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Special Hearings

Type Prison Hearings

Starting Date 22 July 1997

Location Johannesburg

Day 2


CHAIRPERSON: We will now call upon Duma Khumalo to come forward. Welcome Duma. Before you tell us your story, would you stand up. Are you going to take the oath or the affirmation? Oh, you will take the oath?

MR KHUMALO: My problem is one ...

CHAIRPERSON: Will you stand up then and repeat after me.

DUMA KHUMALO: (sworn states)

CHAIRPERSON: Duma, Tom Manthata is going to facilitate the interview.

MR MANTHATA: Will you conduct your evidence in English or Sotho?

MR KHUMALO: (No interpretation available)

MR MANTHATA: Duma, you were detained, tried and sentenced to death with in a very short period of time, that is between, I think it was October if not November 1984, sentenced in 1985, am I correct?

MR KHUMALO: That is true.

MR MANTHATA: Okay, can you please tell us of your observations and experiences about that whole drama?

MR KHUMALO: I tried to write a statement, I have only one problem, I don't know where to start because every minute in death row, there is an event which happened.

CHAIRPERSON: Shall I interrupt a minute. Duma, the interpreters would either have you speak English and not mix English with any other languages, you are making things very tough for them.


CHAIRPERSON: Oh, you'd rather speak in Sotho, thank you.

MR MANTHATA: I think let's confine ourselves to the death row experiences, not the trial and what not and what more.

MR KHUMALO: The experience of death row doesn't begin when you are sent to that cell, the whole experience starts when the Judge pronounce judgement.

I hoped that I will just explain and leave, but after Paula has talked, she resurrected my memory as if this thing has happened yesterday. She helped us a lot when we were just about to be hanged. As she spoke of the seven day experience, we were given five days, because they wanted to do the work faster, but fortunately she was there and she informed our parents to rush to prison.

The first day when I arrived in the death row, if I remember well, when I arrived in that cell, they said you should close yourself in, which means if you close the door on your own, you think that when you open the door again, it will open, in the true sense, the other people would be able to open. It was on the 13th of December 1985.

When I arrived in that cell, there was a mattress. There were blankets on the floor. It is this hard mattress.

By the time I was affected emotionally because when I arrived at the reception, they have already arranged our clothes. But they didn't know our heights then.

I was the tallest amongst the five accused. My trousers was only just beneath my legs, which means the shortest one had a problem with the size of the trousers. They said that the shortest should give me his trousers, then it became too short. We were taken there without shoes and we were taken to the cells.

Then from there, I took the mattress and put them on the bedding because I didn't know the whole procedure. In the morning I just heard stand up, the gates were opened.

MR MANTHATA: Don't wait for the translation, just talk on your own.

MR KHUMALO: I didn't know the routine in the cell, but my neighbour knocked on the door that I should stand next to the wall and then we were counted. After that they brought food.

I was not able to eat. It was difficult. My neighbour said to me, said to the Sergeant - Sergeant give me those food because he is still drowsy. It is true that I was emotionally affected because I took some days without eating.

They took us to the Doctor when we arrived there. I had pimples on my face, I told the Doctor that I have pimples on the face, then he said to me it doesn't help, because you are going to die.

It is useless to remedy those pimples because you are going to die. Then I said to myself, I am not going to wash any more, because it doesn't help, I am going to die in any way.

After some days, because we arrived on the 13th of December and it was - there were no hangings as from that day, and the room in which I was, there was a pot. I arrived on the day that the person who was hanged on that day, has been hanged and I used his clothes, or his blankets.

On the 18th, they put some colourful objects on the passages, then I said to myself, this place, they are killing people, but they are decorating it, which means they are happy with what, they are satisfied with the work.

On the 2nd of January, they opened again. The cell in which I was, the two cells on the right hand side and on the left hand side, mattresses were taken out of those cells. They were making pots because they were putting people who were just about to be hanged. When you were to be hanged, they give you 24-hour freedom.

