CHAIRPERSON: So I would now like to call on Riefaat Hattas to come up to the stage. Riefaat, before we take your testimony I would like to ask Glenda just to explain to the audience how the translation equipment works.

MS WILDSCHUT: Now that all of you are here, let us do some housekeeping. Those of you who understand both English and Afrikaans, could we ask you to please share your earphones with people who do not understand any of the three languages that we will be using today. We do not have enough so we are going to have to share. It works like this. These are the earphones, as you know, from your CD players and on the left side of the device will be the channels. Channel one is Afrikaans, channel two is English and channel three is Xhosa and it took me a few months to realise that they are in alphabetical order. On the right side of your device is the volume button so you can adjust the volume. If you do not receive a good reception please point your device in the direction of those transmitters on the stage. Just under reconciliation, the word "reconciliation" you will see a device which is the transmitter. So if you do not get a good reception point your device in that direction.

Somebody with a brown car, your lights are on and I hope that you have already switched them off. It is a brown station wagon with the registration CA404352. If you have not switched your lights off already please rush and switch them off.

When you leave the hall, these devices are useless outside of the hall and, believe me, they are useless outside of the hall. So will you give them to the ushers who are at the back, because they will then be distributing the earphones to others who do not have it. So when you leave the hall please give your devices to the ushers at the back and then just finally, could we ask the teachers that you allow the students to leave once people have completed their testimony and not during a testimony. So if you need to leave please will you leave after someone has given his or her testimony. Could we have your co-operation in that regard. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON: Riefaat, I am going to ask Mrs Burton to administer the oath, but I just want to say thank you very much to you for coming, not only to speak about yourself, but to speak about the people who you call your forgotten Comrades. It is very important that someone speaks on behalf of those people and we are very grateful for you, to you for preparing a submission for us in that regard. Mrs Burton will swear you in and Glenda will then facilitate your evidence.

MS BURTON: Thank you Chairperson. Mr Hattas, will you stand please. Are you willing to swear the oath. Please raise your right hand.

RIEFAAT HATTAS: (Duly sworn in, states).

MS BURTON: Thank you.

MS WILDSCHUT: Welcome Riefaat.

MR HATTAS: Thank you.

MS WILDSCHUT: We recognise that you have thought long and hard about coming to the Commission today and we really do want to thank you for coming and publicly placing on record a statement which will focus on what you call your forgotten Comrades. We are aware of your request that we do not quote, unquote, interrogate you so we will not be interrogating you today. In fact, we try not to do that to any of the witnesses who come before us. What may happen at the end is that if there are things that we, perhaps, do not understand and we need some clarity on we will focus on that and perhaps ask you to restate it. Is that in order.


MS WILDSCHUT: Thank you very much. You may go ahead and read your statement.

MR HATTAS: Honourable Commissioners, I beg you not to put me through an interrogation all over again. I am attending the trauma centre every Thursday.

MS WILDSCHUT: Riefaat, just take your time. If you feel it is too tough just take as much time as you need, okay, and Viola is next to you and she will be encouraging you, okay.

MR HATTAS: I am severely stressed, depressed, angry, frustrated.

MS WILDSCHUT: Riefaat, would you prefer just to talk and not read and, perhaps, start at your second paragraph?

MR HATTAS: I have no confidence in myself, I am sometimes suicidal. I do not know whether I can carry myself alone. I am messed up because of what I went through during my high school years. I would not like to focus on myself, but I would like to focus on the story of my forgotten Comrades. Those students who sacrificed their youth, their lives for the sake of our freedom. Those Comrades for fought for liberation, who never knew what it was like to enjoy life as teenagers. They did not have time to develop their relationships or to participate in sport. Those students whose days compromised of meetings, protest marches, facing rubber bullets and often live ammunition, but this was part of the daily struggle against an unjust enemy. Our primary objective was to make the country ungovernable so that our leaders could return and lead us into a true democracy. A democracy where everybody would be equal, a culture where young people, especially, children, to not have to be on the run from the security forces, where they do not have to jump out of windows in the middle of the night because they were sought for Section 51 and the Terrorism Act, Section 29, where students could go to school and not having to fight a war, where they could enjoy their youth among their friends, going to parties, play sport and just be children.

