CASE: EC0191/96 - UMTATA



MEMBER OF PANEL: The time that you have worked here, you have worked during a very difficult time. The authority here at the time, people who use to be beaten up quite a lot, several times, but people still continued with the struggle. You, particularly, you never turned your back on the struggle. You had the opportunities to have a better life than you had before, but you decided not to do that and we thank you very much for that. We are sure that today when you see, you tell yourself you did not fight for this freedom in vain. Now, with those few words we salute you for giving of yourself for the struggle, your family and other wise. Could you please stand so that you can take the oath.

MR SIGWELA: (Duly sworn in, states).

MEMBER OF PANEL: Thank you. Over to you Mr Chairman.

CHAIRPERSON: We will hand over to Pumla Gobodo who is going to guide the witness.

MS GOBODO: We welcome you honourable MEC. We are very happy for you to come over so that you can give more details about the case that we have just talked about regarding Twalo. I am going to ask Mr Ntsebeza so that he can be able to help us more about Twalo's case. Then after that we can come and talk about your torture during 1968 and 1969. I am just going to start so that I can finish off with the Twalo




case. Thank you.

ADV NTSEBEZA: Kabela I am very happy to see you again. When I read your statement, then I remembered that I use to be tortured in East London and they use to ask me about you. They use to ask me by Dulalokat. They use to ask me about you. I did not know that you were also arrested. Thank you Kabela. This man is also from Cala, is that so? As a veteran in the struggle he use to say if somebody has been arrested for political reasons he use to open up files. Please tell us more about Gwazo.

MR SIGWELA: The honourable Chairperson of the Commission and all the Commissioners, I think it was around September or October in 1980. That was the time when members of the PAC were released and other members of APLA they were led by Sabilo Kweta. He use to be known as Sabilo Palmer. We use to know each other from Kangaluza High School, that is myself and Sabilo Kweta. We were here in Umtata. He came to the Council of Churches where I use to work. I was a field worker at the time. People use to be helped at the Council of Churches. He did come as well and among the things that he said, he said to me there is another young man from Cala, his name is Gwazo Twalo who has been arrested. He is here in prison, not necessarily in any prison, but he knew that while he was being interrogated he did realised that this man is right here. Even with the information that he received from others, but that was my first time to here his name. It was my first time to hear about Gwazo Twalo's name.

As Commissioner Ntsebeza has said before I did not care whether the information that I received was just from the streets, I use to open up files. That particular




information I also included in my journal including it with the others who were arrested, but I tried to find out why was he arrested. They said Gwazo and Sabilo use to know each other during their high school days. Gwazo went to Wentworth to do his medical studies and Sabilo went to Fort Hare University. They went to Botswana as refugees. They went on separate ways. One was going to the ANC so he said I am under the impression that he was trained in Angola, but I wrote down all that information. There is another prisoner who is presumed detained. His name is Gwazo Twalo. He also underwent military training in Angola. I kept that whole record in my files which I kept them. So that when I keep following the case I can be able to refer back to the file so that I can be able to help the family if they came to me to ask more. At that time I did not know that these people that I know, from his family, that it was them because I realised that later this Gwazo Twalo is the same Gwazo Twalo when I came back from, when I was from Robben Island in 1979. You must realise that at that time we were doing everything underground. At that time we were forced to do everything that we wanted to do underground.

I was called by Comrade Kati. He told me that there is another young man here. A man that he was supposed to meet. At that time now it was in the Nobowa rural areas. He was doing the underground work in the country which was now during 1979. He was sent by the Umkhonto we Sizwe command from Lesotho. We spoke with him, but I did not know he was Gwazo Twalo. When I met him I did not know him at all. This name, Gwazo Twalo, was quite new to me. It was if I had known him right from the beginning, that this is Gwazo Twalo when we were at Cala. I could be able to associate




these two, but I could not at that time. This whole period that were together in 1980 I could not associate this Gwazo Twalo to be the same person who was from Cala. The same person that I met at Engcobo. The same person that I had information about his disappearance. He did not come back in 1979 when he was supposed to come back, to come back to Lesotho. The report that I got was that he did not come back at night. People wondered what happened to him. Now when I got this information, but I could not associate these two meetings.

