TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
DATE: 29 JULY 1997
NAME: TOKYO SEXWALE
NOMVULA MOKONYANE - FEDTRAW SUBMISSION
CHAIRPERSON: ... awaiting us. This is very, very important. His presence is highly appreciated in view of the fact that we have created a space for women to look at themselves, look at their own experiences and the role they play in the past. So, for any leader to come forward and to pledge solidarity with women is of great importance. I would not like to say it is appreciated, but it is of value in terms of the liberation of women. So, to you, Mr Premier, we would like to give you this opportunity just to express your word of support to all the people who are in this house, particularly women who have shared about their experiences of human rights violations. Over to you.
MR SEXWALE: Chairperson, I came as a friend and I have not come to make any statement. I have not even warned you that I was coming here. I therefore feel compelled, by your instructions, for me to speak whereas it is the voices of the women, the cries of those who are the majority of this country that rightly should be listened to here. It has been said in the past and, of course, that remains true for now. It will also remain true for a long time to come as, long as the struggle of womankind constitutes part of the international agenda for change. It has been said that a nation that does not accord a human status to its womenfolk is a nation that lacks integrity and that does not belong to a future.
Such an assertion can never be more true than in a country such as South Africa where the pain that has been felt by a whole nation has been felt even more by our mothers, our sisters, our aunts, our daughters, our women. When they resisted in the form that they did in 1956, when they decided to approach the powers that be in the memorable march of the 20000 and more, that was one of the most significant milestones in our history, but then the toll of pain that was inflicted upon the body of womankind in South Africa is one that, over the last few days, has also echoed in the halls of this chamber.
Names such as Mama Sisulu are names to associate with that kind of pain as well as resistance to that pain. Names such as Winnie Mandela, names such Limpho Hani, Helen Josephs, but most importantly, names of the countless and scores of women, millions of them it is, who have suffered away from the glare of publicity, from the public limelight, are the names we should all epitomise, their endeavours that this Commission today, this sitting is about.
I was on trial in 1977, 1978. It was 12 of us. One of us was a woman. She is hardly known by many people. We were tortured, we were electrified, we were beaten with Joe Xabi, who later was assassinated in Harare, Zimbabwe. With Njabie Leng who became the President of the UDF in the then Northern Transvaal. These were ex-political prisoners with Ntete Diale, today a member of our National Parliament, but amongst those people, when all of us resumed the trial from detention, we learnt with horror what one of us, Paulina Mohalie, went through. It will be difficult for me here to speak for her, but the kind of pain that even we, as men, could not withstand, was doubly inflicted upon her.
She was humiliated, her dignity was violated, her values were questioned, alone resisting, nevertheless and when the whole Pretoria 12 as we were known at the time, resumed, Paulina Mohalie stood tall. She nearly lost her mind, but she stood tall. To us that represented a focal point of admiration. We often thought that it is only the men who were supposed to withstand the kind of pain. Many were able to withstand with their lives and many without their lives, but that name, Paulina Mohalie, I thought I should invoke here to indicate that in the chambers of torture, many such unsung heroines also stand to be counted, but I think one of the pains that epitomises the courage of our womenfolk is what happened to the daughter of Chris Hani.
Nobody, no adult, certainly no child, in any part of the world must ever witness what Nomakwezi Hani saw. Through the intercom of the home she heard the shots that felled her father. That child is carrying emotional scars that for many generations will stay with her, but when she went out with the hope that Chris was alive, she found him wasted. Our children, our young girls, our young boys went through many of these experiences over and over and over again. Here in Gauteng, and I am happy to see this Commission sitting here, not only the headquarters, the wealth of the country, a large GDP of the economy, the commercial services, the financial services, but Gauteng also headquarters a lot of the pain that many of us went through here.
