TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
SUBMISSIONS - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
DATE: 5TH JUNE 1997
NAME: MR JOSEPH M BUHALI
HELD AT: WITBANK
DR RANDERA: Can I please call Joseph Buhali to the stage. Joseph, good afternoon.
MR BUHALI: Good afternoon.
DR RANDERA: Iím glad you we found you and thank you for coming. Joseph you are taking us back to 1976. A year that has gone done in our history already and will of course continue to be part of our history, a very important year because we saw the uprising in Soweto in 1976 and of course ... Are you okay Joseph.
MR BUHALI: Iím okay.
DR RANDERA: Thank you. The aftermath of Ď76 was felt throughout the country and of course internationally as well. You have come to talk to us of what happened to you in July of 1976 and Mr Hugh Lewin is going to be helping you as you tell your story but before you do that, can you just raise your hand and take the oath. Mr Malan will help you.
MR MALAN: Mr Buhali will you swear that the testimony that you will be giving will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.
MR JOSEPH M BUHALI: (sworn states)
MR MALAN: Thank you very much.
MR LEWIN: Mr Buhali will you be speaking in English or Zulu?
MR BUHALI: Zulu.
MR LEWIN: Zulu. Can you hear clearly through the earphones?
MR BUHALI: Iíve go some difficulty.
MR LEWIN: Swikele could you help please?
INTERPRETER: I would suggest that we tune into Channel Two for the speaker.
MR LEWIN: Can you hear the translation now?
MR BUHALI: I canít hear.
MR LEWIN: Swikele, could try putting them on yourself?
INTERPRETER: The witness is on Channel Three and he would rather have Channel Two, English interpretation.
MR LEWIN: He wants to speak in Zulu. Howís that? Is that clearer on Two? Did you say something? Okay, is that clearer now? Okay? Are you comfortable, Mr Buhali?
INTERPRETER: We can proceed.
MR LEWIN: Can we proceed? Thank you. Mr Buhali, as the Chairman has said youíll be taking us back to 1976 and specifically July 1976, the month after the events in Soweto. Iíd just like to confirm that you yourself do actually come from here, from Lynville?
MR BUHALI: I come from Lynville.
MR LEWIN: And youíll be telling us about the most dreadful torture that took place when you were actually nineteen as I understand it. You were nineteen at the time, is that correct?
MR BUHALI: Yes, I was nineteen.
MR LEWIN: Okay. Could you please, in your own time and your own words, tell us what happened?
MR BUHALI: On the twentieth of May 1976 we had Black Power here in Witbank. I was working for the hospital and the kids came at about three and told me that the violence had erupted in the location. I knocked off at half past four. I was with David Nbenegazi, my friend. We were walking when we came across a group of youths throwing stones.
On Friday the 23rd, at half past four, the police came to my work. Juza Sithole and another White policeman and Juza approached me and said, JC, my nickname is JC, he would like to question me with regard to the Black Power and they took with them. When we went towards the White hospital they used their telephone in the car and spoke about something. When we got the Medical Centre we got out the car, now we have Cosmos offices there and I found a man waiting for me there and he said to me, you are a preacherís son but you are full of nonsense and they handcuffed me. He made it so tight that I felt pain and he took me into a room and kept me there.
At about six they took me out of that room and showed me three other students, George, Jeremy Mabeni and Makuskus Nkosi. They had injured them with their handcuffs as well. They told me that if I donít want to tell the truth, they will torture me. They took me back into one room where there was a CID by the name of Skusana and they tried to strangle me. They tortured me and also covered my face so that I donít see anything. There were some chemicals that they inserted as well so that Iíd suffocate and they told me to sit down. I told them I canít sit down because I canít see anything. They entwined my feet and made me carry this heavy wood with my right hand. Thatís the fashion they tortured me in. They asked me if I was an ANC member and they asked me if I knew anything about the Black Power and I said, no. They opened my stomach, they cut open my stomach. There was Olivier and Mashlango who is late. He was interpreting for me whilst the other White man was talking in Afrikaans. They asked me if I knew anything about Black Power and I said, no. They burnt me on my neck and on my testicles as well. They said if I donít want to tell the truth and put the truth on the table, I will regret it.
