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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 350
Paragraph Numbers 85 to 90
The case of Polediso Motsoeneng
Perhaps one of the most moving cases of the disruption of family life to emerge from the Orange Free State is the story of Mr Polediso Hubert Dihlelele Motsoeneng, who was detained without trial in Bethlehem for a total of eleven months during the 1986 state of emergency.
In detention, he was beaten and threatened with death. The first period of detention was for six months in 1986, the second for five months in 1987. During the latter, he said, police threatened to throw him from the third or fourth storey of the building in which he was detained.
Motsoeneng told the Commission that the security police, including Major Stephenson, forced his father to beat him in front of the police. His father gave him fifty lashes. The victim was denied medical assistance after the beating. He said that his parents’ marriage broke up as a result of the incident and his mother disappeared. He still did not know where she was [KZN/MR/268/FS].
The children’s hearing in Bloemfontein
85 At a hearing convened in Bloemfontein on 23 June 1997 especially to hear the stories of children, the Commission heard of the effects of political conflict, unemployment, forced removals, poverty and inadequate education on the lives of children in the Orange Free State. In order to attend farm and township schools, children would often have to travel long distances and many would have to endure a day at school, and sometimes a time of working in the fields, without adequate nutrition to sustain them. Bereavement and displacement of families owing to political conflict would often produce trauma symptoms and behavioural disorders such as truancy, crime and aberrations of conduct in children. The inadequate social services were not equal to supporting the children and families in need.
86 The Commission heard from children whose parents were detained, tortured or shot by police and who were subsequently unable to fulfil the ordinary emotional and financial responsibilities of a parent in the home. Two reports were received from children whose homes were firebombed because their fathers were members of the police force.
State and allied groupings
Torture in custody
87 In September 1982, the Detainees Parents’ Support Committee presented the Minister of Law and Order with seventy statements from detainees and ex-detainees claiming that systematic and widespread torture was being used by police in detention cells around the country. The claims listed the following types of torture and abuse: sleep deprivation, electric shock torture, mid-air suspension, suffocation, enforced standing, enforced exercise, punching, kicking, slapping, beating with sticks, batons, hosepipes or gun butts, assault on genitals, being kept naked for long periods during interrogation, being subjected to humiliating and degrading experiences such as deprivation of toilet facilities, verbal abuse and ridicule, ‘hooding’ to produce disorientation and fear, death threats, having a cocked firearm held in one’s mouth, and threats of harm to one’s children, spouse or close friends. Almost all the above forms of abuse were represented in the reports received from victims of police brutality in the Orange Free State for the 1983–89 period.
88 Poisoning was increasingly favoured as a method of torture during this period. Dirk Coetzee, who was based with the Security Branch in Bloemfontein in the early 1980s, told the Commission that a senior Security Branch member, described by Coetzee as “one of the meaner security police stalwarts”, discussed with him the use of poison as a means of “disposing of activists”.
The poisoning of Samuel Malie
Poisons were used in the torture of Mr Samuel Mokhele Malie [KZN/SMB/119/FS] in a Bloemfontein police cell where he was held in 1983. He was allegedly forced to drink poisoned liquor and was rushed to Pelonomi hospital where he died the same day.
89 Members of the student organisations, AZAPO and the local civic organisations were particular targets of the police in their attempt to repress student resistance in the province. The police response to student protests often involved dogs, tear gas and baton charges, and sometimes shooting directly at demonstrators with live ammunition. Police also detained large numbers of people in an attempt to isolate and remove student leaders from the community.
The case of Richard Sello
One of the most humiliating forms of brutality perpetrated by the police against a student activist is found in the story of Mr Richard Retshidisitswe Sello who was actively involved in the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) at his school in Mamafubedu, Petrus Steyn in 1987.
Sello told the Commission that, when student protests broke out at the school on 12 August 1987, the police raided the homes of SRC members. They kicked down the doors of the Sello family home and assaulted Sello’s mother.
Sello was detained and tortured during interrogation. His arms were tied behind his knees, his face covered with a cloth and an electric device placed around his stomach. He was kicked and his head was hit against a wall, and he began to bleed heavily. He was thrown into a van with Lesotho registration plates and taken to a police station in Kroonstad. Police then took him to a kraal where they stripped him naked and poured milk over him. A calf was made to drink from his penis. The victim resisted and was detained in Kroonstad where he received medical attention whilst in prison [KZN/JRW/057/PET].
90 The Commission heard several accounts of the torture in detention of union organisers, members of student organisations and local youth congresses. Several people detained under various sections of the Internal Security Act claimed they were tortured while in custody.