TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
SUBMISSIONS - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
DATE: 22 MAY 1997 NAME: DENNIS POLONGWANA
HELD AT: ATHLONE
MR SNYMAN: Good morning to all of you. Thank you. On Tuesday I received an invitation to, for the choir to perform here at the TRC and I have been thinking about it and the songs that I want to do. Now it is very difficult for a choir master to do a specific song for a specific reason or specific event and I had two sleepless nights. Four o' clock yesterday in the morning I have decided, I have made up my mind and I am just going to do two traditional songs. First to give them confidence and to show you the full potential of the choir and then I am going to do a peace song for South Africa and a spiritual song from the musical "The Witness" and I would appreciate if you would listen to the words, because God uses ordinary people to do his command and if we obey God then the second chance that God gave South Africa, I think we will have a much better and a much friendlier and a happy country. Thank you to all of you.
ARCHBISHOP TUTU: I think there are some of you who are a little jealous. Let us give them another hand. Thank you very much. Thank you Mr Snyman and we are enormously grateful to you and to the choir of Alexandra Sinton School. I would like to bid you all a hearty welcome here today. This is a special sitting of this Commission. We are going to listen to the youth who will come and relate some of their experiences here today. We want to welcome all of you very, very warmly to this special session of our Commission when we will listening to accounts by young adults who were children, a few years ago, describing some of their experiences under apartheid. We are enormously grateful to you for being willing to come.
We did get a bit of flack, there are some young ones, younger than 18 who feel that we have discriminated against them and we want to apologise, because we had to take an important decision, because of our concern about, actually, the rights of children that we should not expose them to the possibility of being exploited even by the Commission, but we know that there are people who are feeling very, very strongly that they too would have wanted to be able to come and tell their story. We say thank you very much to those who are going to be doing so in a way, in a representative capacity. We have given a very large part of the work of the Commission, the time of the Commission to adults and yet when we look at what took place in the struggle against apartheid, we have to acknowledge that young people were very much in the forefront of that struggle. We want to acknowledge that.
Often and often we adults spoke, perhaps, against apartheid, but there came a time when young people said we have done everything, enough is enough and young people were ready to put their lives where their mouths are and in a way it is consistent with most of history. It is interesting to note just how God has used young people at critical points in the histories of different people. When the people of Israel were suffering under the oppression of the Philistines, it was a young boy, David, whom God raised who fought against Goliath. Mohammed was young when the inspiration came from God for him to do something about changing religion and he was used as someone who would speak especially to a group of people who probably felt somewhat marginalised. Jesus Christ was not an old man like Archbishop Tutu, he was young and so we can go on and we come to hear what the experiences of young people have been in the period that we are asked to look at as a Commission and why are we doing this.
In part, of course, we want to know the impact of injustice, of oppression, of conflict on young people and, perhaps, in their telling of the story, traumatic as it may be to relive some of those incidents, in the telling of the story a catharsis may happen for them and for society. That in the telling of the story a healing will take place, but that is not the only reason, although that is a very important reason. It is not the only reason. A quite crucial one is to say we want to dedicate ourselves, young and old alike, to ensure that the sorts of things that we will be hearing about do not ever happen again in our country. We want to dedicate ourselves, to commit ourselves to building the kind of society which will be child friendly, a society that will say children matter, not just because the future of any nation depends on them, the present depends on them. That we will have the kind of society that says we need children and young people, because they dream dreams, they see visions, they have ideals, they dream of a society and a world where war will be no more, where peace will reign and young people have been part of the peace movement round the world. Young people dream dreams of a society where there is sharing and equality and so young people have been in the forefront of movements to end poverty. Young people are part of the movement that says this is the only world we have and we must cherish it and so they are very, very much in the forefront of the ecological movement. Young people say we want a society which says people matter because they are people and race and ethnicity are a total irrelevance and so you have found them in very many parts of the world in the forefront of the struggle against racism and so we come today as those who want to be humble as we listen to young people tell of their trauma, but also tell of their dreams.