I was not able to sleep and I was frightened when I see people who were to be hanged. Because those people who were to be hanged, they were given R7-00 to buy anything they liked. I was surprised to see those people, that they were not emotionally affected by the experience. On the last day, they were given chicken.

Those people are not eating that food, they were giving those chicken to their neighbours. After some time, it is then that I saw - because we were stuffing on the deaths of somebody, those who are left behind, are able to be well fed.

In this way he is going to be hanged, and then he gives you a piece of that chicken so that you will fill yourself. It continued that way, you know the hanging continued and I was frightened. After some time I was used to that experience because I had no alternative.

After people were hanged in the morning, they would bring food. We would eat, we didn't have any alternative. Like Paula has said about the wood. That wood was washed by the person who is giving us food. He was condemned to death.

I don't know how he was able to regain his strength to wash the wood which was blooded, knowing that he is on the queue to be hanged. I remember (indistinct) who said to the Mayor, he said to the Major, the food you are giving us is not sufficient. The Major said you will only get food when you are in the pot because you are going to get chicken.

Many things happened. Like when the Chairperson said to me I should take an oath, because there they were using the Word of God. We used to pray all day from Monday to Friday. You would hold services for those who are just to be hanged.

When we were at those night vigils, we didn't say to them go and die, but we would say to them, go thee well. Because there was no alternative. When you are in that pot, it is difficult.

You always think that if somebody would arrive that you are given clemency, or maybe you will be given a stay of execution. I remember the day when Lucky Payi was to be hanged and Tosondo and Siphoqolo, it was on the 9th of September 1987.

They were singing this song, saying Thabo drive the car because the nation is dying. They decided that something should happen so that they should not be hanged. When you are in that pot, time is running fast.

When I look at some things, I am able to laugh. I don't believe that I was the one who was in that kind of experience. I remember the day we were taken to the pot.

What affected me is the way they unlocked the doors. Then they said to you pack your things, you become drowsy. I just took my things and put them in the jacket so that the jacket is small. I took a sheet and put my things, then they said to me, come, come, come, then I said, that is the last.

I wanted to buy time. When we arrived somewhere they said to me, they said that in Afrikaans, the God of this world doesn't have mercy. You will be hanged on the 18th, there will be no mercy for you.

After that, they made us to undress our clothes. They took our underwear, they took our stockings, then we saw that we are going to be hanged being naked. When we arrived there, what was hurting more than anything else, was that we are going to die without the knowledge of our parents, because this has happened many times.

Parents come later after their child has been hanged. We were blessed because of Paula because on Monday they arrived, then Robert showed me a sign that we are leaving. Then when she arrived home, she phoned our parents, then the following day our parents arrived.

There is a minute where you are supposed to write letters, write letters to your parents and your next of kin and your friends to tell them that you are leaving. That is difficult. Where do you start, you start by saying what?

I wrote those letters, but I don't know what I said in those letters. You would say I don't know how I said good bye, I don't know how I said good bye.

At times Ministers who visited us, they made mistakes. They saw that what was happening was evil, but they would come, they would give us the Word of God, they would give us Holy Communion whilst you are just about to be hanged.

We would sign an agreement that we are ready to die. But we didn't believe. We would sign in that big book, we didn't agree, because you don't have an alternative, because you are going to be hanged, your parents would not be there, they would kick you and do anything.

When you consult with somebody who was there, then they would say to you your day will come, I will get you. You don't know what he is going to do to you. It was that kind of a fight. Me, yes, White people used to harass us, torture us, but we were hurt by own people more than the boers or the White people who were there.

They used to call me Nqutyoi, then I complained many times to the Major. The torture we received in that prison, we got it from our own people. Some of them today are in high positions, some of them are Captains now. The torture we experienced there, I agree with Paula, when she said those people who say the death penalty must be brought back, they don't know anything.

They speak because they are ignorant. I am fortunate today because I am living. I am still alive. I was nearly hanged for something I didn't do. I didn't know anything about it. I asked myself that how many people who have been hanged, who were innocent.

