TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
SUBMISSIONS - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
DATE: 07 APRIL 1997
NAME: JONI TSILI
CASE: EC0046/96 GRAHAMSTOWN
CHAIRPERSON: Are you Joni Tsili?
MR TSILI: Yes.
CHAIRPERSON: Where is Jacob Nombiba? Who are you Ma'am?
MR TSILI: She is my daughter, she was present at the time when her mother was injured.
CHAIRPERSON: Is she going to testify?
MR TSILI: Yes because she was there.
CHAIRPERSON: What is her name?
MR TSILI: Her name is Nomangesi Tsili.
CHAIRPERSON: We welcome you and we would ask Rev Xundu to help you take an oath. I will start with you Mr Joni Tsili, please stand up.
JONI TSILI: (sworn states)
NOMANGESI TSILI: (sworn states)
JACOB MBUYISELO NOMBIBA: (sworn states)
CHAIRPERSON: We will ask Reverend Xundu to lead them questions on behalf of the Commission.
REV XUNDU: I don't know whether Nomangesi is going to start and tell us about the situation in Grahamstown so that we can have a clear picture of what was happening in Grahamstown. Please Nomangesi tell us briefly, give us a clear picture of what was happening in Grahamstown.
MISS TSILI: At the time there were school boycotts. There are schools in our streets, Andrew Moyake and Natalenyawusa High School. On this particular day all the people came from Josa to join the boycott. Students would not wear their uniforms, it was about nine or ten on that day. We were going to the shop, I was going to the shop together with my mother, we watched students as they were toyi-toying, singing around the school. We were passing a crowd. My mother was disturbed by this because her son was a comrade and he was a member of this crowd.
REV XUNDU: Were you a student?
MISS TSILI: Yes I was doing standard one at the time, I was 10 years old.
REV XUNDU: Your mother was she a member of a political organisation?
MISS TSILI: No.
REV XUNDU: In other words she was coming from the shop?
MISS TSILI: We were on our way to the shop at that time.
REV XUNDU: What is important is at that time people were struggling, they did not want to accept that policy of the government at that time.
MISS TSILI: Yes.
REV XUNDU: Your mother was just passing by?
MISS TSILI: Yes we were just going to the shop.
REV XUNDU: According to your view was it an incident that your mother got shot?
MISS TSILI: When we came back from the shop we saw police vans. We decided to go home. The police came out of their vans, together with dogs, some of them went inside the school beating the students. There were residents outside who were watching this. Students couldn't go out because the gates were locked, we ran away because everybody was being beaten up.
REV XUNDU: You said that police were beating Black people?
MISS TSILI: Yes they were beating people all over in the street.
REV XUNDU: There was no law governing at that time.
MISS TSILI: We went in the first yard but the owner of that house chased us away. We went to another yard but the gate was locked, we couldn't open it. My mother tried to let me in that yard but she couldn't go in. There was a small hole. It was the last time I saw her. I came in that house, there were many students, some were injured.
REV XUNDU: According to your view your mother got shot at that time?
MISS TSILI: At about five minutes when I was inside that house I heard from those who came in that house saying that my mother was shot outside.
REV XUNDU: In your statement you mentioned that the police who shot your mother was Tungata, did you see him or did you hear this?
MISS TSILI: I heard this from people. My father used to go to court, because I was still young I couldn't understand what was going on.
REV XUNDU: The name of Tungata was mentioned in court?
MISS TSILI: Yes.
REV XUNDU: Did he agree? Did he agree that he was the one who shot your wife?
MR TSILI: Yes he did.
REV XUNDU: After the court case were you compensated by the government due to this?
MR TSILI: No we were not compensated but they told me that my lawyer was defeated by the State's attorney. I was supposed to pay 800, I asked them what for. They told me that my lawyer was defeated by the State attorney. I told them I'm not going to pay the money. They said that I must not say that I am not going to pay the money, but I must say I don't have it. I told them that I'm not going to pay the money. If you want to shoot me, shoot me so that I can join my wife. They told me I have to pay the 800
REV XUNDU: Who told you this?
