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Type Children's Hearings
Starting Date 22 May 1997
Names JULIAN STUBBS
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CHAIRPERSON: The next witness is Julian Stubbs and I ask him to come up to the stage with his briefer. Julian, good afternoon, welcome to you. Thank you for coming here today. You were also a member of the group which has come to be known as the Wynberg Seven and before I facilitate your evidence I will ask Mary Burton to swear you in.
CHAIRPERSON: Julian, this really is your story, it is for you to tell so I am going to hand over to you. If perhaps you can just tell us a little bit of the background, as Dee did, leading up to the 15th of October and then what happened that day and what happened to you specifically as a consequence.
MR STUBBS: Okay, prior to the 15th of October there had been quite a bit of school activity as far as mass rallies and attending meetings were concerned. For the children who are here now who are still at school, just to try and set the scene there. Any information as far as political activity was concerned did not come through your school. You had to go to other schools, through SRC structures, that type of thing and a lot of motivation was built up by actually attending mass rallies or mass meetings and if they can just picture themselves sitting in their, whether it be an assembly hall or on a little tarmac or something like that and somebody is addressing you and all of a sudden you just hear police sirens or police breaking down fences and gates and that type of thing and coming onto the school property with quirts starting to hit everyone. It happened on a couple of occasions with myself attending mass rallies and, in particular, what I do remember is, I think it was at Wynberg High, they have three flights of stairs, three stories and there were some girls that had run up to the third storey and there are normally two sets of stairs on those floors and the girls were stuck up there and the police basically blocked either side of each staircase, basically, and forced the girls to come down and as they came down they just started hitting with the quirts, chased. The girls were the easy targets. They use to chase the girls, guys as well and I do not know if this, lots of you can remember the fences we use to have were easy to climb over, the green fences and then they changed all of that with the small square fences. It was difficult to get over and just to make matters worse they left the spikes on the top as well. So if you were to try to escape out of that situation you would basically cut yourself quite badly, doing possibly serious bodily harm. That is besides what they were doing to you, hitting while you are trying to climb over and that type of thing and that was the type of run up to the period or the day that I was arrested.
Just the previous day we were attending a mass rally at Wynberg High when Graham Bloch was arrested and that actually just caused more motivation to get out there and get back into the trenches type of thing. So another mass, as Dee has explained, another mass rally was called upon again at Grassy Park. We attended, nothing was happening there, we went through to Wynberg, etc, etc. At the point where, as she said, the police came down Park Road and saw what was happening, some stones were thrown. We were at the house basically, because we knew the people that stayed there and we saw some of our fellow school pupils standing on that particular stoep. So we went to stand with them. The stones were certainly not being thrown by us at that, it just happens that on that nothing, we were not involved in anything and that police vehicle sped off again and, as she said, came back with reinforcements.
I would not say everybody ran into the house. Some of them ran in, some of them ran through, some of them jumped into Luxarama Parking Theatre. Those who ran through the house jumped into the, over walls into other properties and so on and so on and everybody just, basically, scattered when that happened. From my side I was not worried about anything. I knew I had not done anything. I was quite prepared to stay where I was, but obviously go with the flow and I also ran inside in the same room that Dee and the other 20 to 30 of us were locked in. I think I was actually the last person to come in the front door. I locked that, went to the back door, locked that as well, got into the bedroom last and I was, there was not a lock to the door. So I was sitting on the bed with my, trying to hold the door closed.
We heard the doors being broken down, front and back. They were first screaming down the sides, "skiet hier binne", "skiet hier binne" at the window of the room that we were at and I mean that just sent everybody, you know, into a panic. So I was holding the door, heard the doors being broken down and they came running in. Basically only two of them came to the room door, broke that down and with that I, obviously, let go of the door. I mean I could not hold it any further. I stepped away and with the quirts, obviously, I was the first target and I just, as Dee says, we just wanted to get out. Unfortunately, the first ten who came out were the ten that were arrested. The other ten or 20 that were left over, because they did not have enough van space, they were told to go and there was a bit of pleading by some of the Muslim community in the area that have shops close by and who stay in the area. Some pleading on their side actually got the other 20 off the hook type of thing.
Yes, we were then taken to Wynberg cells, as she said, spent a couple of days there. That was the Tuesday we were arrested. The Thursday morning we had the hearing to set bail and that type of thing and we were released on our parent's recognisance or on our own recognisance, in fact. Things just started happening from there obviously. I mean the mass rallies continued. It interfered with my life as far as that was concerned, just going to mass rallies, everybody said, no, you stay at school, you are not going with. If anything happens again you are in trouble, that type of thing. Before the actual trial came up as well I remember, at least once, getting a phone call at about half past six the morning from a friend of mine who had said a friend of his who was also arrested had just been picked up again, make myself scarce, that type of thing. I did not actually, but what I did to was keep, I kept a listen for if that, a knock should come on a door I would not answer it, that type of thing, first check who it is and then if it was who I expected it to be, I would have run over the, try and escape some other way through the back door, that type of thing, but I mean, that was, you were on tenter hooks all the time during that period.
