After the flood

For a long time, people in South Africa have waited for rain. The land is dry and cracked. People cannot grow anything. And their animals are dying a slow, painful death.

At the end of January, the people in Natal, Swaziland and Mozambique got rain. It came and came and came. It didn’t stop.

Strong winds and heavy rain hit the dry land. Soon the rivers were too full. Water flooded the land and many people died.

Many people lost their houses. Roads and bridges were broken. The people lost nearly everything before the rain. But after the rain, they had nothing left.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Philemon Myeni comes from the part of Natal that was hit by the storm. He was not there when the rain came. But his family was there.

Philemon has not heard from his family. He is very worried. He waits and waits. The days pass slowly and painfully. He told us his story:

“l was born in the village of Bhamganoma near Mkuze. It is a country place and the land is good. We keep animals. We plough along the Mkuze river. We grow mealies, corn, small beans and mbumba. The river is fu II of fish and good for swimming.

A few years ago I fell in love. wanted to marry Elizabeth. I needed R 120 for lobola. So I worked in a bakery in Mkuze for R40 a month. I paid the lobola after a few months.

“I lived in Bharnqanorna with my wife Elizabeth Ntombithini and our children. Their names are Bhekuyise, Tholakele, Ndukuzakhe. My grandmother, my mother and my sisters also live there. And so do my two brothers, Joseph and Elias.

There is no money in Bharnqanorna. So some of the family must go and work in the cities. Joseph and Elias went to work in the city.

But then Elias lost his job. The family had a meeting. “Elias has worked hard for a long time in the city,” they said. “It is time for him to come home and be with us again.” Now it was my turn to get a job in the city. I had to leave my new wife.

I felt strange. I was frightened and also excited. And for the first time in my life, I felt lonely. The time went as fast as a Putco bus. Too soon it was the day for me to leave.

My wife and children came to say goodbye. They were happy because I was going to fetch money. They smiled and waved. That was the last time I saw them.

I came to Durban and got a place in the Kwa-Mashu hostel. My brother Joseph and other friends were there. I got a job at the animal hospital. That’s a place that looks after sick animals.

They paid me R 100 a month. I sent R40 a month home. I felt happy and proud. My job was to clean the offices for the whites. I also made them tea and fed the animals.

I missed my family. And I didn’t like sharing a small room with four other men. But I was not unhappy. Sometimes we went and watched soccer on Saturdays.

Sometimes we went to the city. We walked the streets and looked In shop windows.
Slowly I was learning the ways of the city. Sometimes people from our village came to the hostel. They brought the news. When people went home, I gave them money for the family. We do not use letters. We cannot write.

One night in January this year my whole life changed. I was sitting in the room at the hostel. All five of us were there. We were talking and cooking. The radio was playing. I was fixing my shoes. Suddenly I heard over the radio the name of our village – Bhamganoma. My hands stopped working. Everybody stopped talking.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

Many people lost their houses

The voice from the radio said a storm hit our village. The voice said people died in our village. I could not speak. My body was hot, then cold. Then I knew I must go home.

I went to work the next morning. I went to see my boss. We call him “Zibukwane”. This means “Spectacles” in English. I told him what happened at Bhamganoma. I told him I was scared that my family was dead.

“Spectacles” got angry when he heard my troubles. Maybe he could not understand because my English is not so good. “It’s nothing to do with us,” he said. “I don’t really care. If you want to leave, then leave. But don’t come back.”

Then Spectacles paid me R30 and told me to go away. I asked for my blue card. I did not get it. I asked for my notice pay. I did not get it.

I stood there looking at Spectacles. He looks after animals. But he doesn’t want to look after people. Maybe he only likes animals. Then I walked away from him.

We hired a car with the R30. We took messages and money from many people. We travelled north to Bhamganoma. The roads were full of dirt and stones. Sometimes we had to move broken trees out of the road.

