TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
DATE: 29 JULY 1997
NAME: NOZIBONELO MARIA MXATHULE
CASE: JB01840/03NW - JOHANNESBURG
CHAIRPERSON: Our next witness is Nozibonelo Maria Mxathule. What is your language preference?
MS MXATHULE: Swana.
CHAIRPERSON: Swana. Okay, I will assist you in taking an oath.
NOZIBONELO MARIA MXATHULE: (Duly sworn in, states).
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Can you assist us with the channel please, as to where.
INTERPRETER: Swana is on channel four.
CHAIRPERSON: Channel four.
INTERPRETER: Swana is on channel four.
INTERPRETER: English on channel two.
CHAIRPERSON: I will ask you to tell the Commission a little bit about yourself and how you got involved and then also to talk to your story.
MS MXATHULE: I thank you for this opportunity to appear before the Commission and also tell my story about the past. I therefore thank you. I will start about the 1991 matter, about Mr Willard and Douglas Mandla. Douglas Mandla was a person that I struggled with in the ANC and was an informer or rather friendly with the police. We were not quite aware that this person was betraying us. In 1991, on the fourth of May at about nine o' clock Mr Willard called at my place. He used the next doors telephone number. I stay at 1003. When he phoned I answered the telephone. Ambrose Ndlovu was there. As he answered the telephone he asked him who he was. He said I am Picilie. He said he wanted me to come and assist him to remove a room divider, because they were fitting in ceramic tiles in the bedroom. They shifted the room divider into the diningroom. The third piece of the room divider was taken to his bedroom. This son said, I said to this son that go and tell Picilie that I will not be able to come to his place, I am working. I was cleaning the kitchen floor at that time.
When this child arrived, said Picilie wants to see you. I said, no, I would not be able to go there, go and assist that person, because this boy was visiting me during school holidays. When he came back the second time he stated that this person is your neighbour, I do not know the person. However, the boy was angry. When I enquired why he did not explain. I went out of the house. As I entered this person's place, we moved the first piece of the room divider. We got the second one. The third one was in his bedroom. He entered first into the bedroom. As I was about to pull the room divider he kicked the door and then I started asking what he was doing.
He said you are aware and you could see what I was doing. He pulled me, started kicking. Now we were fighting and struggling for him not to close the door. He managed to kick me. I was fighting back. He grabbed the hand gun on top of the speaker. He tried to hit me three times on the head, but I used my left hand to block that blow. He could not manage to hit me. I was bleeding on my leg and I did not stand any good chance to defend myself. I managed to push him the other way and as I tried to run away he called at me and I found that he had a gun in his hand, but he could not manage to shoot at me.
There was this one Lungile, who was a Comrade, in the diningroom. We were together in the struggle. As I entered the gate Lungile left Picilie's house through the diningroom's door. I told what happened, but she said that this person was just about playing games with me. I was bleeding then, rather menstruating on that day. As I entered the house, I phoned, my house I phoned his wife, Jubatine, who had worked at Klerksdorp. His wife came. As they came in they jumped over the fence. His wife came to my place. We talked to each other and stated that she will meet Picilie and Picilie's father and his mother so that when we address this issue, Picilie should be present.
After four days I asked Lungile as I have been bringing my father back and forth here and he is quite sickly. She told me I am late. His, her husband does not stay at home and that is how the matter was dealt with up till today. The reason for this having happened was that because my husband is a cripple. His right hand is lame. He never even came to ask for forgiveness from me. This has happened over seven years. We do not even speak, we are not even on speaking terms with each other up till today. I can forgive him. I know you can forgive somebody even though they had, they might have hurt you in the past. I so wish he could come to me, where I stay and ask for forgiveness. I would forgive him.
The second point, in March 1986, on the date I have written on my submission or statement. I think it is, it was on the second or the third or fourth, we were from a funeral in Kanana, after burying three or four Comrades with whom we were in the struggle with. We went to the funeral by taxis. On our way back from that funeral, there was also a funeral at Jubatine involving four kids who were shot by the police. We attended the funeral and we came back. On our way back we were walking on foot, because we feared something, that the police staged a roadblock along the route. We took a different route, because Jubatine and Kanana are closer to each other.
As we approached Dawu at about past ten, late in the night, before we came to Jubatine we held a meeting. We left for Jubatine. En route to Jubatine the police came after us, chased us. They managed to arrest a few. We sought refuge at some of the houses. In Mr Plaatjies street the police appeared. There were White policemen amongst these Black policemen. We, some of us sought refuge at Mrs Boyeni's house. Most of us were left behind. Some managed to run away. I hid myself underneath the car. They managed to get some of the Comrades from different houses. They pulled me underneath the car, kicked me and assaulted me. They really tramped on me.