Now in 1981 when I was going to Lesotho, when I got there this man had already a wife now when he was outside, while he was in exile. His wife was very worried until she decided to contact the lawyers. She contacted lawyers in Port Elizabeth, but I have forgotten the name of the firm, such that if I knew that I was going to be talking about this here, I would have brought out all the facts, but it was a firm of lawyers. She was trying to trace her husband. From Lesotho I got a request from Chris Hani that we must also try and trace and find out if there is any information about this young man. I tried by all means because I what I wanted to do most was to meet his wife so that I can get all the details. So that I can just find out if she suspects, she has any suspicions about his whereabouts. At that time there was International Committee of the Red Cross, it was ICRC. He use to work together in the Council of Churches and I knew that there was this trace urgency because at the time of the struggle. During the wars that were going on, especially the World War, the Second World War. Many people disappeared and I was involved in tracing those people.




Now during the Vietnam War, after the Americans had fled, there was more tracing and there was this problem of tracing. I can remember one child that was traced to Tanzania. He was a white child. They were captured by the Frelimo. Then I approached them in Pretoria. Now that is how we started to work with the International Red Cross. They gave me tracing forms, I took those forms to Lesotho. I did not meet this wife still. I left these forms with the ANC people telling them that they must give these forms to Ezra's wife. I did fill in all the particulars, Kwazo's particulars. Everything that I knew about him and the last time I saw him. Now in the end what transpired through the lawyers and the efforts of the International Committee of Red Cross was that the Pretoria did give the affidavit that they arrested Ezra in Aliwal North and then released him in May 1980. That is how the documents say this. Now anyone can just think for themselves if that is something usual for a person to be just released after the person has been suspected of so many political activities. Now, still I could not reconcile his release with the fact that in October 1980 I met Sabilo Kweta saying that, no, this person we are talking about is here inside the prison.

The situation stayed like that for quite a while. Still I was trying to make an attempt. While I was still trying to do that I was arrested as well. Even in my pocket I still had this woman's address. During the time of my interrogation, I was interrogated by a Lieutenant Boy. He said to me, what is this? I said this is somebodies address. The person is a detainee, he has been disappeared. Then he said, is he here with us? So he took the address and threw it in the trash bin. That was the last time I saw UMTATA HEARING EASTERN CAPE PROVINCE



the address. Now, after that I was concentrating on other things. I could not find any leads even from the Red Cross and from our own side. Nothing happened.

Now in 1981, if I am not mistaken about the time, four men were released. Madi Koniwe, Mr Ntsebeza, this one who is just sitting across me now. You will forgive me for pointing my finger at you while you are a Commissioner. They came to the office, Mr Ntsebeza said to me, man there is something suspicious because it looks like they were also taken to Sakspruit, I am sorry, in Mount Fletcher. He said there is something about Gwazo here in this prison. It looks like Gwazo is here in the prison, but I do not know if that was true at the time. Even the man who was here now before me, I think he knows about this, he talked about him. It was at that time when I was able to gather the, but the whole process kept on going by the Council of Churches, here and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Now, by the International Committee of the Red Cross was, had this case, but this was one of their unsolved cases that they had. I will really like the Commissioners to please contact the Red Cross so that the case can be reopened. Thank you.

ADV NTSEBEZA: That is where I will end Kamela. The next one will be Pumla Gobodo next to me so that we can get more from your wisdom.

MS GOBODO: Thank you Dumisa. To be quite one Thembu, that will also give me the opportunity to call you Kamela. You must not talk about Dalamore, but we are very happy to have you here before the Commission. All those atrocities that happened in the 1960's, it is obvious that the torture to our people started quite a long time ago. Now, you have




come here to talk about the fact that you were arrested from 1958. Tell us how did it happen that you were wanted by the Security Police?

MR SIGWELA: Thank you lady and all the Commissioners. In short, I am here to the Commission about a matter that does not only concern me, it concerns a lot of us. We have been trying to consider this, about this matter. Even though we did not come to a concrete conclusion, but when the Commission started we decided for us to take the lump out of our throats, we must come to the Commission and say what is inside us. I am going to start about 1968.

In 1968 I was working at the Xhosa Development Corporation at that time. I was a work study assistant in the Xhosa Development Corporation. Their offices use to be in the Vulenlela in the industrial section there. I was fetched in the mornings by my Manager. He said I must come and study a certain construction that was here next to the hospital. Only to find out there was a plan so that I must be taken out of where I was working. There was just another car that just passed us by and that is how I was taken.

Once we got into the camp, which is now a Police Training College, they use to kick me on my chest. That was Mr Brown kicking me. He was the Chief Investigator at that time because of the political issues.

MS GOBODO: Could you please tell us why you were taken?

MR SIGWELA: No, they had not told me anything at that time. They kicked me before they even said anything to me. The only thing that he told me that that trade union of yours is af now. At that time I was still organising the trade union. We use to call the Transkei General Workers Union. We use to organise everybody because it is because of the




way workers use to be treated in Umtata, in all the workplaces in Umtata.

