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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 167
Paragraph Numbers 40 to 49
Overview of violations
40 Torture and severe ill-treatment were the predominant form of gross human rights violations reported for this fifteen-year period: that is, torture 41%; severe ill treatment 38%; associated violations 11%; killings 7%; attempted killings 1%; abduction 1%.
41 All reported incidents occurred in the greater Durban and Pietermaritzburg areas. In the majority of cases, the victims were aligned to the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) or were non-partisan. Most reported violations were attributed to members of the SAP.
State and allied groupings
Torture in custody
42 Many ANC and SACP activists spoke of detention and torture by the police during this period. The first reported case of torture through poisoning was received for this period. The Investigation Unit could not corroborate all statements as records had been destroyed. However, from information received, it appears that torture methods used by the police ranged from severe assault to forcing a victim to assume contorted and degrading positions. In some cases, it is believed that death resulted from torture suffered during detention.
The Case of Ethel Shabalala and Jerome Duma
SACP member Ms Ethel Sizile Shabalala [KZN/NN/004/DN], and her husband, ANC member Jerome Duma, both of Umlazi, were detained, interrogated and tortured repeatedly throughout the 1960s by members of the Security Branch. Shortly after Duma’s release from detention on 30 August 1970, he died of renal failure believed to have been caused by the torture he suffered in prison. Shabalala said that when she was released from detention, she found that her house and its contents had been given to other people.
43 Members of SASO and BPC were tortured in detention following their arrest in September 1974 for the planning of Viva Frelimo rallies.
44 One of those arrested in Durban was Ms Bridgette Mabandla, employed at the time as a youth programme organiser for the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR). Her husband, Mr Lindilwe Mabandla, had been arrested three days earlier. Ms Mabandla was in detention for five months and three weeks, during which time she was not permitted to see her five-month-old baby. She was allegedly tortured on a number of occasions by members of the Security Branch. Former Durban security policeman, Colonel ARC Taylor [AM4077/96] applied for amnesty for the torture of Mabandla and five others arrested at the same time: namely Mr Sathasivan Cooper, Mr Revabalan Cooper, Mr Lindani Muntu Myeza, Mr Nyangana Absalom Cindi and Mr Reuben William Hair. Taylor died on 11 November 1997, before his application for amnesty could be heard.
45 At the Durban hearing, the Commission heard that underground ANC cell leader Haroon Aziz [KZN/MR/013/DN] of Stanger was tortured following his arrest in 1975 under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act. He described the various forms of torture he suffered at the hands of the police, including a method that came to be known as the ‘invisible chair’.
They used to make me sit on what they used to call an invisible chair. An invisible chair is you pretend to sit on a chair, but there’s no chair there, and you hold your hands out and you flick your fingers. They interrogate you and you have to answer the questions. This invisible chair position was quite close to the wall, but I wasn’t allowed to lean against the wall. In front of me, one of the special branch policemen used to hold a knife at my navel so as to prevent me from falling easily to the ground. And if they were not satisfied with the answers I gave, from time to time they would hit me on my penis, and sometimes squeeze it. It was very difficult to fall down because of the knife in front but eventually, when I fell, I was kicked and this kicking used to go on and I used to scream and shout and they used to laugh at me like mad hyenas.
46 In February 1975, Aziz was moved to the Pretoria Maximum Security Prison where he was kept in solitary confinement for four months. He was finally released without being charged.
47 ANC activist Leonard Mdingi [EC2150/97ETK], then aged fifty-five, was severely tortured by Durban security policemen in 1975 after being arrested for harbouring ANC cadres. During his week in detention he was assaulted, made to stand on one leg for long periods of time, and was wrapped in a cloth and put in dry ice for about five hours. He suffered internal injuries as a result of his torture.
48 Many others were arrested and tried, and some tortured, for leaving the country to undergo military training under MK.
The Case of Anthony Xaba
Mr Anthony Ndoda Xaba from Pietermaritzburg [KZN/PMB/002/PM], who left for training in Tanzania in 1963, was one of a large number of MK recruits arrested in Northern Rhodesia. Xaba told the Commission that they were tortured at Beit Bridge before being brought to South Africa to be tried for leaving the country unlawfully. Xaba was sentenced to ten years, which he served on Robben Island. On his release in July 1973, he was immediately placed under house arrest for five years.
One morning in November 1975, police surrounded Xaba’s house, rounded up all six members of his family and took them to Loop Street police station in Pietermaritzburg. Xaba says he was taken upstairs where he was systematically assaulted, tortured and interrogated for two days. He was bleeding heavily and lost consciousness a number of times. His torture included being hung out of the window by his feet while the policemen swung him backwards and forwards and banged his head against the wall. His arm was broken in the process. At one point during the torture, he said he could hear the screams of his wife in the adjoining room. On his second day of torture, Xaba’s hands were cuffed behind his back and he was suspended form the ceiling like “meat in the butchery”.
The Case of Sipho Hamilton Kubheka
ANC Youth League member, Sipho Hamilton Kubheka [KZN/NNN/078/PM], told the Commission that he was detained and tortured on a number of occasions by the Pietermaritzburg Security Branch during 1975. He said he was subjected to severe mental torture and a month in solitary confinement, was stripped naked and assaulted. During his torture he was told that he had to turn against the ANC and be a state witness in the pending Gwala treason trial; if he refused to co-operate, he would be thrown off a moving train.
He did testify on behalf of the state during the above-mentioned trial and was then released.
49 Many activists were charged with furthering the aims of the banned ANC, SACP or PAC. Those charged and tried in the 1960s included Mr Albert Dlomo, [KZN/NM/ 228/DN] and Mr Griffiths Mxenge of the ANC; and Mr Shadrack Maphumulo, Mr Joseph Mdluli, Mr Rowley Arenstein, Ms Dorothy Nyembe and Mr MD Naidoo of the SACP. Several people fled into exile to avoid long prison sentences.
IN REVIEWING THE EVIDENCE OF GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS PERPETRATED BY THE STATE IN NATAL DURING THIS PERIOD, THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE SAP ASSAULTED AND TORTURED DETAINEES AND OPPONENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT, ESTABLISHING A PATTERN OF ABUSE THAT INCREASED IN INTENSITY THROUGH SUBSEQUENT PERIODS. THESE ACTS AMOUNTED TO GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS FOR WHICH THE SAP IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE.