TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
JOHANNESBURG CHILDRENS' HEARING
NAME: P SABOSHEGO
___________________________________________ MS MKHIZE: We will then ask Potwalo Saboshego to come forward. I would like just to emphasise a few things, that people who have got cellular phones, please make sure that you have switched them off and to our photographers, please can you make sure that you do not intimidate the witnesses by going around, taking photo's especially when they are talking.
I would like to welcome you and I will in welcoming you, I would ask Tom Manthata to assist you to swear before the Commission, to take your oath.
POTWALO SABOSHEGO: (sworn states)
MS MKHIZE: I know it is always difficult to be the first one, since you don't even know what is going to happen. One of the Commissioners next to, on my left, Mr Wynand Malan, is going to assist you in presenting your statement before the Commission. Commissioner Malan?
MR MALAN: Good morning Mr Saboshego.
MR SABOSHEGO: Good morning.
MR MALAN: We have received a written statement from you which all of us had the opportunity to read. You gave us information as to your experiences in Daveyton from about August 1986. We would appreciate your telling us that in summary form so that we can get a feel and understanding for what happened and then we will probably be asking you a few questions.
We would like you to get the microphone a little bit closer to you and then tell us your story in your own words, please.
MR SABOSHEGO: It was in 1986 in August on the 8th at Daveyton, it was about three o'clock in the afternoon. Police came at my house. I was detained.
MS MKHIZE: ... check with the Commissioners, is the translation coming through?
MR MALAN: If you would just bear with us. It is very difficult to follow if we don't also get a translation that we can make sense of.
MR SABOSHEGO: It was in 1986, in August. I was from school. When I arrived at home, Security Branch came and arrested me. They told me of the details of my arrest. I was detained at Daveyton police station.
On my arrival they kicked me and assaulted me and they kicked my private parts. For the whole day I was being kicked. Late, at six o'clock, they injured my right eye. I said to them I don't see with my right eye, the way I have been assaulted. But they continued with the assault until at night.
I was taken to an open place inside the police station and they continued kicking my private parts, assaulted me with black (indistinct). They took me outside Daveyton to point out my friends and the petrol bombs.
Whilst we were inside that police van, inside the village they told me that they have not booked me out, then they can do anything they like, because if I don't cooperate with them. They took me to an open field next to the college.
They tied me on the tree, continuing with the assault and they were drinking until late at night and took me back to the police station. I complained that my eye is painful but they didn't listen.
In the morning they continued with the assault in the open field. After three days it was better because they stopped with the assault. I requested to see the Doctor but they didn't listen to me.
They continued with the torture. Every day they would continue with the torture. My parents one day arrived to see me at the police station. It is then that they took me to court after four days.
In court I requested the Advocate to request bail, so that I was injured at that time, so that I should go to the Doctor. On the second day I was granted bail, then I went to St John's hospital.
When I arrived there, they said that my eyes were completely damaged, but they will try to cure it. I was taken to theatre after some days - the Doctors were checking the damage and they did an operation on my right eye.
I was still attending the court case. The Doctor said I had internal damage inside the eye, but they were not sure as to whether I would regain my vision. On the day of conviction after two months, I was sentenced to five years imprisonment.
I was taken to Bryanston police station. I contacted a government official so that my medical treatment should be continued. I was not seeing clearly with my right eye. Even after continuing with that medical treatment, I couldn't regain my sight.
Even at Baragwanath hospital they could not help me to regain my sight. That is the end of my statement.
MR MALAN: Thank you very much Mr Saboshego. I wonder whether you could just assist us with a little information. I think in your statement, if I remember correctly you also referred to two operations which you had while you were in prison, I think at the Sandton Clinic?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes, I underwent two operations at Sandton Clinic, whilst I was in prison.
MR MALAN: You were kept at Leeukop at the time?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes, that is true.
MR MALAN: Just to get the record straight, you appealed, or your lawyer appealed on your behalf against the conviction and sentence, I assume. You only tell us that after the appeal you were released after two years, I think October 1988, is that correct?
MR SABOSHEGO: Whilst I was in prison, I listed an appeal, then I appeared in Pretoria Supreme court. They dropped other charges, then I was sentenced only for two charges, which is the possession of explosives and public violence and they reduced the sentence to two years.
MR MALAN: Thank you very much. You also say in your statement that you indeed were a student leader at the time. MR SABOSHEGO: That is true. When I was detained, they accused me to be a student leader and to incite the students. Some of the things I didn't know, some of the allegations I did not know, during the arrest ...