I welcome you all very, very warmly, but especially may I welcome these schools that are here represented, Mannenberg Senior Secondary, Rustenberg Girls High, St Cyprians School, of course Alexandra Sinton High, Kafkin Senior Secondary, Mannenberg Primary, Kensington High School, Habibia School. Now, if you have been left out do not walk out, just let us know, let somebody know so that we can welcome you too. You are special, you are very special especially today and maybe let us clap, all of you. Come on, let us clap.
May I introduce the panel here. Mary Burton is a Commissioner and a member of our Human Rights Violations Committee and a former President of Black Sash. Glenda Wildschut is a Commissioner, a member of our Rehabilitation and Reparations Committee and she is a health care giver, she teaches at UWC in, Hugh, what do you call it, public health. She did not tell me, I am telling you, she is in public health. Wendy Orr is a Commissioner, she is also Deputy-Chairperson of our Reparations and Rehabilitation Committee. She is a medical doctor and was, well, known, she is very well known for having been the one who pulled the plug torture and so on in prisons and Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is a phycologist, she is a, I am speaking now, I mean.
MS GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: It is like yesterday.
ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes, alright. Please do not confuse me. She is a committee member, a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee and is a doctoral student at UCT and I also just want to say thank you, in advance, to our interpreters who do do a superb job of work, just give them a small clap and we also have people who we call briefers who try to provide support and counselling and they are staff persons of the TRC, but some, we have also had community briefers and we, Wendy is also the convenor of our Western Province office and in that capacity she is my boss and she is in charge of us here and there are all of our staff who have done wonderfully to prepare for these hearings. We want to say thank you to them and to the police. It is a good thing that now we are able to praise the police, because that was not true previously. So, can we give all of those people a nice clap.
I am disappearing, not because you are not important, it is just that I have to get to something else and have not yet produced enough produced enough clones, thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Father. A hearing is never quite a hearing without opening remarks by the Archbishop. Before we open todays proceedings I would just like to make a few remarks about the nature of these proceedings. Firstly, although this is not a court we do expect behaviour fitting to the occasion and we please ask the audience to listen carefully to what the witnesses have to say with respect and empathy without interjections or outbursts. If you have to move in and out while a witness is giving evidence please try and do so as quietly and unobtrusively as possible. Although we hear evidence and testimony today, we do not make findings. So we do not cross examine witnesses. We try to hear them in an atmosphere which is as affirming and positive as possible and a lot of people interpret this as the Truth Commission simply accepting what everybody says as the truth. What happens after the hearings is that statements are investigated and corroborated and finally handed to the Human Rights Violations Committee for a finding. This is a rigorous process which can take some time. The purpose of the hearing is to give witnesses a chance to be heard in public and also to allow the community and the country a chance to participate in Truth and Reconciliation Commission proceedings and to hear publicly what, for so long, has been kept silent and secret.
As the Archbishop said, we had to take a tough decision about whether we would actually allow children under the age of 18 to give evidence in public and we decided not to, because it can be a stressful and traumatising experience. There are those who disagree with us and we are going to read out a statement from a child who believes that we have taken the wrong decision, but we have asked people who work with children, professionals, NGOs' to come and speak on behalf of children and tell us about what they have suffered under apartheid and what the consequences of that suffering is. So, we are going to start todays proceedings, first of all, with a context statement which has been prepared by Professor Andy Dawes and Professor Pam Reynolds of the University of Cape Town, but which is going to be read out by three young people from Alexandra Sinton High School.
Before we actually move into that statement, though, I would like to ask Glenda Wildschut to read out the roll of witnesses for today and we will then stand and observe a moments silence in memory of these young people and all of those who sacrificed so much in the struggle for liberation.