I heard the door open and I wondered what they were up to them. They asked me if I was ready to say something and I said, there is nothing that I know. They also burnt me on my testicles again and I urinated on myself. The other three that they showed me, Makuskus is my relative, sheís my cousin. When she saw me she screamed and said, why do you torture him that way? They kicked her as well and I was taken into a dark cell in isolation.
On Saturday they took me to the district surgeon, Doctor Joint who gave me some pills to take. On Monday I was taken to the Court of Law and the case was remanded and I was sent to Paxton. They fetched me on Thursday but they didnít torture me then. They even bought me a packet of cigarettes. They were adamant, wanting me to tell them what I knew about the Black Power and they wanted Papa Roy. I knew Papa Roy and the other three boys. Iíve forgotten their names. I heard Papa Roy and those boys. They thought I was an ANC member or I was part of the Black Power. They wanted those boys.
I was acquitted and they left me alone after that. I was suspended for not being at work. I lost my job, especially because my boss at work was influenced in one way or the other. I only have Standard Eight. Thatís all I want to say.
MR LEWIN: Thank you, Mr Buhali. Could I just ask some questions of clarification. In your statement you say that when they came to ask they wanted to know whether you were a member of ANC or UDF, ANC/UDF.
MR BUHALI: Thatís correct.
MR LEWIN: This was Ď76. Was UDF around those days?
MR BUHALI: To my knowledge, no but they asked me if I was an ANC or UDF member.
MR LEWIN: I know it must be painful going back over it but if you could just give us some details. You say that your face was covered with something. What did they actually use to cover your face?
MR BUHALI: It was a pantyhose, black pantyhose, a stretching fabric.
MR LEWIN: And they put that over your head? What were these chemicals?
MR BUHALI: I think the cloth that they covered my face with had that chemical in it because each time I tried to inhale I would suffocate. I even think it smelt like snuff.
MR LEWIN: Yes. You also talked about them cutting open your stomach. Could you explain that?
MR BUHALI: As I was hanging, there was this heavy wood on my right hand and I just felt when ... They did not cut my stomach open but they pulled my shirt so that my stomach was exposed to them.
MR LEWIN: I see. You say you were burnt. Did they burn you on your stomach as well?
MR BUHALI: I was burnt, both on my stomach and testicles as well and again on the neck.
MR LEWIN: You mention in your statement about being kicked.
MR BUHALI: Yes.
MR LEWIN: At some stage you talk about being spun round. What actually happened there? Can you tell us?
MR BUHALI: Skosana put that sack around my face and started spinning me around and assaulting me. Thatís how they were able to tighten this cloth on my neck and I suffocated.
MR LEWIN: You said that you knew Skosana?
MR BUHALI: I knew him.
MR LEWIN: But Mashlango is now late.
MR BUHALI: He has since died.
MR LEWIN: And Skosana?
MR BUHALI: Iíve seen Skosana some time this year. Heís still around.
MR LEWIN: In the police?
MR BUHALI: Still with the police force.
MR LEWIN: You mentioned also that your cousin came in and saw you. How did that actually happen?
MR BUHALI: Where they were ............. (tape ended)
MR LEWIN: ..................... she saw you.
MR BUHALI: Itís my cousinís brother.
MR LEWIN: Oh, cousinís brother.
MR BUHALI: He saw me as I was trying to get outside and Skosana wiped my face and I was bleeding profusely. He opened the door and whilst they were going out, thatís when my cousinís brother saw me. Right at that moment.
MR LEWIN: In your statement you also mention at that point that there was another, you mention the name of another person who was with Skosana and Mashlango. Can you remember that name.
MR BUHALI: You mean the one who was with Mashlango and Skosana?
MR LEWIN: Yes.
MR BUHALI: Heís Captain Olivier.