At that time also the Belgravia Candlelight Vigils were being held on Wednesday evenings and we use to attend that, but also very low key. I mean we could not do much more for worry of being arrested again and eventually I decided, not consciously, but everything just fizzled out and I was not involved in anything from there on. I was still at school, I still made myself available for SRC membership, but that was as far as it went. Yes, that, eventually, as she said, we were sentenced on the 19th of May and then we appealed to Supreme Court in Cape Town. That was denied. Well, in fact, there were nine of us at that point. One girl was released, acquitted on appeal. The eighth one, she was only 14 at the time of her arrest and this was about two years later so she must have been about 16 and they set aside sentencing for five years, postponed for five years, so that we came down to the seven and then with the petitioning we would have, we sent that off to the Appellate Division in Bloemfontein and what really, sorry, what really got to me there as well, I remember one Saturday morning getting up hail and hearty in the kitchen with my mum and my mum just started crying and she gave me the Cape Times and there was a little article there saying Wynberg Seven appeal denied or whatever. It upset me that there was not anything official. It was just there in the paper and nobody was informed, you know, and nobody was prepared for this. The lawyers were not there to or they did not get any information that, to call us in and set us down and say, look, this is the situation. It was just there for everybody to see. My mother was obviously very upset.
At the time I do not feel I was, I did not feel as though I was the person who was going to go to jail. I totally distanced myself from myself and, perhaps, even up to now I am possibly still doing that. I was not that person that went. Anyway, sequence of events. We went in on the eighth of June also in a communal cell. There were five guys, okay, and all five of us were kept together in the communal cell, but alone, separate from the others and then about two weeks later they decided, because of prison space at Pollsmoor, they had to start moving people in and then we went up to nine and then it went up to 19, 25 and eventually when it got to 32, this was about two weeks after, well a month after having gone in. Yes, about a month after they got the, it was just too much for us. There were guys trying to do matric, I was doing a course through ICS. Everybody was basically studying and it just was not conducive. Firstly, because you are woken at something like, between half past five and six in the morning, have breakfast at, let us say, half past six for the latest, you have lunch at about ten, half past ten and supper is about one, half past one and then you get locked up at about, well, just after eating they will lock everything up, let us say about two, half past two and there you are with your 32 friends for the next, what is it, 16, 17 hours. So there is no space to move, no space to think. You have to either just recluse yourself from everyone or get involved and chat to everyone. You could not just pick out the people you wanted to be chatty or friendly with, because in that type of situation it is share and share everything or just sit in one corner.
So then we applied to go to single cells, we did not want to be in the general population there and then for, basically, for the next 11 months each one of us spent, probably, in cubicles not dissimilar to that, the size, maybe a bit bigger. We spent the next 11 months in something like that. What made that a bad choice, perhaps, as well is that you are alone again from half past two or two o' clock till the following morning half past six. You can shout out the window, but you do not see anyone, you cannot have a decent conversation with anyone, you are on your own. You either study or you read books or you go mad. I mean, the choice is yours. In fact, I would say for the next ten months, a month before we were actually going to be released, they had promoted our grades so we had gotten the A grade which basically allowed you to stay out till ten in the evening which was basically, for me it was just a bit of chicken feed that they chucked to us. It was not anything fantastic, it was not something to look forward to, it was only a month to go.
During the period of stay there depression really gets to you. I mean it is after three months you realise, damn, it is only three months. There is still another three like this to go. After six months you say, okay, it is downhill from here, but I have just barely managed the six months, so how am I going to manage another six and for the children here, I mean every day, basically, in prison you are thinking about the day you are going to go home, every day and because it is consciously there, I mean you are awake at half past six and you probably awake for the majority, I mean more than 18 hours of the day, probably. You are constantly thinking about this and it is always a reminder and you are counting day for day basically until, everybody sitting here just try it now, what is today, the 22nd of May. Every day just think of something that is going to get you closer to the next year 22nd of May and you will see how long that year actually goes. It seems quick when you are just thinking back, oh, that happened about two years ago or a year ago, it seems like it was not all that long back, but if it is something in particular that you want. You know how it is when you are waiting for something, an increase or a car or something. It takes forever for a week to go by and here, I mean, you waited basically a year to get out.
