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Type Trojan Horse Hearings
Starting Date 20 May 1997
Location Cape Town
Names SHARIFA FRIDIE
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Mrs Fridie and welcome this afternoon. I will hand over to Glenda Wildschut who will lead you this morning. Excuse me, if you will be try to be as unobtrusive as possible please, thank you Glenda.
MS WILDSCHUT: I thought you were asking me to be unobtrusive. Good afternoon Mrs Fridie. We were listening to the stories this morning of the Trojan Horse event and all the activity of both the students and families and the community and also of the security police on that day.
Your story is different in a way, slightly different in that this event took place on the next day when the community had come together at the St Athens Street Mosque to strategies and to think about how the funerals could be arranged for the victims of the Trojan Horse killing.
MS FRIDIE: It was on the 17th of October of 1985. It was at about eight o'clock when my husband and his brother went to the mosque since they decided that they were also fathers and they wanted to have the bodies released of the three children.
They then went along to the meeting to find out what was happening. They went away but I did not accompany them. As they told me what happened is that when Abdul Kariem came out of the mosque and was almost in the street, then the police started shooting at them. They ran back towards the mosque and they shot him in his back and in his arm and in his leg.
Dr Akoojee and the two young brothers were eye-witnesses of the event and they took Abdul Kariem to the hospital. They took him to the Somerset Hospital. On their way to the hospital the police prevented them or stopped them and bothered them and attempted to arrest Dr Akoojee and in fact did arrest the two young brothers.
After they gave treatment to Abdul Kariem. About three o'clock the following morning his brother and his father came to tell me that Abdul Kariem had been shot. I could not believe this. I continually asked him where is Kariem, where is Kariem, it is not possible that he could be shot.
But it in fact did turn out that he had been shot. the next morning the police phoned me and said to me that the body cannot be released they can only release the body should there be a limit of 50 people following the body at the funeral.
I then told them that this would not be possible. I went to see Shigaziem in Wynberg and he said that he would attempt to have the bodies released himself. They continually bothered me, I did not want to see the blood covered clothes that he had worn, but they insisted that we had to go and dig up the clothes.
I told my brother in law that he has to bury the clothes, that I did not want to see the clothes. They insisted that we dig it up again, they continued to phone. Someone said that I must not discuss all these things over the phone, because when you pick up the phone you can hear something that makes a sound as if it is bugged and I was told that they were listening in on my phone.
What disappointed me a great deal was the way in which the inquest was handled. When we appeared for the first time, it was not at the Supreme Court, it was a small court and I feel that the entire set up the whole ...
MRS FRIDIE: It looked as if the police had been briefed. Dr Akoojee was an eye-witness and the court did not want to listen to Dr Akoojee, he came personally to my house to tell me that he was next to the two young brothers and Abdul Kariem and that they arrested the two young brothers because they assisted Abdul Kariem.
The lawyer was Amoosa who handled the case and they asked whether Dr Akoojee could be heard, but they said that that was not necessary. When we appeared for the first time, the police did not have a lawyer and then the matter was put off to another occasion and then the second time, they came with their lawyer and some or other Minister Vlok or someone else was not present, so it was again put off to another time.
And the third time it appeared like an entire army because they were standing right to the back of the hall. They should have been sitting down, but they were all against the wall as if they were feeding the police. As they continued with the inquest, the policemen admitted that he had shot.
There was a Coloured and a White person. The Coloured person then said to the White person, you have to shoot because you are a better shot than I am. Then when they asked the White policeman, and the Prosecutor asked the White policeman why did you shoot, why did you not fire into the air, he said no, he is from the Transvaal, he did not know there was a mosque on the corner, but all of this time you could see that they were guilty. But it appeared as if the court was biased in their favour.
As if the court had briefed them. He admitted to having shot and the evidence was before the court, but in the end he said that there were two persons shot, they then discussed the post-mortem, they discussed what was in his stomach, but they did not discuss the bullet which had been removed from his body from which they could have seen from the body, the bullet in his body which they had found, what the situation was.
MRS FRIDIE: No, his brother was present when he was shot or went along to the meeting. When Kariem was missing, they went with a single car and then they could not find him, then they heard that someone had been shot, he then went to collect his father for some support and they then went to the hospital to find out whether it was Abdul Kariem that had been shot.
MRS FRIDIE: No, not at all, they never came to my home. They just continued bothering me and called me to come and make a statement at Mitchells Plain police office and then called me to the Athlone police station.
MRS FRIDIE: Yes, I was asked to make a statement eventually at Athlone police station, because that would be closer. Why would I have to go to the Mitchells Plain police station, I thought no, it is them that want to make the whole thing difficult, that is why I said no, I will go to the Athlone police station.