When we got to the Umfolozi river, we stopped and looked. The bridge over the river was broken. We just sat there in the car. We looked at the broken bridge. And we watched the brown, muddy water of the Umfolozi.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

Many bridges were broken

Nobody spoke. We knew we could not get home. Then we slowly turned the car around. We drove back to the Kwa-Mashu hostel.

I heard that all the bridges were broken. People from the village coutd not bring any news about my family. I felt helpless and alone.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005For the first time, I wished I knew how to read and write. I wanted to send a letter home. And I wished someone at home could write to me.

I had no money left. I could not pay the hostel rent. So I left the hostel. I went to stay with a friend.

My troubles made me feel sick. I walked to the city. I did not know what to do. I just started talking to strangers. Then I spoke to a middle aged woman. I told her how I got fired. And I told her about my problems at home.

This woman listened. Then she said she could help. She told me of an organization that helps workers. She said the organization could help me.

I went to this place. It is called the African Workers Association. They took me to a lawyer. The lawyer listened to my story and sent a letter to the animal hospital. So now I wait to hear from the lawyer.

I have not gone home yet. People say that all of my family are dead.

But I do not know. At night I dream of angels and brown water. Maybe the angels are my children. As soon as I have enough money, I will go home. I haven’t seen my wife for two years. I must know If she is alive or dead. I want to go home.”

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News about the skin lightening cream struggle

WELL DONE DRUM MAGAZINE!

In the last Learn and Teach magazine we asked magazines and newspapers to stop advertising skin lightening creams. Drum magazine was the first to agree. They will stop advertising skin lightening creams. Learn and Teach thanks Drum. We hope other magazines and newspapers will do the same.

TOP SKIN DOCTOR GIVES ANOTHER WARNING

Ban all skin lightening creams with hydroquinone – this message comes again from a top skin doctor in South Africa.

The skin doctor is Professor Findlay. He has warned people about skin lightening creams for many years. He gives his new warning in the latest American skin doctors’ magazine.

Professor Findlay says the law the Health Department made in 1980 is no good. (I n 1980 the Health Department said skin lightening creams must not have more than 2% hydroquinone). Professor Findlay says the law is no good because people will just use more skin lightening creams.

Another skin doctor told Learn and Teach, “I don’t know why the Health Depart­ment doesn’t listen to Professor Findlay. He is the best skin doctor in South Africa.”

SCIENTIST ALSO GIVES WARNING

“Skin lightening creams are dangerous. They damage peoples’ skins,” a scientist told Learn and Teach. The scientist works at a university in Pretoria.

The scientist did tests with skin lightening creams last year. She tested creams that have hydroquinone. Most skin lightening creams are made with hydroquinone.

The scientist rubbed skin lightening creams onto guinea pigs. She rubbed the creams onto the guinea pigs every 24 hours. She did not give the guinea pigs a lot of cream – she gave the same amount people use.

After two weeks the guinea pigs’s skins went hard. They got bleeding scabs. After six weeks their feet and noses turned black.

THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT MUST BAN SKIN LIGHTENING CREAMS!

The Learn and Teach challenge

image292_1

This person has hydroquinone poisoning. This person got hydroquinone poisoning from skin lightening cream. Most skin lightening creams are made with hydroquinone.

Most skin doctors want the Health Department to ban skin lightening creams. (10 out of 11 skin doctors told Learn and Teach they want skin lightening creams banned).

But last month the Health Department said they won’t ban skin lightening creams.

Skin lightening cream is big business. Black people spend over 30 million rands a year on skin lightening creams. Adverts in newspapers and magazines help sell these poisonous creams.

Show your readers that you are on their side. Please stop advertising skin lightening creams.

Skin lightening creams: a big new problem

image289Elizabeth Mohoane had some spots on her face. She wanted to get rid of these spots. Her friend told her to buy some Dolly Lou cream. She bought the cream and used it.

Four days later, her face got swollen and ‘burnt’. She got blisters allover her face and neck. She felt very itchy. Her face began to water. And then she got big white patches on her face, neck and hands. Big white patches that won’t go away.

She went to the hospital. The doctors are doing their best to help her. But nothing is happening. She is not getting better.

