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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 41
Paragraph Numbers 28 to 47
Deaths and disappearances in custody
28 Leading members of the MK command were amongst those arrested early in this period. Howard Barrell7 names three Eastern Cape unionists, Mr Looksmart Ngudle, Mr Washington Bongco [EC2165/97ETK] and Mr Vuyisile Mini [EC2097/97PLZ], as MK commanders in the Western Cape, Border region and Eastern Cape respectively.
29 On 24 January 1964, Mr James Tyitya became the first political detainee to die in police custody in Port Elizabeth. The cause of death was given as “suicide by hanging”.
30 In 1969, seven people across the country died in detention. One of them was South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) unionist and ANC activist Caleb Mayekiso [EC0644/96PLZ], who died in Port Elizabeth on 1 June 1969, reportedly of “natural causes”, after being held for eighteen days under the Terrorism Act.8 His daughter, Ms Nomakhosazana Queenie Mayekiso, told the Commission that her father had been jailed for two and a half years in 1964 on charges of terrorism, re-tried while in jail and sentenced to an additional three years. He was released in August 1968 and detained again in May 1969. Two weeks later his family was told he had died of chronic bronchitis. However, “I learnt from another detainee that he was killed with an electric shock”. Mr Mayekiso had taken a leading role in the Defiance Campaign of the 1950s and worked as an underground member of the ANC after it was banned.
31 Of those who died or disappeared in custody, some may have died in detention, others as sentenced prisoners. In most cases, families had little information about the deaths. Disappearances reported to the Commission for this period include that of Mr Maqhilane Solomase Nodosha [EC2064/97ETK], last seen being taken away by the police in March 1960, and the disappearance of Mr Ndlanganyana Mvunyiswa [EC1794/97ETK], last seen being arrested by the police in the same year.
32 In 1960, Mr Mtayini Myezo [EC1658/97ETK] was detained on three separate occasions; he told his family he had been assaulted during each detention. His daughter-in-law, Ms Nkanyiwe Myezo, told the Commission:
On the third time, the police came to say he was dead. They said he died of TB [tuberculosis]. We went to pick up his body and we saw that his body had a scar cut in his right head side as if he was beaten by an iron baton.
33 Mr Fuzile Shikita and his son, Mr Zanyokwe Shikita [EC1780/97ETK], were both detained in March 1960. They fought with the police and attempted to resist arrest. Zanyokwe Shikitha was released a few days later and told his family of beatings in detention; Fuzile Shikita died in custody the following year. The family did not know any further details. It is not clear whether Shikita died as a detainee or as a sentenced prisoner.
34 Mr Shweni Zibonele [EC1535/97ETK] was one of those who died in prison after being sentenced. He was arrested in the aftermath of the 1960 Ngquza incident (discussed below) and jailed for an effective four years. He died in prison in Bloemfontein in 1962. Ms Makhonjwayo Javu told the Commission:
My father wrote a letter to me from an East London cell. He was complaining about ill treatment there, saying he was sick. Another letter came from him from a prison in Bloemfontein … In this last letter he was again telling me about ill treatment there. He said he was often put into a freezer for hours [overnight] and was taken out in the morning. In that letter my father was telling me that by the time they were taken out it would be difficult to talk.
35 Ms Javu said the family received a telephone call from the prison authorities calling them to Bloemfontein because Zibonele was ill, but that they had been too afraid to go. They were later told he had died.
36 The HRC records the death in Transkei of two detainees, Mr Ngeni Gaga and Mr Pongolosha Hoye. Both were detained on 8 May 1965 and died the next day; in both cases, the official cause of death was given as “natural causes”.9 These cases were not brought to the Commission. However, given the treatment of detainees reported to the Commission, it seems likely that the two men died as a result of treatment in detention. It is not clear in which area of Transkei these men were held.
37 Mr Mbambani Solomon Madikizela [EC1805/97ETK] disappeared in police custody in 1967. His family told the Commission that Madikizela was an ANC member who had recently returned home from Bophuthatswana. Police had taken him away in a helicopter, saying they were taking him to hospital. He was never seen again.7 Howard Barrell, MK: The ANC’s armed struggle. Johannesburg: Penguin, 1990. 8 The Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967. Section 6 of this Act provided for detention in solitary confinement for indefinite periods.
After-effects of torture
38 The Commission received approximately ninety statements about people who had been detained and/or jailed, subsequently returning home ill and dying as a result of abuse suffered in prison. Some died within days or weeks, most within a few months, but some deaths took place years later. In many cases, deponents said the ex-detainees were permanently ill. Some families were too afraid to take the ill for medical treatment, but several deponents refer to visits to hospitals that failed to prevent the deaths. At least one deponent reported that a doctor had told the family that the ex-prisoner had been poisoned (Mfolwane Mbele [EC1654/97ETK], see below).
39 Mr Sithembiso Ndesi [EC2059/97ETK], Mr Sambathi Majova [EC2062/97ETK], Mr Sithembile Ngalavu [EC0536/96ETK] and Mr Bambaliphi Mdlamla [EC0585/96ETK] were all ill when they were released from custody in 1960/1 and died within months. Ms Nobawo Mildred Mdlamla said of her husband:
He said that the cell that he was in was not sheltered. When it rained, it would rain on them. We would take him from hospital to hospital, thinking that he would improve. He would cough blood.
40 He was bedridden and died a year later.
41 Mr Aaron Mandokoza Mbhali [EC2060/97ETK] was released permanently blinded. His family said he believed he had been given poisoned water to wash in.
42 Mr Sikinkili Moyiswa [EC0538/96ETK] was detained in 1960 and later told relatives of beatings and electric shocks at Mkambati. He was detained again in 1970 and was constantly ill until his death years later.
43 Mr Mbethwa Silangwe [EC1677/97ETK] was held at Bizana police station with his son, Mr Mnikelwa Silangwe, who said white police officers had beaten his father and attacked his testicles with pliers. Mbethwa died from his injuries a few months later.
44 Mr James Notununu [EC0588/96ETK] was jailed for a year. On his release, he told his family he had been poisoned in jail. He died about a month later.
45 Mr Takutshane Mayidume [EC1666/97ETK] was jailed for three years in East London prison and died three months after returning home. His daughter, Ms Nokwanda Nora, told the Commission:
His lower limbs were not functioning; his side teeth were gone. He had marks all over the body and his eyesight was gone. He died as a result of the severe torture he suffered in prison.
46 Some prisoners returned home mentally ill. Mr Wani Ntsede [EC1811/97ETK] was detained in March 1960 and held for five months in Idutywa. His son Mamothisa told the Commission:
At the time of the arrest he was severely beaten with fists and kicked all over his body. It would appear that during the period of his incarceration at Idutywa prison, a similar form of ill treatment was meted out to him – for at the time of his release in 1966 he was mentally deranged. He then passed away in 1970. At the time of his passing away, he was deaf in both ears.
47 Mr Makulana Phato [EC1819/97ETK] was held for five years, variously at Bizana, Mount Frere, Umtata and Butterworth. His family told the Commission they did not know whether or not he had stood trial. He was assaulted in custody, released mentally ill and died of head injuries a few months later.9 Human Rights Commission, Deaths in detention. August 1990.