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Type Children's Hearings
Starting Date 22 May 1997
Names DEE DICKS
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CHAIRPERSON: Dee, a very warm welcome to you. It is not easy to be the first witness after lunch. You have to keep everyone awake and maintain their interest and I am sure you will, because you have a very interesting and moving testimony to give. Mrs Burton is going to swear you in and then lead your evidence.
MS BURTON: Thank you. Right, I would like you to sit and feel comfortable and try and relax. I know it is a bit of an ordeal that we are putting you through. We know that you are coming to tell us about what happened to you when you were arrested in 1985 so I would like you to just go ahead and tell us in your own words.
MS DICKS: Okay. I was one of the Wynberg, I am one of the Wynberg Seven. My name is Dee Dicks and 12 years ago on the 15th of October 1985 is when my story begins. Prior to that day, like the school, all schools were involved in boycotts so going to school was attending rallies at various schools in the peninsula. So I was 17 years old at the time and I was in matric at South Peninsula High School and the day started with Julian and I, with some other pupils from our school going to a rally at Grassy Park High and after that rally we went to another rally at Wittebome High in Wynberg.
When that rally ended it was decided that we would go to Imakilata High School which is also in Wynberg, because they were continuing with normal classes. So when we arrived at Imakilata some of the people within the group were shouting obscene things towards the nuns and so on and Julian and I decided to leave. On our way back, it was in Bats Road, they were erecting barricades and someone who attends our school stays in Bats Road by the name of Pandy, by the surname Pandy. So we decided to go and stand on the Pandy's stoep and watch the proceedings. So at the end of the Pandy's road at the Luxurama Theatre there is a parking lot right next to the Pandy's house and that is on the corner of Park and Bats Road and we were standing on the stoep and what happened was there was a barricade erected at the end of the parking area and at the end of Bats Road.
What happened then was that a police van rode down Park Road and some stones were thrown at them and then afterwards the police came back with reinforcements. So they were, they started shooing teargas and that and everybody who was in that vicinity ran into the Pandy's house. So there was more than 40 people in the house and what happened then was that I was in a bedroom and there was about 20-odd other pupils with me in the bedroom and we closed the door and then the police came and they knocked down the front door and the back door and they came in. They knocked down the bedroom door and then they started hitting like, a policeman started hitting like with a quirk, like at randomly. So my first intention was to get out of the room and as I got out of the room a policeman grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and on his other hand he had Amlay, Igshaan Amlay, in his other hand and he marched us straight to a police van and he closed the door and they were bringing pupils constantly like into the vans and putting them in the vans. It was ten of us at the time and we were taken to Wynberg Police Station.
What happened then was that we, when we were at Wynberg Police Station we stayed there for two days and we were released and we were charged with public violence and being, they found some petrol bombs in the vicinity of the house and we were charged with being in the possession of petrol bombs as well. Then our case started, our trial started and from October 1985 right through to the 19th of May 1986, that was the day that we were sentenced. My sentence was three years, two of which were suspended and one year imprisonment. What happened then my parents and everybody else within the group got involved with the organisation called the Wynberg Classes Committee and they started fighting for us for the appeal and they also had a petition to help us not go to prison. The appeal failed and then we were eight at a time and the one person who was with us was, the sentence would only be given in five years. So it was seven and that is where they name Wynberg Seven came from.
Then we went into prison. The petitions failed us well and so we had to go into prison. We made the conscious decision to go to prison, the seven of us and our parents took us in on that day, on the eighth of June, it was a Monday and we went to prison for one year and we were released 19 days short of that year which was the 19th of May 1988. We went in on the eighth of June 1987 and we came out in 88. Can I just.
MS DICKS: I need a tissue. So when we came into prison at the female section of Pollsmoor Prison another person was with me. So we were isolated for two weeks, kept separate from the other prisoners and then they integrated us with the other prisoners. So we had to, adjustment was difficult, but we had to mix with the other prisoners so it was common prisoners like murderers and thieves and so on. So and when we went in I was 19 at that time. So when I was in prison I was able to, it made me strong, and I was able to cope with my situation at that time and I was also fortunate to be able to complete my matric in prison and at the time the question was asked, what did it do to you at the time and I can honestly say at the time we were heroes, at that time and it, I did not feel as if it affected me at that time, but now it seems as if it is getting worse now. So I just want to go back again.
