April 17, 1996 Sapa


Grahamstown police had rejoiced after killing a young activist on his way home from a funeral in 1985, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was told on Wednesday.

"They were happy ... the mood they had was rejoicing," Robert Kohl said in testimony on his son's death. He was giving evidence on the third day of the commission's hearings in East London city hall.

"You feel they don't care about the people that were shot."

Kohl, with his wife Cecelia at his side, described hearing about the killings of his eldest son Bully on May 12 1985.

Bully's friend Tyrone Austin witnessed the death and told the commmission police monitoring a funeral had thrown beer cans and stones at mourners and then disrupted a procession to the cemetery.

Austin said some mourners had taken an alternative route past a councillor's house guarded by police. Suddenly there had been shooting all around and the crowd scattered.

Bully had been shot and taken into a nearby house. Austin said police had prevented him leaving the house to call an ambulance. He had later been told by a security policeman the bullets were meant for him.

"I assume that maybe my friend died in my place," Austin said.

Kohl said his family had been gathered at home for Mother's Day when they heard Bully was in hospital.

"It was a shock ... it never happened in our areas. In Grahamstown most shootings were in the black township and not the coloured township."

At the mortuary Kohl was shown his dead son.

"I could feel the cold had already crept into his body and I had to leave to be alone and think about it."

Kohl said he had gone to report the death to police and found "a climate where one could see people rejoicing about the fun they had chasing people, shooting people".

"You could hear in the background people really enjoyed that afternoon."

A sergeant at the mortuary later told Kohl: "This is what happens to children who don't listen."

At an inquest, Kohl said, he had been asked to exhume Bully's body to inspect the bullets which killed his son.

"As a Christian I could not do that. Nothing could possess me to dig up my son's body after a year just to see a bullet."

Kohl appealed to the commission to investigate similar crimes which had gone unreported.

He said he had heard years later that the policeman who shot Bully died of cancer.

South African Press Association, 1996
This text is for information only and may not be published or reprinted without the permission of the South African Press Association