He slapped my face and he kicked me. He kicked me with mule kicks and when I was becoming weak, I could not even stand anymore, the Captain stopped him. It was Captain Jacbos. He said no, no, stop. From there I was taken to the township where I use to stay. That is where they searched my place. They found one of the people that I use to stay with. Even though he never use to be there all the time. His name was Amos Yengisie. When he was fetched from the house they kept on kicking him saying that he is a Russian.

While we were in prison they came again to search my house. They said they were using their, looking for a certain secret writing ink. There was another lawyer called Mr Joyi. They were also asked about this certain writing ink. I was quite shocked about this because I did not even know what was a secret writing ink. We were tortured because of this. I do not even know whether they did get this ink, but briefly because I want to get into this point that I am here about.

We were arrested on the 26th of September 1968, but now in January we were transferred. We did not even know where we were going, but there is something that I forgot to tell you. Another one who has been arrested was my uncle Joyi, Chief Jamabantu Joyi. Today he is called Tolamveni Joyi. There were others who were arrested. I use to hear this from the security who use to talk about them. I got this information from the security that they use to ask me, do you know this so and so Laminie from Durban, Nobo and others? I said, no, I do not know these people. So I asked UMTATA HEARING EASTERN CAPE PROVINCE


how did this person come here, this Lingisie. I said, no, I do not know. The only thing I know about him is that he is a salesman. So they said, no, it looks like now this one does not know anything. Then they said, but we wonder why you do not know much. At that time they came with boats and ships which belonged to the English at the time. These were the Intelligence Officers of the Umkhonto we Sizwe.

MS GOBODO: Is this what the security said to you?

MR SIGWELA: Yes, that is what the security told me, but among this whole group that was arrested I was picked out together with Chief Jamabantu. We were put into leg irons and we were hand-cuffed as well. They took Sister Dogata and Lingisie. Then we were all taken to a place that I do not know until we were put into Stimvaries van. On the following day we were taken from the police cells. Just on our way out of the police station in Pietermaritzburg we saw another truck. We were taken from this, another truck into the next one. I saw the way that they were greeting each other. Lingisie was in pawn clothes and we were taken into Court in College Road in the Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg. We were made to line up and we were joined by another woman. I thought she was an identification parade. Her name was Dorothy Neymbe. We were lined according to the numbers of our, of being accused. Number one was accused was Nobowa, number two was Lingisie, number three was Lela Silaminnie and all those who were the ones who came by boat. Number four was Lawrence Pokanogo, number five was Patrick Matanjane from Cape Town and number six Dala Kutsulu. The one we keep on hearing about in the news. Number seven Silas Magotsie and number eight was Johannes Sileka, number nine was Ezra




Sigwela, that is me, number ten was Jonga Bantoskowe, number 11 was Sisa Dogata, 12 was Dorothy Neymbe.

This went on in Court. There were also witnesses Sir. There was also Gatsha Buthelezi. There were also others like Makize. They were captured from Zimbabwe. Others were Mandla Nkosi. They use to tell about the battles that use to happen in Zimbabwe and there others also from the Transkei.

MS GOBODO: Sorry Sir, when you said there were witnesses. Could you please tell us more about the case? This particular case that you came to Court for and Gatsha's involvement.

MR SIGWELA: Our charges were charges were conspiracy to overthrow the State. Those were our charges. That is now count number one. Count number two was military training and count number three were just the other things that we were told that we use to do. Now, the first one was the first, this was the first case of the Terrorism Act. After the Terrorism Act has been passed. The Act use to say the accused is presumed guilty until he or she is proved innocent. In our case it was the reverse. So now this was the first time that we saw these Laws were not so civilized. All I want to do, I am trying to drive into a point. Then we were sentenced under the Terrorism Act. Myself, in particular, I was charged of harbouring especially Lingisie. They said to me they presumed that Lingisie has trained me. So I was also charged of military training.

MS GOBODO: Sorry Sir, I would like to take you back. You said Lingisie was called Russian. When they said you were being harboured, I just want to find out more. What is harbouring?




MR SIGWELA: Now, in terms of the evidence tabled by the police and the other things that they said it was just something that they said because they were angry when they took him from the township. They just said you Russian, come over here, we are arresting you. At that time the community were watching and the people I was charged with except myself and Sisa Dogata and Dorothy Neymbe and Jonga Bantoskowe, all these others were trained in the Soviet Union and the other countries. Then some came back to Zimbabwe. They were involved in certain skirmishes from Kwankie and other places. Some came in by boats. They came to overthrow this country and we did help them because we helped them come through the harbour. The four of us plus another one and other charges. Like I said to you that the military charges were also included in our case.

