Human Rights Violation Hearing

Starting Date 07 February 1997
Location DUDUZA
Day 2
Case Number JB03061/01 VOSLOORUS
Original File

CHAIRPERSON: It's gone past 9 so we are going to begin. If we could just stand, a moment's silence for the victims for those whose testimony we're going to be hearing, thank you. (silence) Thank you.

Before we begin I'd just like to introduce Commissioners and Committee members who're going to be presiding over this hearing.

I'll start on my far left there's Hugh Lewin who is a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee. Next to him is Joyce Seroke, a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee, on my right is right is Dr Fazel Randera a commissioner and a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee and I'm Russel Alley, a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee. I'm going to ask Ms Seroke just to go through the witnesses who will be appearing today.

MS SEROKI: Good morning, we greet you, I'll call out the names of those who will give testimony today.

Mthokoziseni Ntombelo who will be the first one and we have Joseph Mashane, Albert Nkuna, Johannes Dhlomo, Zondi Ngobeni, Olga Nyathi, Tembisela Citwa, Lillian Mampura, Petrus Ntombela, Mbembbezana Mlotshwa, Zondiwe Mstshali. We also have another name that we had yesterday that we'll add to today's names by the name of Paulos......

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you if I can ask the first witness to step forward, there is a slight change in the programme, we're going to be starting with Zondiwe Mstshali, if Zondiwe Mtshalie could please come to the witness stand.

Zondiwe welcome. I'm going to hand you over to Hugh Lewin who is going to assist you with your testimony.

MR LEWIN: Zondiwe we'd like to welcome you here, good morning and thank you for agreeing to come to the hearings and also for being the first witness for today. Before you give your testimony could I ask you please to take the oath. If you could please stand.

ZONDIWE MSTSHALI: (sworn states)

MS SEROKI: Zondiwe you're going to tell us about what happened to your husband Benson in September 1993 when you were, you live in Thokoza, do you still?


MS SEROKI: And you were there. If you could tell us in your own time and in your own words, tell us what happened to your husband. Thank you.

MRS MSTSHALI: I'm Zondiwe Mtshalie. It was on the 6th September on a Monday, my husband left home for work in the morning and we waited for his return to no avail. We started panicking now because we didn't know his whereabouts. We only went to bed when it was late at night and he was not back yet. The following morning we started panicking even more and wanted to go out and look for him. We went to his company where he was working and when we got there he wasn't there either, he did not even show up.

From there his brothers took me home and they left in search of him at the hospital and got back at one where we remained at home. That's when I discovered that my husband had died because my father in law came and sat right next to me, and he said to me, we've been defeated by life. I wondered as to what I could do.

They started explaining how they recovered his corps, how they went to the mortuary first and they did not see him and the police asked them when he was murdered or killed. They explained that they were not even sure if he was killed because he had left for work the previous day and he did not come back home. The policeman helped them by taking them to some other parts of the mortuary but still they could not locate him. As they were leaving the mortuary one of the brothers said he had a problem of going back home and giving up like that without recovering his corpse. They went back to the mortuary and they saw one shoe but they could not recognise him because he was burned. The only things that they could recognise were his shoes. When they tried to take off his shoes they could tell from his feet that he is the one whom they were looking for.

They left the mortuary and came home after recovering the corpse to tell me that they located him. I was dark, I did not know where to start because the funeral arrangements had to take place now, and that's where we encountered the most difficult problem as we did not even have money for the expense. What I will say here is that my husband was no buried by myself or by he brothers but the relatives a significant role. We had no money because this happened unexpectedly. We were moved from one place to another and we wasted so much money in transferring from one place to another, so we encountered financial problems. Even to this day we have the same problem because what I'm earning is peanuts. I can't live with my children even today, I went back home to ask if they can't take them because I can't support my family ...(indistinct) and it is five years and the satisfaction they derived from a mother.

MR LEWIN: Could I please just ask a couple of questions to fill out your story? You mention the fact that you had moved. Could you explain a little bit about this and why you'd decided to move from one section to another?

MRS MSTSHALI: It was not easy for us to sleep at one place because he people with whom we were living, we knew they were not so friendly, because when things changed they would tell us we were IFP simply because we are Zulu speaking. Now that posed serious problems for us, we felt we were not treated well in the community and we were at the same time ostracised by the community. We would carry everything positively with the people we lived with but when violence or riots struck they would ostracise us.

