MS SOOKA: I would now like to call Mrs Virginia Mashinini to take the stand please. Mrs Mashinini the Commission would like to welcome you to its hearings on Soweto. The name of your son I think is known to most South Africans, could you indicate to us whether the gentleman on your side is accompanying you, is he a relative?

MS MASHININI: (No audible reply) (The speaker's mike is not on.)

MS SOOKA: Mr Mashinini we would like to welcome you to the proceedings. Mrs Mashinini are you the one who is going to give evidence? Take your time. Are you able to hear me?


VIRGINIA MASHININI: (sworn states)

MS SOOKA: As is usual with witnesses we ask a Commissioner or a Committee member to lead them through the evidence. In this instance we have assigned Mr Tom Manthata to assist you. Thank you.

MR MANTHATA: Mr and Mrs Mashinini I welcome you in front of this Commission. We are very happy that you are here. We request you to tell us what the position was with the family at the time your son Tsietsi Mashinini was in the leadership of the students during this time of the students' upheaval, that is from June 16th 1976.

MS MASHININI: On that day on June 16th, I woke up and went to work. We heard from the radio that Soweto is burning. SOWETO HEARING TRC/GAUTENG


We came back immediately. We asked for permission. When we arrived at home we learnt from the people that Tsietsi is the leader of the students. I was surprised because I knew nothing. I didn't know what will happen that day, that's why I went to work. On that day, on that evening the police started raiding. They came to our house and started raiding. They came nearly every day. Sometimes they used to come three times or two times a day per night. Sometimes they used to come during the day. They take our children to John Vorster, they beat them up, after beating them up they brought them home. Our children used to be beaten in John Vorster who were still very young because they knew nothing about politics. Even if when we were there at home they used to teargas canisters in our yard. The teargas fumes, smoke even children used not to stay at home because they were afraid. They used to sleep outside where we don't know. It was difficult for us until they went to exile.

The police used to tell people not to come into our house because they were going to be raided. When they come to raid us they just storm our house, break our doors, get inside to tell us, instruct us not to lie, they give us their own ...(indistinct) , they just become full in our house. When we look through the windows they are having firearms, they are pointing at the house and show that they were ready to shoot. It happened on a daily basis. Tsietsi was not staying in the house. When he comes to change his clothes they were not going to come at a time when he was still there, he will wash and go. After having gone they will arrive and ask us where's Tsietsi, and we would tell them we don't know where Tsietsi is, and if he was there we used to tell them that he was here, if he was not there we



used to tell them he was not here. It continued. Sometimes Black people used to come, sometimes boers used to come and when Black police arrived there they were good to us. If they were Afrikaners they used to harass us.

We were isolated in our house, only the church people who used to come and support us to our house. Other people didn't come to our house because they were afraid of the police. Police had told them that they must not come to that house otherwise they will be arrested, and really that happened. Whenever we go to people they will follow us and go to those people and raid them in the evenings. And then we ended up not going to anyone. It caused problems, mainly our friends and family.

One day I went away because the children were in exile. I went to Swaziland and Tsietsi was also in exile. I went to Botswana again. I wanted to talk to Tsietsi because when he was in Botswana reporters would go there and talk to him and when they released the statement either the police or the people will come and say things to us, many things that Tsietsi is talking a lot in the papers and their children are being harassed by the police. And the police would tell us that stop your child, he must stop speaking otherwise we will fetch him from Botswana. So this was a bitter problem to us.

So I went to Botswana to talk to him. I found him, I spoke to him and that is true he stopped speaking to reporters. Every June 16, every year in June 16 our windows would be broken by the police. Teargas would be thrown in our yard and even at the door. Meanwhile my children are in the house. Now all this caused a problem because I bring them from the street, I put them in the house, now the



police are taking them out of the house to the streets. And they used to tell us that - they once said to Mr Mashinini you are going to account whenever about your children. So all this happened every year, every year, and we would stay in the house with broken windows because we couldn't afford putting fenders financially. My children even stopped going to school because they would be first from school, taken to John Vorster to be beaten.

Tsietsi left in September. When he left in September my other children followed, and when they followed the police wanted to - I mean they said we are recruiting for military training, that is why our children have gone out. I tried to explain that they have gone out of the country because the police are terrorising the children in the house. That is why they went out of the country. That is true, I was telling the real truth.

I lost my job because they said we are communists, no company should take us. I was detained for 197 days. I was in Standerton, in Standerton Prison. My husband never knew where I was until two months before I came out. It's then that he started visiting me but I could not see him because they did not want me to meet my family. He used to bring me food. The greedy police used to take my food and eat it and give me a loaf of bread only.