MR LEWIN: Do you know where he is?
MR BUHALI: I donít know his whereabouts now. The last time I saw him was then.
MR LEWIN: So after all of this, you said that they actually charged you and then they acquitted you. What were you charged with?
MR BUHALI: They said that was public violence.
MR LEWIN: Were you just in detention then or were you just awaiting trial?
MR BUHALI: I was awaiting trial.
MR LEWIN: Can you remember how long that took?
MR BUHALI: Yes, I do remember.
MR LEWIN: Could you tell us.
MR BUHALI: From July and I was freed in October, the 23rd, 20th or 23rd, Iím not too sure about the date but in October anyway.
MR LEWIN: Then at that stage you went back to the hospital to work, did you?
MR BUHALI: I never worked because I was suspended.
MR LEWIN: They suspended you immediately after you went back?
MR BUHALI: Yes.
MR LEWIN: Can you tell us how have you existed in the last twenty years? What has happened to you since then?
MR BUHALI: Iím disturbed emotionally because I think if I hadnít lost my job I would be far away now. Right now I earn a pension from the Government.
MR LEWIN: You do get a Government pension do you?
MR BUHALI: Yes, I do. A disability grant of some kind.
MR LEWIN: How long have you had that?
MR BUHALI: Since 1987. Iím sorry, since March 1988.
MR LEWIN: So what did you do between 1976 and 1988? What did you do in those twelve years?
MR BUHALI: You mean between 1976 or after Iíd lost my job?
MR LEWIN: After youíd lost your job up until the time you got your disability pension. How did you survive?
MR BUHALI: I had to become a thief to survive until I was employed by LTA and I lost my job soon after that.
MR BUHALI: And then finally you got your disability grant?
MR BUHALI: Thatís correct.
MR LEWIN: Could I just confirm, all the disabilities that youíre talking about, that you have described to us, they all come from the time that you were actually in detention?
MR BUHALI: Thatís correct.
MR LEWIN: Mr Buhali, could I just ask one final question so that weíre quite clear. You talked about being, you said you were hanging and in your one hand you had this heavy weight and you said you were hanging. Can you explain this? What was actually happening there?
MR BUHALI: I donít know how to demonstrate and explain this. This is confusing. They had handcuffed my hands and put my right in-between my knees and they had wood, heavy wood, right on top of my right hand.
MR LEWIN: Okay and that was then put onto two tables?
MR BUHALI: Thatís true, yes and then I hung in-between.
MR LEWIN: And you were hanging there in-between and you couldnít get out of that?
MR BUHALI: Yes.
MR LEWIN: This was a torture that was used particularly in the Ď60ís and then again in the Ď70ís. Can you explain to us just finally, what it felt like? How did you feel when that was happening?
MR BUHALI: I donít understand. Do you mean after the torture or at the end of the whole thing?
MR LEWIN: During the torture. What did you think was happening to you?
MR BUHALI: I thought I was dying because that was my first encounter with that kind of torture because each time they wired me I felt as though thereís something thatís stinging me, or the bees. I was in a complete state of, I was surprised and amazed at what was being done to me.
MR LEWIN: Would you have in fact done anything that they would have wanted you to do? Answered any question that they wanted you to answer?
MR BUHALI: You mean I could answer. Please repeat your question.
MR LEWIN: Did you feel that you had to answer all their questions at that stage?
MR BUHALI: If I knew anything, I would have exposed it to them but because I had no information or knowledge of anything, I kept quiet.
MR LEWIN: And so they continued to torture you?
MR BUHALI: Yes, they continued and told me repeatedly that I was lying through my teeth.
MR LEWIN: Mr Buhali, thank you very much. Mr Chairman, I have not further questions.
DR RANDERA: Hugh, I mean Wynand?
MR MALAN: Mr Buhali, were they asking you any specific questions when they were torturing you?
MR BUHALI: I remember the questions they asked me.
MR MALAN: What kind of questions did they put to you apart from whether you were UDF or ... Was it not PAC that you were thinking of? ANC/PAC?