MR LEWIN: That has not always been so, has it, I mean you used to live in friendly relations with your neighbours.

MRS MSTSHALI: No it wasn't like that.

MR LEWIN: Were yourselves at all involved politically, I mean were you actually members of IFP?

MRS MSTSHALI: No. We were just ordinary people.

MR LEWIN: But Zulu speaking?

MRS MSTSHALI: Zulu speaking, that's correct.

MR LEWIN: So did the area that you moved into, was that a more friendly Zulu speaking area?

MRS MSTSHALI: Yes the place was predominantly Zulu. Because we're not affiliated with the group, the organisation, we're no looked at as being friends as well. They would try to get us to be members but we were so stubborn and completely refused to be members. Now we had to keep moving from one place to another because of that and we just hoped that God knows everything.

MR LEWIN: Then could I also confirm, your husband was working in Elroad, was he?

MRS MSTSHALI: That's correct, Elroad South.

MR LEWIN: And you yourself now work as a domestic worker, where do you actually work?

MRS MSTSHALI: I'm a domestic worker.

MR LEWIN: Where do you do that?

MRS MSTSHALI: At Danute in Germiston.

MR LEWIN: Okay, and then could I ask, in your statement, you do say that there was a witness or a possible witness to what happened to your husband, can you tell us more about that please?

MRS MSTSHALI: I used to work with the person when I was employed at Elroad South. When this transpired we were all going to work and they saw the witness. His problem is that he did not want to disclose his name to such an extent that he did not want even to explain to me the details of incident because each time I asked him, he would cry and refuse to tell me.

MR LEWIN: Do you think if you explain to us, not necessarily here but later where he was that we might be able to contact him privately and find out what happened?

MRS MSTSHALI: That I can do.

MR LEWIN: Thank you, I mean have you, you've obviously, you must have thought about it a great deal. Do you have any idea why your husband was killed?

MRS MSTSHALI: I have no idea whatsoever. I don't even know why he was killed, because when we left the place where we were staying to move to another one, we were on good terms with everybody there, but simply because we were Zulu speaking we had to leave the area and the house we occupied was not ours, it was his brother's, and he had people to whom he wanted to rent the house, and we were forced to leave the area.

MR LEWIN: Do you in your own mind have any doubt as the fact that he was killed because he was Zulu Speaking and because it was part of this political antagonism that existed?

MRS MSTSHALI: I think so, I'm not too sure, but that's what I think.

MR LEWIN: Mrs Mtshalie we're grateful for you for coming, we understand that you do have difficulties in getting away. It's important what you have told us and if you could also let us know how to contact possibly the witness, we will then try and find out. I'll pass you back to the Chairperson. Thank you very much.

MRS MSTSHALI: I can tell you or probably give you the address, where he stays. I'm not too sure if he's still there. However I will give you the address, I'll furnish the necessary information to you.

MS SEROKI: Mrs Mstshali, in your statement you suspect your neighbour who helped you to move from your house to another. Can you explain why you suspect him? What did he do?

MRS MSTSHALI: It was not a neighbour, but we were just occupying the house. The time when we moved to go and occupy the house there were possessions of that woman in the house that we occupied. When we went back to fetch our possessions she came. After my husband was killed that told me somehow that the gentlemen who saw us moving could have been the ones who did the whole thing.

MS SEROKI: In other words your brothers were against you moving?


MS SEROKI: Are you still occupying the same house?


MS SEROKI: Where are you stationed?

MRS MSTSHALI: I live at the place where I work. I have three children and they're at school.

MS SEROKI: Who is paying for the fees?

MRS MSTSHALI: I am paying them but my mum is taking care of the children.

DR RANDERA: Mrs Mstshali, I know you want to go out but I just want to ask you a few quick questions please.

In your statement you talk about your husband recognising the danger of living the area, in fact he was wanting top move you back to Kwa Zulu Natal, is that not right?


DR RANDERA: So the move to the other area was just as part of the big move back home. Can you tell us where you come from in Kwa Zulu Natal?