Those that I managed to see as they took us in combis and caspirs. They took us to a guest house. At this guest house they let us in. We were bleeding. They ordered us to strip naked. They were in a line, a row. They told us to face the wall. We stripped naked, all of us, against the wall, boys and girls the same. They assaulted us. They assaulted us timeously, because I was already dizzy at that time. They threw us out on the grass and poured water on us and left us there. At about six o' clock to seven in the morning they woke us up and ordered us to leave. We could not, it was difficult. Some of us were taken by caspirs and some had already passed away. We were lying on the lawn. Some of us were taken to the mortuaries.
At the moment I have a hearing problem. I am not physically healthy, but the policemen I identified as CID April, CID Tsetsie, Sergeant Copella, Mohauw Gadiema, CID Kutumela. They are still around and they are still working in the same positions or rather in the same work they did previously.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for sharing with us your experiences. Just to organise your story, I will try to ask you a few questions really aimed at making sure that we get a clear picture of what you have said. Did you say you were a member of any political position? If so, did you hold any position?
MS MXATHULE: I was a member of the Youth Congress.
CHAIRPERSON: If you say "Bacheng", are you referring to a youth structure?
MS MXATHULE: I am referring to the Youth Congress.
CHAIRPERSON: Youth of which organisation?
MS MXATHULE: The ANC Youth League.
CHAIRPERSON: Were there any other women who were actively involved like yourself or you were the only woman in your area?
MS MXATHULE: There were quite a few of us and some are them are still around.
CHAIRPERSON: When you started off you told about an experience where a man was trying to enter the door. Can you just give a clear context of that, because the way it came it was not clear enough as to what was the reason behind that.
MS MXATHULE: This person attempted to rape me, because he had lust for me.
CHAIRPERSON: For how long had you known this person and in what context?
MS MXATHULE: I attended school with this person from Grade A up till standard five. He left town and then he attended school in Transkei. That is how we could not continue our studies together, because he left for Transkei.
CHAIRPERSON: But he was not doing that in a political context, he was just doing it as a man who wanted to do that to you as a person? I am trying to get that clarity.
MS MXATHULE: Yes, because when I explained this to his father, he explained to my father that your child is, they are use to each other.
CHAIRPERSON: Again, I would like us to be clear on this. So, this man wanted to rape you not because it was a, there was no political context. He was just doing it, because he is use to doing that.
MS MXATHULE: The riots were not yet over in Jubatine at that time. We were still involved in the political struggle.
CHAIRPERSON: So, this man was a trained policeman?
MS MXATHULE: Yes, he was a trained policeman. He was not stationed at Klerksdorp, he was in, he was stationed at Stilfontein, not in Klerksdorp.
CHAIRPERSON: Can we, can you tell us a little bit more about your experiences at the guest house.
MS MXATHULE: At the guest house they ordered us to strip naked and face the wall. The policemen started assaulting us, ordering us to kiss the wall, some of them kicking us. They assaulted us a lot.
CHAIRPERSON: Maybe if you can just give us a context of that. How were you taken to the guest house? Were you in the company of other women as well?
MS MXATHULE: At that time we were still young girls. We were members of the ANC's Youth League. We were still teenagers.
CHAIRPERSON: When you look back now how, why did they pick on you on that day?
MS MXATHULE: They knew that there was a funeral we were supposed to attend and we, therefore, would attend that funeral. That is why they were always on the look out for us, especially on that day.
CHAIRPERSON: If you are still, if you can still remember, how many women were with you at the guest house?
MS MXATHULE: We were quite many boys and girls.
CHAIRPERSON: Maybe for the purpose of your appearance today, can we just try to assist you to remember what happened to you and other women, in particular. In your statement you do talk about what they did to you. You mentioned the spraying with cold water and can you just try to remember what they did to you and any other women on that day, in particular, if you can remember.
CHAIRPERSON: There was, there is a friend of mine who stayed in Carletonville. They raped her. Three policemen raped her and others who were in our company on that day.
CHAIRPERSON: You talk about a friend who was raped by three policemen. Did they do that in your presence on your arrival. Can you just assist the Commission to visualise what happened.
MS MXATHULE: She explained to us that they raped her and she did go to the hospital. At the hospital they gave her pain tablets and she left the hospital.
CHAIRPERSON: In your knowledge did she report to the hospital that she was detained and raped by the police?
MS MXATHULE: At that time I did not ask her whether she did explain that she was raped, because I was also sustaining injuries and I could not walk myself.
CHAIRPERSON: There are a few women who were with you although you cannot remember exactly how many were there. Here in your statement you do say here you were stripped naked, sprayed with cold water and sjambokked. Can you remember any other things that they did to you?
MS MXATHULE: Yes, I can remember some of the incidents that took place. They kicked us, they assaulted us, they kicked at us and ordered us to kiss the walls.
CHAIRPERSON: For how long did you go through this experience? Was it something which they did within a hour? Was it something which was done for days? Can you just tell us more about that.
MS MXATHULE: This happened for a day. If I remember quite well, they left us at about 12 o' clock. When they arrested us they assaulted me and others from where they arrested us.
