TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
JOHANNESBURG CHILDREN'S HEARING
NAME: DIANA SCOTT
MS MKHIZE: I will ask Ms Diana Scott to come forward please. We have looked at your documents, we will ask you to do a similar thing as I have just asked the previous presenter, if you can just try to summarise your input and give Commissioners an opportunity to ask you questions.
I will ask Joyce Seroke to assist you in whatever way she thinks it will be appropriate. Thank you.
MS SEROKE: I thought you were going to give Di a chance to just make a summary or am I ...? Would you like to just make some highlights of your - before I ask you questions?
MS SCOTT: I think in starting, I just want to say that I am grateful for the opportunity, on behalf of the National Children and Violence Trust to be here and to provide some input in relation to the effects of the period we've gone through in our history, on children.
The first thing that I want to say is that we believe and we've worked for the last seven years as a Trust with these issues, that what has happened to children in the past from 1960 to 1990 in our history, should never have happened.
And we are here because we believe that it should never happen again. And we want very categorically to say that we hope that that message will somehow reach the children of this country so that we can try to really find ways to make things different.
Then just to also say a little bit about the National Children and Violence Trust, it is an organisation which has attempted since 1990 to intervene in situations which Audrey mentioned, where we are actually dealing with the very highly traumatised society.
One of the disturbing things that has become part of our work is the fact that violence against children, much as it may have ended from a political perspective, has not ended in terms of what happens in the community and inside the family.
And so part of our role has actually shifted from dealing with only victims of political violence to dealing with victims of violence across a much broader spectrum. And I would actually like to go even further than, but in fact supporting what Audrey was saying, in terms of some of the things that need to happen in this country to try to deal with that trauma.
I agree that we need trauma counselling services, particularly in the townships. I think that our vision or our view of counselling is far too limited. There are ways in which you can do counselling with children that utilise the arts, you saw today a drama where children were enacting things that have happened in the past.
You can use music, you can use dance. You can use drama and other forms of art therapy which are actually very widely used overseas to help children particularly to heal that trauma and so I would like us to add that.
And even in terms of the training of teachers, I would hope that we would look at innovative ways to train teachers to identify trauma within the school system. Not just to let teachers be aware of it, but to actually start to integrate such things into the teacher training in this country, because it is only if we do it that way, that we will in fact be able to start addressing some of the trauma that Audrey has been describing to us.
And I may also just say that I believe that early childhood education is absolutely crucial to our society. And that one of the best monuments we could make to the fact that there have been so many thousands of children impacted in a traumatic sense by apartheid, is to develop early childhood learning centres that would become memorials to the involvement of children in the apartheid era, so I really hope that we can find memorials or ways of symbolically recognising the role of children in active ways that promote healing for children today as well.
That in fact the ways we do it, go beyond monuments and other forms which are very important, but in fact become active ways of changing the lives of the current generation of children, because if we don't do that, we don't cut into that spiral of violence and we don't stop the violence from continuing to happen and that is one of the primary concerns of the organisation for which I work.
And the last thing I want to say maybe just because I've been asked to mention this, relates a little bit to my own experience in terms of having been in exile for 10 years.
I have written in my submission about the impact of exile on children, partly because I saw it myself and partly because as an adult, I experienced the effects of being away from one's home and one's country for 10 years, and know that the effects of that separation are heightened when you are a child because when you are an adult, your identity is formed and very many aspects of your personality have gone through a process of development. When you are a child, that is still in process and therefore the difficulty for children was in fact being away from their culture and not yet having their cultural identify fully developed at the same time.
And I think it is aspect of our live in South Africa and even the work of this Commission, that in my view has not been adequately covered and should perhaps - needs a little more attention. So maybe I will stop there and then I will take questions.
MS SEROKE: Thank you very much Di. I just have a few questions for you. In your submission, you know the mandate from the Act, our mandate from the Act is that you should consider gross human rights violations that were committed between 1960 to 1994, and I must say that since we've had hearings, we've had very few cases depicting the era of the 1960's.