The raids never stopped and informers who tell lies because they wanted money. They would tell the police that we saw Tsietsi, Tsietsi is in the house. Now they would come, open wardrobes, they wanted to find Tsietsi under the beds, under ballpoints, under a watch, under everything, searching for Tsietsi and Tsietsi would never be there because he would never come, he would never come.



We fought all that because there are times that I used to disagree speaking to them when they are standing. I didn't speak to them when they are holding guns. They had to take their guns out of - now I was stubborn because they made me to be stubborn so I refused them coming into my house with guns. Okay they did that against their will. In any case it didn't stop them to raid us.

All this led to my poverty, for my life poverty, because I couldn't be hired anywhere, I couldn't be employed, I couldn't work, I had children at school. My husband was working alone and he could not afford, till now, I've still children at school and we are both on pension and we cannot afford anything. Our children are in universities without bursaries.

MR MANTHATA: As other children left how many were you left with?

MS MASHININI: I had ten at home. Three left the country, that is Tsietsi, Mokiti and Lebakeng. Now all the others when I was in detention they were left with their father. I had twin girls who were one and a half years by then. So he had to stay with those children.

MR MANTHATA: And all this time Tsietsi was away were you able to, more especially since he left Botswana, were you able to know where he was and how he was keeping?

MS MASHININI: From 1976 when he left the country I knew where he was until after 1979 when he got married in Liberia and then from there he was in Nigeria at school and then from there it was quiet about him.

MR MANTHATA: When you were in detention what statement were they demanding you to make?

MS MASHININI: The police?




MS MASHININI: They wanted to know what has gone wrong with my children, where do they get politics. They would just ask me funny questions but at the end of the day they had no evidence and then when I was detained, Mpo also, one of my sons was detained. Now because they had no evidence against me so they turned the whole thing, I was a State witness and when we went to court the prosecutors that morning told me that it's wrong to be a State witness against your child. But even then I went to court.

MR MANTHATA: It appears in the family one person who was relatively stable was Mr Mashinini, you could still continue working, how would you explain that?

MS MASHININI: He was lucky enough because the company he was working for was not Afrikaners, they were from, people from Australia.

MR MANTHATA: That's good. And perhaps you have already mentioned this, that what actually kept the family together at a time when everybody was warned not to associate with you?

MS MASHININI: I think it was just ill heart from the Afrikaners, from the police because there was nothing wrong with us. That is why church people could come to our house.

MR MANTHATA: Thank you. I will hand you back to the Chairperson.

MS SOOKA: Mrs Mashinini could you tell us about how you learned about Tsietsi's death?

MS MASHININI: I was very, very sorry and sad because he died at the time that everybody was coming back. I thought he would also come back but all in vain. He was said, sometime back there was a story that Tsietsi is mentally



disturbed, he had a lot of stress which sometimes it makes him violent, of which I thought we will bring him home to be put in the hospitals in South Africa, but most unfortunately we couldn't make it because we had no money to fetch him. That is when we knew that he was staying in Guinea because all along we did not know where he stayed.

MS SOOKA: Could you tell us how many of your other sons are today alive and well in this country?

MS MASHININI: They are all alive except Tsietsi.

MS SOOKA: One of the things that you mentioned in your statement was that you received a letter from the government of Guinea explaining Tsietsi, the way Tsietsi died, could you tell us a little more about that please?

MS MASHININI: Yes. The letter is written in a strange language, we can't read it, but what we know, we were told Tsietsi died out of - it was natural death. But when his corpse came to South Africa, we buried him here in South Africa, when the corpse came back to us it was not like natural death, because he had wounds all over the body, mainly behind the ear. He had a big wound which after three weeks was still bleeding, and the right eye, I'm not sure whether right or left, but one of his eyes was - seemed it had fallen in, it was a hole, and then the other one was swollen. A number of bruises in the face. So which only shows, all that shows he was brutally murdered.

MS SOOKA: Were you ever able to make any enquiries about the manner of his death?

MS MASHININI: We made enquiries, we are still making enquiries through people whom we know. Some are in America, but they agreed to go and find out what, because really, okay death is death but we wish to know how he died, what



happened to him. We have made enquiries. People in that country won't talk to anybody, even a child, the reports that we get even a small child wouldn't talk to anybody.

MS SOOKA: Just a point of clarification. Somewhere you talked about the fact that whilst you were in detention you were asked to turn State witness against your son Mpo.


MS SOOKA: Could you just tell us what actually happened with that matter?