CHAIRPERSON: So, for how long were you in detention?
MS MXATHULE: What are you, pardon, may you repeat your question please.
CHAIRPERSON: I am looking at your statement and looking at what you say was done to you, but it is not clear as to how much were you kept in detention.
MS MXATHULE: They assaulted us afterwards. Those who could not manage to walk were thrown outside on the lawn and we left that place early in the morning at about six o' clock to seven o' clock. They ordered us to leave the guest house.
CHAIRPERSON: After that you did not get into trouble with them again?
MS MXATHULE: I never had any problems with the police. I only had a problem with Mr Willard who wanted to rape me and assaulting me. That is the only problem I sustained afterwards.
CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you very much. I will then give this opportunity to other Commissioners to ask you a few questions which will help us to get clarity of your story. Joyce Seroke.
MS SEROKE: Maria, we want you to assist us to have the political context of the first story you told us about. You heard that Sheila Meintjies during her submission here, she said that at some of the days, there is a very thin line between domestic violence and political violence. When this Willard police, this policeman, Willard, called you to his house and attempted to rape you at gunpoint, did he do this because he knew you were a Comrade or he just did it because he wanted to have sex with you? Maybe because he did not, despised your husband because he was a cripple or rather you were a Comrade and he was a policeman and that offended him that you were a Comrade or he just did it, because he had lust and because your husband was disabled.
MS MXATHULE: He did this because he knew I was a Comrade and my husband was also a Comrade and he was a crippled or disabled. He could not defend us and he was involved in the struggle with one of our friends.
MS SEROKE: Now, you state that this other Comrade who stated that he was just playing games with you. Was he also belonging to your youth group, the ANC Youth Congress or whatever?
MS MXATHULE: Yes, even during meetings we were together. Sometimes we got arrested or we would be chased by the police and some would be arrested. However, if he was arrested with us he would be released later.
MS SEROKE: Okay. Also, coming to the second story you told us. For us to find the political context of this, of one of the activists. When the police chased you and led you to the guest house, because you attended an activist's funeral. That was the reason for them doing that to you, it is that they arrest you.
MS MXATHULE: Yes, we were from a funeral.
MS SEROKE: When they ordered you to strip naked in front of your fellow Comrades who were males, how did you feel as women, that you stand naked in front of men?
MS MXATHULE: They also ordered the males to strip naked and they ordered us to kiss the wall and face the wall and start assaulting us.
MS SEROKE: Did you report this incident to the police that the police did that act to you and you did nothing?
MS MXATHULE: At that time the Comrades' cases were never attended to. The same like this of Mr Willard, I submitted and furnished a statement to the police. After some few days we were told that this person has passed away. I was told to come after two days. After a day I would come to the police station. The next time when I arrived I was told that I am becoming a nuisance.
MS SEROKE: Now, this incident that happened where you were taken to the guest house, did you report it to the police?
MS MXATHULE: Yes, I did, but nothing transpired of it.
MS SEROKE: I thank you very much.
CHAIRPERSON: Yasmin Sooka. Just one last question from me again. So, what has happened to your Comrade who said, use to go around with the police who was harassing you? Is he still actively involved? What ultimately happened to him?
MS MXATHULE: He has left politics, but he is still a friend or friendly with the police.
CHAIRPERSON: When you say he still goes around with the police do you mean he, you said he was also part of your group of Comrades, but also assisting them. So when he is still with them, is he still playing a duel role or he is clearly now on one side, on the camp of the police?
MS MXATHULE: To date he is still an informer and he is still a Comrade. I use to see him next to, in Mr Willard's yard. I stay, I do not stay very far from Mr Willard's place.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for coming forward. It must have been difficult for you to come and share about those experiences especially in view of the fact that some of the violations that you are talking about occurred in the context of people you believed in. We will, certainly, pass on your statement to the Investigative Unit and look at each and every aspect very, very carefully and we will keep you informed, if, after we have investigated all what you have said. Thank you very much for coming. Is there anything which maybe you came forward hoping the Commission, wanting the Commission to know as your wish?
MS MXATHULE: Yes, there is. There is something I wish the Commission might be of assistance to me with. At the moment I am not able to have children. Sometimes my kidneys get swollen, my feet get swollen and my back aches.
CHAIRPERSON: Well, what we have been doing with most people who appear before the Commission, even before the Commission finalises its victim finding process, we encourage people to access Government departments of hospitals. We have been, since we started, meeting with different MEC's to make sure that people are not turned back mainly because they do not have money or not, but we encourage people to try and stick to one hospital. Like, in your case, if you have a condition which you associate to, with your human rights violations we will ask you to approach the local hospital, stick to them, allow them to do whatever investigations that will help, even in case you are found to be a victim when the question of reparations is looked at we will know exactly what has happened, the nature and the extent of damage. Thank you very much.