TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
SUBMISSIONS - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
DATE: 07.02.97 NAME: MTHOKOZISENI NTOMBELA
CASE: JB03056/01 - VOSLOORUS
CHAIRPERSON: Good day to you Mr Ntombela, it's been a long wait, thanks for your patience. Would you like to introduce the person who is accompanying you, who's on the platform with you?
MR NTOMBELA: She's Rejoice and she's my aunt.
CHAIRPERSON: Welcome to your aunt. I'm going to hand you over to Mr Hugh Lewin who's going to assist you with your statement.
MR LEWIN: Thank you Mr Chairman. Mr Ntombela I'd like first ask you to stand and take the oath.
MTHOKOZISENI NTOMBELA: (sworn states)
MR LEWIN: Again thank you very much for waiting to tell us the story which actually concerns events that we have been hearing a great deal about in the last few days and in particular in the last two days here in this area, and specifically relating to what happened to your brother and cousin in June and November 1993. If you could please in your own words in your own time tell us that story, thank you.
MR NTOMBELA: I come from Ntabanzimbi 1355 Malinde street, that's my home, I was born and I grew up there. In June 1993 when the violence broke there was a boy by the name of Sipho and he happened to be my brother and he was killed at home. He had gone to Vosloorus because there were rumours that Zulus were not wanted in the location. I had refused to go anywhere because I told myself that I don't have any altercation with anyone so I'm a peaceful resident and I will stay here. The next thing I saw was that my sister and I were the only ones in the premises because of the situation. We moved to Pendula leaving the house vacant. He came to check on us at home and he met boys from Ntabanzimbi, the same street and they said that they had finally found him and took him home to show him that they had already broken the windows of the house and told him that was his last day to live. He was suddenly shot, burned and taken to the grave yard.
We heard rumours that Sipho was lost somewhere in Vosloorus. Three weeks later (witness emotionally overcome)
MR LEWIN: Take your time Mr Ntombela.
MR NTOMBELA: After three weeks we went to the government mortuary and that's where he was, his corpse had already decayed because he had stayed for quite some time at the grave yard before being taken to the mortuary. In November after my brother's funeral we also had a cousin who lived with us by the name of Mosandule, they went to fetch him at work and they killed him as well because he was Zulu-speaking. We also recovered his corpse two weeks later in the grave yard as well.
Sipho was the bread winner at home and was the one taking care of my parents and I was not working anywhere. At the time we were living in Penduza whereto we had moved because we were scared for our lives since we were Zulu-speaking. They destroyed the house completely, every single possession we had was destroyed and we are destitute.
MR LEWIN: Mr Ntombela could I ask how old Sipho was at the time that he died?
MR NTOMBELA: He was 21 years of age.
MR LEWIN: And Musa?
MR NTOMBELA: He was 42 years old.
MR LEWIN: And where are you now, I mean where are you living now?
MR NTOMBELA: I'm destitute I don't have any place to stay.
MR LEWIN: How are you actually surviving?
MR NTOMBELA: My life has been highly affected by all these traumas I underwent. I used to be a vendor.
MR LEWIN: Mr Nombela would it help if I, I know this is very difficult, if I could just ask you please a couple of other questions to try and clarify this. You mention that the difficulties, particularly the rumours began to circulate about the Ntombela family. This began in 1991, the two years Sipho and Musa's deaths, can you explain, I mean for those of us who don't, who haven't seen that sort of situation, how did it happen, who were the people spreading the rumours, how did you hear about them? Did people come and tell you?
MR NTOMBELA: In 1991 when the Xhosa's were fighting Zulus, we heard rumours that the Zulu residents in the location had their addresses taken to Phola Park and our house address had been forwarded to Phola Park too, so we may be attacked since we were Zulu-speaking and we were lost now. Why was this happening to us because we were born here, not somewhere else far away out of the country but we were born in this area. Now we were going to be attacked by the Xhosa simply for that reason that we were Zulu-speaking.
Now the violence calmed and in 1991 while it was still peaceful it was summer time although I don't remember what particular month and I was working at SA Sugar in Germiston. I was coming from work, it was hot and I knocked off at one. My wife was expectant and when I got home and was happy and relaxed with my wife. We were quite used to the location boys who would come and visit and so on and at six in the afternoon they were playing cards at the front. My mum and my father were not at home, we were the only three occupying the house and while they were still playing cards outside 8 o'clock struck and we all went inside the house because it was late at night now and the boys who were also playing cards joined us and continued playing in the dining room.
I told my wife that we should go and sleep and switched on my radio since I like listening to cassettes when I suddenly heard a gun shot.