“I feel very angry”, Elizabeth told Learn and Teach. “Next month I wanted to visit my mother on the farm. But I can’t go looking like this. I feel so ashamed.”

A skin doctor at the Hillbrow hospital has seen 20 people like Elizabeth Mohoane in the past four months. She is treating all these people. Only two people are getting better.

All the people used one of these creams – “Dolly Lou”, “Charm All” and “Susa Amabala”. These creams damage some people’s skins after a few days. Some people suffer months later.

image291“All skin lightening creams damage your skin”, says the skin doctor. “But these three creams are doing terrible damage. They have put new chemicals in these creams. We aren’t sure what the chemicals are. We are trying to find out.”

The skin doctor is very worried about these three creams. “I have seen 20 people already. But my clinic is a very small clinic. I wonder how many other people have damaged their skins from these creams”.

The skin doctor is certain that Dolly Lou, Charm All and Susa Amabala damage people’s skins. She has done tests. She rubbed the creams onto people’s arms. And she saw what happened.

The doctor wants the health department to do something. “People make these cheap creams with all types of things. The Health Department must make laws to protect people.”

The skin doctor wants to tell Learn and Teach readers one more thing: “All skin lightening creams are dangerous. Black people must not use skin lightening creams. They have black skins for a good reason. Their black skins protect them from the sun. Very few black people get skin cancer. But thousands of white people in South Africa get skin cancer.”

Working with Poison

Untitled0-19Deep in the forests of Natal where nobody can see her, you will find Maria Sibiya hard at work with a tank of posion on her back. Like thousands of other workers in the forests and on the farms, she works with poison everyday.

The poison is good news for farmers and forest owners. It is a cheap and quick way to kill insects and weeds. But it is bad news for the health of workers like Maria. Maria lives and works in a forest near Richmond. It is a small town in Natal, surrounded by sawmill  factories that turn trees into planks of wood.

In the centre of town, a few run-down shops  do business by selling goods to the sawmill workers and the people who work on the farms and forests in the area. From the shopping centre, many dirt roads spread out into the sugar farms, orange plantations and forests that cover the green hills.

One of these roads runs for 16 kilometres through the tall pine and bluegum trees. At the end of the road stand ten rows of black and white brick buildings. That’s the compound where Maria lives together with 500 other men and women.

25 LITRES OF POISON

Every day Maria wakes up at 4am, long before the sun throws its first rays between the rows of trees. She prepares food with the three women that share her small room. They eat and quickly tidy the room. Then it’s a rush – down to the tractor and trailer that waits to take them into the forest.

By 6am they reach the place where work begins. Maria climbs the steep hills in the forest with a tank on her back. Inside the tank are 25 litres of poison. She sprays the trees with the poison. When the tank is empty she rushes down the hill and fills it. She must finish six tanks of poison to get paid for the shift. This is what the workers call “itoho” – the piecework system.

Maria uses many different kinds of poisons. One of these is a poison called 245-T. It is used to kill the wild bushes that grow between trees.

A WEAPON OF WAR

But bushes are not the only things that die from 245-T. The poison was made by the British during World War Two. The British army wanted to use it to destroy enemy crops. But the war ended before it was used.

The poison was used by the Americans in their war against the people of Vietnam. They wanted to destroy the jungle that gave shelter to the soldiers who fought for the people of Vietnam. More than a million gallons of a poison called Agent Orange were dumped on the forests of Vietnam by American jet bombers. Agent Orange was made from 245-T.

After the war strange things began to happen in Vietnam. Babies were born with no eyes. Some had tiny brains or small hearts. Others had too many fingers or stumps instead of legs and arms. Doctors blamed 245-T for the damage to the bodies of the babies. Back in America, soldiers who fought in the jungles of Vietnam began to get ill. Doctors blamed 245-T for causing cancer, liver illnesses and skin diseases. Many of the soldiers’ wives also gave birth to deformed babies.