Then we were sentenced. I cannot remember when our case started, but I think it was in January. Then we were sentenced on the 26th of March 1968. When we were sentenced the accused number two, that was Lingisie, was given 20 years because it looked like he worked too much here in the Transkei and the accused number one up to accused number eight except Dalakola Lakulie, they were given 18 years and then number six which was Dalakola Lakulie and myself, number nine, we were given ten years. Dorothy Neymbe was given 15 years, but Sisa Dogata was discharged. After we were sentenced we just presumed that we were going to Robben Island and Dorothy` was going to the woman prisons in Barberton or Kroonstad, but when, what happened was that we passed Pietermaritzburg, she was still with us. We then realised that it is either we are going to the Free State or Pretoria. Then, ultimately, we went to Pretoria. That is




where we were dropped Dorothy. It was now on the 27th, we dropped her at the new local prison in Pretoria. Then we passed a little we went to the Central Prison in Pretoria. It was now at this time, it was only preserved for the ultimate sentence, that is the death sentence. You would find it, it was only for blacks, that is now B. A was only for whites. The hardened criminals of whites use to be kept there, but there were very few. There were very few whites who were sentenced to death sentence. This prions was fully, fully occupied. We were called condemned prisoners.

Let me first start with this one. As we entered the prison we were received by a group of warders and the Commander was the first one to say and the way we were ordered to stand. You could hear that this is another man now in command. If you look at him on his face you could see a very vicious man. He use to have black hair and black beard and his eyes were fiery. At this prison you use to have a flight of steps and when you get into the top level it was flat. We got into a certain passage, when we got there he told us to hold still. Then were told to put, to go into a certain room. It is very hard for me to say anything, to say the things that he said to us. The way he said to us that we must take off our clothes. It was so rude I, personally, cannot be able to say it to you now. We could feel that we are in another land altogether. There was no humanity whatsoever. We were naked and then we were ordered to march into the yard. We passed Section C, we went to Section B. We got into the yard. We could hear that there are other people here, but most of these cells were single cells. You could also see sometimes a cell with three people, but as you know that condemned prisoners stay




in single cells.

MS GOBODO: As you were walking naked were you going to join other prisoners?

MR SIGWELA: No, we were going to have single cells. We were going into the left of the yard. We could see that these cells were ready for us. We were not in the cell in any order. When you get into a cell you would find that there are clothes, very old and torn clothes.

MS GOBODO: Could you please tell us how did you feel as you marched into the cells as a naked man?

MR SIGWELA: But we felt like we were sub-human because there was no humanity in this place. We could feel that we have been sentenced. We realised that we were going into another cycle. This was a cycle of torture, but we thought that if you are already sentenced that is the ultimate sentence, but apparently that was not the end of it. We were still going to be tortured. That was the end of our rights as humans. We got into the cells and we were so hungry and even the food that we had, we left it in those vans. We could not even get anything under our, into our stomachs. There was no appetite at all, but now I felt myself that I was hungry. There was another bench, a chair. You would get another toilet and then you would have a small place where you can get your water and you would get your bed there. With beds, if you look at this bed it was so, if you look at the blankets they would be transparent. When I felt at this bun that I was supposed to eat, it was as hard as a rock and there was also a cup of tea, but it was not tea, it did not look like tea at all so we did not touch it

all. So I thought in the morning when they brought breakfast, I thought we were going to get something warm to




eat. You would, we were given a plastic bowl, the shape of that size. We were given watery porridge. You could even see the base of the basin. When you get, if you want to get a spoonful you will have to collect bits and pieces of this porridge-like food and out of this whole bowl of porridge I only got two spoons and that was the end of it. After that, of course, I did not feel like I have eaten anything. Now, fortunately they brought something that looked like soup because it was brownish, but it was so watery. I could not see anything else anywhere. It was brownish water and then it was cold soup. It looked like water that has been washing dishes. I tried to stay just to see if there is anything thicker underneath, but there was nothing and I did not even trust it. I got 16 mielies, kernels of corn, I ate these kernels one at a time. There were 16, I even counted them and I was expected to be full after that. For dinner it was the same thing that I got in the morning. That very thin, thin porridge. It was just a drop. It felt like, it looked like just a drop from a teaspoon and a hardly square inch of cabbage and nothing else.

MS GOBODO: Sir, like you have said, as you were being forced into this place to be tortured. Could you please tell us anymore torturing or ill treatment that you found, that you received at that time?