Sharpeville, ask the women what happened there. They were there to be counted, there when the saracens came and their bodies are counted among those who fell. Soweto, June 1976, many young girls were caught up in the throes of that episode, a sad one for our country. Many were never found, many were buried secretly. A lot of them were young girls. Boipatong, in the very recent part of our history, shortly before we held an election, many women were disembowelled, carrying children in their bellies and the pangas and spears rained upon them by a group of people whose minds were twisted by a system that had divided this country, this family. Tokoza, Katlahong, Vosloorus, in that violence that visited this county when it was known that a birth was taking place, the birth of democracy. Ask the women of Gauteng, but then listen to the voices of the women of South Africa.
But I am sure this Commission is here not to make us shed tears and we have seen one too many. We have seen not just rivers, but oceans. I am sure it is the purpose of this Commission, certainly of this sitting, to point us in the direction that says there is hope, there is less fear ahead, there is integrity, there are morals now to hold onto, there are certain basic fundamental values to keep in mind. This Commission shall have done its task if only it could give all of us back our dignity, especially those from whose wombs nations are born. I thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much Mr Premier. It is amazing how the voices of women which you have lived with over the past two days are easily confirmed. I mean if you just listen to the Premier talking about Paulina Mohalie's experiences, that pain was doubly inflicted upon her, her dignity was violated, her values were questioned, she nearly lost her mind. I mean, those words have come from many women. Deborah Matshoba this morning spoke to that where she said they referred to her as a mad person and many other women. Joyce was talking about how a persons values and moral integrity was challenged by virtue of being a woman. So, Mr Premier, we thank you very much for giving weight, sometimes, to difficult experiences which women are struggling to articulate here in this hall. We thank you.
We will call upon the representative of FEDTRAW who will make a submission which, I am told, is going to be done by our sister over there, Nomvula. In welcoming you I will ask you to give your full name, the position you hold at the moment and then to tell the audience about the organisation you represent, FEDTRAW, as to what it stood for and then talk to your submission. Because we have not looked at it we are not going to ask you questions. We will write them down and send them over to you if, to fill in all the gaps that we might pick up in the process of your presentation. Thank you.
MS MOKONYANE: Thank you very much Commissioner. My name is Nomvula Mokonyane, I live in Krugersdorp, I am currently a member of the Executive Council of the Gauteng Provincial Government, I am responsible for agriculture, conservation and environment, I am a leader of the South African Communist Party here in Gauteng, I am the Provincial Treasurer thereof, I am also the leader of the ANC in the Westrand of which I am the Chairperson thereof, I am a member of the ANC Women's League. I do participate in other community based organisations as well as non-Governmental organisations that serve the interests, more in particular, of women as well as children and it is my commitment that has, actually, put me to where I am. It is not out of any educational qualifications that I am now in this particular portfolio, but it is because of the struggles, the sacrifices that many other women have made that this responsibility has been bestowed upon me.
The reason why we felt that we have to come and make this submission is precisely to inform the world about the experiences not only of the wives, not only of the daughters, but of women who, in their own right, were involved in the liberation of this country. The Federation of Transvaal Women was an affiliate of the United Democratic Front. It came into being during a period where there was a lull in terms of progressive organisations. After the ANC, the South African Communist Party, the South African Congress of Trade Unions were banned and they were forced into exile, a vacuum emerged and through that we saw the emergence of the civic associations, the student's organisations such as COSAS and, as well, the emergence of women's organisations such as the Federation of Transvaal Women which then became an affiliate of the United Democratic Front.
FEDTRAW, as it was popularly known, was an organisation that had a vision that was shared by the majority of those who wanted to see a non-racial, non-sexist democratic dispensation in South Africa. Not only through its objectives, but also through its leadership FEDTRAW was able to develop and groom women cadres who were able to take leadership. Not only in the women's organisations, but in the students congress, in the civic associations we saw leaders that emerged such as Amanda Gwade, leaders such as Jessie Duwarte, leaders such as the late Comrade Verose Adams, leaders such as Bethel Xoha, who is currently the Chairperson of the ANC Women's League in Gauteng, and leaders such as myself emerged through the programmes and the activities of the Federation of Transvaal Women.