Dow Chemicals, the company that sold Agent Orange to the American army, was forced to pay the American soldiers R360 000 damages. At the time farmers in America were using 245-T to kill weeds on their land. The government put a stop to this. In 1970 245-T was banned in America. Today most governments believe 245-T is too dangerous to be used. 245-T is now banned in countries like Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Holland, Germany and America.

WHEN THE WIND BLOWS

But in South Africa the law does not protect workers like Maria who still spray with 245-T. Nobody has ever told Maria about the dangers of 245-T. The company gives her a plastic suit, goggles and a small mask – and tells her to get on with the job. The workers who spray the poison, like Maria, are not the only ones in danger.

When the wind blows, the spray from Maria’s poison can easily enter into the lungs of her fellow workers – like those who cut down trees nearby. They are not given masks for protection.

An organisation in Natal called Chemwatch says that 245-T may have already caused deformed babies. In South Africa Chemwatch says 245-T may have caused the many damaged babies born in Natal. For example, they tell a story of twins who were born in January 1987 – one was healthy, the other had no fingers. The father of the twins works in a forest near Richmond.

Untitled0-21In November 1986 a baby girl was born with a tiny left ear. Her mother and father live and work in a forest near Richmond. They say the company sprays with 245-T.

Chemwatch believes that there are many stories about the damage caused by 245-T. They are doing a big study about the poison – but they believe there is already enough proof of the dangers of 245-T. Scientists working for the organisation say that 245-T must be banned in South Africa.

TOOTH AND NAIL

Chemwatch is not the only organisation fighting to get 245-T banned. The Paper Wood and Allied Workers Union (PWAWU) fights for the rights of forestry workers – and is also deeply worried about the dangers of 245-T.

Untitled0-20“We know about the dangers of 245-T,” says Jeremy Baskin, general secretary of PWAWU. “And we are prepared to fight tooth and nail against the dangers in the forest. We will not rest until the forests are safe.”

“We are also fighting other dangers in the forest – like the ‘itoho’ system. ‘Itoho’ forces workers to work so fast that they have no time to worry about their safety.”

“Safety is not the only thing we are fighting for,” says Jeremy Baskin. “Forestry workers are among the worst-off workers in the country. Many get wages as low as R5 a day. There is no minimum wage in the forests. Many of the workers have never heard of paid leave and sick leave. Our job is to change this.”

IN THE MEANTIME

In the meantime PWAWU has written a book about the dangers of work in the forests and sawmills. The book tells about the dangers of noise, machines and the poisons that  workers use.

It tells workers about their right to fight for a healthy job. “A safe workplace is every worker’s right. You can demand protection from dangerous chemicals. If you stand together management will be forced to listen,” says the book. The book also says that workers like Maria can do the following things to make their jobs safe:

* Workers can ask management about the dangers of the chemicals they use. The law says bosses must tell workers about the dangers of each poison.
* Workers must use gloves, plastic suits, masks and goggles. The law says that bosses must give these safety clothes to workers for free.
* Workers must see a doctor once a year. They must tell the doctor what poisons they work with. The doctor must check to see that the poison has not made them ill.
* If workers know of anybody who has suffered from poisons like 245-T, they must tell the union about it. They can write to PWAWU, P O Box 35208, Johannesburg, 2000. (Workers can also write to Chemwatch, PO Box 158, Cato Ridge, 3680.)
* Most of all, workers can demand that the company must only use posions that are safe. In other countries 245-T was banned only after the workers united in their trade unions and
demanded an end to the poison in their countries.

(Maria Sibiya is not the real name of the woman in this story. She asked us not to use her real name for fear of being fired.)

A basement in Fordsburg

Late one afternoon, I was standing on a pavement in Fordsburg — right next door to the Planet Bioscope. I was minding my own business. Just looking in a shop window, that’s all.

Then I heard these sounds. Funny, strange sounds. Were these the sounds of humans? I did not know. But one thing I knew for sure. Somebody or something needed help.

The sounds were coming from the basement. I quickly walked down the stairs — and then along a dark, narrow passage. Carefully I pushed open the door.

The room was painted in a dark colour. The paint had seen better days. Then I saw where the noise was coming from.