MR SIGWELA: When I got into this part, the food itself, in itself, that is torture in itself. The kind of food that we got because if you are not given food that is torture in itself.

MS GOBODO: I understand. I meant physical torture.

MR SIGWELA: Oh yes. In the course of time there was assault, but I would like to start with the food. I am




coming there. Now, at that time nobody has been assaulted yet. The torture that we received was, the last time when we received it was when we were still in detention when we were tortured by electric shocks and so on. That was the end of the first day, but it was so obvious that we have come now to a very different place.

After the guards have been left, after they have checked all the doors if they have locked. When the next shift we use to, when the new guards would come in we use to ask each other if they could see what was going on, but we thought, ag, this is just an initiation. We all, we thought that this was going to be over, but I am telling you the coming day and another day and another day and it became now week after week it was the same thing. We ate the same food. After a while we complained. When the officers arrived we started now to complain that we are hungry. We are starving in this place, but nothing was done. Nothing was done. It was the same thing, but we were just locked up the whole day. We did not even know what was going on and this kept on. It became a trend and we were never given any information. Then later, now there was this pain that you use to have, this pang. We use to have pangs of starvation which was continuous, day after day. If you were lucky you would fall asleep and then during your sleep you would not be able to feel it, but in the morning when you wake up the first thing that greets you is this starvation. This went on until the end of April. Each time we complained. No, but during this time, let me make an example.

Matanjane was complaining. When he came back Warrant Officer Potgieter who was a, he was in charge and Potgieter is central to this whole thing that I am talking about here. UMTATA HEARING EASTERN CAPE PROVINCE


He is Warrant Officer Potgieter. He was promoted quite a lot and he is now in the high rankings now. He was in charge of this. He came back and he bit one of my inmates. Potgieter burnt donkey pins on his head. This torture that I am talking about now is, starts with the starvation because you can only live with food, but it is true that you can live with other things, but please Reverend I will come to these things. These pangs of starvation went on and on and we realised that now this is not going to end. The first officer to notice that there is something wrong and is dangerously wrong was the Lieutenant who was in charge, Lieutenant I Stores, G I Store. He use to be the one who distributes toilet paper. He use to come weekly. Every week he would still see that there were still toilet papers from the previous weeks because we were not these toilet papers. There was nothing to go to the toilet for because we were starved. We stayed, some of us, 20 days without going to the toilet because there is nothing, there is no urge for us to go to the toilet.

Now around May the others and myself, I started out to feel and see hazily. I could only see only not far from me because now I started to feel hazy. I also started to feel dizzy. This started gradually and you would feel that now you are sleepy and you started now to feel like you are dreaming and by June, I do not know whether I was dreaming a lot or whether I was now dreaming more about food. This use to come more often. When I spoke to some of the psychiatrists they use to say to me, you were beginning with hallucinations, this dreaming period. I was not the only one who use to have these hallucinations, it was also the others, some of my inmates.




You could not sit as I am sitting now on this chair now around June because of how weak we were. You were supposed to lie on your back and you could not even stretch, you had to collect yourself and coil up yourself because those pangs, those starvation pangs use to really hurt us. That is how we use to relieve the pain, by coiling ourselves while lying down. If you tried to talk about what you are feeling to the other inmates you would find that even the others are experiencing the same thing.

MS GOBODO: Could you please elaborate on your hallucinations? Was it during the day or was it during the night? Could you please tell us what kind of experiences these were, what was happening?

MR SIGWELA: You would just, while you are sitting during the night, you would feel very weak and these hallucinations would start now gradually. I would even dream about water running in the fields and I would even see war and I would more and more often, I dreamt about food.

MS GOBODO: I just wanted to find out more. Were these dreams or were these hallucinations, things that the other people could not see.

MR SIGWELA: No, but at that stage, I do not think that those were things that I could see really, but it came on quite constantly and during the day most of the time. I know that even Lingisie also experienced the same thing. We all had these hallucinations. Sometimes you would even dream about eating pork, but I do not know the whole process, but it was very unusual when you take a nap and then you dream. We use to have these naps all the time, but it was because of our weakness, we were so weak. What I am trying to tell you now is that by June, now I started to




experiment because there was no other way. We knew that we are not going to get anymore food here.

Now by June, now before I come to this point. In the course of complaining one of the inmates was isolated. He was put alone in his cell and this man ... It was just them only. They said they must bring knopkirries to beat him up. We could hear the sounds, the sounds of him, he was being beaten up. We did not even know whether they were banging his head against the wall or what.

