TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
SUBMISSIONS - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
DATE: 22 MAY 1997 NAME: ANTHONY THOZAMILE NTONI
CASE: CT/00751 - ATHLONE
CHAIRPERSON: Our next witness is Anthony Thozamile Ntoni and I will ask him to come up onto the stage with his briefer. Mr Ntoni, can you hear the translation coming through the headphone? Can you hear me now?
MR NTONI: Yes.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Ntoni, thank you for being here this afternoon. It is not easy being low down in the list of witnesses, it is a long day and thank you for waiting to come and share your story with us. Mrs Burton is going to administer the oath and then Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela will lead your evidence.
MS BURTON: Mr Ntoni, are you willing to swear the oath?
MR NTONI: Yes.
MS BURTON: Please stand and raise your right hand.
ANTHONY THOZAMILE NTONI: (Duly sworn in, states).
MS BURTON: Thank you. Please sit down.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you Madam Chair. Good afternoon. I also greet you. You may take off your headphones. Your story that you are going to relate to us today shows the violation of people's rights did not only take place because of apartheid, but also as a result of resistance to apartheid. You are going to tell us where your problem started in 1981 when you left here. If you could just tell us in 1981 how old you were.
MR NTONI: In 1981 I was 17 years old.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: And in order for you to have left, what caused you to leave?
MR NTONI: I was recruited in 1980 at the time of the boycotts. I was busy with Form three which is standard eight and we were from a meeting and we would attend meetings and eventually we stopped attended meetings and we just sit around. Then there was someone there who was an activist. He came to me when I was with someone else who was active in the SRC at the school and told us that he was going to recruit people and if anyone wanted to go into exile he would assist that person. We agreed in 1980.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: At which school were you at the time? At which school were you?
MR NTONI: I was at Langa High School.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Before you left South Africa what would you say motivated you to leave and go to Lesotho?
MR NTONI: At that time we were involved in school activities. We were not politically aware yet. We knew that we were oppressed. We know that, we knew that we were oppressed, but we continued to attend school until a sign came and we were told to come out of our closets and go and listen to somebody address us at a meeting and I think was the fortnight before we wrote our June exam. So we went and listened and we realised that there were people that knew what was going on and perhaps they were people involved about, in the ANC. At the time we just heard about the ANC, we did not know what it was all about. So what happened is that we became interested and decided that, in any way, these boycotts are going to continue, because in, they started school in 1980 something, after a couple of years, because we could see that parents were taking their children away and sending them off to boarding schools because of the boycotts and so forth. So we realised that we should rather go into exile instead of sitting at home and doing nothing with all these boycotts and especially at that time at high school they had a student exchange course that they were conducting. So they would offer students who achieved good results in the exams to participate in this exchange course, but with the boycotts and stuff we realised that we were not going to make it and that we should go and participate in the struggle and then rather carry on thereafter.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Where were your parents at the time?
MR NTONI: They were there, but we did not involve them in what we were doing, because the people recruiting us told us that for our own safety it was best that we did not go round telling people what had happened, because they felt that even if our parents were to find out that we intended leaving the country they would panic and lots of people would get hurt.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Your story begins where you arrived in Angola. If you could just tell us in your own words, when you left South Africa, where you went. Just tell us in a very coherent way, we went from there, how long you stayed there and where your rights were violated. Could you just start and tell us.
MR NTONI: I left South Africa in March 1981. We went straight to Lesotho. We stayed there for about a year and I left Lesotho in December, late in December, round about the 21st of 25th. We went to Mozambique. In Mozambique it was evident that we would not be able to pass through at the same time, because they needed so many people to celebrate January the eighth which I think was the ANC's birthday. We then performed there.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: What did you perform?
MR NTONI: We performed in cultural groups to celebrate the birthday of the ANC. After the January eighth celebrations we moved on to Angola. In Angola things, lots of things started to happen and we had arrived at night, late at night to, possibly, early in the morning at approximately three am while many people were still sleeping.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: I beg your pardon. Madam Chair, there is a bit of noise.
CHAIRPERSON: Please, if people are going to move around could you do so as quietly as possible. It is very disruptive to the witnesses and please do not talk while the witness is giving evidence.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you Chairperson. You may proceed. You got to Angola, in which camp did you arrive?
MR NTONI: We got to Viana Camp in Angola and that was at night and we were briefed there. We briefed them that we come from the other place and we were now at Viana Camp and we were going to look for people who were going to take part in the training.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: So it was basically a halfway station and selection point as such?
