TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
JOHANNESBURG CHILDREN'S HEARING
NAME: NOMONDE NTABENI
___________________________________________ MS MKHIZE: We have a difficulty, our staff hasn't given us a list of dignitaries and all the invited people, members of Parliament, Trustees of different NGO's, leaders from churches, it is difficult for me to acknowledge, or even the names of schools that are here.
It is difficult to say I see the Minister of Education or whoever, when there are many other people who are here, who have not been acknowledged, so I would ask our TRC staff to give us a list of all the dignitaries, as I've said the church leadership, leadership from the NGO's, the schools, members of Parliament, and so on.
I will ask the next witness to come forward, which is Nomonde Ntabeni. I don't know whether (indistinct), this morning I was told that he hasn't arrived, so if he hasn't arrived, I will ask Nomonde Ntabeni.
Nomonde, I would like to welcome you and I will ask that Dr Randera assist you to take your oath.
NOMONDE NTABENI: (sworn states)
DR RANDERA: Thank you Nomonde.
MS MKHIZE: Nomonde, you will be assisted by Joyce Seroke. Joyce?
MS SEROKE: Good morning Nomonde. Incidentally, today is your birthday. Happy birthday.
MS NTABENI: Thank you.
MS SEROKE: In 1976, June, the 16th, you were 16 years of age.
MS NTABENI: That is correct.
MS SEROKE: So, 37 ... the days have gone by fast. You experienced this violation on the 16th of June and we are four days, in four days time we will be celebrating the 21st anniversary of that fateful day.
MS NTABENI: I feel good about that because I can tell and see there is quite a lot of change.
MS SEROKE: What change are you talking about, what has changed?
MS NTABENI: The education that we have now, is different from what we had in the past because in the past we used to do every subject in Afrikaans, today one is free to choose any subject you want to take.
MS SEROKE: Can you tell us precisely as to what prevailed that day, that fateful day?
MS NTABENI: I was with my friend, the two of us were coming from a shop going home. On the way we heard the gunshots. When I looked and tried to run for refuge, it was late already and I was shot.
I was there for quite some time, about 30 minutes after I was shot and a group of youth came and took us to a certain house and as we were sitting there, I felt like throwing up and the lady of the house told me to on ahead and that is when my intestines got out.
I just heard the lady saying, there are the intestines coming out and she gave me a mohair to wrap myself. And there was one other child that was shot at the same time when I was shot and we were ferried to Baragwanath hospital and the operated on me and they saw my intestines.
I lost my consciousness and when I regained my consciousness I was in Ward 4 at Baragwanath.
MS SEROKE: What was happening that day, tell us about the situation that prevailed on that fateful day.
MS NTABENI: The bottle store was set alight and burning and we were on our way going home.
MS SEROKE: Why were they attacking and why did they attack the bottle store?
MS NTABENI: I wouldn't know.
MS SEROKE: As you were at school, we have already heard that the school children on that day were protesting against Afrikaans, now tell us why the whole thing happened, the bottle store being attacked.
MS NTABENI: I think people were so infuriated.
MS SEROKE: What infuriated people?
MS NTABENI: The way we were being treated.
MS SEROKE: Tell us about the treatment.
MS NTABENI: The Black person was not recognised at all those days, there was nothing that a Black person will say.
MS SEROKE: What was happening at your school, tell us about the school procedures?
MS NTABENI: As I've already made mention of the fact that those days, every subject was carried in Afrikaans, there was nothing I knew then. The only subject I knew and liked the most was Mathematics and I will go to my brother for assistance to enlist help so he could translate this Afrikaans into English.
MS SEROKE: Even Maths was in Afrikaans?
MS NTABENI: Yes, it was in Afrikaans.
MS SEROKE: Have you ever attempted to put forward your grievances about the system, education system at the time?
MS NTABENI: No, we never did.
MS SEROKE: Until you decided that you should boycott?
MS NTABENI: Yes.
MS SEROKE: When you were injured, according to your statement, you say her name is Letta, was she injured?
MS NTABENI: No, she wasn't injured, I was the only one injured.
MS SEROKE: About your parents, when did they hear about that attack?
MS NTABENI: They heard that very day because I come from Snowani and it is nearby.
MS SEROKE: Tell us about what you are doing now, Nomonde.
MS NTABENI: I am selling sweets.
MS SEROKE: Do you have children?
MS NTABENI: Yes, I do.
MS SEROKE: How many children do you have?
MS NTABENI: I have three children.
MS SEROKE: So you support your children from the income you get in selling?
