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Special Report
Transcripts for Section 4 of Episode 62

24:39Women in South Africa have a visible history of resistance to apartheid with a long list of veterans gracing the literature of liberation. Both inside the country and in exile they fought in the trenches as cadres, leaders, rank and file. Less known is the state’s harsh response to the women who dared challenge it; in particular the violation of those who were detained and tortured is only beginning to be voiced. Torture and interrogation is vicious for everyone, but seems as if the South African security forces treated female detainees differently. Gail Reagon spoke to three former detainees whose status as women and as mothers was exploited and used as a method of torture.Full Transcript
25:20There’s a saying in South Africa that women hold the sharp end of the knife. ‘Manguwana otsuara tipa tebogoleng.’ It is an elegant expression. It captures strength and resistance. It is also an image of brutality and oppression. As the Truth Commission attempts to piece together the past, women again grab again the sharp end. Kate Serokolo, Zubeida Jaffer and Shirley Gunn are three such women. Their powerful histories, lashed with pain, echoed the experiences of many others across the land.Full Transcript
26:02Kate and Fritz Serokolo have set up home in Seshego. They have been married for 20 years. In 1978 Kate was pregnant with their second child, Kabelo. She was a sales assistant and Fred a watchmaker. Some time in that year Kate visited her mother in Mamelodi. While there her aunt’s children unexpectedly arrived and stayed a few days. They were Pan Africanist Congress Freedom cadres on the run. Kate and her mother did not know this. In October that year Kate was arrested and though protesting innocence, was sentenced to five years imprisonment.Full Transcript and References
26:45It was the Terrorism Act, because all of the time when they were interrogating me they told me that I’m a terrorist, always said I’m a terrorist. I’m dangerous, I will kill them.Full Transcript
26:59Before her trial Kate was held at the Compol building in Pretoria, a notorious torture centre.Full Transcript
27:06The room was full of blood, on the walls, and they said to me ‘do you see the blood on the walls?’ They said ‘this is the blood from the people like you, people who do not want to speak the truth.’ Before they could grab me they said, they asked me about Tsepho, that’s my aunt’s child. They said ‘where is Tsepho?’ I said ‘I don’t know his whereabouts; he didn’t even tell me when he left. I told you the truth.’ There were many of them, Hasie was among them and them he pulled me, he hit me with a fist and he slapped me. And he was hitting my head against the wall.Full Transcript
28:01A few months into her sentence Kate gave birth to a boy, Kabelo.Full Transcript
28:09There were soldiers all over, even on the bed where I was in the labour ward, the soldiers were surrounding my bed. My doctor, whom I remember very well, Doctor Van der Walt, asked those soldiers to move away from the room because ‘I cannot help this woman with you around.’ They were all men. They refused. I heard them talking over the radio and then afterwards they told the doctor that they should be there when I’m giving birth. They stood there … and I gave birth in their presence, looking at me, laughing at me when I was having labour pain; I was like a joke to them.Full Transcript
29:02It was terrible. Really it was terrible because by that time I did cry and then sometimes praying for myself that if God can take my life with the child, maybe it will be better. Because there was no privacy. Even from my labour ward to the wards. When I wanted to go to the toilet, they didn’t want me to go to the toilet, as if maybe I’ll run away. So, they brought a bedpan to me so I must help myself in front of them. It was really terrible…if maybe I can see those people and then if they can ask for forgiveness, I can forgive them. But just to forgive a person you don’t see, no it’s difficult really. It hurts me, especially when I see my son. No, it doesn’t touch me alright.Full Transcript
30:25Rishka has just had her 11th birthday. Her mother is Zubeida Jaffer, journalist and a former unionist. Zubeida was a few months pregnant with her when she was detained in 1985. It was her second experience with the law. Her first detention was in 1980 when as a cub reporter with the Cape Times she had written an article on police shootings on the Cape Flats where most of the casualties were women and children.Full Transcript and References
30:54They were just ranting and raving on the telephone about it, about how I have written about the police in a negative way, and you know when he came from the phone he just beat me right across the room into the wall and I was just flung across the room. I hit the wall and I was shuddering and shaking. And he said it’s all lies that you’ve written. At one stage they asked one of the men to rape me. He didn’t actually do it, but he did come towards me as if he was doing it. It was all part of a game that they were playing. Full Transcript
31:27In 1985 the physical assault was absent but her interrogator Captain Frans Mostert had found a more dangerous weapon.Full Transcript
31:37By the second detention I think I understood, I thought about that and I understood what had happened, what methods they’d used to humiliating me, break me down. So when they said to me, when they discovered that I was pregnant, I knew immediately that they were going to try and use this and they did.Full Transcript
31:59He came and he said that he knew exactly how he was going to get me to cooperate and that they’d prepared a chemical for me to drink to kill the baby and that he was going to burn the baby from my body. Full Transcript
32:17In 1990 Shirley Gunn, a former MK soldier, was detained with her 16 month old son, Harun, for 64 days. Their arrest concluded a nationwide hunt for the Khotso house bomber whom the police claimed was Shirley. A few months ago, former top police approached the Truth Commission and admitted responsibility for a number of atrocities including the 1988 bombing of South African Council of Churches headquarters, Khotso house.Full Transcript and References
32:48There are two human rights violations that I have chosen to focus on. There could be many more, but I have decided to focus on those two only. The first is being accused for Khotso House, the explosion there and the second is the torture that my son and I endured in 1990. Mister Adriaan Vlok had personally congratulated the forces for their tremendous success in creating havoc and mayhem in Johannesburg and for that particular bomb. And at that point I thought, you’re not going to get away with this and I laid criminal charges against Mr. Vlok, both individually and severally, which means that in his individual capacity I am suing him for R500 000. And because he happened to have been the minister of law and order at the time I sued the ministry as well, for the same amount.Full Transcript
33:59Shirley has reclaimed her dignity by taking on the apartheid state legally, but the emotional scars remain.Full Transcript
34:06The security police in the course of interrogation at Culemborg were telling me that I’m a terrible mother; that I’m not cooperating and that’s why I’m there. And if I wanted my son and I to get out then I had to cooperate and that this was no place for a child and why was I not allowing him to be set free and so forth. It was just too horrific to think that they would maybe take the drastic route and remove him forcibly and take him away. And that’s finally what they did. Two senior social workers from the department arrived with a warrant for his arrest.Full Transcript
34:55They even brought a tape recording of his voice and there was so much anguish in my son’s voice as he called my name ‘mama, mama, mama!’ on the tape. Full Transcript
35:08Eight days later my emaciated son with his eyes sunken into his head, and he looked very very depressed, he was returned to me. So, I knew that this was a victory. He was removed from me forcibly. It wasn’t their good heart that brought him back to me. Something happened out there. I didn’t know what had happened out there, but at least I had my child back. And I still remember his eyes, this doubt in his eyes. They’ve done it to other women, I’m not the only one, and so for all women who have been through this and maybe haven’t been given a chance to articulate what I’m being given a chance to articulate, I hope that it helps them to recover from their experiences. I mean it’s taken me years and I’m still not over it. And Harun is still not over it, it’s something that will take time. With the right kind of support around us we can get over it.Full Transcript
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