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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 524
Paragraph Numbers 59 to 71
DISAPPEARED IN EXILE
59. Thousands of people went into exile between 1960 and the early 1990s. The vast majority of these joined the ANC, while a far smaller number joined the PAC or other small liberation groups such as the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). A number of exiles died in varying circumstances; others started new lives in host countries and chose not to return in the post-1990 period. Inevitably not all those who fled South Africa have been accounted for. Fifty-five of those still missing disappeared after having gone into exile.13
60. For reasons of security, people going into exile seldom informed their families of their plans. Consequently, most families had little information beyond the date that the person had left or gone missing. Some were fortunate enough to receive messages or letters; but in many instances families relied on rumours that family members had left South Africa, and few had any idea of their whereabouts.
61. For many families, the only inkling that something was amiss was when the person did not return with the other exiles in the early 1990s.
62. One of those in the exile category reported missing is Luyanda Eric Mose [EC0953/96/ELN]. On 31 October 1983, Luyanda, a seventeen-year-old member of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), disappeared after leaving his Mdantsane home to buy bread and the local newspaper. After his disappearance, the police continued to look for Luyanda, raiding the family home on more than one occasion, and once surrounding the house in the early hours of the morning. Finally, in 1989, the family received a letter from a friend in Lusaka, informing them that he had seen Luyanda in Angola during 1986. In 1990, Luyanda phoned home, confirming that he was an MK operative and that the organisation was sending him to London to study. This was the last the family heard of him.
63. In a small number of exile cases, there is information to suggest that the missing person is deceased. Where families have accepted this information, such cases are no longer classified as disappearances. However, where this information is disputed, often because families have received incomplete or conflicting information, they remain classified as disappearances.
64. In 1977, Xola Martin Jebe [EC0019/96] and his brother left South Africa for Lesotho, where they attended school. Two years later Xola was recruited by MK and left Lesotho in the company of Mr Chris Hani. The family did not hear fro m him again. When he did not return home from exile, the family began to make enquiries, but received contradictory information from the ANC. His mother, Mrs Madoda, told the Commission that she had spoken to Mr Hani personally, and had been told by him that her son was alive but was still deployed on ‘important business.’ Later she was advised that he had been killed in combat. When she contacted ANC Headquarters, she was given different dates for the alleged incident. At the time, there were disclosures in the press about torture and executions in ANC camps. This led the family to suspect that Xola Jebe might have died as a result of abuse and that the contradictory versions they were hearing might be the consequence of a cover-up by the ANC. The Commission established that Xola Jebe had, in fact, been killed in combat.14 Mrs Jebe, however, remained sceptical. This case illustrates how conflicting information can lead to uncertainty and even paranoia.
65. These cases suggest that the circumstances in which people went into exile, and the lengthy period during which there was no contact or information about the missing person, places families in a particularly vulnerable situation. Any rumour or conflicting piece of information may have a destabilising effect and often leads to disbelief and suspicion. The use of noms de guerre further exacerbates problems of this kind: families rarely know the ‘combat name’ of the missing person, and few operatives and commanders in exile know the birth name.
66. While several of these cases require further investigation, all that is required in some cases is reassurance, further information and, where possible, contact with commanders or those immediately responsible for the death of the deceased. For example, Mr Monoleli Kama [EC2257/97PLZ] was killed in the December 1982 SADF raid on ANC houses and facilities in Maseru. The family was informed by telegram, but was unable to attend the mass funeral because the Security Branch prevented them from leaving South Africa. At a later stage, they asked a family friend to go to the gravesite. However, the friend was unable to locate a gravestone for Mr Kama among those killed in the Maseru Raid. This created doubt in the minds of family members as to whether he really had been killed in this incident. The information received by the Commission confirms that Mr Kama was indeed killed in the raid. The family needed confirmation of this fact and information about the exact location of Mr Kama’s grave.
67. These disappearances place a specific responsibility on liberation movements to assist in establishing the fate of the missing. The Commission notes and acknowledges that, of all the liberation movements, the ANC – despite operating in conditions of hostility and ongoing threats of infiltration – nonetheless maintained records of its membership. It is clear from a number of human rights violations (HRV) statements that, during the years of conflict, the ANC informed many families of the deaths of loved ones in exile or in combat. In some cases, attempts were made to enable them to attend funerals.
68. In the period after 1990, ANC personnel engaged in a co-ordinated effort to inform families of fatalities that had occurred during the exile period. A desk was established at ANC Headquarters to deal with queries about missing persons.
69. The ANC also submitted to the Commission lists of persons who had died in exile. Although it did not detail the circumstances of each case, the list is divided into categories according to mode of death, such as ‘died at enemy hands’, ‘died in accidents’, or ‘died of natural causes’.
70. While these efforts are to be commended, it is also clear that families were sometimes given incorrect and/or conflicting information. Furthermore, the resources of the missing person’s desk at ANC Headquarters were very limited, especially in respect of its research and investigative capacity. In numerous instances , personnel failed to respond to the Commission’s requests for information. Current plans to archive documentation at Luthuli House15 will facilitate in the identification and retrieval of records and may assist in clarifying the fate of missing persons.
71. Whatever the difficulties in following up ANC exile disappearances, the situation was immeasurably worse in respect of PAC cadres and supporters. The PA C submitted very little information to the Commission and generally treated it with suspicion and disregard. Moreover, unlike the ANC, the PAC had conducted no internal enquiries into abuses in its camps or suspicious deaths arising fro m i n ternal conflict. For the most part, the Commission had to rely on the knowledge of particular PAC members who were willing to assist. Tracing missing persons who had joined the PAC presented a far more intractable problem .13 Where a possibility exists that the missing person has died in combat or in ambushes while infiltrating or operating inside South Africa, s/he has been classified as a disappearance in exile. A large proportion of combatants killed inside South Africa were buried as unknown persons at the time. Unless a positive identification was made at the time or subsequent investigations have established the identity conclusively, missing MK operatives remain the responsibility of the organisation. 14 The Commission subsequently established that Xola Jebe had indeed left Lesotho with Chris Hani in 1979. After a brief stay in Mozambique he went for military training in Angola and was part of the Madenoga detach-ment . He later went for further training in the German Democratic Republic before being deployed to Zimbabwe. In November 1983, Xola Jebe (aka Anthony Xaba or Ramyais) and three others infiltrated South Africa from Zimb a b w e. The unit was killed in a clash at Spilsby Farm , in the Alldays district, Northern Transvaal . An SADF soldier was also killed in the incident. 15 Formerly called Shell House.