MRS FRIDIE: Yes, we were present at the inquest. At the inquest it was the White policeman who admitted to having fired, but they spoke about it in such a way and they helped him in such a way that in the end they said that they shot two people, or two persons had fired and then he said no, he didn't shoot at Abdul Kariem. No one else had been wounded that evening.
MRS FRIDIE: The police phoned to tell me that only 50 people would be allowed at the funeral. I then said to them this was impossible, I phoned (indistinct) in Wynberg and he said to me not to worry about it, not to answer their questions and that he would make the arrangements. He then took further steps to obtain the body.
MRS FRIDIE: It was a very large funeral, there were many people there. It could be 5 000 or 10 000 or 50 000 people, but there were a lot of people. I saw photographs in the Argus and in the Times and I've kept these, since it was a very large funeral.
The police always accompanied them as they carried the corpse to the funeral, the police walked along with them. As I could see on the photograph, there was a helicopter circling over the funeral all the time.
I've never really been able to express my feelings about this. I've also had considerable financial difficulties. I wanted to continue my studies, but when I was - I had to go and do extra duties and additional work to be able to get hold of additional finances, I wanted the following year to continue with my studies, but until today I found also that I can't remember things well and I seem to suffer from loss of memory and I feel that I've never been properly healed about this event.
It all happened to quickly and I've not been able to accept it. My child sometimes asks me I haven't got a daddy, I haven't got a daddy, the other children all have daddies and brothers and sisters and fathers, but I don't have. And I say but I can't help and then we just like close the conversation and don't talk further.
MS WILDSCHUT: ... to explain to him difficult because you yourself didn't understand or know why it is that your husband had to die in this particular way, so it was hard for you to be able to explain to your young growing child why he doesn't have a dad?
MRS FRIDIE: Yes, he was 18 months at the time. By the time when he began to ask questions, he was five years old. My wound had only just started to heal, then he began to ask the questions and then that opened the wounds which have remained open. It is difficult for instance to take care of the school fees and so forth.
We have continued in this way, Dr Akoojee often also came back to me to check on me and when I went to college his surgery was just across the road, when I had a headache I went to Dr Akoojee, but I did not always feel that I should go to him, because he never wanted to take any money from me, but I did not like that, I did not like going there because it appeared as if I wanted to go for free.
MS WILDSCHUT: If you were to think of what you would like to get out of the process, I know it has been hard for you to come and talk to us about the death of your husband and how hard it has been to rear your child, what would you like to see come out of this process?
MRS FRIDIE: I would like very much for the TRC to go and look into this matter very thoroughly because at the inquest every one could see that the police were actually guilty, but they under the old regime were privileged, and I would appreciate if you could thoroughly investigate it and discover whether they were in fact guilty.
MS BURTON: Thank you Chairperson. Mrs Fridie, I hear from what you say that you were very distressed at the lack of any success of the outcome of the inquest as far as you were concerned. I would like you to know and it applies also to the other families who have testified here today, that one of the things that we do in order to try and establish the truth of what happened, we received a statement from you, but that isn't all, we have a very active investigation unit and they have followed up all the things that you have told us in your statement, they have retrieved many of the records, the medical records, the inquest documents, the statements that were made at the time.
And when the Commission comes to make a finding, which we don't do at an occasion like this, we do it at a later stage, all of those facts will be taken into consideration and in a way also all of those facts will be part of the history of the events that happened.
So that our task is not only to give you the opportunity to speak, but also to follow up. To make sure that we establish as much as we can, the correct fact and I just hope that that will bring you some additional consolation.
MS WILDSCHUT: Mrs Fridie, today must have not been an easy day for you, certainly difficult for this community and for all of us in this hall to have to relive the events of October 1985 and particularly as a young mother and a young wife, you lost your husband and as a couple and as a little family, you must have had lots of dreams together and you shared some of those dreams with us, that you wanted to continue studying and move on in life.
But I am sure that there must have been lots of dreams that you and your husband shared about your future together. And that those dreams could not have been fulfilled because your husband was killed then. But one of the things that for me stands out is that your husband was being a responsible adult, that he had gone to that meeting as an adult because he felt he needed to express his solidarity and express his concern about what had happened to children.
And that in being a responsible adult, and going to those meetings, his life was ended and I hope that perhaps it is not enough, but perhaps it is a little consolation for you, that that's what happened to him when he was being responsible.
I do want to also express my admiration to you for trying your very best to do things to help with the education of your young boy and helping him to work through the fact that he doesn't have a dad. In your way trying to make sense of it in a way.