MR BUHALI: I donít remember. I think there was ANC or UDF and PAC, I donít quite remember. They asked me if I was a member of UDF or PAC or ANC because they would through that question to me and each time I screamed, they will leave me and when I kept quiet, they would continue asking me again until I urinated on myself.
MR MALAN: You said in your statement and in your evidence that they were applying this electric shock method till you started to scream and then they asked you whether you were prepared to talk. Was it just a general question or did they ask you about individuals? Did they ask you any specific questions, did they ask you about leadership? What kind of questions did they put to you? Can you recall any of them?
MR BUHALI: They told me that one of the school children told them that I took part in throwing stones as well.
MR MALAN: You say that you did not open a case because you feared that they would repeat the torture?
MR BUHALI: That is correct.
MR MALAN: So you did not report this to anyone at the time?
MR BUHALI: You mean I never reported the matter to the attorneys or to the police station?
MR BUHALI: No, to the authorities or attorneys. Who did you report to at the time?
MR BUHALI: I only told the Black Power guys about it because they were my friends and we were quite close as well as other friends in the township whose names I wonít disclose. They were the ones who paid my bail. As for Attorneys, Pastors or Reverends, I never made mention of this to them.
MR MALAN: You did also say that the police took you to Doctor Joint.
MR BUHALI: Yes.
MR MALAN: For treatment after they hurt you?
MR BUHALI: That is correct.
MR MALAN: This Doctor Joint, is he still around, still alive?
MR BUHALI: Doctor Joint is working for the Witbank District Surgeonís offices.
MR BUHALI: So heís still the District Surgeon?
MR BUHALI: Yes, heís the District Surgeon.
MR MALAN: Thank you, I have no further questions, Mr Buhali.
DR RANDERA: Miss Mkhize?
MISS MKHIZE: One question. What confuses the Commission is that the statement takers are talking about UDF and as you are rendering your testimony, you keep mentioning the Black Power and earlier on you said, they said Black Power has invaded the township. Could it be that you were confused when you were giving your statement but now you have a clearer recollection of what was happening?
MR BUHALI: It was Black Power.
MISS MKHIZE: We have to be clear about that because it would seem that what youíre saying contradicts your statement. You talked about three children. Did you have those children after the incident or before?
MR BUHALI: I have one illegitimate child but the other two are my children from my wife.
MISS MKHIZE: Tell me about this one illegitimate child. When did you ................
MR BUHALI: That happened after the incident, in 1980.
MISS MKHIZE: You said something that is not clear. How did you survive being a thief?
MR BUHALI: I wasnít chronically sick, I could touch and walk and I could do a few other things in order to make my moves.
MISS MKHIZE: When did you get chronically sick?
MR BUHALI: In 1986.
MISS MKHIZE: How did it happen?
MR BUHALI: I was stabbed on my head and I was paralysed on my left side.
MISS MKHIZE: Could you explain that incident to us? Is it because of being a thief or were you struggling?
MR BUHALI: No it has nothing to do with political things or any struggle.
DR RANDERA: Mr Buhali, is there anything else you want to say before I finish?
MR BUHALI: Yes, if it is possible, with my Standard Eight qualification, I would appreciate being employed. Iíd highly appreciate any kind of compensation.
DR RANDERA: Mr Buhali, your torture that youíve described so aptly is reminiscent of so many other stories that weíve heard. I want to say that this idea you put forward of Black Power in 1976, clearly from the documents we have in front of us, the Black Peopleís Convention, SASO and other Black conscientious groupings seemed to have quite a lot of influence in this area and clearly you were influenced by that grouping as well. The reason why that question of the UDF has come all the time is because UDF was not formed until the Ď80ís and thatís why people have kept asking about the UDF. Thank you very, very much for coming and sharing your experiences to-day. We have noted your request for employment but as I said earlier, the Commission does not have that sort of power but we will actually make a note of that when coming to a Reparationsí policy. Thank you very much.