MS WILDSCHUT: Thank you Madam Chair. Today we will be hearing witness from the following people. Dennis Polongwana, Veronica Kwashane, Shehame Kamaldien. They will be reading the context statement that will be, that has been prepared by Professors Andy Dawes and Professor Pamela Reynolds. We will also be hearing a submission from Molo Songololo and this will be presented to us by Brian Klaasen and Weaam Williams. Then we will be hearing testimony from Riefaat Hattas who will be speaking a little bit about himself, but mainly about the, a group of people that he, young people that he had been involved with during the 1980's. Zamikhaya Botha will be talking to us about his experience as he was shot in his left eye by police. Wandile Lennox Mentile was also blinded as a gun, as a result of gunshot wounds to his head. Vuyani Edward Mbewu was also shot. We will be listening to testimony from Dee Dicks and Julian Stubbs who were incarcerated in prison during the 1980's for about a year. We will be listening to Anthony Thozamile Ntoni who was severely tortured and beaten in a camp during the 1980's. We will be listening to Moegamat Williams who will be talking about his experience of detention and torture. We will be listening to Sandra Adonis who will be talking about her husband, Jacques Adonis, and her own experience as they were subjected to severe harassment and arrests. During the 80's Jacques was severely tortured by police as well. Ethel Nombuyiselo Joji will not be here today, but her testimony will be read. She has given us a statement about her two year old child who was shot at the age of two and is now, her daughter is now, it was 1985, so her daughter will be about 12 years old or 14 years old now.
During the proceedings we will read out the letter written to us by Rudi-Lee Reagan and those are the people who will be giving testimony today.
CHAIRPERSON: Could we please stand and observe a moments silence as we remember the young people. Thank you. I would like to call up onto the stage Dennis Polongwana, Veronica Kwashane and Shehame Kamaldien who are going to read a context statement for us. Thank you very much to the three of you for coming here today. I know it is quite an awesome experience being up on stage and under the TV lights and we thank you very much for being with us to read out the statement and I am now going to hand over to you to lead us through it.
MR POLONGWANA: Good morning everybody. I stand here as the Chairperson of Alexandra Sinton and I am going to read focus on children and youth, trust in youth, the pain and the blame preamble. The TRC is required to establish " as complete a picture as possible of the causes, nature and extent of the gross violations of human rights which were committed during the period 1st March 1960 to the cut-off date (10th May 1994), including the antecedents, circumstances and context of such violations as well as the perspective of those responsible for the commissions of violations." The Commission is also tasked with drawing up recommendations which will prevent future violations.
The Commission's research shows that it was the youth, those between 15 years and 25 years, who bore the burnt of gross human rights violations. It is therefore necessary to offer a particular opportunity for the young to tell their story. It will prompt us to reflect on how our society treats its children and how we might take concrete steps to prevent the abuse of the young. In so doing we may begin to redefine what it means to be a child in South Africa and open city gates to their comrades who then took the city. This tale from antiquity has some similarities with our experiences.
Our story will acknowledge the role of the young in the struggle for democracy. It will consider the effects of their involvement. It will tell how in making their contribution, the young took decisions that caused suffering, and that committed them to actions that had profound consequences for their own development, for their families and for their nation as a whole. However, it will also show that while the costs incurred were great, many are justly proud of what they did, achieved, and became, in spite of their youth. Those record the participation of the young, must acknowledge that children and youth were not simply victims. Many suffered the most appalling abuse, and while some were innocent victims, others were committed actors within a political battle. Some of the young who participated perpetrated violence, and some became instruments of violent agendas of adults. When the young are found to be perpetrators of violence, our assumptions about childhood are disturbed, and we search for explanations as to why these 'innocents' can be so brutally abused. Which it may be useful for legal and other purposes to separate the young as victims from the young as perpetrators, we must recognise that both identities can live in one people.
The involvement of young in the recent tumultuous past in South Africa, challenged conventional notions of childhood and gender roles. Young members of oppressed communities were thrust into positions of great responsibility, uncommon for people of their years. They spurred on those older than themselves, to rejoin the fight for their freedom. They successfully galvanised a nation.