I am not aware that we've had even any violations related to children that have come up during the hearings within that period of 1960. It is interesting to note from your submission, that you mention that there were children that were political prisoners in the 1960's and I would like you to elucidate that and give us some information, since that information hasn't been coming in even in the submissions of the Human Rights Committee and other people. It would be interesting for you to give that perspective.
MS SCOTT: I mentioned the fact that there is a record in 1965 of two boys between the ages of 16 and 18 being sentenced to life imprisonment and the average length of the sentences being served by 95 young people in the same group as being 6 to 8 years.
I mentioned that example as only one of quite a large number of examples which occurred during that period of time and I have submitted to the Truth Commission, the full document which records the number of children who were actually in prison at the time, the number of children who had been charged or who were in prison, awaiting trial.
And I think it is important because the period from 1976 to 1994 is so, it is recent in all our memory, it is part of what we were recently involved in and we forget in fact, that there were in fact young people involved from a much earlier point in time and the example I give you, is only one of many, many examples that I have of young people who were imprisoned at that period of time.
MS SEROKE: I read that because I was intrigued by that and people tend to concentrate from 1976 and may not have memories of what happened to children before that age and also you've limited yourself in the submission from 1960 to 1986. Why have you not included, is your Trust not so interested in what happened during the time that Max calls the destabilising era and that kind of thing? Your submission only gets to that point and I just wanted to know why you didn't go beyond?
MS SCOTT: On page 3 of my submission I mention that I span the period from 1960 to 1990 and it is probably a very simply, psychological reason for that and that is that my own personal involvement, probably spanned the same period, in the sense that I started getting involved in anti-apartheid activities at quite a young age.
And in 1990 I stopped all my activism and went to university and studied for five years before returning to South Africa, but let me say in addition, that the Children and Violence Trust was formed in 1990, so definitely I don't think the work of the Trust, though I've only been there for eight months, does span the period from 1990 to the present time and there is definite data in our office relating to particular violations that occurred between 1990 and 1994.
I do focus however, on the period between 1985 and 1990 because of two things. As I've said, I went into exile in 1985 and part of what I became involved in, was the monitoring of human rights abuses in South Africa, it was my full time job to do that in New York, but in addition, once it became clear that there was such gross human rights violations of South African children, and there was a media crackdown in this country and the information was very difficult to get outside South Africa, because I was South African and I had contact inside the country, I became very deeply involved in extracting information from quite personal sources, from South Africa and using that in the United States and in other countries.
So my deeper involvement in terms of that specific five year period, is because I really have more first hand knowledge of the particular impact of apartheid during that period of time on children.
MS SEROKE: In your submission you mention how children suffered through militarisation. Would you in the work of your Trust, would you think that the effect os militarisation on the children are reversible and what can best help these children to adjust to a demilitarised society?
MS SCOTT: Yes, I think they are reversible, but I think it is going to take a tremendous amount of work. Much more than is happening at the present time and they are only reversible if that issue becomes a priority and the work is done.
I will show you a picture that was done in 1986 of a child's perception of life in the township and it only says it is a 12 year old child named Dexter and it says a soldier running after children and that is a good example of the perception of that child.
The perception of that child was that life revolved around soldiers and caspers and the military in the townships. It is somewhat different today, but we still notice and particularly if you talk about a young child who has to go to the police to report a case of child abuse.
There is a fear in terms of the police. And that comes out of that history of militarisation. And it is something that is very difficult to break down and one of the communities we work in, in Diepsloot for example, we've actually had days when the police come to the community and provide some entertainment for the children and we try to close the gap between the police and the community.
And I think that actively has to happen in order to change this perception that the militarisation which occurred, was from a source that in fact was defined as an enemy or something that was in fact going to endanger the lives of those children.
But as I said, it has to become a priority and it has to be an active approach and an active effort.
MS SEROKE: In fact I was intrigued by those examples in your first appendix of the children who were asked to tell about the township life and rather depicted the pictures of soldiers and caspers and dogs and related to that, in one of your recommendations, you talked about innovative interventions such as dance, art, music and art.
Now from children coming from that background, depicting all that militarisation and violence, would you think this methods, these innovative interventions, would heal people like Potwalo for instance who are sitting here this morning?
