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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 396
Paragraph Numbers 83
Reconciliation in Esikhawini, Northern KwaZulu-Natal
83 Journalist Ken Daniels describes the process of reconciliation in Esikhawini in northern KwaZulu-Natal:
Hit squad members reconcile with community they terrorised
The people of Esikhawini township near Richards Bay on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast for the past two weeks relived the horror that befell their community six years ago and at the end of it all on Friday, somehow found it in their hearts to forgive the men who had subjected them to a living hell.
The residents had, before this month’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Amnesty Committee hearings in Richards Bay, been in the dark as to who attacked them mercilessly on a daily basis. They were finally able to confront the seven members of an Inkatha Freedom Party hit squad that has admitted carrying out random attacks on the community of Esikhawini in an attempt to eliminate any support for the African National Congress.
When the community sat down on Thursday afternoon to hear pleas for forgiveness from the row of men that made up their nightmare, they found it had a human face. They saw it in Daluxolo Wordsworth Luthuli’s resemblance to his Nobel Peace Prize-winning grandfather Albert Luthuli. They saw it in Brian Gcina Mkhize who had been stern throughout the two week hearing but let a faint smile slip across his face as he watched a young child wander playfully amongst applicants and victims oblivious to the shocking loss of life being discussed around him. And they saw it in the face of Romeo Mbamba whose face suddenly became awash with tears when he came face to face with a young woman he had crippled.
The victims found it hard to believe these were their tormentors – stripped of their balaclavas and blazing guns – who sat ready to take everything the community was willing to throw at them and then ask for forgiveness. The community and their former tormentors came together in an informal hearing that did not form part of the Truth Commission proceedings and was aimed at giving locals a chance to ask the applicants about particular incidents.
With the emotion drained from everyone after the applicants’ harrowing testimony, the final performance took on a different complexion as perpetrator and victim discussed the mechanics of the political process which brought about a season of bloodletting in the previously peaceful community.
A thin old man with flashing eyes and upright stance indignantly asked Romeo Mbambo why he had killed his neighbour’s son who was not at all involved in politics. Mbambo, recalling the incidents instantly, replied that it had been a mistake and that on the night in question he had been searching for an ANC activist but the assassins had attacked the wrong house and killed the young man along with three of his friends. The old man listened to the account and, as he walked away, he said sorrowfully that his own son had been one of the four killed that night.
Another elderly gentleman walked up to the microphone and in a booming voice questioned Hlongwane’s version to the Amnesty Committee about an attack the old man had suffered. The tough old warrior with grey-tinged beard and hair and the young hit man then engaged in a lengthy discussion about their life and death battle on the night in question. At times the old man smiled as he told Hlongwane how he had avoided the bullets and the blows during the attack.
Finally, the old man told Hlongwane he was lucky that he had not succeeded in his mission, because then he would apologise to him now.
A young woman who had earlier reduced tough hit man Mbambo to tears sat in her wheelchair throughout the proceedings. Nokuthula Zulu was a 20-yearold student when Mbambo and his colleagues fired a shot into her side, paralysing her from the waist down. After the hearing she said she now felt more healed by the experience of confronting her assailants and she had overcome her anger at not being able to walk or to complete her studies.
At end of the meeting, the residents took a unanimous vote to forgive the members of the hit squad. All parties embraced and shook hands. For the residents of Esikhawini the nightmare was finally over.1313 South African Press Association (SAPA) report, 23 April 1998.