My brother was dating a girl in the same street and we opened the house and my younger brother exclaimed that people were shooting at him. He said that the shooting came from a white bakkie standing outside when he was talking outside with his girl friend. He told us that the bakkie went in the other direction and came back. When it came back one person got out of it and started shooting at them. At the time our neighbours were Xhosas and they were outside standing in the front area and left to go and tell the other neighbour opposite the back that somebody's attacking Ntombela's house. We heard gunshots and they called the police who came at half past eleven although the incident took place at half past eight.
When they got home they asked us what had happened and my father asked why they had taken so long to show up as the event had occurred a long time ago. We showed the damage that had been done and they started picked up bullet shells and left to sleep. In the morning we were told that that very bakkie was seen to be shooting along the hostel. My father went away and in 1993 I was retrenched and we then heard that the ANC were fighting with the IFP. We were still at Ntabanzimbi and this carried on for quite some time. I went to Kwa Zulu Natal and left my sister who was working and when I returned the house was vacant. All the people who had rented rooms around it had left leaving only my sister. I had been back for only two weeks when a girl came to tell my mum, I won't disclose her name, that she had heard that something was going to happen to her son because they were talking of burning him and destroying his home. This lady called me and said that I should please call the leaders of Inkatha because she had already heard rumours that people were coming to attack our house. She feared that such an attack on our place would also affect their houses and their children. I took further steps and I picked up the telephone and called Mzizi of Inkatha and I told her what I heard, to which she said that I should call the police.
At about half past seven I made that call and the police arrived. The streets lights were off when I switched off the lights and the boers were looking for our house and asked us what language we spoke. We told them that we spoke Zulu and are IFP and they told me that they were called by a certain lady to come and guard the house because it was going to be attacked.
Just after they left the boys approached and said that something was happening there. Police were patrolling all night long and since my wife was pregnant I took her home and went to Penduka where I stayed for some time. Sipho was now caught when he was going back home to see what was happening.
MR LEWIN: Thank you Mr Ntombela. Could I just ask another question because our previous witness talked specifically about how his brother was shot, also an IFP person, but he said that his brother and cousin were shot by SADF soldiers. Now in your case can you be absolutely sure that the people who killed Sipho and Musa were not soldiers or police?
MR NTOMBELA: Yes.
MR LEWIN: People who took them off.
MR NTOMBELA: I didn't see the people, I just heard, this is a hearsay that they were taken home and that's where he was killed.
MR LEWIN: And is there any significance in their bodies being left at the Schoeman cemetery?
MR NTOMBELA: From what I suspect is that they threw them in the graveyard so that we could suffer the consequences and keep looking for them and not recover the corpses.
MR LEWIN: And then who do you think took them from the graveyard to the mortuary eventually, would that have been the police?
MR NTOMBELA: Yes, police.
MR LEWIN: Mr Ntombela thank you very much I'll hand you back to the chairperson.
MS SEROKI: Mr Ntombela did you open or lay any charges after this and what did the police say?
MR NTOMBELA: Yes we did and the police said they will work on this. To date we haven't heard a word from them.
MS SEROKI: Where is your wife?
MR NTOMBELA: My wife is at home.
MS SEROKI: As you are in Penduka, the house that you left is still there?
MR NTOMBELA: No that was destroyed, it's just plain ground completely, it was completely and absolutely destroyed.
MS SEROKI: You couldn't as an IFP group try to get back the houses in some way?
MR NTOMBELA: I did try, I went to give in my name as well to wait to be given accommodation but to no avail.
DR RANDERA: Mr Ntombela two questions, we heard early on this afternoon people talking about the Khumalo Gang. You've also lived in Tokoza. Can you just tell us and just give us your perspective of what is referred to as the Khumalo Gang?
MR NTOMBELA: I don't know anything to that effect. There is nothing I can say with regard to the Khumalo Gang.
DR RANDERA: My next question is related to the destruction of your house. We heard earlier on also that where somebody's house was destroyed that house has been rebuilt and people have been able to move in as part of the RDP programme. Have you applied to that programme to rebuild your house?
MR NTOMBELA: I have applied twice now.
DR RANDERA: Have you had a response?
MR NTOMBELA: To no avail.