MR TSILI: The police in the police station told me. The police station in New City.
REV XUNDU: Do you know the name of the policeman who told you this?
MR TSILI: No I don't know his name. I told them I'm not going to pay the 800.
REV XUNDU: You buried your wife?
MR TSILI: Yes, but the police were all over. They were in my house. They wanted to shoot the people who attended the funeral. I went to the police telling them they must leave my house.
REV XUNDU: You mean that this funeral was not dignified?
MR TSILI: Yes they told me to bury my wife on a Wednesday. I told them that I'm not going to do that because my family was all over, some of them were in Port Elizabeth, but we managed to bury my wife on Saturday.
REV XUNDU: Was she working?
MR TSILI: No, she was not working, she was selling veg in the township.
REV XUNDU: But she was supporting the family by selling veg?
MR TSILI: Yes.
REV XUNDU: What would you like the Commission to do for you?
MR TSILI: I don't know what to say but the Commission will see what to do for me because my child was only 10 years old at that time. Others at least were grown up, but I tried to educate them.
REV XUNDU: Listen Sir you will have to tell us what you would like the Commission to do. Just tell us your request so that we can see what we can do so that we can forward your request to the President.
MR TSILI: My wife was supporting me, we were not suffering at that time, now I am alone and I cannot support my family.
REV XUNDU: Do you receive a pension?
MR TSILI: Yes I do.
REV XUNDU: Thank you. Thank you Mr Chairperson.
REV XUNDU: Before my colleagues ask questions, let me continue with Mr Nombiba, what is your clan name Sir?
MR NOMBIBA: I am Dhlamini.
REV XUNDU: Mr Zizi can you please give us a picture of what happened when Boyboy was shot?
MR NOMBIBA: It was in 1980 when this incident happened. It was a funeral that day, Mrs Tsili's funeral. It was on Saturday in 1980. People went to the funeral and these boys after the funeral went home, and thereafter late afternoon that day the hippo were all over the township. I sent my boy to the shop at that time to go and buy paraffin. After a while he did not come back. I heard seven shots being fired. I was not happy, I was restless because my boy was not coming back. I went out looking for him. While I was still doing that I saw one boy coming in asking where Boyboy was staying. I said he was staying here. He told me that he was shot on the corner of Q Street. We went there together with my wife. We found him lying down. He was not dead at that time. We tried to find a vehicle to take him to the hospital. We managed to get a car.
REV XUNDU: Was Boyboy a student at the time?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes.
REV XUNDU: Was he in a political organisation?
MR NOMBIBA: I am not sure because at that time the children did not tell us everything, they would deny being a member, although they were members.
REV XUNDU: Was Mrs Tsili a member of a political organisation?
MR NOMBIBA: I don't know, but all the boys went to attend her funeral.
REV XUNDU: You said that it was a political funeral in Grahamstown, do you agree that Mrs Tsili was buried and her funeral was organised by the activists?
MR NOMBIBA: I don't know but the boys went to attend the funeral. I don't know whether they were activists or what. When I was asking my son he didn't tell me anything.
REV XUNDU: Were there any regulations made to the funeral or were there any police present?
MR NOMBIBA: I don't know because my boy didn't tell me anything.
REV XUNDU: Were there police at the funeral to observe what was happening? They used to observe activists' funerals. You mentioned that these boys went to attend Mrs Tsili's funeral, after that there was a toyi-toyi, what I am asking is that was Mrs Tsili a member of a political organisation or were the police observing the funeral?
MR NOMBIBA: I don't know about that Sir.
REV XUNDU: You said that you sent your son to the shop and you heard that he was shot, was it the usual thing that when you send your child to the shop they would be shot?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes.
REV XUNDU: In other words you are saying that the police were just killing everyone?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes that is correct.
REV XUNDU: Your son was also a victim of this police act?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes.
