Human Rights Violation Hearing

Type SUBMISSION, QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, RONALD BENTING
Starting Date 27 November 1996
Location GUGULETU 7 POLLSMOOR
Day 2
URL http://sabctrc.saha.org.za/hearing.php?id=55760&t=&tab=hearings
Original File http://sabctrc.saha.org.za/originals/hrvtrans/polls/benting.htm

ADV POTGIETER

Chairperson, it gives me a measure of pleasure to call to the stand the last witness, whoís testimony who we will actually hear - there is one statement that will be read, but this will be our final witness to testify in this section of the event hearing. That is Mr Ronald Benting who has arrived - some trouble to get here from an otherwise demanding schedule. Good afternoon Mr Benting.

MR BENTING

Good afternoon sir.

ADV POTGIETER

A warm word of welcome to you. We are glad that you could make it after all.

MR BENTING

Just about.

ADV POTGIETER

But before we listen to your testimony - I am going to ask you just to take the oath. So if you will stand please.

RONALD BENTING Duly sworn states

ADV POTGIETER

Thank you very much, you may be seated.

MR BENTING

My colleague Ms Burton will facilitate your testimony, thank you.

MS BURTON

Good afternoon Mr Benting.

MR BENTING

Good afternoon to you.

MS BURTON

[indistinct] thank you very much for being here. You have an important story to tell us this afternoon and we are very grateful to you for coming.

MR BENTING

Yes.

MS BURTON

We would like you to tell us about that day on the 3rd of March 1986, when you and your colleague were driving the children to the Astra School. So please tell us what happened and what you saw.

MR BENTING

It was on the morning of 3rd of March 1986. I was not returning from Astra School. At that time Astra wasnít there, it wasnít built yet. I was returning from St Joseph School where I dropped three pupils which attended St Joseph School at std 7. And I was on my way, going over Guguletu bridge to Manenberg area where I have to pick up children to take them to Astra School which was at that time in Wittebome.

On my way, over the bridge, I was stopped. I came upon a lot of policemen standing in the road and what is it now - Army - they were dressed like that and I stopped - pulled my - I stopped the bus. There was a man lying in the road. According to me he was alive, but he never moved.

And then amongst - amongst the lot that was there - a European policeman came up - out of the crowd and he approached the man laying on the ground. And he took out - I donít know if it was a revolver or a pistol and he shot this man twice through the head. In front of me, in front of the 13 children that was in the bus, plus their housemother.

After he had shot this man, he approached the bus - on the drivers side. He came to me - he said to me in Afrikaans - wat de donder maak jy hier? What the hell are you doing here with these children - and I never answered him. So I just reversed back - there was cars behind me - I couldnít - but they gave way for me and I turned the bus around and I went the other way around.

On my way I started picking up children. When I came down to Faroukís house, the housemother that was on the bus, she went inside the house - and then she broke down. So the mother of this child came to me - so I said to her you know - I explained to her what had happened.

And I said to her, she must give her something you know - Lewensessens or in that case, something to drink and this she did. And then we approached and we got to the school, where, after I have unloaded the children, to the various classes - and then I went to the office - at that time Mr Ralph, he was our principle - and then I spoke to him. Told him what happened, what we have seen and then in the office - at that time was our psychologist - Ms Saffier and she also heard what happened, and then she said to me that she is going to call in Mr Van der Merwe. I must speak to him. I must tell him what happened.

And so the story came - that he came to me, and then the court case of Mr Weaver, that just gave testimony - they called - his lawyer called me to appear as witness and then I went to testify in court - what happened.

I think that is about all.

MS BURTON

Thank you Mr Benting. So you had what was it 13 children in the car?

MR BENTING

13 children and the housemother and myself.

MS BENTON

And the housemother that you speak of is Ms Pat Smith, whoís statement we will hear shortly?

MR BENTING

That is correct - thatís correct yes.

MS BURTON

And then after that you were on numerous occasions asked to make statements or to testify?

MR BENTING

Yes, I had to make statements for the court case and then I had to make a statement again for the - what do they call it - the inquest.

MS BURTON

Inquest right.

MR BENTING

Which was held in Wynberg, the court.