MR NTONI: Yes and there we were told that in Viana there were many South Africans and if you saw anyone in the camp, because some people came from South Africa and were possibly sent as spies from South Africa. If you saw anyone that you recognised there you should go and try and extract information from that person about the circumstances. What happened to me the first morning when I got up is that I saw a friend of mine from Langa and he and I had left the country in the same year.
When I saw him there in the morning I saw him sitting there and I went to him and said, hey, Mac what is happening and I saw that he was not too well. I knew him as someone that was very fit and healthy and who had been gymming and I wanted to know from him why he was so thin and sickly. He said, no, I have been arrested here and I was told that I was involved in, there was an ANC chief representative in Zimbabwe who implicate him, he was implicated in the assassination of this ANC chief rep.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Please do not be disturbed. Sometimes you do tend to hurry a bit and it is not always easy to hear what you are saying. Could you just start where you were talking about this ANC chief representative in Zimbabwe. What did he say to Mac?
MR NTONI: Mac told me that this ANC representative in Zimbabwe, Joe Gqabi, had been shot and that he was implicated in the assassination. They were also accused of killing other people. So I was surprised when I heard that Mac had also been arrested and he was told to sign a statement admitting that he was involved in the murder on Joe Gqabi. So I wanted to know how was that possible, because Mac and I had left South Africa three months apart. He would attend meetings and he was not even at school while we were here. What I knew was that Mac worked at Duens Bakery and what happened there was that he had a fallout with a coloured person and he hit that person with an iron bar on his head and that person collapsed and he then ran home. When he got home he found ...
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Excuse me one second. As I said, you are rushing your story a bit. I understand that it is difficult. While you are speaking Xhosa giving your testimony there is someone that is trying to interpret everything you are saying and we would just like to ask you to slow down a bit so that what you are saying can be interpreted.
MR NTONI: So I am saying that the way I knew Mac we could, from the way we knew Mac we assumed that he was running away from the police in connection with this matter and apparently this coloured that he had assaulted had suffered some internal bleeding and had, in the meantime, recovered in hospital. So I said, look, let us go to the Security Department.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Of the ANC?
MR NTONI: Yes, and try and clarify this matter, because he said to me that he had been there for six months. Ever since he arrived and my understanding of it was that we told ourselves we were not going to spend more than a month there. So spending six months there made us think of a lot of things. So I went to the Security Department and said, look, there is a certain person that you have got incarcerated here. I know him and if there is anything, any clarity you want on him, Mac is not involved in politics and he is not involved in these things and they said, no, leave that, because you just got here. You do not know what is going on here. So do not come in and involve yourself in what is happening here and I said, no, I know this person. If there is anyone else that can say anything about him then you bring that person, but we grew up together and I know him best. They did not want to listen to me and dismissed me saying to me that I should leave and never speak to Mac again. That was the last time I saw Mac at the Viana Camp. They would keep taking me from the camp to go and work in Ruanda and come back at night. So I also eventually left Viana Camp hoping to meet Mac somewhere in the future.
I think after two or three months people came from the Viana Camp. It was another group who we were trained with. They came there before we could start training saying that Mac had been bitten by a snake and killed and said that Mac was in Viana and I was never going to see him.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: At which camp were you by then?
MR NTONI: We were at Caculama Camp. We were at the training camp, but we had not started training there. We were at this camp, because it was non-functional for a long time. We were told that Mac had been bitten by a snake and died. I said how is that possible, then they said, no, Mac had been bitten and he fell and when they tried to wake him up he was not waking up and he was foaming at the mouth and his eyes were upturned and I asked them what kind of snake it was. They said they did not see it and I asked them where did the snake bite him, where was the wound. They said they did not see any wound and I said how is that possible, there were 30 or more of you. How can you not know, did the person not scream when he was bitten by the snake and they said no. Somebody said to me, why do you not just keep quiet and they wanted to know, I said I wanted to know how could somebody just keep quiet when being bitten by a snake and they said to me that I should keep quiet.
Nobody came to confront me about Mac's story and when I went elsewhere I had to write a report and I wrote a report saying that I knew Mac. If you want to know anything about Mac, come and ask me, because we grew up together in the township. No one was interested enough to call me and ask how I had met Mac and the same thing at the camp, still Mac's name was mentioned and nobody came to ask how I had met him or how I know him. What annoyed me even worse about Mac's story is that I was hoping that at least at his funeral they will say why he was being held at Viana Camp. They said, at his funeral they said that he was a hero and he wanted to be a communist and there was nothing to say why he was held in Viana. It was just said that Mac was a hero and then he was buried, that he wanted to become a communist.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: How did this matter affect you since you were defending Mac? How did it affect you at Caculama or your stay at the camp?
