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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 262

Paragraph Numbers 54 to 60

Volume 4

Chapter 9

Subsection 7

Detention and imprisonment of children and youth

54 In large-scale and often arbitrary police action, thousands of children, some as young as seven years old, were arrested and detained in terms of South Africa’s sweeping security and criminal legislation. Sometimes, entire schools were arrested en masse. 11

55 It is clear from the body of evidence presented that large numbers of children were detained during the period covered by the Act. Detention was a major weapon in the former state’s armoury of terror and repression. At times, during the years of greatest conflict, children under the age of eighteen years of age represented between 26 per cent and 45 per cent of all those in detention. All the available figures indicate that the largest number of children and youth was detained between 1985 and 1989, during the two states of emergency. Of 80 000 detentions, 48 000 were detainees under the age of twenty-five.12

56 Mr Mxolisi Faku of the Eastern Cape described his experiences in detention when he was in standard eight. At this stage, he was a member of COSAS and was engaged in mobilising students and parents about the importance of establishing a democratically elected students’ representative council, while also encouraging students to participate in a bus boycott. In 1983, the leadership of COSAS was arrested, followed shortly afterwards by the arrest of other members. He said:

I think the youngest amongst us was ten or eleven years of age and his surname was Majeke. He was in hospital with a bullet in his body. However, after being discharged from the hospital, [he] was taken back into prison.

57 Mr Faku described the torture they experienced at the hands of the police:

They would take our genitals and squeeze them against drawers, hoping to get information, because they were convinced that we worked together with people who were in exile.

58 Fear of detention meant that many young activists were ‘on the run’ and ‘in hiding’. Sandra Adonis, a member of the Bonteheuwel Military Wing, lived ‘on the run’ until she was eventually captured by the security police:

By the time they got hold of me, I knew their tricks and I was preparing myself all the time for this day. You know, it is like you prepare yourself for death, because you do not know what is going to happen and even if you prepare yourself how much, you will never be able to prepare yourself really.

59 She used various strategies to deal with the police:

I was, like, trying to hit back at him all the time, but also in a very gentle way not to have him think that this is a stubborn woman, because once you show stubbornness, they would show no mercy.

60 Upon release from prison, many young people were subjected to bannings and other restriction orders, turning the young person’s home into another kind of prison. They were forced to report to police stations once a day and were prevented from participating in political and social activities.

11 Scott, D. (1997) Submission on Children and Youth. Original source: Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, (1986) The War against Children: South Africa’s Youngest Victims, New York. 12 Coleman, M. (1997) Submission to special hearing on children and youth, Johannesburg.
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