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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type 1 S DLOMO JELE, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 30 April 1996
Location METHODIST CHURCH, JOHANNESBURG
Names SYLVIA DLOMO JELE
Case Number GO/O183 JOHANNESBURG
DR BORAINE: Mr Chairperson the following witness is Mrs Sylvia Dlomo-Jele and I would ask her to please come forward. My first words to you are a very warm word of welcome to you this morning on behalf of the Commission. We are very pleased that you are here and we are looking forward to hearing your story even though yet again it's a very tragic one involving the death of your son. Before I begin to ask you about that though I have to ask you to take the oath so I would be grateful if you would stand please.
In 1986 a state of emergency was declared in South Africa, not for the first time, this was in June, this resulted in many, many people being detained. In fact in 1986 26,000 people were detained and the main targets of this action by the State were students and youth activists. In 1986 children aged 18 and under made up 40% of those who were detained. It was during these years that your son Sicelo Dlomo, who was then under the age of 18, was detained at least four times.
MS DLOMO-JELE: In the beginning I would like to tell this Commission that the harassment and the pain didn't start at the time when my child died. The whole thing started in 1985 when he was still very young when he started getting involved in student's organisations and then he started being harassed by the police. Until other organisations also got involved in conflict with his organisation. He was also being harassed during school hours. Soldiers and police used to go to school to look for him at school and the headmaster would take him away and hide him among other children. Until there was a conflict between him and the other organisations so the cops were looking for him and other organisation. These things really worried me a lot because this other organisation wanted to kill him as well. I don't know if they were influenced by the White people because these people who were looking for him they were riding in flashy cars but they were looking for him, and they had guns. Until our house was burnt down, it was petrol-bombed. When our house was petrol-bombed I suffered quite a lot and I was also very worried that because my mother nearly died during the petrol-bombing. When my mother tried to take the blankets, to retrieve them from this fire we asked my mother to get out and then when she tried to take the blanket the bomb hit the bedroom and we had to take her to the hospital.
and out of our place harassing my child. The police used to urge me that I must tell my child to stop being involved in politics. I said to them I do not know that he is involved politically but I do know the organisations he's involved with. I really didn't understand what was the relationship between politics and student organisations. I did try to tell my child to stop being involved in political activities but he said to my mother these are our rights, I cannot stop being involved.
He just said to me that he was worried that his involvement in politics would also lead his family to being harassed. And because the police were after him he started living in .05.96 NAME: MARTHA YEBONA MAHLANGU
DR RANDERA: Excuse me Mrs Mahlangu, I understand that there are members of the public who want to make statements to the Truth Commission, could we please ask them if they want to listen to the testimonies today they are most welcome to do so, but if you want make your statements you can go to our offices in the SANLAM centre around the corner on the 10th floor. Thank you.
DR BORAINE: Mrs Mahlangu, I want to welcome you very warmly to the witness stand. We are very grateful to you for coming, we know that it's not easy, in fact it's very costly. May I ask you first, you have brought somebody with you, perhaps you could tell us who that is?
DR BORAINE: Thank you very much indeed, please be seated. Mrs Mahlangu, in order to assist you, as you unfold a very grim and horrifying story about your son Solomon, I'm going to ask Mrs Joyce Seroke, if she will lead you, thank you.
MS SEROKE: Good morning Mama Martha, thank you that you took this opportunity to come here. Before I ask you questions, I will give some explanations, the background information in English showing what was happening during that time when this happened to your child, what the situation was then. I will just say briefly something indicating the situation during Solomon Mahlangu's time.
Solomon Mahlangu, a 20-year old standard nine pupil fled South Africa in February 1976. He returned in June 1977 with a friend Monti Motloung and armed with Russian- made weapons and a handgrenade, killed Mr Rupert Kessner and Mr Kenneth Wolfendale in John Orr's Gogh Street warehouse. On Friday 6th of April 1979 Solomon Mahlangu was executed for his part in these killings. In tribute to Solomon the ANC later named the school set up to educate students who had fled South Africa before completing their education, the Solomon Mahlangu School.
Solomon and Monty were apprehended and charged under the Sabotage Act. Evidence led in court stated that the two young men had trained in Angola as guerillas before slipping back into the country. Motloung was declared unfit to stand trial while Mahlangu was sentenced to death in the Rand Supreme Court. The charge of sabotage carried a minimum sentence of five years but the death sentence imposed on Solomon Mahlangu caused an international outcry. The court found that it was actually Monty Motloung who had fired the shots but that he was suffering from a mental disturbance allegedly related to the shooting and was thus unfit to stand trial. The Judge found, however, that Mr Mahlangu had shared a common purpose with Mr Motloung to use their firearms should the circumstances arise. Leave to appeal was refused, an application for trial on the grounds that people who wer