MS NTABENI: Yes, and also my mothers has a pension fund and my brother as well, so they assist in supporting my children.
MS SEROKE: Are they at school?
MS NTABENI: Yes, they are at school.
MS SEROKE: How do you feel now Nomonde about your health, how are you faring because the bullet penetrated through your stomach and dislocated your hip. Now how do you fare?
MS NTABENI: When I get pains, I ask to be massaged and rubbed.
MS SEROKE: Do you see any Doctors in this regard?
MS NTABENI: No.
MS SEROKE: How do you feel now after this incident and yet you were just walking from school innocently?
MS NTABENI: I heard that in a minute, and I wanted to retaliate.
MS SEROKE: You wanted to revenge and retaliate?
MS NTABENI: Yes.
MS SEROKE: Do you still have that hatred?
MS NTABENI: Yes, I do, but it has subsided over time because even when I get re-employed, I wouldn't last long because soon after that, my employers would retrench me, I will be the first one on the list of those who will be retrenched.
If there would be a problem, perhaps the employees wanting to put up a strike and I will be called for no apparent reason.
MS SEROKE: Now you think this is due to what happened to you and starting to experience problems with employment now?
MS NTABENI: Yes.
MS SEROKE: Now, when you talk about this hatred, you tell us that you still have it a little bit. Now that we are addressing this reconciliation issue, how do you feel about that, how do you think you can rid of the hatred that you still have?
MS NTABENI: If those culprits could be brought in front of me, I will feel better because I will ask them what happened and why they did what they did.
MS SEROKE: Now according to your statement, you say you never saw them and you can't even identify them. Now how can be resolve this matter?
MS NTABENI: Maybe they will come forward, because the way the whole thing took place, it was within a twinkling of an eye.
MS SEROKE: Thank you Nomonde.
MS MKHIZE: Nomonde, as it is the tradition of the Commission, other Commissioners will ask you a few questions just to clarify whatever you have said right now. Tom Manthata?
MR MANTHATA: Nomonde, at which school were you attending then?
MS NTABENI: I was eBongo Secondary School.
MR MANTHATA: Would you say that Ebongo at that time was politicised on the issue of Afrikaans?
MS NTABENI: No, it wasn't.
MR MANTHATA: So when the whole thing happened, it must have been a surprise and a shock to you? That is when you heard about rejection of Afrikaans in the manner in which it was done, that you just found yourself shot at?
The question is, the children at Bongo were not that politicised more especially on the issue of Afrikaans, now here you get shot and you understand later, if I understand, that the whole exercise or what was happening in the township on that day, was revolved against Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, am I correct?
MS NTABENI: That is correct.
MR MANTHATA: Right. Then I am still interested in at what point did you become that heavily influenced, you know by what was happening? When if I understand you well, you were still a youth, a child you know, innocent of what was taking place or what was happening.
How did you reconcile yourself with this kind of a break in what you once saw as harmless, innocent, a playful and joyful life of a youth into this kind of a life where you are forced into a situation by a bullet?
MS NTABENI: It is terrible.
MR MANTHATA: You found yourself in a situation not of your making and not of your understanding, but rather a life where you found a large number of the students being pushed into? Is my question clear?
MS NTABENI: Yes, I hear your question. We were so agitated and when other students from other schools came and marched in the streets with their placards, they got into our principal's office and instructed him to dismiss the students and we were all over the streets.
We were asking one another as to who came about with this idea, great idea, because we were not in a position to understand anything that we were learning because of the language, Afrikaans.
MR MANTHATA: What did you understand the teaching in the media of Afrikaans to mean to you as students at that time?
MS NTABENI: We didn't understand Afrikaans. Even the teachers who were teaching us at the time, did not know Afrikaans quite well. When we had questions and put questions to them, they would fail to answer back because they were also not understanding the language.
MR MANTHATA: Did you see it as part of education that was going to give you the kind of information or light that would enable you to reach your aspirations as a student?
MS NTABENI: There was no light that we could gather from that kind of education system, especially that if you are being a student and taught be a teacher who was not enlightened as well, that led to a disaster.
MR MANTHATA: At that time could you have discussed with the parents for guidance in terms of whether to accept teaching in Afrikaans or not?
MS NTABENI: May you please repeat your question?
MR MANTHATA: At that time was it possible for you to have gone into a conversation with your parents about Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in your school?
MS NTABENI: No, we never had a chance to talk with our parents with regard to Afrikaans.
MR MANTHATA: But do you think they could have been able to guide you?
MS NTABENI: I don't think they could guide us in any way, because they were also scared.