How many people who are imprisoned, who know nothing, who have not done those things which they are alleged to have done? I would like that the nation should stop to entertain the return of the death penalty. We have not arrived at the stage where we could even think of the return of the death penalty.

When we looked at the list of people who were going to speak, they spoke of Warrant Officer Steinberg that is going to give evidence. I thought that he is somebody who has tortured us there, but when I arrived there, I saw that he was somebody who didn't torture us, that is why he is brave to be here.

I remember one day when we went for an exercise, when we left for an exercise, we saw a certain Warrant Officer having a rope. All of us were frightened, because we did not know when you would be called. There were strong men, but at night people would cry.

When you ask him why were you crying, he said I was dreaming on my way to the death row. They used to take people, when it is in November and December and October, you would find that 21 people are hanged per week. On Monday they would hang seven, in the pot and on Tuesday they would put seven people, on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, we would only get arrested on Saturday and Sunday, but Sunday at night, the process would start that tomorrow it is Monday.

People are going to die, but there was only one day, that was in December. They came on Saturday evening, they took people. We knew that seven people were hanged per day, but on that day eleven people were hanged and we were not able to eat.

There was this thing which was spoken up by the political organisations saying "save 32". Unfortunately Robert McBride is not here. We were crying that those people were saying "save the 32". Because the government concentrated on the 32 people who were to be hanged.

Then we said people outside are accessibating the hanging, because they don't know the pain we are suffering. Even today, I am not able to believe that I was in death row because when those people were to be hanged, they are taken in the morning, then they would say ... Because we stayed three years.

CHAIRPERSON: The translation is not coming through, English.

MR KHUMALO: The people from the Catholic congregation will stay on my mind forever. Every time when people would be going for hanging, they would sing a song. Never cry my fellow congregators, we will be apart for just a moment. Just like the star that would come and shine again. It was quite tough.

Personally I am not surprised why they harassed and tortured us like that. They shifted me from one cell to the other. To them it was a mistake. I remember one time we were very furious singing Nkosi Sikelel'i Afrika, God bless Africa.

They came and did something shocking to us. Threw me down in the very last section, I was the last prisoner in that cell. They said I led people to do this. It was very difficult and tough on me. Whilst there, what was important was the letters.

They kept our letters from us. The letters were the things that gave us strength. People would tell us that it has been the third week since we have sent you letters, when we found the letters, we found that the letters have been kept away from us eversince. Even when you have the letters, after a certain time, they would come and search the cells, they would seize the letters and tear them.

What hurt me the most was that nothing stolen from outside, would be brought into this jail, but when they get angry, this would happen only when a White man was hanged, only one White man was hanged, they would come at our cells.

You will find that they are very furious, we were ordered to get out of the cells. We would be stark naked and we were told to undergo the frog jump as it was known. Maybe they would find something that we hid on our person, not knowing why we would do that. Like I have said, that there was one boy who arrived at the prison who was under age, he was supposed to be hanged. They let him grow for death row, when he reached 22 years of age, they hanged him.

There are a lot of things that I may tell you, but I don't know where to start. I think I would stop there.

MR MANTHATA: Yes, Duma, I personally find it very difficult to even raise any question. More especially when what you give us complete loss of hope. We are sometimes told that whether these are just political prisoners only, where we are told that some of them become so strong that they can even tell their parents to tell the rest of the nation, not to worry about their death but rather focus on the struggle itself, on the cause for which they are dying.

It never happened to you?

MR KHUMALO: We have this book, called the Sharpville 6. They arrived while we were still on death row. I regretted why I did not skip the country and take up arms. I said that my blood is a sacrifice, it is an indication. This is intertwined - I was prepared to die in that manner, however, on the other side, I was not prepared to die either.


MR NTSEBEZA: Thank you Chairperson. Duma, I would just like to know what you are saying about Steinberg, if you can give us a little bit more detail about what you were saying about Steinberg?

