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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 38

Paragraph Numbers 15 to 27

Volume 3

Chapter 2

Subsection 3


15 Statements made to the Commission indicate routine assault and torture of detainees by police. Beatings were the most frequently mentioned violation. Electric shocks were also common and allegations of poisoning were made. Some detainees returned home blind and/or deaf, some mentally ill. Some of those jailed after sentencing were also mistreated. These torture allegations were supported by Mbeki and Southall3 as well as by the submissions handed to the Commission by Kairos.

16 Detentions and arrests were carried out primarily by the police, although several deponents also referred to soldiers having been involved. Several cases involved police assaults on family members and destruction of property, apparently in an attempt to force people on the run to surrender to police. Detainees and convicted prisoners were held at many different venues. A key place of torture was, however, a temporary police station housed in tents in Mkambati forest. This appears to have become an established police station by the early 1970s.

17 Mr Clement Khehlana ‘Fly’ Gxabu [EC0882/96ETK] was injured at Ngquza Hill (see below). He told the Commission that he was detained at Lusikisiki police station where he was beaten continuously over a five-day period. Mr Ngwazi Sipolo [EC0542/96ETK] said the police had tried to persuade him to become an informer, but he had not helped them. He was then again arrested and taken to Mkambati forest where he was tortured. Mr Ndovela Nxasana [EC0578/96EKT] was detained because he was a member of iKongo. He said he was taken to the tents in Mkambati forest where he was beaten with a stick and his hand was broken. He was also given electric shocks “by an auto engine” while lying down with his hands cuffed behind his back. Nxasana was moved to several other towns, held for a year and later charged and acquitted.

18 In September 1963, Mr Henry Fazzie, Mr Singqokwana Ernest Malgas [EC0001/ 96PLZ] and six others from Port Elizabeth were convicted for undergoing military training with Umkhonto weSizwe (MK). At the first public hearing in East London, Malgas said he had been tortured in detention in the 1960s as well as in the 1980s:

During the torturing, I was always suffocated with a mask and there was this ‘helicopter training’. A stick was put inside your knees and you had to stretch your knees. During that period, you were suffocated.

19 He also said that, during the 1980s, his home was attacked several times. During one of these attacks, acid was thrown at one of his sons, who died as a result.

20 ANC member Mr Wilson Fanti [EC1704/97SBR] was arrested in Port Elizabeth in March 1964, tried in Graaff-Reinet, sentenced to five years on Robben Island for sabotage and banished to Stutterheim on his release. Fanti said he had been taken from jail to be re-tried in Grahamstown on sabotage charges and jailed for another five years:

We were not even allowed legal representation … Torture in the form of hard labour and assaults increased as the sentence was doubled.

21 Among the many PAC members who testified to the Commission about their severe ill treatment when arrested and imprisoned in the 1960s were Mr Mfene Simon Yoyo [EC0653/96QTN], Mr Makhi Boyi [EC1990/97KWT] and Mr Daniel Paulos Nongena [EC1985/97KWT]. Yoyo, Boyi and Nongena alleged that that they had been assaulted by various policemen, including Mr Donald Card. Yoyo said that, in April 1963, Card and other policemen had beaten him and then hung him out of the window at Cambridge police station in East London. Nongena was one of a group of Poqo members who tried to attack the King William’s Town police station in 1963. He was detained by Mr Charles Xhanti Sebe (now deceased) and Card the following day and taken to King William’s Town. Nongena described his torture:

They put you into the sack, they tie it up and they throw you into the water … the water inevitably comes into your mouth and stomach and your stomach would be full of water. They take you out, pump you, pump out the water and put you back again, saying that we must tell the truth.

22 Mr Card attended the Commission’s King William’s Town hearing in May 1997 and denied the allegations saying, “I’ve never seen them in my life before”. He added that he was well known amongst political activists, that his name had been bandied about a lot and that it was a case of mistaken identity. Several deponents told the Commission that they or family members had been assaulted by Card in custody; Card denied these allegations.

23 Mr Nohlaza Ngakanani Jakada [EC1340/96ETK] was held at Mkambati in 1971. He had shown scars on his back to his family and told them that he had been beaten and that police had cut his throat. He was jailed for six years, was ill on his release and remained so until his death three years later.

24 The Human Rights Commission (HRC) records the death of detainee, Mr Mthayeni Cuthsela, in Pondoland on 21 January 1971. Officially Cuthsela died in hospital of “natural causes, brain haemorrhage”4 after forty days’ detention. Kairos reports that Cuthsela was detained in December 1970 in connection with the Pietermaritzburg Terrorism Trial, and held at Mkambati camp and Umtata jail. At Mkambati, he was often handcuffed and tied to a tree. He was beaten, kicked and given electric shocks to the ears and penis over four days. Although he complained of severe headaches, he was denied access to a doctor at both Mkambati and Umtata. In January 1971, Cuthsela was taken while unconscious from the Umtata jail to the local hospital, where he died of a brain haemorrhage attributable to arteriosclerosis. The police retained the death certificate.5

25 Kairos reports that Mr Mfolwane Mbele [EC1654/97ETK] had been held with Cuthsela, who told him of the assaults.6 Mbele’s brother, Mr Ndengezi Makhokhoba, told the Commission that they had only been able to locate Mbele after he had been in custody for two years (similar complaints were made to the Commission about other detainees during the Pondoland Revolt). Makhokhoba told the Commission that after Mbele’s release:

He came back very ill, he could not eat, his mouth was full of scars, he complained of backache and that his whole body was aching.

26 Mr Makhokhoba said they took Mbele to hospital where the doctors told the family that he had been poisoned. Mbele’s widow, Ms Nantagelo Makhokhoba, told the Commission:

He said that when he was in detention, they would beat him up. He said that they would be hung on trees, they would sleep there on the tree. They were then taken to ’Maritzburg where they were detained before they went to Robben Island … He said that what really hurt him was that, before they actually went to Robben Island, the torture was worse.

27 Mbele died in May 1980, a few weeks after his release. Mr Ndengezi Makhokhoba told the Commission that he himself had been detained and assaulted while attending his brother’s trial in Pietermaritzburg. During 1977, while visiting his brother in jail, he was again arrested and assaulted until his hip was dislocated.

3 Govan Mbeki , South Africa: The Peasants’ Revolt. 1964; Roger J. Southall, South Africa’s Transkei: The political economy of an “independent” bantustan, 1982. 4 Human Rights Commission, Deaths in detention, August 1990. (This Human Rights Commission was later renamed the Human Rights Committee). 5 Kairos, Political prisoners and detainees in South Africa. Preliminary report, November 1996, pp 5–6; and Kairos, Torture in South Africa, Theunis Jacobus Swanepoel, February 1977, p 26. 6 Kairos (1997) p 26.
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