Pietermaritzburg residents Zama Nguse detailed how her 17 - year- old nephew Sbahle was killed allegedly by security officers during the July unrest, when she was called as the first witness at the Human Rights Commission’s probe into the insurrection.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) began its national investigative hearings into the July unrest on Monday.
Nguse who lives in the Khan Road informal settlement in Pietermaritzburg, told the Commission that although she had lived in the community for more than 15 years, this was the first time she encountered such extreme acts of violence.
She recounted the events that led to her nephew’s death on July 12.
According to Nguse, she was in her home with her two children when she heard noises coming from the road. Since she was unable to reach any of her friends on their phones, she took her nine-year old child to find out what was going on.
The witness said that when she reached the road, she saw people from vehicles with Howick registration plate burning tyres on the road.
Nguse added that security officers from private companies arrived but things became chaotic and the officers then threw teargas to disperse the crowd, but the canisters also landed in the informal settlement forcing people to flee their shacks.
She took her children and tan to her sister’s home. While there, they heard another explosion and so they fled her sister’s too, she said, adding that was the last time she saw Sbahle alive.
Using a translator to tell her story, Nguse said that Sbahle could not see in which direction everyone was running, and so he went looking for them.
“A man told me that Sbahle had been shot. I asked the man what he was talking about and the main said it was the one and only Sbahle,” she said.
Nguse said she went looking for her nephew and found people carrying him to a car. She said she managed to find her sister, Sbahle’s mother , who was six months pregnant at the time, and jumped into another vehicle to follow him to the hospital.
Nguse said at the Northdale Hospital she could not complete opening a file for Sbahle in casualty, as she could hear family and friends crying and praying.
“Before I entered casualty, I found Sbahle’s mother collapsed on the floor,” she said.
Doctors told the family that there was nothing they could as Sbahle was dead on arrival.
“It was quite painful. He was an intelligent child and he was everything to us.
It was quite surprising because it was the first time we saw a 17-year-old take care of his family the way he did. All we need as a family is to see justice,” she pleaded with the commission.
She told the Comission that the incident and days of violence had affected her “quite gravely”
Nguse said she had many sleepless nights since then and was even afraid to cross the road or take her children to school.
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