As I have indicted, FEDTRAW was committed to the programmes, as it was always alleged by the past regime, those of the African National Congress and many of us without confirmation, without us acknowledging and without us having been directly recruited were then, through our engagement in the politics of the Federation of Transvaal Women, victimised by the passed system. Amongst some of those people who made the submission, people like Sis Joyce Sikhakhane, some of us saw role models, because we saw them as people who were able to question the system and people who were able to resist even the means of breaking the backbone of those who wanted to champion the political objectives of the then Mass Democratic Movement.
However, when the enemy realised that women have realised that time has come for them to take leadership, the enemy realised that they cannot actually leave that unchallenged. Many of us were subjected to detention with trial. Some of us are here in the public gallery. People who belonged to the religious family, Nanz, were subjected to detention without trial. Some of them such as sister Raphael actually fell ill whilst they were victims of the State of Emergency in 1986. They fell ill and when they realised that time has come for her to pass away, they released her only a few months after she has actually been ill for months in detention and within a few weeks of her release, she did pass away.
Some of us were put into detention 11 days after our marriages. People like myself. Two months being pregnant, taken into solitary confinement with no visitor, with no contact with your loved one and being taken into detention together with the one that you have decided to tie a knot with and before you could even plan a future and decide what then after your marriage and having known exactly why you have actually been identified. As I have indicated that we felt that we had a duty to take leadership responsibility. We managed to defeat the means of the enemy. Those of actually making sure that they destroy our psychology, they destroy our physical being and, as I have indicated, you had people who were detained with their loved ones, because of their involvement in the Federation of Transvaal Women, you had people who were detained whilst being pregnant and some of them had miscarriages right in detention.
Our Comrades, such as Deborah Marakala, who was kept in detention for more than two years, who lost her pregnancy whilst in detention. Comrades such as Koni Khosi, who is also here today, who spent more than two years in detention without trial, having no visitors, being put under solitary confinement and not expected to communicate nor see any leader representative of her choice, nor a doctor of her own choice. People like myself who were then pregnant whilst in detention, who were subjected to humiliation not only by prison warders, but even those who were there serving the interest of the system, such as the district surgeons, who were tasked with a duty of ensuring that they contribute towards termination of your pregnancy. Disputing the fact that you are pregnant when in actual fact you have planned your own pregnancy, you knew that you were pregnant, you got detained knowing that you were pregnant, but they district surgeon, in collaboration with the security forces as well as the prison warders, would insist that, no, your fallopian tube is blocked and they had to make sure that they unblock them so that then you can begin to have menstruations and if you begin to resist that then torture will take its own course. You will be subjected to electrical shock, you will be subjected to solitary confinement without a meal and all that you would only be served with is a jug full of salted water.
Not only were those who knew why they were detained being victims of the State of Emergency and solitary confinement. Young girls at the age of 12 coming from Kagiso, coming from Alexandria, were victims of detention without trial, but not only were they victims of detention without trial, but they were also victims of abuse, victims of rape during interrogation, victims of unwanted pregnancies from the security forces who were taking them in and out of detention. Not only were they only, but even prominent leaders today who occupy senior leadership positions in Government, were subjected to torture where you had to strip naked, where you had your menstruations without any pad, where you had to stand in front of very conservative Afrikaner males without a single cloth over your body and your menstruations dripping and you being expected to tell nothing else, but the truth.