MR SIGWELA: What was this man's name?

MR SIGWELA: His name was Lawrence Pokanogo from Pietersburg. After that it, apparently, was that his head was swollen, totally swollen. He said at the end what helped him was he hid under the bunk, but at the beginning they really did beat him up quite severely. This happened a few days after the Warder arrived who said to us, I have been sent by the Commissioner of Prisons, he is Warder, the number of the, the name of the Warder was van der Westhuizen. He was quite tall. He said, I am sent by the Commissioner of Prisons to look at the ten prisoners. So we said, yes, that is us, but we were not sentenced to death. Then he said, but I found out now you are not given food, you are starving, I heard the story. So he said the Law is going to take its course. Then van der Westhuizen tried to make a follow-up so that we can get food only for a few days. During the time that he was still with us and, yes, that did happen. In fact, on the very day that he arrived this man confronted him. He said give these men some food. He said, Warder, give these dogs some food. Then he said, I heard that you are giving food to these dogs. Then van der Westhuizen said who are these dogs you are talking




about? I said these communist dogs. He said these communist dogs, he said. No, van der Westhuizen said, no, but these are prisoners, I am not looking at dogs. These are prisoners and then the Warder said, no, there is no food for these dogs. At that time he was showing those fiery eyes. Then he said, what does the Law say. Then he said, so are you their lawyer. So it is obvious that you are their lawyer. After a few days, now the, because van der Westhuizen did not have a wreck he was now transferred into the Post Office. Now, because he was in charge of the prison he was just in, he transferred van der Westhuizen and after that he was on our heads.

The starvation became worse. We were told that we were dirty. Then we were not given food again. The starvation kept on and on. I am sorry, Brigadier Oukamp, that is late, but Brigadier Oukamp was the Chief of Security. He was looking after the political prions. He use to say to Brigadier, these are liars. They have been trained by the communists, they are not going to get anything to eat. Not even that two and a half spoons that they use to get. Now, they are not going to get anything. Not even that drop that came from a teaspoon of gravy. I am just trying to show you how all this affected our personality. We were not even ashamed of trying to clean up the bowl and clean up the bowl with your own finger. We would wipe the bowl totally clean. Clean, you would wipe it clean with your finger. There would not even be anything left on the ground because you wanted every droplet of food in this bowl. Now during this whole period I tried to find out cannot we even try to eat floor polish and when I did try to eat it I discovered that it was tasteless. So I spat it in the toilet.




MS GOBODO: So is that how desperate you were to eat this floor polish?

MR SIGWELA: Yes, that is correct, but there is one thing

that was good about this whole thing. We felt like we were eating salads when we were eating toothpaste. He said, this guy, I am the one measures all this rations. He said to us he does not know anything that was happening in the kitchen. We never even had time to brush our teeth. We use to eat the toothpaste and then you would go to the water-well and try to swallow that toothpaste with that water and that peppermint filling of the toothpaste, it use to taste so good. Then you would feel that, yes, you have eaten something. Now that was toothpaste and water.

MS GOBODO: How did this starvation take place? How long did it take place?

MR SIGWELA: It was ten months and ten days. It went on up to 1970. As I have said, he went on starving us. Now, I started to have serious problems. I had very sharp pains and I use to faint quite a lot. I use to perspire and I was under the day that I thought now this is my, this is the last of my days. I pressed one of the bells because I felt like I was fainting. While I was fainting some use to say to me, no, kneel down. They were trying to help me out. It was Lawrence Pokanogo who use to help me out. I pressed the bell and this man came. I am telling you, I have never seen the devil, but on that day I saw that devil that day. His eyes were fiery, he was not a human being. There was no human being like him. He was so totally distorted by upper third and he was a beast. Then now that was the beginning of a conviction, an untaming conviction in me. They use to say to me I am stubborn. I know Reverend Finca was my




Chairman, I use to say to the Reverend, Reverend we must not give in. Come with me, we must not give in. I said if this thing is turning human beings into this, now I have an obligation. Now I am going to be together with you Reverends.

Something crossed my mind which was we do not live only on bread. I know this is not in the scripts. He said to me we also live on the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit from God that kept us alive. Now at the time I was trying to revive myself. That is how I kept myself alive, that is how I revived myself because I was dying, but the Holy Spirit kept me alive. When this man, should I call him this devil approached me he said to me, die you dog. When he was calling me a dog of a devil I was looking at him and I was seeing the devil in him, but I said it is only God who will make me live and it will be only God who will make me die. It will not be you. Even now that will to live that I had at that time, even that scripture helped me out to live. Unfortunately, lady Commissioner, I do not know, I do not have the details. I do not know when the pain that I had, I do not know when it faded out.