MS KWASHANE: Causes. Gross human rights violations have been committed against children and youth throughout the history of our violent colonial past. The causes are many and complex. Some of the more immediate causes in the period under the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 1960 to 1994, include the following.
The early 1960's saw thousands rise against the Pass Laws which divided mother from father and parent from child. During these peaceful protests for the basic human rights of families to live together where they chose the wrath of the State led to many being killed and injured, among them children. Thereafter many youth saw no other option, but to leave the country, to take up arms and fight for the liberation of their country. The student uprising in 1976 marked the beginning of a new phase of involvement of the young in political struggle which was to last into the 1990's.
Immediate causes of the first protests were the rejection of Afrikaans medium instruction in schools designated for Africans. Calls for the abolition of apartheid education gathered momentum with the school boycotts of the early 1980's and youth protests soon broadened at the time of the establishment of the tricamaral Parliament to target all aspects of the apartheid system. The young recognised it as unjust and as compromising their present and future lives. They refused to be silenced and they became direct targets of State Repression. As one of the tactics of the State was to terrorise those who stood for a just order. So the children of activists became victims of violence done to their parents and other family members. Political polarisation and fear promoted intolerance and dehumanisation of others. It became easy for neighbours, old enemies and even family members to be labelled spy or turncoat. As they young were both victims of violence and the leaders of the struggle, those labelled enemies frequently became victims of their collective rage. As the South African State used military power to assert it control over Namibia in the face of SWAPO resistance, and as it sought to destabilise its neighbours in the region, so it prepared white youth to go to war. Millions of white adolescents were militarised through participation in the school cadet system. During compulsory military service in the townships, they were forced to participate in the oppression of their fellow South Africans.
We need to understand why most gross human rights violations in South Africa were perpetrated on those between 15 and 25 years of age. A key reason is that youth is a period of life which lends itself to involvement in political struggle. Youth, as the period that bridges childhood and adulthood, is commonly recognised as a period during which designs and hopes for the betterment of the human condition find a fertile soil. It is commonly a time when struggles to consolidate personal and social identities are important. In our society youth is a time when values of strength, self-reliance and courage are promoted. The struggle for a just political order in South Africa provided many opportunities for the pursuit of ideals by the young. It provided opportunities for them to take on heroes roles in an attempt to end repression, and in doing so, the probability that they would be subjected to a variety of forms of violent abuse increased.
MR KAMALDIEN: Nature. The Commission calls for a description of the nature of gross violations of children's rights. They cover a wide range.
Children and youth were killed, abducted, raped, tortured, poisoned, imprisoned for long periods without trial, denied rights while in prison, and harassed mercilessly for actions taken and beliefs held in relation of political conflict, or even just for having been in the firing-line.
Many lived in fear spending months of the run away from home, many were forced to flee the country. The nature of abuses ranges from the finality of death through the use of terror to physical harm and symbolic humiliation. Sometimes a young persons life was obliterated and the traces left by the young live one were obscured, swept over. Remembrance itself was tempered with. Terror tactics including tracks, misinformation, smear campaigns, harassment of kin and intrusion into domestic space interference with education, suffocating techniques to turn people into enemies of their colleagues, intensive interrogation, forced executions, isolation and denial of contact occurred, were all used to divert the young from their political purposes and destroy caution among their peers.
The need to control the young was inscribed on their bodies in countless ways as power was expressed through the infliction of pain. Limbs were broken, joints crushed, heads smashed so that brains no longer function well, eyes were gouged out and so on and on and on. Symbolic humiliation was used to undermine dignity and purpose. One direction was in prison with a white pig in a cell painted black. Another young person who was made to kick bricks as they were dropped through the air, yet another had milk poured on his penis and a calf to suck on it. A young woman was blindfolded and then left alone in a mortuary besides the body of someone who had recently committed suicide.
Testimonies given before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission attest to the full range of cruelties. Four points can be determined from the evidence. The age of an opponent or enemy gave no protection at all. No one group aside in the conflict have monopoly on cruelty. There is no need to plead for the innocence of the young engaged in political activity, but there is a need to acknowledge the full extent and character of brutality used against them. The range of gross human rights violations and the peculiarities of many of the techniques resorted to call for an understanding of what makes such adult behaviour possible.
