DATE: 12-06-1997




MS MKHIZE: I will ask the last witness for the day, Fatima Moosa to come forward. Fatima, welcome, I am sorry that you are the last one, but at least you came round about lunch time, where people have been here since eight o'clock.

Fatima is talking about work emanating from her clinical practice, she is a clinical psychologist and a University lecturer at Wits University. Piet Meiring will assist you to talk through your document. I don't know Piet is going to structure the interaction, Piet Meiring?

PROF MEIRING: Fatima, before you speak to your document,t his is a statement made by you, maybe you should stand and, if you have no problems with that, swear.

FATIMA MOOSA: (sworn states)

PROF MEIRING: Fatima, you have brought us a very interesting account, a very brief account of the work that has been done at the Wilgerspruit Centre, the work that you did with youth from Leandra. I wonder whether you would like in your own words, we have the submission before us, but if you would just like to tell us a little bit about the work done and about the experiences at Wilgerspruit?

MS MOOSA: All right. I know that you have had a long day and are operating under time constraints, I will try to be very brief.

Basically the background to the Leandra work stemmed from a polarisation within the community between the activists who were opposing forced removals within Leandra and who whose efforts were being coordinated to a great extent, by the community leader, Chief Mayisa.

They were opposed by a group of vigilantes who had been led to believe that these were the trouble makers in the community and if Chief Mayisa was gotten rid of, together with his followers, then all would be harmonious in the community again. Those who didn't belong, could be removed and the rest of the community could happily remain there.

So the State was exploiting divisions within the community. Chief Mayisa was killed. Some of the youth whom we worked with, were present at his house on the day on which it was surrounded by the vigilantes.

Chief Mayisa had some foreboding, he had seen this about to occur, and had contacted the police for help. The police decided not to intervene, they remained on the outskirts of Leandra. All of this has been documented I think, in a book by Haysan, but basically the police tacitly allowed the vigilantes to attack.

The Chief's house was petrol bombed, the youth together with some of the other people present at the meeting, fled this burning building. The Chief himself tried to escape. The vigilantes prevented that. They savagely attacked him, they hacked him to death and this was another source of trauma for this youth.

Some of the other events that traumatised the youth, have been outlined in my submission to you, so I don't want to go through all of it, but suffice it to say that any one of these events alone, would qualify for expose - the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder in somebody who is vulnerable.

These children were exposed to life threatening situations on several occasions, on multiple occasions and not surprisingly were manifesting with all the classic symptoms, or many of the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The South African Council of Churches arranged for them to receive refuge at the Wilgerspruit Centre which is the point at which we were asked to come and help because the idea was that perhaps psychological counselling would help to ameliorate some of those symptoms that the youth were presenting with, you know the sleeplessness, the nightmares, the psycho-sematic symptoms, the general distress, all the classic symptoms. And that was when 10 of us, including social workers, clinical psychologists, a number of who worked together in bodies like the Organisation for Appropriate Social Services, the alternative clinical psychologists' forum, groups like that, decided that we needed to try and help out.

So that was basically the basis of our involvement with these youth.

PROF MEIRING: Fatima, thank you so much. It is a very interesting piece. You tell about the harassment you had to go through at the Wilgerspruit Centre and all of that. I would like in close to ask you one favour, it seems that the last months of the Truth Commission's life, a lot needs to be discussed on the one hand about reparation and we will need all the advice we can get from you especially in the field of emotional psychiatric help and if you are willing to help us with that and secondly we will have to discuss at length all the implications and all the possibilities of reconciliation, and there we will need everything we can get from your group.

May I be so bold as to ask that we may again ask your help at some stage within these two issues especially?

MS MOOSA: I would be delighted to contribute if I can.

PROF MEIRING: Thank you.

MS MOOSA: And I am sure that will go for my colleagues as well.

PROF MEIRING: And you may know that this submission is a valuable part of the material we gather and we will have a very close look again at everything you said and thank you for being with us through a long day.

MS MOOSA: Thank you.

DR RANDERA: Fatima, thank you from me as well. I just want to ask you one question. Di Scott in her submission this morning, I want to quote, says that the sad thing in relationship to the violence against children is that the damage that has been done psychologically, emotionally and developmentally cannot be undone.

So as a society in South Africa we must accept the responsibility for the fact that almost an entire generation of children have most likely been irreparably harmed by the actions of the apartheid regime and then there is another quote later on from the Washington Conference where a Doctor who was involved, looking after like you were, people who were involved in human rights violations, says something similar.

Now in your report you talk about a preliminary study that was done several years later, I assume and the ambivalence of the youth that you found. I just want to know, do you share this view that comes out in many studies that the effects of what happened in this period that we are looking at on one side may be irreparable and on the other side, or let me say, do you share a sense of hope and do we see that hope today?

MS MOOSA: Well, I think that that was one of the burning questions at the time because a lot of the concern was whether in fact we were producing a (indistinct) generation or a lost generation and that was part of the impetus for us following up the youth whom we had worked with, to try and look at how in fact, they had been impacted on by the events they had been quite actively involved in.

And I think that perhaps to say that they have been irreparably damaged, is an unduly pessimistic conclusion. I think that one does need to afford them all the support that we can give them and obviously that is a crucial factor, but equally we found that the kind of conclusion we reached three years down the line, was that about fifty percent of the youth were presenting in a way that would allow us to, or would lead us to see them as casualties, but the other fifty percent was showing quite a lot of resilience in fact. That is not to say that they were not adversely affected, but equally the capacity to care for other people, some of the important yardsticks, the psychological measures we would use to gage how highly functioning individuals are, would involve issues like empathy, the capacity to care for other people, the capacity to form good, interpersonal relationships, the ability to work and so on.

Those aspects are intact for quite a large group of those people, so in fact I would say that I wouldn't totally go along with that.

MS MKHIZE: Fatima, thank you very much for coming forward. What you have said, I should think it is very, very important for us because sometimes it is overwhelming to hear about stories of young people in big number, who were exposed to atrocities, then we begin to ask questions as to whether are we realistic to expect these young people to go through a rehabilitation process and begin to function as well-adjusted adults, but based on what you are saying, it is like with resources and the capacity, it is important for people to heal and function reasonably well. So thank you very much.

As Professor Meiring has said it will be important again for you to help our Reparations and Rehabilitation Committee in finalising its recommendation to try to incorporate some of your ideas.

MS MOOSA: Thank you.

MS MKHIZE: Thank you. In closing, I don't know whom to thank, because most people we meant to thank at the end, has left but we have the Wits Choral Society which I should think, it is appropriate for them to close immediately after one of their faculty members had had a say regarding what should be done in dealing with the injuries of the past and I would, before I ask them to come forward, I would really like to thank all the people who made it possible, especially the young people, those of you who were here at lunch time, you saw how young people got into roles, most of them weren't even born in 1976, but as they were acting our pasts, they got into those roles and they started crying so we really thank all the young people who cooperated with us and shared at a deeper level about their understanding of our past.

We know and we understand how risky that is in the sense that it makes one, it is like exposing yourself to a lot of pain. Also people who made submissions, most people who made submissions today, are not people who are writing this is an academic exercise, it is people who got involved because of their concern as people. We heard from the Colemans, Di Scott who shared about her decision even to go into exile, and Majory Nkomo and many other young people whom I wouldn't mention now, so we also thank all those people who also made submissions for the risk they took in sharing about their difficult childhood in this country.

Also I would like to thank the interpreters for their patience, since they have been with us since this morning and people who assisted us even with this venue and of course the Wits Choral Society for the support they have given us. And then I would ask us to be on record to have closed officially the children's hearings. Over to you then, thank you.