Then afterwards, now I discovered that people were becoming now violent. They started to say to me, no I am not going to die for Tambo. Now at that time everybody now was convinced that we were dying. I have written here somebody. There was another man call Umdala. He was a Senior Sergeant. Now the black policemen were not allowed to come to our section. This Umdala use to just tiptoe and come to us just to see if we were still alive, all of us because now he believed that we were now on the level where we were going to die. Even now I am still surprised at




myself to see that there is flesh on my hands. You could even see the skeletons on our bodies. You could see the femes in our legs. You could see the bones just beyond our skin. We were only skin and bones. You could even see the effect of the concentration camps in the Germans. If you look back to that you would see that the treatment that we had was exactly like the concentration camps in Germany. Sirius Magotsie use to have, he use to fall quite a lot because of the effect of this water that we use to drink and at the same time Jonga Bantoskowe started to look very pale, but nobody treated him, but he was just told he must die like that and we still lived through. I do not blame Dalamore when he said I am not going to die for Tambo. When he said that I was the first to speak. I said now if you have wasted your time by training in Russia thinking that you are going to come here and release Tambo, you are wasting your time. Even if you did not come back from that training we were still going to continue and fight for our liberation. On the other hand Linas Laminie said I do not want to die this slow death, I want to die now, now. He said if Oukamp comes in, when he comes in I am going to grab him and I am going to ask him to please shoot me so that I can die. He did attempt this, but we tried to stop this and we tried to talk to each other so that we must not have such spontaneity.

Those who were condemned to death were very worried about us. I have never seen something like this. Those who were condemned to die, to be worried about the ones who are alive. They use to ask us, what have you done. They use to say to us, we are murderers, we have killed people and we are going to be hanged and we are given food and when we die UMTATA HEARING EASTERN CAPE PROVINCE



it is going to be quick, but what have you done? When you arrived here you were not like this, but look at you, you are now skeletons. You are now looking like ghosts and this is all happening gradually in front of our eyes. These condemned prisoners even use to steal food for us because they felt sorry for us. Unfortunately, they were caught when they were doing this and they were severely beaten.

I remember I was passing by another cell and it was one of these who was sentenced to death. I could see drops of blood. So we asked them to please ignore us. They must not care about our problem. We know that it is painful to us to see that they are suffering because of us. Now until we decided that seeing that there is this feeling that there must be sudden death, the better thing now for us is to accelerate our death. We did not like the fact that we knew that our people are going to die and then in January 1970 on the 30th of January, it was Friday. That is when we decided. Now we decided not to even eat that two spoons of food because after all we were on the verge of death anyway. So we decided if now we do not eat for two days then we will die quickly. That is when now we started our hunger strike. We started abandoning everything that was food and we use to know that now we are all going to die together. We will not leave anyone behind. Then on Saturday this man shouted at us. He said, at that time there was food already. He said to us I am not giving anything to those dogs today. Empty those bowls. He said lick these bowls. When they were, when my next door was given his food he kicked it back to them. No, no, I think what happened was this Warder went back to the Lieutenant who was in charge and then later that Saturday we were taken off these cells




only to find out we were taken to Victor Verster Prison. Some prisoners were taken into the island, Robben Island. Now that time they started to give us food. Chicken and other nice foods, but we got sick. Then we were all given, we were taken to Robben Island and everybody was shocked when they saw us. Then we saw a District Surgeon. He was also shocked when he saw us.

MS GOBODO: What was this Surgeon's name?

MR SIGWELA: No, I forgot his name now, but there are many people who know him, but if you keep in mind there was another District Surgeon in Cape in February 1970. That man is the man who can give you the record of our condition. He was asking us, where is your flesh, what happened to your flesh because now you look like skin and bones. You will not be able to be fit for work for the whole year. You are supposed to be kept in a separate place so that you can recover yourselves again. We stayed for 16 months in a block just aside and now we were trying now to recover. That is when we recovered. After we recovered we were asked to go out so that we can stretch a little.

When we were in the island we were now free to communicate. We went to the Commissioner of Prisons, when he detailed what I am talking to you now about, he must tell us how these butcher laws happened. Even the Prison Act, we said we condemn this Act, the Prisons Act and there must be action taken by the Department against Potgieter. We use to send some of the Officers, were also part of this and we said this Head of Security who was Brigadier Oukamp at the time. It is very unfortunate that he has died now. He came back to us and said why do you stab me in the back, why did you betray me? We said, but we did complain to you, but UMTATA HEARING EASTERN CAPE PROVINCE


you did not do anything. So this is why we wrote this memorandum. Now this was already after we have sent the memorandum. It is supposed to be in the Prison Department unless it has been shredded. I am sure Mr Mzimela should have it in his department unless it was thought it was offensive and it was shredded and thrown away, but now that is the story I came to bring to the Commission. Thank you.