MS SCOTT: I actually thought of it when he was sitting here and that is because any one in the many childrens' organisations that may be present here today, would be able to tell you that when a child has been traumatised, particularly at a young age, it is not possible to engage in the normal, traditional methods of counselling with that child, because very often the child is not able to talk about their experience.
And the better way to deal with the trauma that the child has experienced, is in fact to use methods like art therapy, asking the child to draw a picture and encouraging the child to draw a picture that relates to the traumatic experience or asking the child to play and observing what the child does in the play and that will in fact help that child to find healing and will help the person who is teaching the child, to enable healing to occur.
In my second degree in the United States, I was trained in dance therapy. And I am quite convinced that if we had to integrate the arts therapies into the education system in this country and if we had to develop centres of healing, where people who could come who were traumatised during that period of time, including people like the person you mentioned from this morning, who is now an adult, but who experienced that trauma as a child, I believe that a much greater level of healing will take place.
And I think it has got tremendous potential for this country and we just need to open our parametres and allow some of these innovative approaches to be part of how we try to find healing in South Africa.
MS SEROKE: My last question is that when Potwalo and Nomonde were testifying this morning, both of them said they had never had counselling, they never had any psychological help after what they had experienced.
And when I looked at your recommendations to R&R, I feel they are not included in this because it seems as if you are concentrating on the current child and you are of the view that this should never happen again, so we must protect the current child.
What about the Potwalo's and the Nomonde's who had never had this counselling, how are we able, how will we ever make them become human beings, since they have been so dehumanised in the past?
MS SCOTT: Again, it is a very simple answer. We focus right now on the current child because that is all our capacity as an organisation allows and the statistics of violence against children at the present time, are really very high.
With the deepened capacity, which is why I argue in my submission for part of the reparations process to include greater support for childrens' organisation in this country, is because many childrens' organisations simply don't have the capacity to deal with the wide range of trauma that we come from.
Within our mandate as the National Childrens and Violence Trust, there is no question that the political trauma that children suffered, is part of what our work is and it is part of why the organisation was originally founded. We've become very caught up in current violence against children, because it is so demanding.
That is not to say that with a different capacity, the organisation would not try to in fact directly address people who have experienced trauma, who up to this point in time, have not found healing. And we will be very willing to work with whatever other institutions or NGO's in this country and the TRC to find ways to actually integrate that more fully into our work and to increase our capacity to be able to address some of those issues.
MS MKHIZE: Thank you very much, Joyce. Wynand Malan?
MR MALAN: Ms Scott, two questions. The first relates to your awareness programme and education programme relating to violence against children.
And you do refer to it in the body of the document and also in appendix 5, can you give us a little more information, are there any programmes which would almost instill outrage within a community against such activities and more tougher action, commitment of the community to stamp out this kind of thing? Is more being done in terms of perhaps a punitive justice system?
I understand that there is a need for counselling for traumatised kids, but I would prefer to look on the preventative side of things, that is the first question and then the second question, you can just jot that down and perhaps deal with both.
It is in a sense unrelated, but in your presentation as in others, we get this reference to women being detained, or imprisoned and with having small children, from a month old up to two years old.
And then the statement is made this is horrible, the young child has to go to the cell with the mother. A few pages we have it where the kid is being taken to the grandmother or wherever, this is horrible. The kid is being orphaned. Yes, both in a sense is horrible, but can you inform us a little more about practices maybe, universally how to deal with women's sentences with small kids.
I know it is not directly in our charge, but I don't know how to emotionally cope with it one way or another. That is the reason for my question.
MS SCOTT: Okay. We have looked at the issue at the National Children and Violence Trust of prevention and it is an issue that I think preoccupies almost every NGO in this country that is working on the issue of children at this point in time, and particularly on the issue of violence against children and child abuse.
We do have training programmes. We have a training programme in trauma management, but we found that about 90 percent of the people who come to those training courses, are women who are the primary care givers, so they are coming to learn how to manage the trauma when it is displayed by a child in a primary care giving situation.
We have a violence prevention training programme which is more widely community based, where we try to involve more men. It is still targeted at adults, and in my view still fall short of what we really need in terms of preventive measures.