MR MALAN: Can you tell us what the present condition of your right eye is, do you have any vision on your right eye/
MR SABOSHEGO: My present condition?
MR MALAN: Yes.
MR SABOSHEGO: Of my right eye?
MR MALAN: Yes.
MR SABOSHEGO: It is totally blind.
MR MALAN: Totally blind, no vision whatsoever?
MR SABOSHEGO: At times I feel some pain. I went in St John's in 1991, the Doctor said it will never be cured.
They said I lost my sight on my right eye.
MR MALAN: Mr Saboshego, what is your present conditions? Are you married?
MR SABOSHEGO: Not married, sir.
MR MALAN: Not married?
MR SABOSHEGO: Not married.
MR MALAN: Are you employed presently or what do you do for a living, how do you earn your keep?
MR SABOSHEGO: I am not working sir.
MR MALAN: Who is taking care of you, who is looking after you, are you receiving a pension or how do you cope?
MR SABOSHEGO: My parents are taking care of me. I am just at home. I was at school.
MR MALAN: I am talking about today.
MR SABOSHEGO: I am just at home sir.
MR MALAN: Still at home with your parents, are you still living with your parents?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes, I am staying with my parents.
MR MALAN: So you have no income of your own?
MR SABOSHEGO: I have no income at all, sir.
MR MALAN: Reflecting on your role in the liberation struggle in the conflict as such ...
MR SABOSHEGO: Pardon?
MR MALAN: If you reflect on your role and on the conflicts of the time and especially the time of your arrest, conviction and imprisonment, and the suffering that you had with the torture, how do you view it today? Do you have any thoughts still about it, does it trouble you? Do you feel you've made a contribution, do you see yourself as a victim or do you think that you did make a major contribution to where we are now? What is your feeling about the past?
MR SABOSHEGO: My feeling about the past is I am worried because they've made me lose my dignity. I don't see myself as a complete person as like before and I feel humiliated again, because those people who assaulted me, I did open a case against them, but nothing has happened thus far, because they said files had been lost.
I feel worried about that that those people are just living happily. Maybe they could have just arrested me and charged me, other than assaulting me.
MR MALAN: May I just ask you, you were represented at the time by an Attorney which you've mentioned in your statement, by a lawyer.
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes, I was represented by an Attorney. I found that Attorney after some days.
MR MALAN: My question really relates to whether your Attorney never advised you to open a civil case to claim from the police or the Minister or ...
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes, my Attorney advised me to open a civil case against the government, then I opened it. After opening the case, after some time, I was told that files were lost, therefore I was not able to attend the case.
Then they took me to a parade to identify the police who had assaulted me. I did go to the parade, I was able to identify five policemen, but still I didn't hear anything thereafter.
MR MALAN: Did you approach your Attorney again in connection with the claim against the Minister or the government?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes.
MR MALAN: What did he say? Did he proceed you not to proceed or why did he not make a case?
MR SABOSHEGO: He said he is still investigating about the disappearance of the files. That file was never found because those people I was able to identify at the parade. I still see some of them, but nothing was done against them.
MR MALAN: Mr Saboshego, I will make a note here. We will see if we can contact the Attorney and get some more information because the existence or non-existence of a file is really not central to a claim against the State.
But thank you very much for the information you have shared with us. I have no further questions. My colleagues may have, I will hand you back to the Chairperson.
MS MKHIZE: Piet Meiring?
PROF MEIRING: Mr Saboshego, two questions.
MR SABOSHEGO: Okay.
PROF MEIRING: The first one, how was your family affected, the other children in the family by what happened to you?
MR SABOSHEGO: My family was very worried. When I was released from prison, I continued with my studies, but I had problems with my right eye, I had pains and I was not able to concentrate clearly with my studies.
I was still continuing with my studies, doing Personal Management. I can't read longer than the way I know myself.
PROF MEIRING: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
MR SABOSHEGO:Excuse me?
PROF MEIRING: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
MR SABOSHEGO: There are two brothers. I am the elder one.
PROF MEIRING: Did they speak to you about what happened to you? Are you discussing these things with one another?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes, we did discuss.
PROF MEIRING: And did it help?
MR SABOSHEGO: It didn't, sometimes I still feel that pain again. That wound is still there because those policemen were just left.
PROF MEIRING: I see in your submission that you say that psychologically you are unable to cope. Have you ever received psychological treatment?
MR SABOSHEGO: Sometimes when I am asleep, I am thinking of what has happened. I cannot cope with the problems I have, and again I still ask myself why those things did happen to me.
PROF MEIRING: Did anybody speak to you about that? Did you go to a psychiatrist or somebody to help you work through it emotionally?
MR SABOSHEGO: While I was in prison, I went to the social psychologist there in prison.
PROF MEIRING: Thank you very much.
MR SABOSHEGO: To make me understand and forget about the past and there and there, to concentrate on my studies to (indistinct)
PROF MEIRING: But according to your statement, you would like that to continue, you still need psychological help?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes, I still need counselling.
PROF MEIRING: Counselling?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes.
PROF MEIRING: Thank you very much.
MS MKHIZE: Joyce Seroke?
MS SEROKE: When this violation took place, you were 17 years of age?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes.
MS SEROKE: In 1986.
MR SABOSHEGO: I was doing standard 8.
MS SEROKE: What was your ambition?
MR SABOSHEGO: I was prepared to go to Technikon.
MS SEROKE: Which course did you want to do?
MR SABOSHEGO: To do a degree in Social Science.
MS SEROKE: Now, how did you feel that you were not able to achieve your aim?
MR SABOSHEGO: I feel bad and I feel inferior and I feel powerless.
MS SEROKE: You can't continue with your ambition - did you do something about that?
MR SABOSHEGO: The problem is that I lost my sight. I am no longer capable of reading long, long hours that I was doing because I remember when I was doing my first year, I had so many problems during my studies. I was unable to concentrate.
MS SEROKE: One of your requests to the Reparation Committee and Rehabilitation is that the TRC should facilitate a meeting with your perpetrators.
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes.
MS SEROKE: If you may meet your perpetrators, what would you want to say?
MR SABOSHEGO: I am asking that those people who have assaulted me, must appear before me and tell what they did to me and how did they feel. Whether they ask for forgiveness or not. Maybe I will be relieved after hearing their testimony.
MS SEROKE: You want them to ask for forgiveness?
MR SABOSHEGO: They have got to tell me their motives for assaulting me and how did they feel about the acts they have committed against me and what are they saying.
MS SEROKE: Thank you.
MS MKHIZE: Commissioner Malan would like to come back again and ask a few questions of clarification. Wynand Malan.
MR MALAN: Thank you Chairperson. Mr Saboshego, you responded here to questions that you were still laying awake at night and wonder why it happened to you.
Now, part of our task is to find a context and understanding of what happened in the past. In your evidence and also under my questioning, you eluded to the fact that on appeal some of the charges were dropped, some of the sentences were set aside the conviction, you also said that on some of the charges you had no knowledge of.
I assumed that you indeed had knowledge of the charges about carrying explosives, were you indeed involved? You did say in your statement you were involved in the underground. Can you tell us a little about the agenda of the student organisation at the time? Why were you involved in such a way?
MR SABOSHEGO: During that time, in 1986, we were engaged in protest so that we should have SRC, so that we should be represented in decision making institutions.
And then again we were involving the Civic Associations in our activities.
MR MALAN: And the issue of explosives, can you give us some information on that?
MR SABOSHEGO: The issue of explosives, they were given to us by some reliable sources because we have to protect ourselves so that if we see an enemy we should be able to fight, because people were shot at. Some of my friends were just shot.
When the police came they ask me, stand up, I stand up. They say look forward, when I look forward, somebody show a gun over my head. I asked one of the policemen why are they not just arresting me, they just said we should shoot you at school because we want you dead.
Then I came to here in Johannesburg to reliable sources. The only advise that they gave to me, they said to me you have to run away from this country because they are going to kill you. When I was planning to skip the country, I had some of the things, or no some of our comrades were killed and maybe (indistinct) or Botswana or whatever, then I decided not to go again.
I rather go back to the location and stay under those situations that I was staying, and I will see to it that I protect myself because I was scared that maybe I would be killed if I go outside.
MR MALAN: I am asking these questions because I also want to get into the minds of the people who did torture people, like they did torture you. We accept that on your story as such, so I am not challenging that.
MR SABOSHEGO: Okay.
MR MALAN: All I am saying is you talked about having had the explosions in your possession to defend yourself. Wouldn't you have thought that explosives is not something that one defends with, but something that one attacks with. You did say they tortured you, they asked for names of your friends and other people, they wanted you to inform.
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes.
MR MALAN: Does that make a little sense as to why perhaps they did torture you, do you understand something ...
MR SABOSHEGO: The problem why I was carrying explosives is because they attempted to kill me twice.
MR MALAN: Sorry, I couldn't hear you.
MR SABOSHEGO: They attempted to kill me twice at home and near my parents. They didn't want to arrest me because twice I remember they knocked at the house, then I came outside. When I come outside, I see a Boer with an R1 rifle. Then I decided to come to Johannesburg to reliable sources.
When I got advise that I should leave the country, after I decided that, then prepared to leave, I had news that the people were killed at the borders. Then I cancelled that I should not go to the border again, I should stay at the township.
MR MALAN: May I ask a last question just. Most of what we will be hearing today, will be focusing on the youth. The violations that they suffered, the suffering that they experienced, but it is also through presentations before us, the theme is that the youth really led the struggle. The youth initiated, the youth were the active, the youth stood up where the older generation simply sat back. Was that your experience at the time, was the youth indeed leadership?
There is bad communications through this, I can't really hear. Could you please repeat the last statement.
MR SABOSHEGO: My last statement?
INTERPRETER: He was actually saying he can understand you.
MR MALAN: Oh, we are not hearing each other.
INTERPRETER: He was actually saying he did not understand you.
MR MALAN: You were saying you didn't hear me. My question is that all through the impression we have here is that the youth at the time were taking on the system.
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes.
MR MALAN: Also and specifically in the period that you gave evidence of, 1985, 1986 and the heavy action from the system side to put down the uprisings or the liberation struggle. Was that indeed your experience? Do you think the youth did lead the liberation at the time?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes. Not necessarily we were making uprisings. What we were doing, we were marching, presenting memorandums, then they came in and shot teargas, arresting us.
Others shot in their legs you see.
MR MALAN: I am not specifically referring to explosives and bombings, I am talking about the political struggle. Did the youth indeed in your experience, lead the marches or whatever was done, it was led by the youth, is that correct? Am I putting words in your mouth?
MR SABOSHEGO: I can't answer that question, I am not getting you clearly.
MR MALAN: That is fine, thank you very much in any event then for sharing your information with us.
MS MKHIZE: Dr Randera?
DR RANDERA: Potwalo, are you okay. We are posing lots of questions to you, are you feeling all right?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes, I am feeling okay.
DR RANDERA: Potwalo, I want to actually approach a question that Mr Malan has just posed in a different way. First of all I want you to actually describe to us what your experiences were as a student in the East Rand. In a submission that has been handed to us by the Human Rights Committee, we know for example from 1990 to 1994 almost 49% of deaths took place in the East Rand, but the East Rand was a centre of conflict even in the 1980's.
Sorry, let me finish. You were a standard 8 pupil at the time, I want you to actually try and make us understand what it was like being a student at the time and also although you say you were a member of the PAC, what made you become a member of the PAC. What were the factors that actually pushed you towards in your case, you've actually admitted that you took up arms, that you had explosives in your care, can you just try and actually make us understand what was going on that made so many young people, and I want you actually also just to comment on that, what made so many young people, because you were not the only young person who was arrested, I am sure you can tell us about many others as well, if you can actually just try and describe what was going on.
MR SABOSHEGO: By the time I was a student, we experienced many problems. We were detained at our school, we were sjamboked by the police. We would try to force our way through the gate and some of our comrades were arrested.
We arranged marches and presented memorandums so that some of our students should be released so that they should come and write exams because those who were arrested, were not charged, they were just detained indefinitely.
That is why there was a lot of conflict in the East Rand.
DR RANDERA: In your statement you talk about being refused medical attention when you were in prison.
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes.
DR RANDERA: I want to ask you first of all, when were your parents actually informed that you had been arrested - you know, after how many days did this happen and secondly when was the first time that you were given any medical attention?
MR SABOSHEGO: Medication?
DR RANDERA: Attention, not necessarily medication where either a nurse or a Doctor came to see you.
MR SABOSHEGO: After two weeks, it is then that I received medical attention.
DR RANDERA: Okay. Your parents, when were they informed about your arrest? When did they get to know that you were in whatever prison you were in?
MR SABOSHEGO: They knew on the first day that I was arrested. They came to the police station to come and see me, but they were not allowed to.
DR RANDERA: Thank you.
MS MKHIZE: Tom Manthata?
MR MANTHATA: Were you in the student leadership?
MR SABOSHEGO: Yes, that is true.
MR MANTHATA: Okay. Can you remember your days before you became a student leader, that is as a student, what would you say the common aspirations of the students at that time were?
MR SABOSHEGO: If I remember well at that time, it started with the problem of the age limit that when students were fighting the removal of the age limit clause, when they were denied to attend school at the various age, that is a problem which I remember and the other one, that is the problem of the free political activity which the students were aspiring for.
So that they will be able to tell their school committees and the staff members about the problems they have. Those were the things that were in demand.
MR MANTHATA: I don't know whether I asked that question correctly. I just wanted to know when did you enter student politics, was it perhaps as you put it ...
MR SABOSHEGO: That is 1984.
MR MANTHATA: 1984? Was it when you realised that there were certain aspirations, you know, amongst the youth at the time and the students, that were perhaps violated or undermined by both the teachers and the community, I don't know.
MR SABOSHEGO: You mean there were other issues which forced us to take part in politics, I don't understand your questions.
MR MANTHATA: Yes. My question is in short, I just wanted to refer to the days before you became politically involved. You know as a youth, you know, what was it you had which you fought, your aspirations that could have been manifested in either the kind of games, the kind of discussions which you found as to move within the school yard, in the community, that kind of a thing.
MR SABOSHEGO: We were able to participate in sports activities and again in singing competitions. There were other things which the staff or the school authorities were not able to meet, like text books, those are the things we were demanding.
Again is that when we were studying at school, you would find soldiers in your classroom. That is one of the things which we wanted to stop.
And then again that students should have student representative councils so that they would be able to take their grievances to the principal and the staff and the school committee.
MR MANTHATA: Okay, I think we are repeating. But at this time, when you became involved in politics, what was the role of the parents? Could the parents still guide you as a child?
MR SABOSHEGO: We were able to arrange meetings with our parents at the late hours and then tell them about our grievances so that they would be able to guide us, for example when some of our colleagues were arrested.
Maybe 50 of them were arrested and then we cannot continue our studies whilst others are behind bars, those are the things we were able to discuss with our parents in those meetings we held with them.
MR MANTHATA: Did you continue with that parental guidance until you got detained or was there a time when there was a cut off between parental guidance and what you as students wanted to achieve?
MR SABOSHEGO: After some time, the parents stood back because when we held meetings at school, the police would come and interfere with those meetings and they would shoot teargas and together with our parents, we would be victims of the police interference.
Then ultimately some of us were identified as people who were inciting the students, but our idea was to discuss with our parents the problems we had at school. It was no more possible that we would be able to have meetings with our parents, because the police would just come and shoot teargas and shoot rubber bullets and some of us would be injured in the process.
MR MANTHATA: Okay, perhaps my final question would be, having experienced that kind of a division between the youth students and the parents on the other side, how do you see the youth reconciling with the parents, you know for a peaceful South Africa?
MR SABOSHEGO: Things have changed now because the system doesn't operate the same way as today. Today students and their parents and the school councils would be able to meet without the interference of the soldiers and the police.
I think that process is possible.
MR MANTHATA: Yes, but what we witness now, I think this should be on reflection, what we witness now is that there still seem to be problems between parents and students as we see it through the continued school or class boycotts, this doesn't seem that the youth and the parents and the communities can build a better and peaceful home?
MR SABOSHEGO: It is not the same as before. There are changes which I am able to see, especially from the township I come from. There are no school boycotts because there is a better system between the students and the school committees.
MR MANTHATA: I have no further questions.
MS MKHIZE: Thank you very much for coming forward to share your story with us. What you have said is a challenge to many young people of this country in the sense that it shows that there are people like yourselves, who laid an unfortunate foundation.
As you have said to us, you have lost your eyesight through your endeavours to create a different society. We thank you for the spirit which seems to be developing in your heart, already you acknowledge that there are changes that are taking place.
We have noted all the needs that you have highlighted, like needs for assistance in dealing with the painful memories which comes back and makes it difficult for you to sleep.
It is a challenge for us, especially people in leadership to make sure that there are opportunities for young people to take a stand against the establishment, but also for young people to be protected in the circumstances.
We thank you very much. We will look at your requests and see how we can cooperate with you in assisting you to obtain your goals in life. Thank you very much.