For the forgotten Comrades we knew how our action of defiance formed part of the liberation struggle. Their action formed part of an integral part of a three pronged defiance campaign; the underground, internal pressure, especially the need to make the country ungovernable which was a major role which students took part it and the fight from Comrades abroad to encourage international pressure in the form of sanctions. When we got instructions via MK structures to declare full-scale war, we took action 24 hours a day. The international press were focused on the unrest of South Africa and this strategy was so successful that the business people of South Africa were forced to speak to the ANC leaders up in Lusaka.

Through the pressure and sacrifices of all involved in the liberation struggle, we inevitably got our freedom we fought for so hard. We reached our objectives at a price. However, many never realised the kind of phycological stress and trauma we have been subjected to. Many Comrades had to go into hiding, others were in exile away from their loved ones and friends, but the majority of us who remained behind to continue the struggle for liberation. For those Comrades who were sought by security police it was the start of a nightmare, a nightmare that was going to be so horrendous, it was going to destroy our lives. Never could we have imagined that at the age of 15, 16, 17 and 18, we would have been running away from police and going to safe houses only to find police coming to look for us there. We were going crazy with all the thoughts of being captured, tortured, maimed and even killed at the hands of the security police. We were never sure whether would see our parents, brothers and sisters again. One thing was certain, we were not teenagers any longer. We have aged ten to 15 years in a matter of months and we had to be prepared to face whatever came our way whether we were prepared for it or not.

Many of us were caught by security police. In detention we were interrogated, tortured, maimed, violated and continuously harassed. After this horrid experience we suffered from nervous tension and were all nervous wrecks. We could not continue school like normal pupils. Our lives were destroyed. Some of us managed to complete matric under extremely difficult circumstances. Others could not take the pressure, they left school to later become drug addicts and gangsters. If only there were people to help us through our trauma. We so much want the people to be there for us, because we could not carry on alone. Too many brilliant students never got the chance to reach their full potential as they were school drop-outs. They are still searching for themselves amongst all the turmoil in their lives. To tell you the truth, many of us ask us the price that we had to pay for freedom, whether it was worth it in the end.

These are some of the recommendations that myself and our Comrades thought I should list in front of the TRC. I first would like to say that many of our Comrades who are messed up are still unemployed today. The other thing I would like to urge the TRC, that they should urge employers to be sympathetic towards survivors by letting us go to support clinics, for example the Trauma Centre and sent us on the Break Through Course, etc. Security police and police officers and army personnel were promoted because of human rights violations should be demoted or should no longer serve in the South African Police Services, because they make it difficult for ordinary people to respect the police. We should be financially compensated for all the emotional and psychological trauma we are still enduring. Memorials should be erected in all provinces to signify the significant role students and children, youth as well as others played. The Government should take the responsibility to accommodate us in terms of all relevant support we would need. Special training courses as well as secondary and tertiary education should be made available to those Comrades whose lives have been messed up by the previous Government so that we can feel worthy of ourselves and not like a bunch of low-lives. President Mandela should unveil a memorial in Parliament that will recognise the role as youth played as well as how our lives have been ruined by the previous Government. High schools and street names should be renamed in honour of those Comrades who payed the ultimate price for our freedom. Awareness programmes should be run at schools and other institutions where youth go to so that those students who are sitting here today and those who will still go to school, will know how lucky they are not to go through what we went through. They should really know that you are very lucky to live in the normal South Africa and sometimes I lie awake at night and I hope, as the choir just sang, I could have been born again to live a normal life. The TRC should make sure that the National Party does not walk away unpunished for the crimes they committed against the people of South Africa. President Mandela should unveil a special stone dedicated to the forgotten Comrades to thank them for their loyalty and commitment to the struggle. This stone or plaque should be in Parliament so that all people will know that our struggle was not in vain. The National Party should take responsibility for destroying and ruining our lives. That is all.

MS WILDSCHUT: Riefaat, do you want to read the names of some of the ones you want to remember? Would you like to do that?

MR HATTAS: This is the list of my forgotten Comrades. The first one Celeste Naidoo. I have the greatest respect for her, because she was the one who trained me. She was my mentor and all things that I achieved in life was because of what she taught me and I want to tell the whole world that the principles that Celeste taught me, it is still with me and I will never forget those principles and one of those principles was that you stay loyal to your Comrades. No matter where you go one day or what you become, you do not forget your roots where you come from and you serve your Comrades.