Obviously, as once that was done, I mean we were released, we were very happy to be released. What we did not mention was that one of the people that were arrested with us, one of they Wynberg Seven, he had been sentenced to five years with two years suspended. So he would be spending an extra two years there or supposed to have spent an extra two years there. So our leaving was not actually all that happy an occasion, because we left this one person behind and we, I mean, obviously we were happy to be out and see friends again and that type of thing, but it still left a bit of a sour taste in your mouth thinking of this person and having to be there on his own now and he has to fend for himself, because while we were there, because there were five of us it was easy to get along and get things done, but if you are on your own, I mean, it is, I am sure it must be a nightmare. Even, I mean, worse than the nightmare we actually experienced.
Yes, as Dee says, after you have come out everything is fanfare and photographs and people wanting to know how it was and that type of thing and you handle it because of that. Even though it is not actual phycological support, as such, but just having people around and chatting about it, it gives you that bit of release and what I did find, however, I, in fact, studied at this college when it was still Hewat, when I came back to this institution for my first, to continue my first year of college, all my friends, obviously, had moved up a year and even though I was still in their company quite often, I felt I could not really communicate with them. All those ties that we had had just been broken and severed and I had to try and rebuild all those things again which I did not, at the end of the day, I did not, I do not think I managed to do with the majority of them. There were a few that were there for me, that helped me study, because I had come back halfway through the year. That type of thing, those guys I could still get along with and I rebuilt those ties and bridges that we had, but I mean the rest of the guys I just could not keep up, type of thing.
Now looking back it was a terrible time. Actually now consciously thinking about it for this hearing, it was a terrible time. Not, I think it was easier for me to have gone through it than the family. I still do not know, up till now, my sister has hinted at what was happening while I was there in Pollsmoor, but I really do not know what actually was happening within the family, frustrations in the family, that type of thing. I mean, it is, I still feel it is not directly through my fault, but I caused them the pain and frustration and whatever they had to go through even though, I mean, I know the NP Government should take the blame for that as well, but it is still me, you know. I was the one that was in jail. Yes, I mean that is as far as I can go here now.
MR STUBBS: Fortunately for me, as I said, when I was released I could come back to college, guys helped me get through that first year. I am sure if I had not made it through that first year I would have said, to hell with this, I am going to leave, I am going to go work or whatever. Guys helped me through that first year and the lecturers as well. Second year, third year and fourth year and, okay, I made it. Unfortunately, when I had qualified having, when I qualified they were busy retrenching teachers so there was not, there were not any posts available. Had I not left for that year I could possibly have had a permanent post, but anyway I am glad I am out of teaching now. I, eventually after three years of jumping from school to school temporarily, three months here, two months there I decided to apply outside of the teaching profession and I am working for Old Mutual now in Pinelands. So, I mean, at the end of the day, if I look back I think, okay, I have worked through it, I have, I am where I want to be. Maybe I just have not recognised how it has affected me, but I am feeling okay.
MR STUBBS: Funnily enough, not. At the time when I was still looking for a teaching post, that was 92, okay, President Mandela had not been released or, no, he had been released, but they, I mean, the elections were still far off and when I would apply people could see what was coming in the future and when I would apply to a school, the principal, I would tell them upfront, look, I have a criminal record, this is it, that is why, etc, etc. It was never a problem for them and even when I applied at Old Mutual as well, fortunately the person interviewing me was not worried about me having that record. As long as I explained why, you know. If I had just told them, look, I have a criminal record, certainly, they would have a problem with it, but I, I mean, from point A to Z I explained everything to them and I have been able to actually find employment even with the criminal record, but I would still like it to be expunged though.
MS BURTON: It is not really a question, it is really a response more than anything else. I think you gave us a very graphic picture of the sense of shock of almost unbelieving the kind of random nature, for example, of the arrests. The fact that it was some of you rather than all of you, that the charges seemed so arbitrary. I think it is a very clear picture of the events of the time. As you started to talk and then you articulated it yourself more clearly to the effect of parents and siblings and community of something like this, both good and bad, that sense of community of mobilisation of coming together, but also the huge pressure that it puts on any parent to have a child, and such a young child, be taken into prison in the circumstances that you described and I think it makes us realise the huge effects of those events on the lives of so many, many people. So thank you, too, for coming to talk to us today.
CHAIRPERSON: Julian, it remains for me to thank you and Dee for coming to illustrate what was apparently a strategy of the Government at that stage and that was the criminalisation of political activity and young people who were fighting for democracy were made into criminals and sent to jail and it is, obviously, one of the iniquities which the Truth Commission has to investigate and comment on and make sure that it never happens again. So thank you for bringing this too to our attention.