MR NTONI: I had a problem, because since we all arrived together, Mac was approximately a year older than I was and we all grew up together in Langa and most of the time the people whom I associated with, Mac was one of them, and I saw him as an exemplary person and he tried to get people out of the rough way of life, smoking and getting involved in wrong matters. So I was very confused as to how I was going to carry on, because the one person that I knew that led a good life, an exemplary life, was Mac and if they could do this to him they could do this to me any time.
As soon as I went to confront them lots of other things started happening such as them taking me while we would be sitting there, they would call me and into the administration and there was someone, there was, known as, who was working at Armscor, was Dasaai and he was informed that because he was working it was seen that since he was working at Armscor he was a sort of spy and they would give us firearms to take to the other section. So I do not know what it was all about, but I was never directly accused of being an informant, but they did things like that. Sometimes at the camp where we were training whatever went wrong and they never did anything like that like waking me up in the middle of the night and trying to get me to run away and accuse me of doing anything.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Sir, I would like you to explain to us that Lusana is a place where Umkhonto we Sizwe female cadres stayed?
MR NTONI: And as a result I found myself being involved in conflicts, because there were certain attitudes towards me. Whatever was wrong I would be accused of, until what eventually happened and what led to my arrest and incarceration is while training there, we had started our training, part of our training was overcoming obstacles. I was still very young and very fit so I had no problem with obstacle courses and I did my training and showed the others and then I stood watching the others and while standing there I would wonder a bit and I found a firearm, an AK47 which was lying there. I, we were not allowed to carry firearms, we were carrying batons at the time. So I saw a firearm lying in the grass and I realised that it might have been left mistakenly by an instructor and I picked it up out of curiosity and looked at it. I remember the last having this gun in my hand looking at it and turning it round and then all the officers were around me, assaulting me and they grabbed this firearm and then I was taken to a medical point and I was injected and I was dumped at a guardhouse which was near the gate so that all vehicles that came into, this is the little hut which is at the entrance and while lying there, every time I tried to speak it felt like my tongue was swollen and I could not speak. I could not even move my fingers, they were stiff and it was, I slept there from the morning until shortly after lunch without being able to move.
Late at night about sunset a chief Afrika arrived at the security camp and spoke to these people and they put me behind in a landrover and I was taken to another place where food stocks were kept approximately seven kilometres from the camp. I stayed there. I must have been there for approximately a month, but I cannot tell you exactly how long it was, because most of the time I was assaulted, but I really cannot say how long I stayed there, because sometimes Afrika would come there and assault me at times as well and I would never know why I was being assaulted. I was not thinking anything, all that was in my mind was these people, I do not know what these people are doing. All I want to do is train and all I want to do is leave here and go back and train.
The person that kept bringing me my food would tell me, do not worry, you are going to go back to the camp and train and he would be friendly and we would do exercises, but when exercising he would go behind me and assault me and when I lost consciousness he would leave me alone. What I do remember very well is Afrika took out a firearm which was his pistol which was at his waist and asked me, do you know this? I said, no, but I know that it is a gun. He took it and said to me, shoot. I said to him, no, this place is enclosed, how can I shoot and I followed his instruction and then he took his firearm back and assaulted me and asked me whether I knew about any rapes and I said, who did I rape at the camps. He made me sit down and he kicked my feet with boots until my skin came off. When they came in there they would assault me so badly. I remember the times when they would be there and every time I would come, I would lose consciousness and I would regain consciousness and find myself alone.
Then I was shifted to this house which was seven kilometres from the camp. They came in a green Mercedes Benz truck and tied me under the back seats.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Just excuse me for a minute please. I was going to ask you, as you were about to tell me this part about the vehicle, the people's names that were present there, if you could please give us those names after todays meeting so that we can take note of them and notify them according to, in accordance with the Act where people have been implicated as perpetrators.
MR NTONI: They then came in this truck and I was put in the back. The truck left. On the way I would loose consciousness quite often and there was a rope around my neck which would choke me from time to time and they would throw water over me for me to regain consciousness and then we would carry on and I think the first stop was at Luanda. I was then put in a goods container. I cannot remember for how long and from there we went to the ANC jail at Quatro. I do not know when I arrived at Quatro.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Do you know which year it was?
