DATE: 12-06-1997




MS MKHIZE: Can I ask Mrs Marge Nkomo to come forward please. Mrs Nkomo, I would like to welcome you and I must apologise, you are one of those people who have been here, I must apologise it has been a long day for you, but I thank you for your patience and in welcoming you, I would just make one small request.

We have looked at your submission. Your submission looks at the deaths of eight street children due to the bombing of the Elim church where they were being accommodated and you refer to the experience of the survivors.

Also it covers the death of quite a number of miss Masoeko, a single parent, due to the bombing of their home, it also covers the continuous harassment of the Nkomo family by members of the Security Forces which is your family and you refer to experiences of your own youngest child at that time.

But for the purpose of this presentation, I will ask you to limit yourself to the first part of your submission, to help the Commission to understand the context within which the eight street children died and the Commissioners might ask you on other sections of your submission. So having said that, I will ask you to stand up and take an oath.

MARGE NKOMO: (sworn states)

MS MKHIZE: Tom Manthata will assist you.

MR MANTHATA: Hallo Sis Marjory.

MS NKOMO: Hallo.

MR MANTHATA: Can you please just go on with what happened so some of the Masoeko family and your family too.

MS NKOMO: Okay, before I get into that, I would like to say that this submission is on behalf of three young people from Pretoria who have been willing to share their experience. Their wish is that this submission be dedicated to all those children who died in the process, who cannot share their experiences in this new South Africa, especially Mita Ngobeni, a four year old who was shot by Security Forces whilst playing in her yard in Sallsville, Pretoria.

The first submission is the experience of the survivor of the Elim Church bombing on the 12th of March 1992. We have a background here as to how he got into the street, because William Motshlega is a volunteer with Streetwise, Pretoria, was one of the 20 occupants of the dormitory on the third floor on that fateful morning oft he 12th of March 1992.

William came from Pretoria from (indistinct) where his home is. When he was 12 years old, he says the reason for his running away from home, was that his mother, a single parent, could not afford to feet, clothe or educate him.

The mother left home very early in the morning and came home very late from the farm where she was working. One day whilst the mother was at work, he decided to go and look for work at a different farm from the one where his mother was working.

His right arm was severely injured by a farm implement which was used for reaping ground nuts. He was admitted at the Mokopani hospital and later transferred to Garankuwa hospital in Pretoria North.

He says that his employer did not visit him at the hospital, nor did he pay his hospital fees. On being discharged from the hospital, he landed on the streets of Pretoria. He then recalls the morning of the 12th of March 1992, that it was in the early hours of the morning. He had been fast asleep when he was woken up by one of the boys.

By that time the dormitory was full of smoke, there was no electricity, no illumination except from the flames. Half asleep he jumped through the window on the third floor. He says he was lucky only to sustain cuts on his stomach. A friend sustained a fracture of the left leg.

William speaks with admiration and respect of Sipho, a young man who was at that time their supervisor and who had impressed him by directing the boys to slide down his body while he hung by his body while he hung by his hand over the edge of a window.

William went back home after that incident, but because of the socio-economic conditions, he had to come back to the streets. He is now a volunteer with the Streetwise projects and he is paid R800-00 a month. He says that he does experience hallucinations at times whereupon he sees images of and hears the voices of the victims of that fire, crying for help.

William is a very polite young man, he is however very bitter against his first boss who neglected him when he had been injured on duty. He is also bitter that the suspect arrested for bombing the building, was later discharged.

MR MANTHATA: Can we go on to another, you talked about the Masoeko family.

MS NKOMO: The bombing of the Masoeko residence. Mrs Madipolso Masoeko was tragically killed on the morning of the 5th of March, 1986. She had been a staunch member of the AME church in Attridgeville and also a member of the housewives' league, a community based womens' organisation.

She stayed with her four sons. The three eldest were activists and the youngest, Clifford, who had been 18 at that time recalls the events of the morning.

On the 5th of March 1986, at about 2.00 am I was awaken by the sound of my mother, screaming. She was saying that my brother, Oupa was being attacked. On waking up I discovered that my mother was bleeding profusely from her head, from a head injury.

Oupa also had been shot and was in a serious condition. My other two brothers were also injured. Neighbours came to help send my brothers and my mother to the hospital. I was dazed, I had never been so alone.

A few minutes later, police arrived, accompanied by an informer who also lived in Attridgeville. The accused me of having bombed our house and took me to the Attridgeville police station.

On arriving at the police station, I was made to sleep under the table, where I was kicked from time to time. Whilst under the table, I overheard the police saying that my mother had died. I cannot explain how I felt at that time.

MR MANTHATA: Sorry Ms Nkomo, we are running into problems. I think I must give it back to the Chairperson to explain the situation as it is. It seems we have run out of our time.


MR MANTHATA: Okay, I learn that we can go on, but can I raise a few questions, I don't know if they will lead us to the end. There was this other one of the farm, the injury sustained, you know as a farm worker.

We are not too clear whether this falls within the parameters of the TRC, whether there was any political motive by the farmer or if it was, whether is was expressly said to a point where it can be quoted, that you know, the farmer said this and that which amounted to a political motive, and then comes that one of the bombing.

Who had thrown the bomb into the house?

MS NKOMO: About the first one, about the farmer, here we are talking of an issue of child labour. A child who was 12 years old then, you know, it is just the way of explaining as to how this child happened to be on the streets.