So when we came out in 1988 I went to, I started at UWC in 1989 and I studied social work and at that time my life became like directionless and no focus and my attitude was completely nonchalant to life and we, as the Wynberg Seven, we grew close before that and during our trial and so on and we drifted apart as well. We found other interests and so on and I was only able to, be able to complete my studies last year and that was from 1989. So ever since January this year when the TRC contacted, someone from the TRC contacted me and wanted to know whether we would like to give our statements to the TRC, I have been extremely, I have been a nervous wreck. It has been extremely anxious, I am anxious as I am sitting here, because it is very difficult for me to speak about it now. Then it was not, but now it is extremely difficult and I, can I get two minutes just to relax.
MS DICKS: So all I want to do now is like cry and it is, it angers me, because I am not in control of my crying and I my self esteem and confidence is very low at present and it is very difficult for me and sometimes I am still directionless and unfocused which is always like, you know, the experience that I lived through in the 80's is like forever in my mind and it has become quite difficult for me to cope and it is making me very angry, because at that time I could and now I cannot.
MS BURTON: Perhaps just before I put any questions, I would like to thank you very much for what you have said and for having come to us in spite of the difficulties that it has caused for you. I think we are terribly conscious of what a lot we put people through when we ask them to talk to the Commission, firstly, in private and then, secondly, in public. Many of us here will remember that time extremely well, the 15th of October is, of course, also the date of the Trojan Horse and that is what we have been talking about the two previous days. So those of us who lived through those, that year and that period in the Cape Peninsula remember very vividly your own experience and that of those who were with you and I think we really affirm the kind of leadership role that you and other young people played at the time and the way in which whole communities were mobilised through what you did and in support for you at the time. So it had a very galvanising effect on people and, in spite of the awfulness of that time, I think of the things that it did was bring us all together and give us a sense of purpose and a very clear vision of what we were aiming to achieve and the problem, I think, sometimes now is that that purpose seems to be dissipated. I think of the way in which the whole Pandy family was also involved at that time and they are one of the groups of people who are identified as having made such a strong contribution.
I do not really have very many questions to ask and I notice in your statement to us that one of the things that you hope can be done is to have the criminal record expunged from your identity and your documents and I think that is something that many people have asked us, because, on the one hand, they are proud of what they did, it is not a question of wanting that record to be taken away, but they do not want to be seen as having been criminals for the part that they played and it is something that we will be taking up and I hope, also, that we will be able to ensure that you are helped with counselling to fulfil the role that I am sure still lies ahead for you in our society. Are there other questions?
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you Dee. It is really just a comment. I observe that there are many children today, some of whom come from backgrounds that would never have understood what happened in those years. I am not quite sure how to convey to them the message, because your own emotions conveyed the hurts and the pain, but I think there is another part of it that we should address conveying the understanding to try and make them understand. Earlier on Molo Songololo read to us a list of items that they had been attending to, education, health and one of the things that they did was to get statements from children from various backgrounds. There is a statement read from a child in Sea Point, at a Sea Point high school and one of the things that she said or he said, the girl or boy said was something that suggested a judgement on the children that came from a school in a black area. Now my concern is that many children do not understand what you went through. They can see your hurt and pain, because you are sharing it with us today, but I think one of the challenges to organisations like Molo Songololo and others present today is to convey a sense of understanding to many children who hear what is going on today, but have no sense of understanding, no sense of grasping what it actually meant, what was going on.
It is possible that they may live today with different, know and understand that you were hurt and you felt the way you did when you were in prison, but not knowing what the full background of all of that was and I think that, perhaps, it is really more an appeal to organisations such as Molo Songololo to bring this understanding, understanding about your experience, what it meant, why you were involved in what you were doing and why it is now that you are going through so much pain to help children understand. Even those children who come from the same background that you do. Thank you Dee.
CHAIRPERSON: Dee, before I ask Mary just to conclude, I want to say that I think very often we do cope when we are under that terrible stress and it is only some time later when we, kind of, have the space to break down, as it were, that we then are able to really look back and truly experience the horror of what it was that we were going through at the time. So what you are feeling now is not weakness or inappropriateness, it is really quite normal and I do hope that, through your briefer, we will be able to arrange for some emotional support for you.
MS BURTON: Then, once again, I would like to thank you very much. I sense that you are here not only representing yourself and your own experience, but that of those who were with you at the time and we value very much your courage and your leadership in coming forward to talk to us. Thank you.