MRS MSTSHALI: We come from Mashlabatini in Ndzhleve.

DR RANDERA: Can you just again tell us what was going on. I mean although on the one side I can understand you saying that you were Zulu speaking and living in an area where people were antagonistic to you, but at that time, I mean we are talking about 1993, was there not a war going on, were people not living in fear of their lives? Were you not living in fear of your life?

MRS MSTSHALI: I had no fear because I knew that the people I was with were free with me and I was easy with them as well. But when the unrest started and the violence and so on, things were changing and now affecting our relationship.

DR RANDERA: So for you when did the unrest start?

MRS MSTSHALI: It was in 1990 when we first felt that we were no longer free with the people when the fight between the Zulus and Xhosa transpired. And after that we felt as if everything had calmed down and suddenly after that riots and unrest transpired.

DR RANDERA: You said earlier on that you were not a member of the IFP, was your husband a member of OWUSA, the trade union that was associated with the IFP?

MRS MSTSHALI: We were not members of the trade union or of the IFP.

DR RANDERA: If I remember rightly, in Elroad many workers lost their lives, there were many shootings outside factories, people were killed as they were coming out of taxis. Were there any other killings that took place on the same day that your husband was murdered?

MRS MSTSHALI: I wouldn't know about that because I was at home when all that happened and I don't even know which spot he died at.

DR RANDERA: Okay, you said you had three children and they were at school. Where do they go to school?

MRS MSTSHALI: At Mapanzela Primary School.

DR RANDERA: Sorry, where's that?


DR RANDERA: Can you tell us, in the days of the unrest and even now, do children who are Zulu speaking go to separate schools from the rest of the children, or do they all go to the same school?

MRS MSTSHALI: At that time they were mixed and I took mine and sent them back home in 1990 during the riots. They would come and visit during the school holidays. They were no longer here since '90.

DR RANDERA: Now, what's the situation now?

MRS MSTSHALI: I'm not certain. I don't even think that the situation has calmed down because even now there's no good relationship, because there's that bridge that exists and which poses problems to us, even when you try to go and visit another section, you will hear people calling you names and we feel bad. Now we will not say everything has calmed down because we are not friends as such, and in good relationship.

DR RANDERA: Thank you very much.

CHAIRPERSON: Mrs Mstshali we wont keep you much longer, I just want to clarify certain things in your statement. Dr Randera did ask if your husband was a member of a trade union and you said that he was not but in your statement -.

MRS MSTSHALI: He belonged to SAWUSA Union.

CHAIRPERSON: Oh SAWUSA, sorry. Then also you say that, this is my ignorance, just explain this to me please, you said when you decided to move you were going to move from one section to another. I'll read from your statement here,

When we moved to Panduka in preparation for going to Natal, we were labelled Ndwembe and that resulted in the death of my husband.

Could you just explain what that means, we were labelled Ndwembe?

MRS MSTSHALI: That means an animal, a bush animal, like a fox, and animal does not live with people, it would rather out in the bush, in the forest. Like that when you meet with such people you are geared to kill them. Now that surprised us why they called us something like a fox because we are not animals.

CHAIRPERSON: And the people who called you that, who were those people?

MRS MSTSHALI: I will say when you have moved from the ANC area and joining the Zulu area, the ANC will call us fox because we have left their area and joined the area that's predominantly Zulu. I wont disclose the names of the persons in public.

CHAIRPERSON: Maybe you can give us the names later which could assist us in following up what, follow whatever leads you have for us. Mrs Mstshali, thank you very much for coming. Like so many of the accounts that we've heard, yours is also a very tragic account, especially the circumstances under which your husband was killed, that he was shot and then he was actually burned and in your statement you say that the only way that his brother was able to recognise him was because of the shoes, that the body was actually burned beyond recognition, and that's quite a hard thing to have to live through. But one positive thing is that your statement and coming here, just shows us how this conflict had so many sides to it and ravaged so many .......(turn over tape)......which was the background to the decisions taken by whoever, that your husband should be killed, and that he disappears on his way to work. So there's nothing we can say that can relieve your hurt and your pain, but from the side of the Commission, We're very grateful for you coming forward and sharing this with us and helping us to see just how terrible this conflict was and the costs involved. Thank you very much Mrs Mstshali.