We want to honour people like yourselves. These proceedings are not only just to demonstrate victimhood, to demonstrate that people have been rendered victims in the process, but we would also like to demonstrate that there were victors and people who were survivors who rose above those circumstances and who transcended the horror of what had happened and I would like to acknowledge that transcendence that you have showed us also today.
CHAIRPERSON: We know that you have a prepared statement, you are welcome to read it if you wish to do so. Mrs Mary Burton is going to lead you and we are going to ask Dr Ramashala to administer the oath.
MS BURTON: Thank you Chairperson. Welcome once again Dr Akoojee. You have given us two written statements, one relating to the Trojan Horse incident itself and one to the death of Mr Fridie. You are very welcome as the Chairperson has said to read them if you wish or to speak, as you choose.
DR AKOOJEE: I will speak around them, but not read from the statements. To begin with, I would like to thank the TRC for inviting me and for the opportunity to relate some of the events around those tragic days in October 1005.
And to this end I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and pay tribute to the role of the many GP's through the unrest times. A lot of the GP's worked under difficult conditions and a lot of constraints on them. Often they weren't allowed access to victims at the scene of unrest.
Those who could get to the scenes of crimes, got there under difficult circumstances and often saw patients at home at night. They treated patients, removing bullets, removing buckshot, removing bird shot, counselling patients, counselling families and they were always there for their patients and I think I have to acknowledge them, pay tribute to those GP's, especially on the Cape Flats.
If I come back to the event which is now known as the Trojan Horse incident, on that particular Tuesday I was summoned, I was called by Dr Hassiem (indistinct) who has a practice in Thornton Road, not far from the Ryklief house to say that there had been trouble and he needed assistance.
I went home and collected my wife who is a nurse and changed from my white coat to ordinary sports shirt because if you went in as a GP you were often stopped and you weren't allowed access to victims, so we also could not carry our medical bag with us.
When Ii got there Dr (indistinct) had already left, he was not in his rooms and he was already treating patients or victims and we then proceeded, but we were stopped by police and just told to move along. We managed to part in a side street, there were many caspers and police vans around and burning barricades, but we eventually found our way into the Ryklief house.
As I approached the house, I could see that it was riddled with bullets, the outside wall and when I entered the house, I must say this, I was stunned. One could not imagine that what could have happened before we arrived, that could have caused the scene I saw in there.
In fact I had to actually compose myself and say I have a duty and of course work to do here, I mean don't be shocked by what you see here. There were children crying, there was blood all over, there was crockery strewn all over the place, people were screaming and we treated and bandaged whatever we could.
The bodies of the three victims who had been killed, were already removed, so I didn't see those at the time I got there. Some children were even taken over the wall to the house behind the Ryklief house, so we actually when we had treated some of the children here, we then climbed over the wall to the other side and saw some of the children that had been taken to that house and we treated them. From there they were sent to their respective GP's or to hospitals.
Two days after that, obviously because of a public outcry and the fact that the bodies had not been released to the parents, there was a mass meeting that was arranged at St Athens Mosque. At the time I was working for Dr Bade who was then District Surgeon of Athlone.
Such I was on duty as a District Surgeon for that particular day. I attended the mosque the evening. When we got there, there were a lot of people, there were a lot of other GP's and specialists also in attendance and as Mr Ebrahim Rasool explained, it was decided that they would send a delegation to negotiate with the police for the release of the bodies.
By this time the police had cordoned off the area with caspers and police vans and as the delegation left to negotiate, the Imaam of the mosque asked people to disperse into small groups, quietly and said the Friday lecture, would then give a report back on what they had achieved as far as the negotiations were concerned.
But as they decided to leave, there was gunshot and people started panicking, running back into the mosque. I remember I was in the main mosque area and through - the dome of the mosque has got small windows and teargas canister came through there and landed on the carpets and that caught alight and there was panic and people were overcome by teargas fumes.
A lot of Doctors and specialists, they assisted people and then somebody said that someone had been shot in the courtyard. We ran out there and found a man with severe abdominal wounds and - what I am going to describe may not sound too good - but it was a young man who was in a severe state of shock. He had a single entry wound at his back and he was shot with what was known to be a dum-dum bullet.
Dum-dum bullet enters through a single entry wound, then disperses in the abdomen and it had multiple exit wounds. It was a terrible sight and he was in a severe state of shock. Fortunately there were quite a few specialists around and they tried to resuscitate him, but it was soon apparent that he needed urgent hospitalisation.