MR POLONGWANA: Extent. The extent of violations was vast. They extended from psychological and physical harming of the bodies of many a young person; to intrusion into the sanctuary of the home; to the destruction of community space. The violations profoundly affected individual lives, family institutions and community cohesion so that many of the young were left bereft.
Let us look briefly at the statistics of the numbers of children and youth affected between 1960 and 1994, drawing on available figures for those under 18.
The statistics on how many of the young were involved in conflict are not available. No liberation organisation can give accurate lists of the membership of children and youth. Prison figures are not broken down into categories and the number of young who were imprisoned across the country cannot be accurately calculated. Nor are there figures on the length of imprisonment of they young, the conditions under which they were held, nor even the Act under which they were held. Government statistics on detention tell little more. Under the previous Government a series of ruses and careful disguises were used to obscure the truth even when Parliamentary replies were given to direct questions.
Published writings give numbers of young who were detained and their data is available, but the figures vary and the sources are not always given. For the year 1986, for example, published figures on the number of those 18 years of age who were detained vary from 300 to 2677 to 4000 to 8800. An often quoted figure exists for the period 1985 to 1989 of 24000 young held in detention. The African National Congress in their submission before the TRC states that 15000 children had been detained out of a total of 80000 detainees during the period under investigation.
Individual case history of gross violations numbering from half to a million cases were on file even before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began to gather evidence. It is not known how many of these cases are to do with the young. The major point here is that if we do not even know how many of the young joined liberation movements, were politically active, were trained in exile and sent to fight, were detained, or were seriously harmed, then it is difficult to record the truth of that which the young did and that which was done to them. Without accurate records, what will historians say of the part they played and what cost?
Without knowing how many of the young were closely engaged in the conflict; without knowing how many were detained and possibly severely ill-treated; without hearing stories of the young, how can we ensure that their concerns lay claim to society's attention and that their pain is acknowledged and attended to?
Attempts need to be made to discover whose pain is being silenced and why. For example, that of white conscripts into the army and very young female activists. Recording the truth necessitates descriptions of sets of systematic violations across time not only the accounting of extreme violence committed on the bodies of some of the young. Hence he call by the TRC for those who were young when abused to give accounts of their experiences. The Commissioners recognise that there are a number of reasons why some of the young, especially committed political activists, have not given statements, but they are invited to document their stories so as to ensure the accuracy of historical accounts and to draw the nation's attention to the contributions made and costs incurred by children and youth in shaping a new social dispensation.
MS KWASHANE: Antecedents. The Act calls for a description of the antecedents of (the things that led up to) gross human rights violations. The outline of the causes, nature and extent of abuses given above demands a serious reconsideration of the place South African society has allotted to children and youth. It asks for a social, political, economic and moral accounting for the treatment of the young in the past and for an investigation of how that treatment informs the values and respect accorded to them now. There is ample evidence that the abuses committed on children and youth reflected the regard in which they were held. The young, particularly those who were rendered unimportant by their colour, were not worthy of rights or respect? If we do not attempt to understand the forces that permitted, and continue to permit the abuse of the young, we can make little progress in creating a society that accord them respect.
Those behind the invention and management of apartheid policy bear a major responsibility for the statutory violation of children.
They caused definitions of difference based on race and ethnicity to be institutionalised. From its law of origin, the Population Registration Act of 1950, arose the banal, cruel technologies of racial classification that were necessary to give force to all the other regulations and Acts that normalised the destruction of key aspects of life which are central to children's healthy emotional and physical development.
Those in Government, with the support of their followers, created categories of "other", persons who could become identified as the enemy, and whose human rights were, therefore, more easily violated and, of course, the children of the "other" were seen to have as few rights or as little need for respect or protection as their parents. This rendered acceptable the systematic use of violence against them - both in the form of discriminatory language and physical violence.
