you just take without going talking to these people and finding out what is in you heart that is saying, motivating you not to apply for amnesty. If I do not have that chance to try and understand where this person is coming from, then you are just taking bald facts. This person has not applied for amnesty, should we just allow the processes of law to continue, that if the family wants to bring a case against them, then they should have the right now, because these people having had the chance, did not apply for amnesty. I could not go to those people who feel so hurt and that this person has not applied for amnesty., I could not go to those people and say you must not bring a case against them. I would have to talk to them similarly and say where are you coming from, can I understand you. And if they say, no, it is a matter of justice for us that this person should be prosecuted you know I would have to say that is your choice.
But to make a recommendation to you, I do not know if that is giving you basically what I am feeling. I am feeling basically that if people do not apply for amnesty when they have got such a chance to do so, and if there are hurting, hurting people who feel that they, their cause has not been responded to, well if they want to bring a case in view of what they feel is a call for justice, I feel they should be given that chance.
CHAIRPERSON: Bishop Dowling, thank you very much for this wonderful submission. I hope you didn't feel that you were being grilled by my colleagues this morning. I would just like to thank you most sincerely for all the help that you did, to quote you, "for the little people" in your area and for providing the premises of St. Joseph for their meetings. I think in your support for them, you may not be aware that you were also empowering them to take up the struggle and be determined to go through it and be where we are now and be part of this new democracy that is still so alien and which will need the church, the contribution of the church, that we were so grateful for in the past, that we will still need now in this new process of reconciliation.
I am very grateful for you honesty about the difficulties and problems of reconciliation, which is not just an easy thing and we hope that those people who have not applied for amnesty, will come forward and do so and sort of alleviate the harm that they have done to the victims in the past.
We are very much aware of the contribution the church, and especially the clergy, have made in the past, and are mindful of people like Bishop Hurley, who is retired now in Durban, of Beyers Naude and our own chairperson, Archbishop Desmund Tutu. In order for us to uphold the vision that they had, the church, I think still needs to move forward and take over where the leadership is finding problems. Thank you very much for coming.