REV XUNDU: Was there a court case?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes there was a court case after a while, after his funeral.
REV XUNDU: Were there any police charged?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes the policeman was in the court. He was testifying against my son.
REV XUNDU: Did he accept that he shot him?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes, he said that the reason for him to shoot my son was that he was leading a dangerous in Q Street, they were throwing stones. This policeman said that it was then that he decided to shoot him to protect the White men in the hippo.
REV XUNDU: Was that the end of the case?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes.
REV XUNDU: Did you receive any compensation?
MR NOMBIBA: No.
REV XUNDU: Do you have a request to the Commission to forward to the State President?
MR NOMBIBA: Can you please repeat your question Sir?
REV XUNDU: Sir maybe you have a request to the State President due to this incident because you lost your son? Do you have anything to say to the Commission so that we can forward your request to the President?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes I do have a request. This child was supporting me at home. I told the statement-takers my request because they wanted me to say what I want from the government and I told them, I told the statement-takers.
REV XUNDU: What did you tell them?
MR NOMBIBA: I told them that I wanted the government to assist me, to give me R90 000.
REV XUNDU: Do you have any request except the one you've just mentioned, do you have anything else to add?
MR NOMBIBA: (...indistinct)
REV XUNDU: Mr Chairperson I think we are finished. Let me hand over to you now.
CHAIRPERSON: Ntsiki Sandi?
MR SANDI: Thank you Mr Chairperson. I would like to address this question to the Tsili family. Mr Tsili you said that during the court case, did you go there to listen?
MR TSILI: Yes.
MR SANDI: Who represented you?
MR TSILI: Nobody represented us, they were just talking to us. They showed us the police who killed my wife. They said that he was Tungata from Port Elizabeth. He was a tall man.
MR SANDI: You say that you were not represented by a lawyer?
MR TSILI: There was a lawyer but I don't remember clearly who it was because I was still confused at that time because of the loss. I don't know who hired the lawyer because I did not hire a lawyer but there was a lawyer representing us, the one who it was said he was defeated by the State attorney.
MR SANDI: I want to make sure about this Mr Tungata. Do you have his full names?
MR TSILI: No I don't know his full names, but they just showed us him.
MR SANDI: You said that in court Mr Tungata accepted the responsibility to say that he was the one who shot your wife?
MR TSILI: Yes.
MR SANDI: Did he give reasons?
MR TSILI: Yes. He said that he was shooting students who were running away, the bullet shot my wife.
MR SANDI: Why was he shooting students?
MR TSILI: He said that he was shooting them because they did not want to attend classes, he wanted them to go back to school.
MR SANDI: You mean that they were standing them, they were shooting them, telling them to go back to school?
MR TSILI: Yes they were shooting them and there were dogs all over.
MR SANDI: Let us go back to R800. The police who said that you were supposed to pay R800 is there a written order that they showed you from court stating that you have to pay R800?
MR TSILI: No there was no written order. We were in the police station, we were not in court at the time.
MR SANDI: Did you receive a letter at home saying that you must pay R800?
MR TSILI: No because I told them that I am not going to pay the money. They asked me whether I was - I had a car or a house. I told them that whether I have a car or not is not their business because I am not going to pay this money.
MR SANDI: This Mr Tungata did you hear anything about him?
MR TSILI: No, I last saw him in court in my wife's case.
MR SANDI: Thank you Mr Tsili, thank you Chairperson.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Nombiba I have a few questions for you. I want to know Sir who was representing you in court, who was the lawyer representing you in court?
MR NOMBIBA: There was no lawyer representing us.
CHAIRPERSON: Why did you not hire a lawyer, were you not interested or were you not able to afford a lawyer?
MR NOMBIBA: The reason is that at that time the police said that I was a killer, I was the cause of all the trouble in Grahamstown. That is the reason that I did not hire a lawyer because all the lawyers were under the government.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Sir for that answer. We know that many people lost their people, they couldn't get lawyers because they thought that the lawyers were representing the system. You mentioned that there was a policeman who said that he was the one who shot your son, do you still remember his name?
