JOHANNESBURG July 25 1996 Sapa

FORMER MK COMMANDER SEEKS JUSTICE FROM TRUTH COMMISSION

A former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) cadre who has testified before three commissions about human rights abuses in ANC camps in exile turned to the Truth Commission for a fourth attempt at securing justice on Thursday.

Appearing before the commission's human rights violations committee in Soweto, Luthandu Dyson testified about his experiences at ANC's Quatro camp in Angola.

Although he has already given a lengthy written submission to the commission and was allotted an extra 30 minutes to testify, he said: "I am dissappointed in the commission... I don't want to pester you."

This was after he attempted to introduce testimony unrelated to his written submission.

Dyson said he was sorry the commission had limited his testimony to his own experiences in Quatro "when my story still continues".

Dyson said after his release from Quatro in September in 1988, and when he subsequently returned to South Africa, a friend who had also been detained in the camp had been killed in Umtata in 1990. He claimed the friend had died at the hands of the ANC.

Dyson said he still feared for his life and that is why he had opted to testify at the commission's Johannesburg hearings and not those in Umtata.

He alleged there had been a cover-up of investigations into his friend's death. "I even said it to (Deputy Enviromental Affairs) Minister Bantu Holomisa".

Commissioners informed Dyson time had run out but he could make a separate written statement about these allegations, which the commission would also look into.

Dyson said he had testified before the Skweyiya, Douglas and Motsuenyane commissions which had probed human rights violations in ANC camps abroad.

Although these commissions "had done their job", the ANC had failed to implement their recommendations and "nothing has happened".

Although the Skweyiya Commission had found some cadres detained in Quatro were not enemy agents, "our names had yet to be cleared", Dyson said.

He had been detained in Quatro from early 1984 to late 1988 after a skirmish in Angola's Diyane camp with Fapla forces. A presidential guard had attacked in the early hours of the morning and in the resulting hostilities, he had shot at an armoured personnel carrier and the driver had been killed.

Dyson said many cadres in exile had been dissillusioned with the conditions in Angola.

On the ANC working together with Fapla against Jonas Savimbi's Unita movement, he said: "We were fighting people who were guerrillas and we were also guerrillas. MK cadres had gone into exile for military training to free South frica but found that they were fighting a civil war in Angola instead."

He said the feeling of about 99 percent of MK members in Angola was: "We are dying here, why can't we die at home?"

He alleged he had been repeatedly tortured and beaten in Quatro and even when he was down with malaria, was forced to work.

Dyson said appeals to ANC leaders to intervene, such as to the late MK commander Chris Hani, had been "useless".

The African National Congress needed to deal with those of its members who, while in exile, were detained and abused in its camps, said commissioner Yasmin Sooka.

Speaking at a media briefing during the commission's lunch break, she said it had been difficult to deal with Dyson, who was still suffering from post-traumatic stress.

It was hard for a number of former cadres who had experienced human rights violations in camps in exile to relate their ordeal, probably because the ANC was now the governing power.

Although the Skweyiya commission had made certain recommendations, there was a need for the commission to talk to the ANC.

Sooka said although Dyson was not satisfied with the commmission, "we felt we gave him a lot of time".

He had been given over an hour to testify and it had not been a matter of cutting his testimony short. It was the commission's policy not to deal with oral testimony that had not appeared in written affidavits.

In his written statement Dyson had only focused on his experiences in Quatro.

When he tried to introduce testimony about his friend who had been killed in South Africa after their release from Quatro, the commission had asked him to stick to his written testimony.

However, he had been given the opportunity to make a further written statement about this.

This meant that Dyson would be able to appear before the commission again about his friend's death, Sooka said.

The commission felt it had given all witnesses equal treatment.


South African Press Association, 1996
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