MS BURTON

Yes - Mr Benting - over your right shoulder, more or less, there is a map - if you wouldnít mind having a look at it, and you will see at the top - where the N1 comes straight down, more or less the center of that map, at the top is the bridge.

MR BENTING

Yes.

MS BURTON

Is that the bridge that you came over and then where you reversed back?

MR BENTING

That is right, yes.

MS BURTON

Right, so what you saw was the events that took place along the N1 there - in front of you as you came over the bridge?

MR BENTING

That is right yes.

MS BURTON

Thank you - just to get the location right.

MR BENTING

Thatís right yes.

MS BURTON

Is there anything else you had forgotten or you would like to tell us?

MR BENTING

No - no.

MS BURTON

Thank you.

MR BENTING

That is actually what I have seen and what still remains in my mind.

MS BURTON

Thank you very much indeed. I have no more questions.

CHAIRPERSON

Any further questions, Denzil?

ADV POTGIETER

Thank you Chairperson. Are you still working with Ms Smith or are you still having contact with her?

MR BENTING

Yes, we are still together, we still work together.

ADV POTGIETER

Itís been reported to us by our investigating unit that Ms Smith had quite a harrowing time and that she is quite traumatized - even up to now and she finds it almost impossible to come to a location like this and to go through this again.

MR BENTING

Yes - ja - itís actually from the second court case that we went. Even I myself, I had to tell the judge listen here I am not on here. I am only as a witness, but according to that they wanted to tear me to pieces. Like I am the guilty person and I think she canít take it anymore you see, so I donít blame her.

ADV POTGIETER

So youíve had a rather unpleasant experience going through giving evidence in court in connection with this incident.

MR BENTING

Yes quite.

ADV POTGIETER

And it appears that Ms Smith was not really able to take that?

MR BENTING

She wasnít - no sir. You see she is a very soft person you know - have got a soft character. She breaks down easily - I am perhaps a bit stronger you see. Because the principle asked me - how do you sleep? So I said, I sleep normally. After what we have seen - I sleep normally.

I mean that is only what I experience - I canít for her now, being a woman you know.

ADV POTGIETER

We very - we very happy that - at least you are still able to have come and to come and repeat the story that you have told many times, but it was very important to get you here today, because behind you - seated in the first two or three rows are the next of kin, the family of people that was killed there.

MR BENTING

Yes I know that.

ADV POTGIETER

A lot of them have never heard the testimony that was given by witnesses like yourself and other people. So, at least today they can hear what you have been telling the court and then they can ask themselves the question - how did it happen that nothing came of this case - in the light of the testimony that was presented by that - that is the important thing of at least having you here and we are very grateful for that.

MR BENTING

Thank you sir.

ADV POTGIETER

Have you - have you made a statement to the police as well or have you only made statements to the attorneys?

MR BENTING

No, the police wanted to make - asked me for statements, but then a friend of us - Mr Betizaki - she was one of the teachers, the husband of the teacher - then he said to me - to us, you mustnít make statements to them. We must rather make the statements to them - to the lawyers and then in that way - that is what we did.

ADV POTGIETER

We understand that - we have often give that same advice to our clients.

MR BENTING

Ja, because, what he said to me - is, they will turn the statement around. You know what I mean? And in that way - they did come and they were annoyed with us. I canít remember now - I know he was a very big man. And I didnít stand a chance against him. I said to him no - we did say we are going to make statements, but we have changed our mind and our lawyers have told us that we must not do that, so they left.

ADV POTGIETER

I understand. Just finally, Mr Benting, if you can still remember - or still assist - on that plan that Ms Burton referred you to, I donít know if you can see that far?

MR BENTING

Yes, I can see so far, is only...[intervention]

ADV POTGIETER

Can you see there are two...[intervention]

MR BENTING

I donít know where...[intervention]

ADV POTGIETER

I want to show you - can you see there are two circles with the G and an F written in at the bottom - towards the bottom?

MR BENTING

Yes, I see that yes.

ADV POTGIETER

Just underneath that intersection, now there is a line that goes from the circle.

MR BENTING

Yes, I see yes.

ADV POTGIETER

Now, where the line ends, where the line of the F ends - that is where the body of a young man was found.

MR BENTING

Was laying.

ADV POTGIETER

Was found or laying - now can you still remember whether that was about the position in which the person was which you saw being shot through the head?