MR NOMBIBA: I heard his name being mentioned, his name was Philip. I also saw the name on my son's death certificate, the name of the people who killed my son.
CHAIRPERSON: Is it possible for you to give us the death certificate so that we can make copies?
MR NOMBIBA: We gave the death certificate to the statement-takers.
CHAIRPERSON: When this policeman gave evidence he said that he shot your son because he was leading a dangerous mob?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes. He said that they were carrying stones.
CHAIRPERSON: Was he defending himself or what was happening?
MR NOMBIBA: He said that the reason for shooting him is that he was defending the White people in the hippos it is when he decided to shoot my son.
CHAIRPERSON: You say that he was defending White people who were in the hippo?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes, their soldiers and their police.
CHAIRPERSON: They had weapons, guns with them?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes.
CHAIRPERSON: They were being protected from children who had stones?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes.
CHAIRPERSON: How old was your son?
MR NOMBIBA: At that time he was 19 years old.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
MR NOMBIBA: But as I am reading in the newspapers they say that he was 15 years old, I think they just assumed, I know that he was 19 years old.
CHAIRPERSON: Because he's your son?
MR NOMBIBA: Yes he was my son, I was surprised that they just assumed, they did not consult me.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Sandi?
MR SANDI: Thank you Mr Chairperson. Mr Tsili and Mr Nombiba, I can see that you are old people and I believe that old people are wise, under all the circumstances you have just explained to us, the incidents that happened to you as these two families, do you have anything to give us, or do you have any advice to give to the government to make sure that such incidents are not going to happen again, that the police are there to protect people, they are not there to kill children and women, do you have anything to say concerning this Mr Tsili and Mr Nombiba?
MR TSILI: According to my view I believe that a killer must be killed because he is able to kill a person he has to be killed, he is able to kill human beings, not animals. There is nothing else I can think about a killer. He has to be killed as a law has to be passed because I don't have a wife today. I have to support my children. I have to help myself. Because I don't have a wife I have to prepare food for myself. There is nobody preparing food for me because those who were in government at the time killed my wife. Even today when my wife's name is mentioned I feel pain in my heart.
MR NOMBIBA: This is very difficult because the government is trying to reconcile people although these people have done all these bad things to us we are injured, we have wounds inside because of what they have done to us as Black people, they were killing us, but there is a law passed by the government, the government doesn't want revenge, and this is very difficult. My request is that as the government doesn't want revenge these people have to be arrested, have to be put in jail.
MR SANDI: Thank you Mr Chairperson.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Let me start with you Nomangesi. Your mother passed away. She was trying to protect you. I thank you for coming here today to come and testify. We hope that this will remain in your mind that your mother sacrificed her life to protect you.
I want to thank your father. He said harsh words, but I think that he is an example of men, he is the father who showed that although his wife passed away he can raise his seven children. I can see that this incident affected him. As we are looking in his face it is clear that he was injured inside. It is easy for us, as we are sitting here at the table to talk about reconciliation and forgiveness because we did not experience what you have experienced. But we want to salute him and to give him respect because he lost his wife. You were still very young. He managed to try and raise you so that you can be where you are today.
To you Mr Nombiba we would like to thank you. You said something, I think it is very painful, that children did not tell us about their involvement. We found that many parents are not aware whether their children died as heroes because at that time you couldn't go home and tell your parents what you were involved in. You did not want them to expect you to be shot and to be in jail. I think this is one of the important things in this Commission that old people like you, at last they would find the truth, the truth about the struggle of their children, because they did not tell them what was happening.
What is important to me is that maybe the Commission will give out a report that will help you to go to your children's graves, to talk to your children that you were not aware that they were fighting for their country, so that you can salute them.
We thank you for your testimony. We promise that what you have given us will be looked at, especially the two different views you mentioned about this reconciliation. You may sit down, thank you.