MS GOBODO: Thank you Sir. You have enlightened us about a kind of torture which we have not looked into. We have been looking at other kinds of torture like physical torture, but now it looks like you were psychologically tortured. Thank you very much.

MR SIGWELA: There is one more point I wanted to raise. About Lawrence Pokanogo, I think he suffered internally, especially psychologically threw his beatings on the head. When we went back to prison he was not alright at all and I am talking about a person who was doing his third year of Medicine, of B.Sc. My perception of him was that this is a bright fellow. He became a psychiatric case because he was too severely beaten. What made things worse was to be put in a cell alone. He was put in a special section. He tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat. I met him again in Durban in an ANC Conference, but I did not really take a close look at him, but he is not at the same level that he use to be. His performance as a human being is not the same. It has come down totally, but I think now he is not a stable person anymore. I just wanted to mention that part about him.

MS GOBODO: Are you saying this because you want us to meet him? Did you ever meet him, did you ever talk to him about coming to the Commission?




MR SIGWELA: Because we are scattered, no I did not meet him, but this other one that I have said he was called a Russian, he is now a Brigadier in the Army in Pretoria. He once called me, he was interested in us taking this case to the Commission, but even now I do not even have his phone number, but I even heard that he had called me again last week, but unfortunately we cannot contact each other properly. Our aim was to contact all of us, but unfortunately it was impossible, but we did not want to lose more time. So I never met him, but he is one of the people who would really appreciate this because at the time when I was released from prison he did make a request that I should write about things like this, but he thought that I should just write something like a book about our whole experience, but it is unfortunate that that whole project is still in process even though it started at a time prior to my torture.

MS GOBODO: Sir, you mention people like Brown, Jacobs and Potgieter. Now, if you would meet them now what would you say to them?

MR SIGWELA: Lady Commissioner, I have been asked this question before. When I was talking to certain Churches in America and Canada where I was sent by these Chairmans in 1986, when I use to talk about our experiences under apartheid they use to say, but why are you smiling when you are talking about your painful experiences which make us cry? I use to say because it hardened me and I was convinced that these people were turn into devils by apartheid. This is why I am committed into destroying apartheid, but I know now we are not now fighting in the valleys physically. They are not switching off our




electricity like they use to do now. Now the struggle is right there in the Government, in the corridors of power. It was now it was up and under between us and the Boers and even now I am still committed to the struggle until we live in a true democracy.

MS GOBODO: Thank you very much Sir and I think it is very important that you acknowledge the pain of the past so that we can embrace the future, that we can work towards making sure that the errors of the past are not repeated. Thank you. I am going to hand over to the Chairman.

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Pumla, anymore questions? Dr Mgojo.

DR MGOJO: What I am going to ask is just something small. It may look insignificant, but it is very important. I am thinking about your trip. When you were from Natal how many stops did you, you were on your way to Pretoria, how many stops did you have and when you stopped what did you do?

MR SIGWELA: From Durban, as the male prisoners, we stopped at Pietermaritzburg then we picked up Dorothy. Then from there we stopped at Ladysmith and that was the end of it. We were put in the police station in the cells, but we do not know what they were doing there and we do not know what these people who were with us and these other women who were with Dorothy were doing there, but we were put in cells. Then from there, from Ladysmith we were taken straight to Pretoria. So what I can say is that from Natal we went to Pretoria nonstop.

DR MGOJO: Did you get a chance to pass water?

MR SIGWELA: The last time we got a chance to pass water was in Ladysmith.

CHAIRPERSON: MEC Sigwela, we have listened with shock and with dismay. If you did not have the list of these




witnesses in front of us here, people would think that, no, you are telling the tale. You have moved the people who are in this hall. Even those who are lucky enough to listen to this over the radio. I am sure you have moved many South Africans. I know you as a humble person. I never knew why you have continued to be humble after you have become important. I know now. You have been through a lot which will keep your feet firmly rooted on the ground. You know the price that has been paid for this liberation. We are fortunate to have people who are in power, people who have been baptised in this kind of suffering because then I believe that with them in power we will have the quality of leadership that will ensure that this liberation is treasured. Thank you for your testimony. We wish you God speed as you go back to your work.