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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 129
Paragraph Numbers 36 to 43
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: THE ‘NIETVERDIEND TEN’ AND SIYABULELA TWABU
36. Whilst the Commission process did unearth a significant amount of new information with regard to the causes, nature and extent of gross human rights violations, its processes inevitably also produced important information that could not be brought to an absolute conclusion or closure .
37. Perhaps the most painful scenario that arose from the limitations of the process was that the families of deceased victims learnt of the fate of their loved one(s), but did not learn of the whereabouts of their remains. One such example of this is the ‘Nietverdiend Ten’, the case of ten youths killed in a joint SADF and Security Police operation. The youths, aged between 14 and 19 years, had been ‘ recruited’ by Security Branch agent, Joe Mamasela, purporting to be an Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) operative.
38. The youths left their Mamelodi homes on 26 June 1986, accompanied by Constable Mamasela, believing they were being taken to Botswana for military training. Instead, Mamasela drove them to a spot close to the Botswana border where a team of SADF Special Forces operatives surrounded them and injected them with a chemical substance, rendering them unconscious. A Special Force s operative then drove the vehicle towards an embankment, leapt out and left the vehicle to careen into a tree where it burst into flames, killing all of them.
39. The families of these youths spent ten years in ignorance of their children ’s fate. Many waited eagerly for their homecoming in the early 1990s when most exiles w e re returning to the country. Only in 1996, following investigations by a special unit set up by the Attorney-General, did the families learn that their children were dead. The circumstances surrounding their death remained sketchy, however, and it was another three years before they were to witness the amnesty hearings of the perpetrators of these killings.
40. The families appealed for the remains of their children. Mrs Martha Makolane, the mother of 17-year-old Abraham, testified:5 9
I don’t have the [reconciliation] as they have taken them from my place to the place where they have killed them. I want them to go and fetch them where they’ve left them to bring them home so that we will be able to bury them peacefully. Yes, we want those bodies as they have taken them from Mamelodi. They have got to go back and fetch them from that place and bring them back to Mamelodi so that we will be able to bury them.
41. Mrs Phiri, the mother of 21-year-old Thomas, testified6 0:
Let them tell us the full story so that we can – we are deeply hurt. If they tell the s tory, we will be okay. We want to know where these children were buried because we were never told the truth of where they were buried.
I want to enquire from the killers: yes, they told us that they killed them, they told us that they injected them with drugs and they are buried, but I want them to know that their graves are open and even in heaven they will not get forgiveness at all because they killed minor children. Had these children killed people b e fore, we would have understood that, yes, it was their turn to be killed. But I want to tell them today that they will never get forgiveness from God at all. Their graves are waiting for them, waiting open.
42. Further investigations revealed that the youths had been buried in pauper’s graves in Winterveld cemetery. After three visits to the cemetery, the families made contact with two workers who remembered burying the remains. They were, however, unable to locate the exact sites.
43. The most recent attempt to exhume the remains was carried out on 3 March 2001. However, the areas indicated by the cemetery staff did not produce anything. Fourteen years after the youths disappeared, the search has now been reduced to an area the size of half a football field – seemingly so near, yet so far away from the sort of ceremony that the families need traditionally, culturally and emotionally for closure. All those who applied for amnesty for this incident have had their applications granted.59 Evidence heard at hearing of the Committee in Johannesburg in the application of J Cronje and others, 2 1 – 3 1 October 1996. 60 Evidence heard at hearing of the Committee in Johannesburg in the application of J Cronje and others, 2 1 – 3 1 October 1996.