MS NKOMO: I don't know if it is within your parameters, but I don't know, I am just wondering about a 12 year old child working in a farm and actually sustains such serious injuries and is taken to hospital whereupon the employer doesn't even pay him and doesn't even go and see him. But it is up to the TRC, because I know what their parameters are.

MR MANTHATA: It shall be considered. Then we talk about who, how many of this Masoeko children were still under age when this thing happened, because I think we had Oupa Masoeko making this presentation in the Pretoria hearings?

MS NKOMO: Clifford, the last born, was 18 years at that time. The one who have made this submission.

MR MANTHATA: What eventually happened to Clifford and those younger to him?

MS NKOMO: Clifford says he was left alone because the mother and the brothers were admitted at the hospital and during his absence, the police force came and fetched him and took him to the police station, whereupon they were saying that he was responsible for the bombing and they put him under the table and kept on kicking him.

And then it was then that he overheard them saying that his mother had died on admission. So he is very bitter about the fact that he had to remain alone, because the brothers were on the run all the time.

He had to remain alone at home, and each time the police came, they threatened that if he doesn't say where the brothers are, they are going to kill him and he recalls also the funeral, the mother's funeral where he says they were not allowed to pay tribute to the mother properly and the community was not allowed to bury the mother.

At the graveyard when people arrived there, there was already a semi-circle of police sjamboking everybody who had come to accompany them. And not that only, the people who remained at home as our culture is, that people remain, preparing for people at the graveyard, were attacked by police.

Women were molested with pick-handles, they sustained injuries, some were thrown into the fire, even the food was contaminated with this liquid and then they couldn't eat the food. But he further says that he actually was affected at school, he couldn't concentrate because each time he was removed from what was happening from school, because he was thinking of how the police are frustrating him, whilst he stayed at home, alone.

And as a result of that, he had to leave home and go to Hammanskraal where he completed his standard 10, then after that he was admitted at the University of the Western Cape and registered for a B Admin degree, but even there, he had to withdraw, because his brothers could not afford paying fees, because they were not working, they were just running after the police.

And he says he is very thankful for the grants he received from the Pretoria Council of Churches. In all, he says it is difficult to cope with the needs of a home, I am responsible for maintaining since my brothers have gone on to start their own families elsewhere. I am a diabetic and often suffer from stress and depression.

I have from time to time, to pay for medical fees. I feel stuck and I cannot achieve the goals I planned.

MR MANTHATA: Being in that state, which was the question I was going to ask, that is the emotional state in which he finds himself, is he saying that he needs assistance?

MS NKOMO: Yes, he does need assistance because he says that on the day of the funeral, everything in the house was destroyed by the police and he has never been able to replace and he says that the roof is still leaking from that time.

MR MANTHATA: Mrs Nkono, then you were to speak about - who is the next family that you talk about, Nkomo family? Go ahead.

MS NKOMO: Yes, there is a submission of it is Nolita Nkomo's account on the arrest of her father and other instances of harassment incurred by members of her family and herself.

Nolita Nkomo was born in February 1970. Most of her recollections of her early teenage years are filled with violations, intimidations and bombing of her family by members of the Security Forces.

By the time she was 16, she could count three occasions in which her house had been bombed, two occasions in which her father's medical practice had been bombed and less threatening telephone calls which had become part of the norm in her house and too many sleepless nights, when no one in the family could sleep as they had been told once again that none of them would see the next day dawn.

She talks about her brother who was two years old when the father was detained. Maroma was obviously traumatised by the experienced, becoming troubled by nightmares and withdrawn. We tried to make him feel secure by being extra loving, hugging him and comforting him. Especially he was a child who loved to be touched.

When my father returned to us, Maroma did not recognise him at first. There is some comfort in not remembering some things, and I think that that is how Maroma dealt with the trauma of that night, forgetting even the father for whom he had cried so bitterly.

She further says but my father's not being with us made us so much vulnerable to the anxieties of life under an oppressive South African system, people were afraid to be associated with us. Maybe they blamed activists like my father for the unwanted attention of the Security Police, the fear of the people of our township and the concerted efforts by the police and their informers, to vilify his name, calling him an instigator and distributing pamphlets slandering his name, whilst daily police vehicles parked at the entrance of his practice, intimidating the locums who tried to fill in for him and the patients, who in spite of this, would still go into the practice, all worked together to ostracise us even further.

MR MANTHATA: Do I understand you here to, Mrs Nkomo, to be explaining the situation or the position of a traumatised child and the trauma being that of the family under attack and the family having lost property?


MR MANTHATA: I think I will stop questioning, I will hand it back to the Chairperson.

MS NKOMO: Thank you.

MS MKHIZE: Marjory, thank you very much for the courage of sharing with us painful and difficult stories, especially given the fact that for you it is not professional work, there was also intimate and personal involvement in the whole process, so we thank you very much.

Also in introducing you, I should have mentioned that your work is well-known in childrens' rights circles, so we appreciate the support you have given us, but before you leave, I just would like to check whether you have made a statement regarding Nkomo specific human rights violations, besides just talking about it. If you haven't, I should think it would be of great help if you can get hold of our statement takers and make that submission. Thank you very much, I hope this will be the beginning of a healing or realisation of the importance of seeking healing for yourself as well. Thank you very much.

MS NKOMO: Thank you very much.