“I Saw a Nightmare…”
Doing Violence to Memory: The Soweto Uprising, June 16, 1976
by Helena Pohlandt-McCormick
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Albertina Mshudulu
Excerpt From Affidavit

Submitted to the Centre for Intergroup Studies, University of Captetown. 1

That is the last time I saw him. He did not come home that night.

On Thursday morning the 12th August, as my son had not slept in his bed, I went to the Guguletu Police Station to find out if my son had been arrested or shot. They looked in the cells and came back and said that he was not there and that I had better inquire in the hospitals. I went home thinking that perhaps he had slept with friends. When he did not come home on Thursday night, I went first think on Friday morning back the Guguletu Police Station to see if there was any news of my son. They said he was not there.

I was now very worried and arranged for Mr. Mafu, a taxi driver, to take me to all the hospitals.

We went first to Tygerburg and they checked their records and said that my son was not there. I spoke to a Coloured receptionist there. He said my sons name was not in the book. He said there were five units upstairs who were unknown. (the word unit refers to people unidentified). I asked permission to go and look at the unidentified people but he refused to allow me to do so. Mr. Mafu also spoke to the receptionist but he refused. A White doctor was called by the receptionist. The receptionist was dressed in a white overall and the man who came down and who I took to be a doctor wore his own pants and white overall. He did not have a name badge.

We left and went to the Conradie Hospital-they showed me the book of names. My son was not amongst them. They told me to go to the riot squad police in the hospital who were watching the injured patients. The people at the Conradie were all helpful and treated me better than those at Tygerburg. My son was not at the Conradie Hospital.

We then drove to Groote Schuur Hospital and checked at the inquiry office. My sons name was not among those of the patients there. They sent me up to the 5 wards containing those injured in the disturbances. The riot policeman to who I spoke was kind to me and took me all around to see if we could find my son-he was not there. It appeared to me that those injured in the disturbances are kept on a separate register which remains in the hands of the riot police and are not entered like normal patients.


It was now about 5:30 p.m. and we went to the S.A. Mortuary in Durham Avenue, Salt River. When we came there I was told that all the bodies were in ice shelves but I could look and see if my son was there. I was taken to see the corpses but my son was not among those that I saw. I then went home.

Monday 16th August. I went back to Tygerburg Hospital. They then allowed me to look at the unidentified bodies, but my son was not amongst those I saw. I went back to the Guguletu Police Station at 10:00 p.m. to see if there was any news or record of my son-there was nothing.

A few days later I went back to the Durham Street Mortuary a second time to see if I could find my son. I was shown the bodies and he was not there.

Then [I] came to the Athlone Advice Office in Mowbray to see if they could help me. On the 20th September I went along with Mrs. Scott. She telephoned the social worker of Tygerburg Hospital to try to find my son but there was no record of him.

It appeared that a boy by the name of Hamilton in Ward A.3 who was injured having been shot in the leg, said that he had been brought by ambulance on the 11th August, 1976, to the Tygerburg Hospital and that in J.7 those in the ambulance had been sorted out. He said that my son had been in the ambulance with him. Hamilton was then in Ward A.3 but I do not know his surname-he is still in the hospital as far as a I know.


Hamilton said that I should ask the sister [nurse] for information-I did so-looked in the records but his name was not there. I could not check the riot squad records as the riot squad had left. It seemed that at Tygerburg as well as Groote Schuur two completely separate sets of records were kept. Those of ordinary patients and those injured in the riots.

I then gave up hope.

4th October. I went to the Conradie Hospital with Mrs. Denby for whom I char to have a look at the cases who were still unconscious, thinking that we might perhaps find my son there-we found nothing.

Source: Albertina Mshudulu, affidavit submitted to the Centre For Intergroup Studies, University Of Capetown, SAB K345, vol. 192, file 2/4, part 7.