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Special Report
Transcripts for Section 6 of Episode 81

TimeSummary
36:08And now for another short profile in our series of backgrounders on Truth Commissioners. Dumisa Ntsebeza is arguably the most controversial member of the Commission. After spending a number of years in detention and defending many political detainees during the 1970s and 80s his job as head of the TRC’s investigative unit puts him at the forefront of uncovering the atrocities of our past.Full Transcript
36:33I was born in Cala, it’s a one horse town in the Transkei. It’s about 20 kilometres from Elliot, about 101 kilometres from Queenstown. So, it’s in the northeast Cape or northeast of Transkei. I was born and bred there, I received my secondary education there until Standard 8 then I went to St John’s College.Full Transcript
37:00From the relatively serene environs of his birthplace in Cala, Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza found himself increasingly thrust into the political upheaval that was gathering momentum in the South Africa of the 1970s and 1980s. He was detained in his second year of study at the University of Fort Hare under the then terrorism act. He eventually obtained a Bachelors degree and went on to teach.Full Transcript
37:25’74 I taught in the college of sons and chiefs and headmen, some of my students there were General Holomisa; General Matanzima, who is now Provincial Commander of the Eastern Cape, Commander of the South African National Defence Force; General Brigadier Mkwebi, who is now very much in the SANDF, close to the Minister of Defence. So you can see I’ve produced for this country some leaders of note, some of them very controversial. Full Transcript
38:00But in 1976 the law caught up with Ntsebeza again. He was detained along with Matthew Goniwe and others for furthering the aims of communism. He was released in 1981 and had by then resolved what his role in the struggle would be.Full Transcript
38:16I decided then that my contribution is going to be in the area of defending political offenders and I made it very clear to liberation movements that I did not want to be compromised. I was going to do legal work, because it was risky enough to do legal work, I mean Mxenge was killed for no reason but just that he was defending political offenders.Full Transcript
38:40Ntsebeza ran a legal practice and defended political detainees until 1995 when he joined the Truth Commission. He was nominated to the Commission by his colleague Khaliphile Sizani, then a PAC member of Parliament. Full Transcript
38:56I was violently against that. I told him listen from what I’ve seen of the Bill there isn’t a way I’m going to reconcile myself with this amnesty process. And you know we began to discuss this no, I was totally against it, but you know he kept on.Full Transcript
39:21Contrary to his expectations Ntsebeza was shortlisted and called in for an interview.Full Transcript
39:25And in the course of it … I remember Bishop’s story, I think he is the one who asked why I thought I ought to be a Commissioner. Then I said well maybe I ought to be the one because first of all I’m a Marxist, which I think blew everybody, because I mean we had people from the Freedom Front and what have you. So I was doing everything to make sure that I don’t qualify. But I then said, but also I was brought up by Christian parents and there’s something to be said about the fact that the only difference between the teachings of Marx and Christ is the fact that Marx promised all the good things in life: equality, freedom from slavery, freedom from poverty, disease and all that. He promised all those things in this world. Christ promised them in the next world.Full Transcript
40:30Since being appointed head of the TRC Investigative Unit Ntsebeza has found that time is a precious commodity. He makes special provision for spending time with his two sons, SAmorea and Castro.Full Transcript
40:47I wish there was time to relax in the Commission, I would of course be naïve to imply that one works all the time, but for a reason that I cannot blame anyone for. The cellphone never stops ringing. I make an effort to read Jacques Pauw’s books and related books about Truth Commissions in the world. I do now and again go to the movies and it’s a very escapist sort of environment. I like any form of movies, ‘skiet en donder,’ you know, because it’s an escape from the harsh realities of the world.Full Transcript
41:37Perhaps the most trying time for Ntsebeza was when he was accused of driving the car that took APLA cadres to their grim mission at the Heidelberg Tavern in 1993. Post-TRC life for Ntsebeza means going back to the things he loves doing most, his legal practice.Full Transcript
41:55I would like to think that I will practice exclusively in the High Court. Attorneys now have a right of appearance. I would like to believe that I should be able to be a litigator, preferably around Constitutional education issues in the High Court and in the Constitutional Court.Full Transcript
 
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