MS MASHININI: Luckily enough the culprits, the victims had a good lawyer, who when questioning me was trying to put them out of the prison trial they were tried for, he questioned me for two hours that day in court, I was even angry why is this man asking me so many questions, but after, from my statement, he was able to keep the culprits out of court.

MS SOOKA: Could you tell us what the name of this lawyer was?

MS MASHININI: I think it's Swanepoel, under the company of Chan Chetty, no, what I know is Chan Chetty had ordered some lawyers, there it is Ron Allenwyk, if I am right.

MS SOOKA: Who was your attorney whilst you were in detention if you had one?

MS MASHININI: I had none. I had none, because when I was taken home they told my husband that they are taking me only for questioning and I will be brought back. All these months I was in detention they were always telling me that, no, tomorrow you are going home, next week you are going home, so I couldn't arrange anything for myself.

MS SOOKA: It seems that what happened with Tsietsi and your sons have in fact influenced the whole family's life. SOWETO HEARING TRC/GAUTENG


You have lost your job and you were constantly harassed at home, could you tell us, at the end of the day, how do you feel about all of this?

MS MASHININI: I am happy he took part in the struggle, South African struggle. I am happy and proud of it. But when it comes to death, death is everywhere, you can be hit by a car, you can be stabbed, anything could happen to you, you can be shot and die. So there is nothing wrong with death and especially that is a long time that it has happened. It's very sad, I am sad, I count myself as those who were born to be poor or to be unlucky that we couldn't get jobs, we couldn't progress, everything ran backwards than go forward, in any case we made our living out of nothing. We are still under those circumstances. I have children who have gone to school, as far as, I've one who has done Masters, I have one who has a B.Comm., I mean my children have progressed. There are those who didn't get anything because of our poverty of which I hope they will make their living (tape ends....)

... and difficulties at the same time. The success is that your children are educated but it's difficult for you because it's not yet clear in your mind how Tsietsi died.

MS MKHIZE: In your statement that you made you said one of the people who told you that Tsietsi was ill is Miriam Makeba, I want you to tell this Commission did you ever contact Miriam in order to clarify the issue?

MS MASHININI: Because he had told us a different story, I am sorry to say, I wouldn't like to make a follow-up, but I never followed her up. But in my curiosity I know very well that Tsietsi didn't die naturally. In any case she was not in that country by then, she was in Belgium, she was not in



Guinea, maybe it's the story she was told by other people, by people who were there, but she phoned us, she took her time, phoned us, told us that Tsietsi is in hospital, and then after a week, she even told us that come, he's going to die. I think she saw the situation was bad. And after a week still she phoned us and told us that Tsietsi was dead.

MS MKHIZE: Maybe it's another way of trying to find out how Tsietsi died, maybe you would like to tell this Commission that the time Tsietsi was outside in exile was he a member of any political organisation?

MS MASHININI: Tsietsi never joined the old organisations like ANC and PAC. As he was SRC in South Africa he remained that. Tsietsi was Black conscienstised and we are, in the house we are all ANC, fortunately. But there are people who were with him and who knew how he got out of all African countries and got into Guinea. Guinea is a Moslem country, there are no politics in there, so that is the first thing that demolished him, because he loved politics. Now in Guinea there were no politics. So he was isolated. There are people who know about it, how he became isolated, only if they could say, because he didn't just decide I am going out of you Nigeria, I am going to Guinea, in fact Miriam Makeba was his rescue. She took him to Guinea and I am happy about that and I still respect her for that. And we will not know until somebody comes and tells us so and so, so and so did this and that and that.

MS SOOKA: Mrs Mashinini I am not sure if your husband wants to add anything to what you have said.

MS MASHININI: We shall hear from him.

MR MASHININI: We are having the cry of our children. We are crying for our children. His children are not around



here and I believe their mother has been married to somebody else. I wish, if it can happen, this Commission can help me I'd like those kids to come and stay with me until they have finished their schooling and until they can see they are living whatever way they can.

MS SOOKA: Do you know how many children there are and how old they are?

MR MASHININI: There are two girls. I think one is about 11 and the other one about 16 I think.

MS SOOKA: Thank you. I think we are very, very sad to know that one of South Africa's heroes in fact did not come home and I think one of the sad stories about the '76 uprising is that even at this point in time we do not know how many young people didn't come home. How many of them didn't enjoy the beginnings of this democracy that we have. Our sympathies are with you, and we feel your pain and the loss because now as you see South Africa unfold you must be wondering why your son is not part of that as well.

We are very, very happy that you have come forward to talk to the Commission. We cannot promise that we would be able to assist you in bringing them home, but what we could assist you with is making some of the enquiries, and we will get back to you on that particular issue. Thank you very much for coming.