The other Comrade, Katheem Neethling, his former name was Cecil. He was detained with me and he was part of our Action Committee at school. He was detained in Victor Verster. He is today a nervous wreck and a drug addict. Kevin is also a nervous wreck and a drug addict. Deon Brink, he was detained with me and whilst I was interrogated I managed not to name any names, but as I was beaten and as I, the things they did to me I do not want to name that, because I do not want it in the press, I told them I do not know, they were looking for Comrades Kevin Patel, Paul Doemat, Celeste Naidoo, I told them I do not know, because I was on the run and I was not in Mannenberg or in Surrey Estate or wherever for a long period and I told them why do you not ask Deon, but I never knew Deon was also picked up, I never knew. I thought he was still on the run. They brought him in and they beat and they attacked and brutally beat Deon in front of me and I can never forgive myself for that. I never knew.

The other Comrades is Earl September, he was also in Victor Verster. All of them went through the same things we did as well as Isaac April. Karriem Adams, Medaat Adams they were arrested, they also went through the same trauma. They did not want to come forward, because they want to forget everything that happened. They want to write it off as something bad which happened in their lives. Shahied Petersen is also a nervous wreck today. Shahieda, all these Comrades were all part and Celeste played the major role in our lives. Robert, today I do not even know where he went. He is so disillusioned and is messed up just like all of us. Aziezoedien, Jacky Hefele and Genevieve Zeeman, they are all traumatised.

These are only the Comrades that were, worked close with me. There are thousands of other Comrades, I call them the forgotten Comrades, nobody took notice of us, nobody took notice of them. I would like the TRC to remember those people and I hope one day all the street children that must still attend school and those people who are sitting here who is coming from high schools, you have a responsibility towards us to try to reach your full potential and you must make the most of your normal lives that you have, because we are not able to do it. We have been messed up by the National Party. Please, I beg of you, to make the best of your lives. You owe it to us. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON: Ladies and gentlemen, I can understand why you are moved to applaud, but it really is not appropriate in these proceedings so can I ask you to refrain from doing so.

MS WILDSCHUT: Riefaat, you have touched us very deeply. Before I thank you for coming to us I just wonder whether the other panellists want to, perhaps, make a comment or ask you a question of clarity. We will not be interrogating you at all.

CHAIRPERSON: Riefaat, I just have one question. How old are you now and how old were you when you were detained?

MR HATTAS: I am 29 now. I was 15 when I started getting involved in the struggle and I was, I think I was about 17 when I was detained.

MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you Madam Chair and thank you Riefaat. You are speaking on behalf of your Comrades, your, the people you call forgotten heroes, but I think you are also speaking about yourself. I think it is important for us to understand that, that you are finding your voice through speaking about Comrades and that means, for us, that it is really difficult for you to recall what happened to you and to talk about it. Therefore, you find it easier to talk about your other Comrades than about yourself. That in itself shows us the intensity of what you have gone through and I think it is important for us to understand that. Repeated trauma, I think it is a well known fact, that repeated trauma on adults leads to an erosion of personality, of an already formed personality, but repeated trauma on children like yourself forms and deforms a personality. I think we have not yet established what the affects of violence, of exposure to violence and exposure to continued amounts of trauma is to children. There are not any theories that have shown us how much that there is, how much effect this continued trauma is, but you are evidence, you are clear evidence that children are affected by trauma in their adulthood. There are no answers.

Some children are resilient, but I think that resilience is difficult in light of the total traumatic life, traumatic environment that you had to go through and I just want to say this, we understand the difficulties that you are going through and we also understand the sense of helplessness that you had to face when your friends were abused in front of you. It is very difficult to adapt in a situation that is terrifyingly unpredictable and you are telling us, sharing this with us today, what you had to go through. It is hard to give you words that will strengthen you, because that is your reality, that is the reality you are going through, but thank you for sharing your experiences and our hearts go to you. Thank you Madam Chair.

MS BURTON: You have taken a courageous step in coming. I hope it will be a step forward, also, in your own healing and self forgiveness. What I would like to just tell you is that when the National Party came to make a submission to us just this month, among the things they said was that they would be meeting to examine their responsibility towards the reparation process and I hope that they will hear your words today when they come to do that. Thank you very much.

MS WILDSCHUT: Thank you very much Riefaat. As we said earlier on you have touched very deeply into our hearts and, I am sure, into many of the hearts of people who are listening to you today. Thanks for making the decision to come and being the first one, as it were, trail blazer, and, in fact, you are, to set the pace for today. Thank you very much.

CHAIRPERSON: Ladies and gentlemen, we will now have a 15 minute tea break, but can we stand as the witnesses leave and reconvene at 20 past 11.