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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 192
Paragraph Numbers 109 to 119
109 Forced postures or body positions were also used as a form of torture, sometimes involving the participation of the victim, thus inflicting psychological as well as physical stress. Examples included forcing the detainee to stand on a piece of foolscap piece of paper for hours, sometimes days, on end; forcing the detainee to balance on a brick or two bricks or to sit in an imaginary chair for hours on end; forcing the detainee to hold an object above her/his head. Other techniques were imposed by force. These included the ‘helicopter’ technique which involved manacling detainees’ hands above their heads or hanging them upside down for lengthy periods.
110 Mr Archibald Patuleni [EC2636/97KWT], detained in March 1963, experienced the imaginary chair torture:
I knew Charles Sebe because he was a Special Branch … He told me that I would sit in a government chair, so I must not break it … It meant to put yourself in suspension as if you’re sitting on a chair. When I became tired, I fell. He started punching me … He then handcuffed me from behind. I praised him, calling him ‘Tshawe’, begging him to stop. He gave me a good punch on my face.
111 Frank Bennetts described, again from the torturer’s side, the method referred to as ‘the helicopter’, ‘boeing’ or ‘aeroplane’:
They would handcuff his feet together round the ankles and handcuff his hands behind his back and then place him on his stomach with his feet in the air and put a broom stick or quite a strong plank of wood between his ankles and then through his legs coming out the top here and pick him up and hang him between two desks like that. The result was similar to crucifixion. It pulled all your muscles. It closed up your chest. You couldn’t breathe. Leave the guy there long enough, he’s going to talk.
112 Former Security Branch member Jeffrey Benzien [AM5314/97] described and demonstrated one form of suffocation during his amnesty application:
… it would be a cloth bag that would be submerged in water to get it completely wet ... I get the person to lie down on the ground on his stomach … with that person’s hands handcuffed behind his back. Then I would take up a position in the small of the person’s back, put my feet through between his arms to maintain my balance and then pull the bag over the person’s head and twist it closed around the neck in that way, cutting off the air supply to the person … On occasions people have, I presume, and I say presume, lost consciousness. They would go slack and every time that was done, I would release the bag.
113 Asked what the reactions of the person being suffocated were, Benzien replied:
There would be movement, there would be head movement, distress. All the time there would be questions asked – “Do you want to speak?” … and as soon as an indication was given that this person wanted to speak, the air would be allowed back … the person would moan, cry …
114 Benzien claimed that, with few exceptions, this method yielded results within half an hour.
115 Cases of sexual torture included forcing detainees (both male and female) to undress; the deliberate targeting of genitals or breasts during torture; the threat of and, in some instances, actual rape of detainees (male and female); the insertion of objects such as batons or pistols into bodily orifices and placing detainees overnight in cells with common-law prisoners known to rape newcomers. Ms Ntombizanele Zingxondo [CT00860/BEA] testified:
They unbuttoned my shirt, and pulled my breast out of my bra. They emptied one drawer and my breast was squeezed in the drawer. They did this several times on each breast until white sticky stuff burst out of the nipples of my breast. One evening while I was sleeping, a white policeman was opening the doors … he was alone. He pulled the blankets off me – ordered me to take off my clothes. I refused and we struggled … I kept on yelling … The policeman let go, then … left.
116 Fourteen-year-old Patrick Mzathi [CT06108/GEO] experienced the male version of the drawer method: “They put my penis and my testicles into a drawer, it was the first time I experienced a pain of my private parts. I went unconscious.”
117 Aside from sexual forms of torture, security police frequently targeted women in ways related to their gender or as mothers (see also the chapter on Women in Volume Four). Ms Nobuhle Mohapi [EC0007/96PLZ] told the Commission:
The first month of my detention, I didn’t get a drop of water to wash myself. I was unable to change and I was in my menstrual cycle … I requested water so that I can bathe and wash myself, but nobody wanted to help me … I stayed six months in solitary confinement ... and they would come and report some of the things that are happening at home. They even came and told me that my youngest child is dead. They promised to release me so that I can attend the funeral … [if] I should sign this paper.
118 Ms Shirley Gunn [CT00792/HEL] was detained at the Wynberg police station in Cape Town along with her sixteen-month-old unweaned son. The hygienic conditions were inadequate and the cell was drafty and cold. Social workers took her son away for a period of eight days. During this time police played a tape of his crying in order to put pressure on her.
119 The Commission received numerous statements detailing the effects of solitary confinement on detainees. Ms Zahrah Narkedien [JB04418/99OVE] describes the experience of being held in isolation in a cell the size of a small bathroom for seven months:
I don’t even want to describe psychologically what I had to do to survive down there. I will write it one day but I could never tell you. It did teach me something and that is that no human being can live alone for more than I think a month … The basement … was ... at the bottom with high walls. I felt as the months went by that I was going deeper and deeper into the ground … I became so psychologically damaged that I used to feel that all these cells are all like coffins and there were all dead people in there, because they were not there, no one was there. It was as if I was alive and all these people were dead … I’m out of prison now for more than seven or ten years but I haven’t recovered and I will never recover … I have tried to and the more I struggle to be normal, the more disturbed I become. I had to accept that I was damaged, a part of my soul was eaten away as if by maggots ... and I will never get it back again.