MR MANTHATA: Yes, that is what I want to establish here is that there was a time when the relationship between parent and children you know, got snapped, when the parents could no longer guide the child and we are talking here about an ideal society.
Now my last question would be having experienced that kind of, or having had that kind of experience, would you want to see it happen in your time today where you yourself as a parent cannot be in a position to guide your children in their education or in their life for the future?
MS NTABENI: In this day and age as I am a parent as well, I am taking everything regarding the education for my children to heart and I always ask them as to how their days went and they will tell me and discuss the issues with me and I will also help them in writing their homeworks and where I am not enlightened, I will always refer them to those who have more light.
MR MANTHATA: My final question is in short, you are saying it is unacceptable for a parent to be in a position where he cannot guide his child and or it is unacceptable to reach a time when a child cannot accept or seek and accept guidance from the parent?
MS NTABENI: Yes, that is true.
MR MANTHATA: Thank you.
MS MKHIZE: Thank you very much Tom. Dr Randera any questions?
DR RANDERA: Nomonde, I just want to ask one question. In your statement you talk about the time that you were in hospital and that the police actually came and took a statement from you whilst you were in hospital and you say it was unknown to you who was taking the statement, that is the impression that is given.
My question really is first of all, at what stage did this take place? From what you described earlier on you were shot and your intestines were actually coming out, so you were an emergency patient. So at what stage did the statement take place and how much protection was given to you by the health personnel at the hospital?
MS NTABENI: Soldiers came to me for a statement, from all of us. After I was discharged from hospital, I went to Protea police station and I never went there. I never went there, I was told to go to Protea police station and I never went there.
DR RANDERA: Thank you.
MS SEROKE: If I may just ask you one brief question as at that time I take it, you were a young girl. Were young women in particular armed? The first witness did indicate that at a certain point in struggling with the police who were interfering in schools, he learnt to use the explosives.
In your case, did young girls begin to fight back as well?
MS NTABENI: We would run away, we never attempted to fight the police.
MS SEROKE: Let me put my question in Zulu. I wanted to establish if the girls were also in a position of fighting back, perhaps fight back with stones or bombs like the previous witness who has also told us that they would be in possession of explosives. What were girls up to?
MS NTABENI: We often times used stones to fight them.
MS SEROKE: Now on this particular day in question, did you face them head on or did you face the culprit head on, did you have a stone?
MS SEROKE: No, I had nothing, I had no stone and I did not even face him head on. There was this car approaching and I did not see it and suddenly I saw myself laying on the ground, that is how fast the whole thing took place.
When I fell, I fell towards this position and the car was going on the other direction.
MS MKHIZE: Thank you. We will ask the Commissioner Wynand Malan?
MR MALAN: No questions, thank you.
MS MKHIZE: Joyce Seroke? Piet Meiring?
PROF MEIRING: One question Nomonde, actually I need your advice. If you think of all the children that were involved in 1976 in Soweto, everything that happened, what shall we do to remember that event, to remember the struggle and the participation of the young people in the struggle?
Do we need a monument or are there other things that the young people in Soweto need, the new generation needs to remember?
MS NTABENI: Oh, the monument is ideal. I think if the schools could be refurbished and also build more schools, because at the time right now, you find that in a class room you have 70 to 80 students with one teacher and that does not give enough chance for students to grab everything.
PROF MEIRING: Thank you very much.
MS MKHIZE: Nomonde, I just want to thank you. Earlier on we had Mrs Graca Machel officially opening and one of the things which I should think you all have got to think about is that people who target young people, they plant a seed.
In other words in your case, you are growing up with this understanding and knowledge that there were bad people who didn't care for young people. If we can try to make sense of what you are saying, it is our wish as a Commission as you have appeared before us that we will be happy if you can grow up as a young person who won't live up to the expectations of your alleged perpetrators.
To grow up being a young person who wishes to work for a society where young people won't be targeted for any other reason. We hope that what happened to you, won't make you to aspire for revenge and all the things which will be really living up to the expectation of the perpetrator, making you to be a bad person.
So partly your appearance here should be a beginning or a form of reparation, a beginning of your own healing and helping you to make resolutions to be a peace agent. We thank you very much for coming.
We will now break for tea for 20 minutes which means we will be back here at twelve o'clock. I am sorry we are running late, but before you leave the hall, I just wanted to acknowledge the MEC for education Gauteng, Mary Metcalfe and other regional parliamentarians and also (indistinct) who is a member of Parliament. She is right at the back. We have reserved a special seat for her right here in front, so we will adjourn for tea now and come back at twelve o'clock. Thank you.