MR NTONI: What I do remember is with training, ones training lasted approximately six months and I remember the last time was in May and when I arrived at Quatro I do not know exactly when it was. I do not know the date or the time or anything. All I can remember now is between May and the time I recovered, because I did recover fully, on the first of January 1983, this was seven months during which I do not know what happened, but it, by the time I recovered after seven months my left arm was non-functional and I could not speak and I had scars all over, I could not stand and I could not walk and I remember that. I remember sitting in a corner not knowing where I was, not knowing who the people around me were and they would call me on an unfamiliar name. They would call me Mad Joe. So I would be worried, because I wanted to know who was Mad Joe and I remember picking up a firearm and looking at it, but I was now worried whether I had shot at anyone and wondering if I was in jail and so forth.
As time went by I got better and better and I could walk as well. One day I was called to the administration block and I was asked do you know Afrika Nkwe and I said, yes, I know him and I was told to go back to my cell. I went and I sat in the cell and all this time I could not speak to anyone. I could not know where I was coming from, why I was there. I was just staying there not knowing anything. My name was Mad Joe at that time. Everybody had their own names there. They would take us from one cell to another cell. We were then separated from the people who were in that first cell. We met new people, the others would go out to work in the garden and I would stay inside. They would suffocate me sometimes, my face was swollen up. I could not go out and work with others.
All the time I was wondering what was happening outside, because I did not know how the people I was with were. Some had blisters in their hands. I recovered from that life. There would be always somebody who would be beaten up who would be screaming at night. I was sick at the time thinking that when I recover they would beat me again. The ANC cadres outside said that this boy has got to be released. They tried to convince the people that I have to be released. There was a library there, we would be taken on Wednesdays to take books so that we can read, but I was staying in a corner, I did not want to talk to anyone. They were then made to make me talk even though I did not want to talk. They would give me a book to read. I would then do those exercises, because they wanted me to talk to somebody.
I then regained confidence until I would be released in the mornings to go and work outside and come back late in the afternoons. I was then called and asked and they told me to write a statement. I said that, how can I write a statement, because I do not know anything. They told me to write a statement to tell them what I was doing there. I told them that I know this is a prison, but I do not know why I am here. They said that I must not waste their time, because I know what I have done. I told them that what I remember is that I had a gun in my hand and I was beaten up. After that I could not remember anything. They said that I was wasting their time, I must answer their questions. If I do not want to talk they would take me to a dark cell and lock me inside alone.
We would rotate from one cell to another, but there were people who were locked in dark cells. They wanted me to put, they wanted to put me there in that cell. People in that dark cell would not be allowed to go outside as we were allowed. What I did is because amongst the security guards there were people I knew from 1982, they were in the camps, they were training at that time. While they were guarding me they would tell others what was happening in the camp. They said that I took a gun and pointed a person, I wanted to shoot the person, but they overpowered me. I just took their story. I, they asked me this person that I wanted to shoot, I said it was Manenberg. I agreed to what they were saying.
Manenberg use to come and tell me different stories. I was always in conflict with him. I then signed a statement. They took me back to the cell.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: I would like you to conclude your story and please tell us, you have already told us how you were tortured. Were there any other things you want to mention, any other ways of torture? You have told us about a camp and a dark cell. Is there anything else you want to add about the ways of torture so that we can conclude your story, because we want to know your situation in the present day.
MR NTONI: There is nothing more I can say about torture, because from the first day in the camp until I recovered fully, I took seven months to recover, what I know is that I would recover for a short time and I would relapse again. This was happening all the time during this seven months. I would become unconscious now and then. I cannot say in detail what was happening to me, but today I have recovered from what was happening to me at the time. I heard other peoples' stories. What was happening to me was also happening to them.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: I would like to ask you some few questions before I hand over to the Chairperson. The way you relate your story, it seems as if you were assaulted all the time since you got there. Is that correct?
MR NTONI: Yes, that is correct. From the day we arrived there I was assaulted since I was, until I was released from that jail. My life was, I was not treated well.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Did they tell you why they were harassing you, why they were torturing you?
MR NTONI: No, nobody came to me and nobody told me anything. We would be told that there was, there were people who were going to be sent to East Germany and then I would be told that I was not amongst the people who would be sent to East Germany. I would sign application forms, but my applications would be denied. They would tell me that I was not going anywhere. I would be included in certain courses, but all of a sudden they will tell me that my application was not successful.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: You left the country, you wanted to be trained, but you did not get that.
MR NTONI: After I was, I left Quatro I wanted to finish what I was there for, I wanted to be trained. I trained for six months and all these things happened after that six months of training.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: When did you come back home?