In reinforcing the notion that these "other" children and youth did not warrant great concern, those in power sought to render their protest and their pain illegitimate. It is not these forces alone which we need to understand. Ideologies of the child, the family and of patriarchy, were harnessed as well in determining the manner in which the adults in our society constructed and still construct their relationships towards children.
The treatment of the young tells us much about adult behaviour: about cruelty, abuse of power, willingness to commit excesses and flout norms, and the ease with which the young were denied their humanity.
It tells us about the uses and abuses of childhood that are sanctioned by society. These include the forms and force of authority held as ideal and embedded in institutions, for example, in patriarchal forms of family control and physical punishment in the home and educational institutions. Also included are social norms to do with the social control of childhood that can impede or encourage the granting of rights to children. Children's rights are not free goods: they have to be wrested from societies where investments in patterns of childhood contradicts the interest of children, for example, in militarising them when still at school and conscripting them as soldiers. South African childhoods at home and in the communities, have been characterised for many years by regimes of fear and abuse operating in the name of respect for adult power.
It should therefore not have come as a surprise when the security forces used sjamboks to beat children and youth off the streets and back to school during times of protest. Children had no right, after all, to defy the law of the adult. The same is true of the Trojan Horse episode. Indeed as we go into the future, it is these practices which will need to be understood and addressed by all who claim to place the interests of the young first. It is normative constructions of the power relations between adults and children which will continue to make possible the violent abuse of the young by adults.
MR KAMALDIEN: Context. The Act requires a description of the context within which violations were perpetrated on the young.
For the majority of the young in South Africa, the context into which they were born and in which they grew was one of conflict. They had to make choices to do with avoidance, participation, leadership, often in full awareness of the likely consequences. This was true of girls and boys, young women and men, white and black youth. For some there was a history of resistance against the State that they followed. There were powerful networks of connections that drew them into political activities. For others engagement in political activity resulted in deep divisions within families so that nurturance was withdrawn and the domestic arena was made vulnerable to forces from the outside. Many of the young were carried into conflict with the rush of their peers and few were prepared for the sorts of violations that were meted out to them. The nature of the conflict tore apart community forms of trust, and networks of informers made the lives of many of them dangerous on a day-to-day level. The context for many was one that caused the young to judge their elders and, again, trust and security were destroyed as they judged the elders harshly and took up action that went against elders' command.
The actions of the young were criminalised. Protest was outlawed under States of Emergency that did not distinguish between the treatment of adults and children. The provisions of the Child Care Act and the Criminal Procedure Act were abrogated as children were tortured, interrogated and imprisoned very often, without access to legal counsel, and without the knowledge of their parents. Political protest was re-invented as the crime of Public Violence, giving licence to the State to act with the full force of the violent means at its disposal. Protesting children acquired criminal records which stand to this day.
MR POLONGWANA: Places of worship provided sanctuary to communities in troubled times. They were repeatedly violated. Trust in centres of healing were broken as hospitals were raided and medial records seized. Schools, even those for the very young were legitimate targets of the security forces, as teachers and pupils alike were teargassed and beaten up in the classroom.
So for many of the young, the atmosphere in which they grew up was one of real, imminent danger, pain, the real possibility of failure and a consciousness of the burden of responsibility they often carried for others' lives.
The established professional associations of lawyers, medical doctors and mental health specialists such as psychologists, largely failed to condemn this abuse, effectively giving it licence to proceed.
MR KAMALDIEN: The legacy and the future. Those who grew up under our violent past will carry the traces of their experience into adulthood. Many have suffered the loss of loved ones. Many carry both physical and psychological scars. The life chances of many have been damaged through aborted education. Some have no doubt grafted the skills learnt during the times of political violence onto criminal violence as they strive to survive amid a sea of poverty. But perhaps the most disturbing and dangerous aspect of the legacy for the future of the nation, is the fact that those who sought to transform the country, and in the process gave up so much, see so little change their immediate circumstances. However, the period of the struggle also nurtured resilience, wisdom, the leadership and tolerance. It produced men and women of extraordinary calibre, who despite their suffering, have shown unprecedented patience with their former oppressors.