DR RANDERA: Thank you very much.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for coming Mr Ntombela to give us an account of what happened to you. It's a very tragic account. This week has been a very hard week for the Truth Commission and for all the people in the East Rand. Countless accounts of people being killed, entire families being wiped out, properties being destroyed. Particularly the 1980's and 1990's was a very difficult period for the East Rand. A lot of the conflicts we saw in the 1980's involved the town councillors and youth but in the 1990's it seems as if the conflict took a very bad turn with the communities turning against each other, members of the community. A lot of the conflict seemed to involve members of the UDF, later the ANC, members of Inkatha, people who belonged to trade unions who seemed to be affiliated to different political organisations whether OWUSA or COSATU, but one of the important things that has also emerged is that there were many other forces involved in this conflict. The police, the South African Defence Force. We've also heard allegations of third force activities, of Vlakplaas, Battalion 32 has also come up and particularly around the train violence. There were certain periods in this part of the country where the death toll was even higher than that in Natal, so it really took its toll on the community.
Many of these issues are going to be investigated and are in the process of being investigated by the Truth Commission. Some of these we already have answers to. We hope that we will gain more answers through the amnesty process, through people coming forward to answer when their names have been mentioned as perpetrators. We will also certainly be calling people to answer questions through subpoenas, that's one of the instruments which the Commission actually has and one of the powers that it can subpoena people to come and answer and answer questions particularly if we believe that it's going to assist us in understanding the conflict and in finding answers the questions.
We have also had a very important submission to the Truth Commission made by the Tokoza Branch of the ANC. The submission is essentially on the self defence units, it's an attempt to very honestly look at the role of the self defence units, both as victims and sometimes as also committing violations. We actually want to appeal to any other organisations, any other formations, we invite similar submissions from them which will give their account for their perspective of the conflict. I suppose one of the biggest challenges really after all of what we've heard over these four days, the biggest challenge is going to be to the Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee, because we've seen the carnage, we've seen how many people have been maimed, people who have lost limbs, people who have lost eyesight, people who are unemployed, can no longer work, and this is a big challenge, not just to the Truth Commission, but it is a challenge to the country, to the government, what kind of policy will be put in place to assist those who were victims, what kind of reparation, what kind of rehabilitation, and that is an area to which a lot of attention is going to have to be directed.
Although the hearings have come to an end here in the East Rand I want to emphasise that the process of statement taking has not come to an end, that we could only hear a certain number of cases because of the question of time and also because of resources. It's highly unlikely that we will be able to come back to the East Rand, there are many other parts of the country where we have not yet been to and where we still have to hear from people their experiences, but our statement takers will still be coming here. We invite people to come to our offices also and to contact us if they want to make statements because that's what the Commission will base its recommendations on with regard to victims, the statements which we get.
I want to remind people again of the amnesty closing date which is on the 10th of May this year. I think that people need to understand that amnesty is not about who was right and who was wrong in the political conflict. Amnesty is about anybody from whichever side of the political spectrum, who believes that what he or she may have done makes that person liable for either criminal or for civil prosecution, that people who have any fears or doubts in that connection, that there may be charges against them, either criminal or civil and that is in no way a comment on whether what they did was for a just cause or whether what they did was not for a just cause. If there's any doubt people should apply for amnesty because once the cut-off date arrives there will be, people who have not yet applied may find themselves liable for prosecution, so I would appeal for people to use this opportunity that amnesty is a way of trying to put that past behind us by having full disclosure, by explaining what was done, why things were done, the political motives, the political context and that can hopefully close that chapter on our past and we can move forward.
Now I know that people do have expectations, people want answers to questions. Unfortunately most of the recommendations of the Commission will only come at the end of the life of the Commission, so I want to appeal to people to be patient, the Commission is constantly working on their cases, the Reparations and Rehabilitation Committee is working on a policy both for long term reparation and also for urgent reparations for those desperate cases.
I want to thank the people who have come, have been here for the past two days, to thank those who have assisted us, the local governments, the TLC's, those who assisted our staff catering, all other assistance which they provided. I want to thank our staff as well, this has been very hard for them because we have been moving around, we were in Duduza and then in Benoni and now in Vosloorus and it is very difficult to organise a hearing when you are using so many different venues...(end of tape)...I want to thank the media for covering this because this it's important that those outside actually see the costs, the high price which was actually paid for this democracy which we all speak about. We can see in the East Rand that the costs were very very high and I think that what these hearings do if nothing else is serve as a reminder of what it took to get to this point so I want to thank the media for the role that they play and I want to thank my fellow panellists and colleagues, it's been quite hard on them, and again our visitors from different parts of the world, we've got American visitors, we've got visitors from Holland as well, for the interest that they show in the work of the Commission. Go well and we hope that soon we will be able to report on some of the issues that we have heard over these four days. Thank you. Could we just stand for a few minutes and bow our heads in respect for the victims?