MR NTONI: I came back in 1991.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Please tell us, briefly, from 1991 how was your life at home. Was your mother still there?
MR NTONI: When I came back in 1991 things were not the same. My friends were not around, we could not communicate with each other. I would find means to support myself.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Did you meet any of your friends after you came back?
MR NTONI: Yes, but they are only friends, because we were friends while we were still children. We greet each other and it ends there.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: What are you doing now?
MR NTONI: I am staying at home.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: You are not working?
MR NTONI: No, I am not working.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Did you work after you came back?
MR NTONI: I tried to apply for different jobs, because in exile I was trying to be a mechanic, but my problem was when I was trying to get a drivers licence I was told by the security people there that I was not supposed to get a drivers licence. I went to Siphwele in Guguletu, one of the teachers there encouraged me and said that he can try to help me in compiling my CV and sent my CV in town. They wanted to, me to demonstrate to them that I am really a mechanic. They saw that I was proficient and they sent me to other places, but the problem was that I did not have a drivers licence, because even in exile while I was trying to get a drivers licence they would cut me off and say that I was not suppose to get a drivers licence. In my life nothing is progressing now.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: I would like now to hand over to the Chairperson.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Pumla. You will need to put the headphones on. I just have one question for you, Mr Ntoni. Do you know that there have been two Commissions of Enquiry into abuses in the camps called the Montenyani and the Skweye Commissions?
MR NTONI: Yes, I did hear about those Commissions, but I heard about them at a wrong time, because when we came back in 1991 in Langa we were told that our problem was well known, but for now they were still, they were, at that time they were still preparing for the elections. They told us that they would look at our cases after the elections. I only read from the paper that people were impatient and I though that they would come back to us. I did not see a need to go back to them, because they promised us that after the elections they would look at our cases.
CHAIRPERSON: So is this the first time that you have been given an opportunity to tell your story?
MR NTONI: Yes, this is the first time.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Let me just ask my colleagues if they have any questions. Mary Burton.
MS BURTON: Mr Ntoni, one of the things that happens after somebody makes a statement to us is that we ask our Investigative Unit to follow-up and check on the details of what has been told to us and it would help us if you could give us, maybe not now, but at a later stage, the names of somebody who was with you at the time who can testify to your experience. Would that be possible?
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Do you want me to explain, Mary? People who were there when you were tortured in the camps, someone who was there with you who might be back and give us evidence about what you have told us today.
MR NTONI: This would cause a problem for me, because people who were there, people who saw all what was happening, because I was not alone from Langa township, there was another one and others knew Mac, but I went to prison, the other one was recruited and he became a security police. Some of the people who were tortured with me, rumours about me, some of them are in the National Army. I do not know, because I heard that the ANC is calling people who were tortured. Maybe they met with these people, but I would like to say that I am the only person who can come forward with this story and if they can come forward this will cause problems in the organisations.
CHAIRPERSON: Pumla, would you make closing remarks please?
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you very much Wendy. Just to pursue what Mary Burton has said. If there could just be some kind of assurance that you were at the camps even though those people were not going to come forward and testify to what you are saying, our investigators will pursue the matter.
The testimony which you gave us here today shows the way in which children sometimes saw, situations in which children sometimes found themselves which they did not, which they never anticipated because of the way things were. As you say, there were so many boycotts at the time and it brought about a lot of meaninglessness in your life and made it plain that the only meaningful thing which you could do was to go and join the ranks of the ANC in Umkhonto we Sizwe, but now the sad part that you are relating is that it even that you went to join the organisation which you perceived as holding up some kind of hope for you, you did not go and sacrifice, you saw this as your hope and it seems as though you were terribly disappointed and even back here at home you were disappointed by an organisation which you saw as the one which could provide answers to you for the predicament which you were in and we feel very bad about it and we would like to promise you that, from, on our part, we will pursue this matter and it does not matter if nobody is going to come and testify to corroborate what you are saying, but what is good is that the ANC has come to us and told us about the way people were treated in their camps. If your name or the name which you say you were given then, called Mad Joe, and also your commander, if you could give us the name of your commander at your camp we would follow up on that. You have related a very sad story and what I have noted in your testimony is that you say what you found most difficult was that you were given another identity that you could not relate to and that is something that disturbed you very much, it is getting another name. It just shows that the way in which you ended up there led to a lot of heartache in so many dimensions and we would just like to assure you that we are going to follow up on this thing, on this matter. I do not know if there anything more you would like to say before we excuse you.
MR NTONI: No.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you very much.