MR BENTING

That was the Kombi that they were suppose to be in.

ADV POTGIETER

Ja, thatís is right. The one that is a bit over the curb.

MR BENTING

So, the man was lying nearer to the Kombi - more to the center of that.

ADV POTGIETER

Okay - so itís roughly in the same vicinity that that man was lying.

MR BENTING

You see, I had a marker. There was two trees standing and I parked my bus - if I am seated behind the wheel, then I can look over across in - I was facing - I was center between those two trees, that was my marker sir.

ADV POTGIETER

So, you could place your position of your vehicle by reference of those two trees?

MR BENTING

Correct. That was the mark, because I was never asked to get out, you see. That is - that is - and the man was lying more to the center of the road - to that Crossroads - in the center.

ADV POTGIETER

We are going to ask you - if it is not too much trouble for you - perhaps just to mark it on the plan. Perhaps somebody can give you a pen or something. There is a pen behind you. George has come to the rescue, perhaps you can mark it on the plan.

MR BENTING

I donít know - I havenít got the trees on here.

ADV POTGIETER

You can - just orientate yourself first of all - just make sure that you do have it.

MR BENTING

You see I did stop at this distance from the...[intervention]

ADV POTGIETER

From the intersection?

MR BENTING

Yes.

ADV POTGIETER

That was about where your bus was?

MR BENTING

Correct - correct.

ADV POTGIETER

Was stopped.

MR BENTING

Ja correct.

ADV POTGIETER

All right.

MR BENTING

And the man was lying here.

ADV POTGIETER

Very good - thank you. You have marked it on the plan, so we have an idea where the person was. And then just finally - Mr Benting - from where Ms Smith was sitting, could she also see what was happening in front of you?

MR BENTING

Yes, everybody could have seen. You see, the bus - it is a civilian 25 seater. It is a very high bus. You can see, everybody can see. Even there was a child sitting in front of me and he could also have seen. He even said to me - that he saw two people laying under the tree, which I never saw. They were shot in the head. That was Cliffie Witbooi.

ADV POTGIETER

That was Cliffie ja.?

MR BENTING

That was Clifford Witbooi.

ADV POTGIETER

Clifford Witbooi.

MR BENTING

He was - he was sitting right across me. I was driving - you see the front seat is two separate seats where the engine is in the center and he was sitting on the one side.

ADV POTGIETER

And the children you were transporting, are disabled children - are they?

MR BENTING

Correct, yes. Physically disabled yes.

ADV POTGIETER

Thank you Mr Benting.

MR BENTING

Thank you very much.

CHAIRPERSON

Baie dankie. Thank you very much. - I just wanted to say Ms Smith - was a soft person, gentle person I mean and you - you - I think that maybe you are quite right that you felt perhaps as a man you might be - were expected to be stronger.

I would want to say and I mean and I am sure you would agree, that in the nearly one - how many months now - eleven months that we have been listening - we have been struck, in fact, by the incredible strength of women.

MR BENTING

Correct yes.

CHAIRPERSON

Somebody has found out that usually they said - they have been looking at the evidence that has been brought before the Commission - usually when women come, they come to tell the story of what happened to somebody else. Mostly they say when men come, they come to tell about to tell about what happened to themselves. Now it is not the case with you. But generally and we want to pay our tribute to the women folk, but we want to give thanks also to you. That you have not been afraid - I mean in all these years that you have held and sought to speak the truth when it was dangerous.

I mean the fact that your lawyers told you - donít make a statement to the police. And the police who should have been people to protect society. Were the enemies of society.

MR BENTING

Correct, yes.

CHAIRPERSON

Now, I have said, we donítí usually make findings until the end of - it is going to much-much later, but all of us know that most of the police we had, were not friends of our society. They were not there to protect people. Mercifully now, they are changing and we used I mean when we were in the Grand Parade after the March in 1989, we said we must now clap the police, because they are becoming our police. They are becoming what police should be - protectors of the people.

But our history is a history that is made up of those who should have protected society, being the enemies of society. We give thanks to God that we are here today. And that we can tell these stories and that we must not forget what has happened - so that we do not allow it to happen again.

MR BENTING

Correct yes.

CHAIRPERSON

Thank you very much.

MR BENTING

Thank you.