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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 617
Paragraph Numbers 236 to 331
326 Mr Thabang Reginald Mopeloa [JB01527/03NW] of Leboleng township in the Western Transvaal told the Commission of his detention and torture. On 17 June 1986, youth had gathered to sing freedom songs. As they were singing, there was a blackout in the township. They heard families shouting and crying that they were being attacked by “faceless people” wearing balaclavas and wielding plastic batons. The attackers arrived at Mr Mopeloa’s home at about 03h00 and asked for him. Mopeloa said they beat him “as if they were beating the cows that didn’t want to get into the kraal”. Mopeloa and other youths were taken to the local police station, Makwassie, where they were slapped by white policemen wearing balaclavas. Eighteen-year-old Ms Cynthia Kedibone Morake [JB01852/03NW] was one of five young women arrested in the same incident.
327 Mr Mopeloa, who told the Commission that he didn’t belong to any organisation at the time, was accused of being an ANC leader in the area and interrogated about his alleged involvement in the burning of a municipal office. When he denied that he was politically involved he was severely tortured. When he asked what evidence the police had that he was an ANC leader, he was beaten and handcuffed to the roof of a cell while electric shocks were applied to his genitals. The police did not allow his parents to see him:
After the three days that I spent at Makwassie, my parents were trying to get hold of me, to come and visit me. But unfortunately I was badly beaten and assaulted and they wouldn’t even recognise it was Reggie.
328 The nightmare continued when the youths who had been detained were transferred to Stilfontein prison. While they were in the police van, the police told them that they were going to be thrown into an old mine shaft at Stilfontein. A tear gas canister was thrown into the vehicle.
329 At Stilfontein prison the young detainees were again teargassed and beaten. They were placed in a dark cell, and the beating continued. Later they were taken outside in freezing winter temperatures and sprayed with water and made to lie on the ground. They were surrounded by police vehicles and beaten once again with plastic batons. Mr Mopeloa told the Commission:
I was badly assaulted. I couldn’t bear the pain … and even asked God to take my life. They poured water on me and they made me lie in the bush and they said I should roll. They said I should sing and I was singing a song ‘God we praise you’, and they put a hose-pipe into my mouth, they said “You are singing nonsense, why don’t you sing the Mandela song, we want to listen to that … “
I said to them, “I do not have an idea of what you are talking about, I can’t even sing those songs.” They forced me to sing and I kept on singing the hymns.
330 His torturers still did not believe that he knew nothing about political activity in the area.
They said, “You don’t want to tell the truth. We want to show you now that you will tell us the truth … “ They took the hose-pipe and put it into my mouth and they opened the tap. My tummy was full of water and I felt as if it was going to burst. I couldn’t breathe. Thereafter Scheepers came close to me and he said, “I am now showing you Mandela.” He used his boot to kick me on the stomach and water came out of my mouth and nose. I was just in a terrible state … After that they made me run along the cars that were parked in a circle. There were soldiers and policemen, whom I do not know, but I only knew Scheepers. Everybody I come across, used his stick to hit me. Each one of them wanted to have their share on me.
331 After five days of continuous assault Mr Mopeloa was finally taken to court. He hoped to find some relief from the judicial system, but was disappointed:
I was expecting at the court of law to give my statement. But no statement was taken from me. What actually happened was, one of the prosecutors came to me and he intimidated me and said if I do not agree to the charges against me, that is public violence, I will be sentenced for five years … We were so scared of the boers at that time, and I was so scared of prison and when they mentioned five years, I got a shock of my life, and I have seen many people who have come from prison, whose lives have been turned into tragedy. I confessed after that intimidation from the prosecutor Jordaan, and I said yes, I was present. You know I just wanted to be free.