Dr Jaco was one of the specialists and phoned Somerset hospital. Although it was a bit further than Groote Schuur, we were aware at the time that any time there is any unrest or so, there is always a police van stationed virtually at Groote Schuur, so we thought it would be pointless taking him there.
So we proceeded then to go to Somerset hospital. We couldn't use St Athens road, so they asked for assistance and the nearest car belonged to two brothers, Shadley and Ridwaan Young and they volunteered their vehicle and since I was the District Surgeon on duty, I was asked to accompany the patient.
We proceeded with great difficulty, trying to dodge many caspers and that and eventually reached Somerset hospital. In the car, the two Young brothers were in front and I was at the back with Mr Fridie with my hand on his stomach trying to contain the blood and stop him from (indistinct) bleeding.
And when we arrived at Somerset he was taken to casualty immediately. There was attempted resuscitations but after about an hour, he passed away. Soon after we arrived there, the police were there, questioned us, wanted to take me into custody and the two brothers.
And I protested saying look I was a District Surgeon on duty and they had to do so on their own risk and they said okay, they will contact me later for a statement, but they took the two brothers into custody.
I then returned to the mosque and treated whoever needed treatment. I just want to mention that I was never ever, called to the inquest, nor was I told about the inquest. I was asked for an affidavit which I think is in the possession of the TRC and at no time did we have any indication that Mr Fridie had a gun on him.
Even, I met a journalist who told me that he had just returned from Beirut and he found the atmosphere in Thornton Road and Riviera Road even more tense than it was in Lebanon at the time and one had the feeling that you were going to bring the apartheid regime down, it was going to collapse within a few weeks.
I mean that was the enthusiasm at the time. I know it has taken nine years since that incident for us to have a free and democratic South Africa and I think, as we enjoy our freedom today we must remember those days and acknowledge the role and pay tribute to the families (indistinct) to come through these times. I thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Mary. Dr Akoojee, you mentioned the problem with Groote Schuur being the deployment of police vehicles there and your avoidance of the hospital to go to other hospitals. Could you explain a little bit more about that?
DR AKOOJEE: Yes, there was this perception and it was known, I mean a lot of times we referred patients from our surgeries, other victims or so, the moment they arrived there, they would be arrested or so. In that particular night when this happened, it was just a decision that was taken by some of the GP's and the specialists and said, look, it would be best to go to Somerset hospital.
But the fact that Groote Schuur and a lot of other hospitals the moment you send patients there, they were arrested and that was a known fact and that is why I think the private GP and the private specialist played a crucial role in those times in assisting and treating patients privately without informing the police.
MS WILDSCHUT: Dr Akoojee, as a health worker I am compelled to make one or two observations. You will probably know that later on this year, in June, we will be having a hearing which focuses on the role of health workers and through many of the testimonies that we've heard over the past year that the Commission has been in operation, we've heard of not only the brutality of the security police and other security personnel, but we've also heard of the callousness of some of our colleagues.
We've heard how District Surgeons and other people have in fact ignored very serious complaints and serious comments about the state of health of prisoners or people under their care, but I have to acknowledge today and have to mention that there were those health workers like yourself and others, who placed their career and who placed career advancement and acknowledgement on the line and who actually did the kind of things that you described today.
I would like to place on record that in the broad scheme of things, we will have to make pronouncements about health workers who did not care and who did not live up to their oath, but we also have to acknowledge the role of those health workers like yourself who were able to do their utmost to save the lives of people in their care.
MS BURTON: Dr Akoojee, before you go. I would like to associate myself with Glenda Wildschut's remarks and also to say that we have noted your remarks about the inquest and that you were never called to testify there and also that you note that as far as you could see, Mr Fridie had not carried any weapons.
And I've just double checked it, we do have your original statement which was made at the time, that part of the documents that our investigative unit have collected. I would like to say that this is a community in a part of Cape Town that was certainly rich in activists as you say who believed in 1985 that the turn of the tide was right there and that the efforts that they were making, was going to bring about a very rugged and dramatic change.
And we do recognise that that was one of the waves breaking against the barricades which did make a difference. The community was rich not only in activists, but in professional people like yourself and in many community leadership roles, we've heard about teachers, we know about lawyers who made themselves available to the people.
And if you will indulge me, I will like to take us back a little in history even earlier than this period because I find it impossible in this area to hold a hearing of the TRC without paying tribute to the memory of Imaam Haroons.
His widow Mrs Haroons have chosen not to come and give evidence to us which is of course her absolute right. But if we are speaking of religious leaders in the community and if we are speaking of the history of this community, then his testimony, his leadership and his terrible death are a part of that history, and I would not like it to go unforgotten as part of that continuing from a much earlier period of people who had struggled for democracy in this country.