There is another legacy. The TRC has heard the testimony of perpetrators of gross human rights violations towards the young. Many of them have their own children. Many of these children are likely to have deeply conflictual images of their parents as a result of these hearings. The Act requires us to consider, with compassion, their most difficult situation. This is a group, who with their families, live with these facts in silence - as unrecognised victims. The Commission needs to find ways to help them deal with this pain. A similar concern must be expressed for the white youth who fought in defence of a white South Africa, and who were convinced by their military and political masters that their suffering and acts of violence were just. Once they were heroes. Now they are a forgotten embarrassment on the trash heap of apartheid's bloody past. MR POLONGWANA: Finally, what of the perpetrators themselves? The Act asks for the description of "... the perspectives of those persons responsible for the commission of the violations". Gross human rights violations were committed by persons operating with the State security forces; those in the organisations opposed to the State; those in the community structures and individuals acting in pursuit of their own ends. The perspectives of violaters were, therefore, broad and an account of them would encompass the history of this land. However, the relation to the violation of the rights of children and youth certain perspectives should be carefully examined. Especially the perspectives of those who say they acted under orders, or that their actions were derived from moral and ideological pressures within their communities that they could not withstand. It has to be asked whether such perspectives exonerate choices that were made in committing gross violations against the young.
Here we seek to understand notions of individual will in relation to the command of authorities; and of evil in relation to personal culpability; and forgiveness in the relation to repentance. Depending on the interpretations made of violations of the human rights of the young and depending on the meanings assigned to those acts, we may be able to reconsider the character of childhood and adolescence as framed in the new South Africa.
Truth must need lead to reconciliation. This requires acknowledgement: of the wrong done to the young, of the price they have paid, of the achievement they have made in helping to secure a democratic state.
MS KWASHANE: And it requires action: in securing the basic needs of the young, in providing a good education, training and work experience, in building communities that can secure their best interests, especially their safety and the integrity of their bodies, in tackling the sources of violence in the home and the community all of which demands the commitment of resources and the restructuring of institutions, especially the institution of the family. South Africa is now signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This commits the State and all adult South Africans to ensure that the rhetoric of the Declaration is translated into concrete action to improve the conditions and nature of South African childhood. It is easy to sign conventions. It is a lot more difficult to convince those with power to commit sufficient financial, personnel and material resources to making the provisions of the convention a reality. It is necessary that this be done in order to overcome the ravages of apartheid and address the situation of those who gave their formative years to political struggle. It is in the interests of a productive, peaceful and just future of South Africa that this be done. Finally, reconciliation requires an awareness of the nature of childhood. On the basis of that awareness, the nation must ensure that each adult who comes into contact with a child is worthy of the privilege. History will record the role that the young played in securing liberation. History will also record the achievements of the nation in relation to the wellbeing of the young. Let us not be found wanting. Thank you.
DR ORR: Before I ask Glenda to thank you for presenting this statement to us, I just want to emphasise one point in the statement which is that young people spurred on those older than themselves to rejoin the fight for their freedom. They successfully galvanised a nation. I think those of us of more mature years, to put it euphemistically, often find the zealousness and enthusiasm of young people difficult to deal with, but I want to encourage all young people here to be zealous and enthusiastic and to spur us on and to remind us adults of our responsibility constantly and without fail. Glenda.
MS WILDSCHUT: Thank you very much to the three of you for presenting a very long and complex statement and you did your task very, very superbly and we really deeply want to thank you for coming here today. Thank you very much.
DR ORR: I would like to welcome the choir from Fezeke School in Guguletu. We are going to ask you to sing for us immediately after tea. There is going to be a slight change in the programme in that we are going to take the first witness now, then break for tea and take the submission from Molo Songololo after the Fezeke Choir has sung for us.