So we have begun to look at some other things and I want to mention two. We have started in the Eastern Cape small discussion groups and we are replicating them here now, of victims who come together from the age of 8 to 12 and from the age of 12 to 18, who actually talk about their experiences and how violence occurred to them.
And that is a process of trying really to make children aware of the circumstances in which they are growing up and the possibility of violence against them. Maybe some of that information and the sense that children can talk together about this, will help in that sense.
There is another important programme that we are in the process of trying to establish in South Africa, which is linked to an American organisation, called Childrens' Express and it is basically a news bureau run by children, for adult and children consumption.
I believe it is one of the most innovative approaches because the children actually report on the stories of violence against other children and the older children are used in the process as editors.
The process educates the children there is no doubt about that, and it helps to educate the society from a child's voice. It is what Mrs Machel was saying this morning. The only way you can instill the rage and the anger that we need to turn the situation around, is to give children the voice, for them to tell these stories in their own words, because when you hear the stories in their own words, people will want to do something about it.
And so in terms of prevention, we are focusing much more on working directly with children to see if we cannot increase our own preventive strategies.
The question you asked about women and women in prison, is a very difficult one. When I was living in the United States, there were women imprisoned for criminal offences for long periods of time, who had their children with them up to a certain age, and then the children were taken away. It is a no win situation, regardless of what you are trying to do.
If the child is very young, they need the mother, particularly if they are being breastfed. Usually when the child is over two, the child is taken away and then the child suffers the loss of that mother if the period of detention or imprisonment is longer and so there is no easy way to answer your question.
I think perhaps it is something the women's hearings could focus on, perhaps it is something we need to look at in terms of the actual impact of detention on those women. It was mentioned this morning that as a parent in apartheid society, you lost your ability to protect your children.
You were not able to protect them in a way that a parent should normally protect their child and I think for mothers, that must have been the most heart-wrenching thing either to have your child in detention or not to have your child in detention.
There really isn't an easy answer to that question. It is an appalling situation which should never occur.
MS MKHIZE: Prof Piet Meiring?
PROF MEIRING: Ms Scott, when you talked about your own personal experience having had to go into exile after so many years, you put a thought in my head. You recorded here the stories of young people who stayed behind in South Africa, the hardships they suffered. Who recorded the hardships of young people who had to go into exile and who had to do things that children really should not have been involved in at that tender age?
Is there a source of information on that?
MS SCOTT: No, there isn't. And it has not been recorded. And it is one of those painful things. It shocked me when I returned to South Africa, to get the sense that in fact that community that was in exile, was sometimes seen in terms of the national psyche as not being terribly important or not having suffered as much as people who had remained in South Africa.
And if there is one thing I can say today, it is that that is not true. The circumstances and the decision to go into exile if there was a decision, for the range of people who were in exile and we are talking about very young people often, or children who were orphaned once they were in exile and who didn't know where there parents were, I know of 15 year olds who could not communicate with their family in South Africa, because of the fear that the family would then be detained, tortured, killed, harassed - those range of things.
And people who didn't speak to their families for years, five years, ten years. And I think it is one of those aspects of our history that we actually need to turn some attention to in terms of recording the exile experience and trying to really explain to the rest of those who were remaining in South Africa, as to what was happening in exile.
In some ways I had it easier than many because for five years I worked as an activist and the fact that I was an activist every day working on monitoring human rights violations in South Africa, fulfilled some kind of an inner-need for me to be in touch with South Africa on a daily basis, but I counselled thousands of South African exiles who were living in the United States.
I was helping people who first arrived, because New York was usually the point of entry, to settle in the US and it is very difficult. People go through this struggle of not wanting to settle, because it is not your country and at the same time, there are aspects of life that have to become a little settled if you are going to even be able to cope with your day to day living.
I think the exile experience sadly is one of those things, that really has been left out of this attempt to find out who we are as a society and come to terms with our history and maybe it is something we have got to go back to and really try to record.
MS MKHIZE: Thank you very much for coming forward to share your experiences and especially the experiences of the young people with us. I know this is a topic that you tend to be personal and get emotionally involved with.
We appreciate your recommendations regarding what should be done and I hope you will cooperate with the Commission in developing recommendations for our Reparations Policy. Thank you very much for coming forward.