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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 200

Paragraph Numbers 148 to 159

Volume 2

Chapter 3

Subsection 16

148 Numerous claims of torture in detention were made during the May 1976 trial of Mr Harry Gwala and nine others under the Terrorism Act. Over forty people were detained in connection with this trial. One of the detainees, Mr Joseph Mdluli, died in detention (see below). Six of the accused filed a summons against the Minister of Police for not responding to claims for damage as a result of torture. Two of the accused, Mr Joseph Nduli and Mr Cleopas Ndhlovu, had been abducted from Swaziland. In his amnesty application, Taylor stated that Nduli and Ndhlovu were in charge of recruiting and escorting recruits through Swaziland in transit for training. They were abducted ... and taken to Island Rock near Sodwana, for questioning. They were assaulted with open hands, fists … kicked. The detainees were also kept awake for long hours and deprived of sleep.

149 A United Nations document gives the following account:

On the morning of 29 March, Cleopas Ndhlovu was blindfolded and led through the forest to a house or hut. A rope was attached to his neck while he remained blindfolded. The rope was affixed to a rafter or similar object above his head. In this position he was repeatedly struck with a stick on his head, knees and feet. His nipples and ears were repeatedly twisted. He was struck with fists on his face and stomach, and threatened that he would be thrown into the sea from a boat.
That night, he was taken and tied to a tree, still blindfolded. His legs were clamped in leg irons. He was left exposed throughout the night of 29/30 March. Early on 31 March 1976, he was dragged by the rope, still attached to his neck, to the sea and compelled to wash himself. He was threatened that he would be taken out to sea and drowned. Throughout this period, he remained blindfolded.
A few days later, he was subjected to electrical shocks.

150 Nduli experienced similar methods of torture. During the trial, a Pietermaritzburg surgeon, Mr R Denyssen le Roux, filed an affidavit which noted scars on Nduli’s forehead, the back of his head, neck, forearms and legs. Major JJ de Swardt and Colonel JG Dreyer denied involvement in his torture. The application for the arrest to be declared unlawful was turned down.

151 Durban security police called to testify included Colonel Dreyer, Warrant Officer Botha, Lieutenant CR McDuling, Captain D Wessels and Captain JC Fourie, all of whom denied assaulting the detainees. However, several accused as well as several of those who served as witnesses claimed assault.

152 Mr Ndoda Anthony Xaba [KZN/PMB/002/PM] testified that he was assaulted, his head banged against the wall, that he was held out of the window and his right arm broken.

153 Mr Harry Gwala alleged that, during a break in his interrogation, Lieutenant Coetzee “walked around like a dog wanting to bite someone’s testicles. The Lieutenant said he would catch hold of my testicles and make me pass faeces.” Colonel Dreyer said in court that it was possible that Gwala could have been interrogated for two days without sleep. Captain Fourie defended interrogating him for a forty-three-hour stretch because of the crisis in the country.

154 In a twenty-hour interrogation session, Mr John Nene was kicked, punched, throttled so that he fainted three times, made to walk with stones in his shoes and threatened with death by shooting or falling through a window. He was kept in a cockroach-infested cell: “In the beginning I didn’t like them, but after a time I played with them and looked upon them as people in my cell.”

155 Mr William Khanyile said he was repeatedly made to sit on an imaginary chair, and was hit and kicked. Mr Vusumusi Magubane was made to stand with stones in his shoes, was throttled and subjected to long hours of interrogation. Mr Zakhele Mdlalose also alleged the ‘imaginary chair’ and ‘stones in shoes’ torture in his evidence.

156 Mr Michael Gumede told the court that police had hit him, put stones in his shoes and made him stand on tiptoe, and tied a brick around his testicles and threatened to continue torturing him until he confessed to having been recruited for military training.

157 Mr Judson Khuzwayo and Mr Russell Maphanga [KZN/FS/142/DN], both defence witnesses, said they were tortured. Mr Frans Kunene, who initially gave evidence for the state, returned to the witness box for the defence. He told the court that he also had stones put in his shoes, was made to squat with his chin and knees against the wall and, when he fainted, was struck with a sjambok. His fingernails were banged with the head of the sjambok; and as a result he had lost them all. This treatment continued until he agreed to give evidence for the state. He was told not to mention assault in court. When he did, he was declared a hostile witness and charged with perjury.

158 After giving evidence for the state, Mr Harold Nxasana returned as a defence witness. He had been held under section 6 of the Terrorism Act for 500 days. He told the court that a cloth had been put into his mouth and a sheet wrapped around his neck and lower face. A policeman had rolled a heavy object like a large metal ball into another cloth and hit him with it. After giving evidence, he broke down, fearing that the Security Branch would kill him for having testified to their actions.

159 A number of Johannesburg detainees who were detained with Mr Neil Aggett (see below) in 1981 made statements about torture under section 6 of the Terrorism Act. An amnesty application in this connection was received from Warrant Officer WC Smith [AM5469/97].

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