It was so unfortunate that in that particular situation women were also encouraged to be perpetrators of those atrocities and it is also unfortunate that during these past two days hardly a single perpetrator, a female perpetrator has been able to come and give testimony to some of the practices that they have done. It is so unfortunate that today those women perpetrators are still victims of male domination, of patriarchy due to the fact that they have to protect their own integrity, they have to protect themselves from their own working environment and, precisely because of that, they are not able to come and testify here about what they were expected to be doing and the unfortunate thing, the contradictions always emerged where Black perpetrators were also subjected to humilation in front of us and in some instances who had to come to their own rescue. And it was so unfortunate, because in many instances, again, women found themselves as victims of political differences amongst their male counterparts
Some of our own young women have been permanently destroyed, because of being labelled as spies, because of being labelled as agents. Not because they were genuinely agents, but because a particular cause was being championed by those who were in the leadership and through that they found themselves being targeted as agents. We have had those experiences with the Alexandria Seven Days War where women, who were in the forefront of that war in Alexandria, were ultimately marginalised and some of them given labels as agent provocateurs when in actual fact they played a very crucial intervention role in making sure that peace prevails in Alexandria.
I want to subject myself to those unsung heroines of our liberation movement who none of them, through the archives of our history, might be forgotten. Those young girls who managed to come into the ranks of the United Democratic Front then and become members of the Youth Congress, members of the Federation of Transvaal Women, members of the Progressive Trade Unions and led the process to where we are here today, but when responsibilities arise and when opportunities arise, none of them is being remembered. It is so unfortunate that in this particular situation women still feel vulnerable. It is pathetic that here today we do not have many of those women who were victims of the forced removals.
Not being here with us today people such as Beauty Mkhize who were victims of the forced removals in Driefontein and who became a sore eye in the community, because of the role that her husband played, Comrade Saul Mkhize, against the forced removals who then also became the target of the enemy. It is unfortunate that here today, also, we do not have people such as Ntete Montwedi from Kagiso, who lost the wife and four kids because of the violence that had actually befallen our community then. It is very important that we should understand that there are men out there who had also been exposed to humiliation due to the fact that their own wives, their own partners, their own friends were in the leadership of this liberation movement, who today they have to be the mothers and fathers of their own kids. Today they have to start a new like. People like Alli Maziya who lost his entire family, because of his own political involvement.
Again, it is unfortunate that when hearings like this one are made we are not able to make presentations about the realities of how the social differences, the cultural diversity has contributed towards the exploitation of women. It is unfortunate, because that also has played a very key role in terms of the exploitation and victimisation of women. However, as those women who were then involved within the Mass Democratic Movement under the leadership of the Federation of Transvaal Women, some of us see ourselves not only as victims, but more as the survivors. We have survived, we have made it, because we knew that time will come when we would have a new system that would actually uphold the values that the old order really wanted to make sure that it destroys and it makes sure that some of us do not become part of the international community.
In my conclusion I think it is very important, my plea to the TRC as well is that, that the TRC should seek to bring together women throughout the country, women from all walks of life together so that then at the end of the day we can celebrate. Let us celebrate our pains, let us celebrate our experiences, let us celebrate our leadership role not only as mothers, not only as wives, but as citizens of this country in our own right, but also as leaders in our own right and let us find a way whereby we can be counted and we be taken with pride, we can be taken into consideration when positions, when decisions are made in this country, because we have also played a role.
We do not deserve to be given favours, but we believe that women in this country also earn, they deserve to be counted amongst those who have played a role. Not as wives, not as mothers, but as women, but as citizens of this country and as leaders as it has actually been proved through the dark days of apartheid and even now through other struggles that women are still involved in. I thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much Nomvula. As I indicated that we will get hold of, as soon as we get hold of your submission we will look at it and if there are specific questions which we would like to ... before you leave in thanking you. I just hope that, you know, you will continue highlighting the need for a gender debate even amongst women who are already in positions of power. As we were preparing for these hearings we struggled a lot to get any women who is in a position of power to be part of the process. They were all too busy, not available, which was sad, because we felt women who have been empowered, their main struggle is to make sure that sisters who sometimes do not have an opportunity even to come forward or who are not even accessible.
There are many people who do not even know about the Commission who are in some areas in the rural areas or some, who for some reasons, are just not part of our every day communication. So, for me that is a challenge for women like yourself. You have committed yourself today and I really hope this agenda will be on top of your mind in all the structures that you belong to as you indicated to us. We thank you very much for coming forward.