MR KHUMALO: This is twofold, as I have explained I said we were harassed and tortured a lot by our very people. They took side with fellow White people who were there. The Steinberg type of people were those who took the back chairs. I remember when we were in this pot, there were Whites who sympathised with us.

They said we don't believe you will be hanged because we were from different prisons who could manage to get messages from boers or rather White persons, taken from another White person, a boer in my words.

I would say something here. We were people who believed in the traditional medicine and we would ask them to bring this medicines wrapped in handkerchiefs so that we escape the noose. We tried all means to escape the hangman's noose through White people, some of the things we planned, we managed to achieve.

I don't know if I answered you sir.

MR NTSEBEZA: Well, I got the impression in your earlier testimony, you were saying Steinberg was one of those who treated you badly, that is why I wanted some clarification.

MR KHUMALO: Oh, that was not correct sir.


MR LEWIN: Duma, could I ask, I understand that as part of your own programme afterwards, now, to come to terms with what happened to you on death row, you had asked for permission to go back to your cell and that this had been refused. Could you explain about that?

MR KHUMALO: I wrote to Commissioner Olckers that I be granted permission to go back to my cell, thinking that this might help me psychologically. There is this kind of problem here - the dreams that you have whilst in jail, would be reflecting life outside prison.

When you wake up to your embarrassment, you are still there in prison. This brings grave dissatisfaction to you. I have great hardships now. And I think my wife is experiencing a lot of problems. Sometimes I do have nightmares. You find that I dream that I am still in prison, those are my dreams. Most of my dreams pertain to life in prison.

I do not know how to put it quite clearly, I think if I could go back to that prison and assure myself that I have been released, maybe this psychological effect it had on me, might subside. I plead with the Truth Commission to assist me in that regard, that I go back to that cell.

The second point is that the Truth Commission arranges that I meet parents of some of the people I was with on death row, like Lucky Payi and Tosondo and Siphoqolo. I remember that they were from Durban. If I had the means, I would have made everything possible to meet their parents.

MR LEWIN: Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much Duma. I would just like to clarify, that Duma and five others were convicted and sentenced to death for their alleged "association with the crowd", that killed the Mayor, Mr Ndlamini. Although the trial Judge and Appeals court acknowledged that there was no direct evidence they were involved in the murder, and yet they went through this process.

And Paula, earlier, quoted Chris Barnard, the executioner and I would like to quote from her submission what Chris Barnard the executioner says. "I stand at the back when they come in there. The warders lead them and they walk onto the platform under every rope there are two black spoors that is footprints and they stand on this spoors. You put the rope on the one at the back, the second, third, the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. They have white caps on with a flap. The moment you put the rope around his neck, they put the strap over his face. He can still see you until you see the flap down. Then you pull the lever and they drop."

Ironically, coincidentally, another Chris Barnard, the heart surgeon, this is what he says "put a rope around a man's neck, tie the knot next to his ear, fastened his wrists behind his back and drop him a distance of just less than two metres. If you haven't bodged it by miscalculating the length of the drop or the strength of the rope, you will achieve several things at once. The man's spinal cord will rupture at the point where it enters the scull. Electrochemical discharges will send his limbs falling in a grotesque dance, eyes and tongue will start from the facial (indistinct) under the assault of the rope and his bowel and bladder may simultaneously void themselves to soil the legs and drip onto the floor, unless of course you are an efficient hangman who has thoughtfully fitted your subject with a nappy or rubber pants. Quick and clean, I believe that it is a slow, dirty, horrible, brutal, uncivilised and unspeakably barbaric to take a man's life in this manner and for the reason that he had caused the death of another."

Two Barnards, thank you.

MR KHUMALO: Just a moment, when you stated that a certain Warrant Officer was to come here, I had a rope with me. I wanted him to demonstrate to us how they prepared this noose because he was going to put it around my neck, how did they prepare this? I wanted him to explain how he feels about preparing such a noose.

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