In the shadows I saw big, big men lying on machines of all shapes and sizes. Others were standing with heavy iron weights in their hands — or above their heads.

The men did not see me. They were all looking into mirrors in front of them. They were pushing and pulling, moaning and groaning.

Then I started to think. These guys didn’t need my help. I mean these guys were the biggest guys you have ever seen. And me? I don’t weigh more than 125 pounds. “What am I doing here?” I quietly asked myself.

I began to feel a little bit nervous. Maybe these guys liked training in a dark basement with no fresh air. And maybe these guys didn’t like strangers coming to watch them coming to disturb them.

A big guy came up to greet me. He shook my hand — and my legs folded at the knees. My hand felt like I caught it in a door.

He told me his name was Yusuf Docrat but that his friends just called Doc. The place was called the World Health Studio and he was the owner.

I looked at an old sign above his head. “First Pay, Then Train” said the sign. This was a poor man’s gym.
I looked at the man in front of me. He had muscles in every corner of his big body. I couldn’t tell him I came here to help him. I didn’t know what he would do to me. Maybe he would laugh. Or maybe he would kill me.

I had to say something — and quickly. As some people like to say, my mind was working overtime.

“Excuse me, I work for Learn and Teach magazine,” I said, squeaking like a mouse. “Can I please talk to you guys. I want to do a story about bodybuilders for our magazine. By the way, I am very sorry I did not make an appointment. I can always come back. Really I can, no problem.”

The big man smiled. Yes, he suddenly smiled. Then I knew I was safe. I would live to see another day. The man was twice the size of a rhino. But he was as friendly as a Samaritan.

The other guys suddenly also didn’t look all that dangerous. They were maybe a little different. But they seemed nice enough. I decided to stick around.

Learn and Teach: Why did you start bodybuilding?
Philimon: At one time I was drinkinga lot. I was fat and lazy. I looked so bad that one of my friends said I looked like a scrap motor car. I decided to stop drinking. And I joined the gym and started training.

Learn and Teach. Why do you use all these different machines?
Philimon: A factory that makes radios does not use one machine. A radio has many parts — just like the human body. We use different machines for different parts of the body. We want every part of our body to be strong.

Learn and Teach. Why do you guys use so many mirrors?
Timmy: When you walk in here, you forget about your friends outside. In the gym your new friends are these machines, the iron weights and the mirrors. In the gym you don’t fight against anybody else. You fight against yourself. The mirror is the judge. The mirror never tells a lie.

Learn and Teach. Listen guys, would you mind if we ask some private and personal questions? For example, some people say bodybuilders can’t make children. Is this true?
Doc. That is all nonsense and very wrong. With such talk, people will soon think we are the fathers of wild animals. Bodybuilders are the most healthy people around. They eat good food and they never drink liquor. I myself have four healthy children. But anyway, I don’t like to talk about such things. Why don’t you go and
talk to a bodybuilder’s wife.

Learn and Teach: We wouldn’t dare go anywhere near a bodybuilder’s wife, that’s for sure. But tell us, some people say that guys like you can’t use your hands for eating and shaving. Is that also nonsense?
Phil. Yes, that’s another famous nonsense. God gave us hands to reach all parts of our bodies. If we couldn’t eat, we would be very thin. And you don’t find so many thin body­builders. And if we couldn’t shave-well, there would be a lot more barbershops, don’t you think?
Timmy. I must tell you about one problem that we do have. The size of our bodies change all the time — and so do the sizes of our clothes. Sometimes when you stretch or bend down, you know all about it. And you know it’s time for new clothes. And if you suddenly yawn, there can also be problems — like buttons popping off your shirt.

Learn and Teach: Anything else you guys want to say?
Phil: Yes, for us bodybuilding is a religion. It is our belief. God made us and we respect what God made. We only want to carry on where God left off. We are proud of our bodies. We want to make our bodies stronger and more beautiful. We like to look smart and we like to look good.
Timmy: When a person comes to the gym for the first time, they learn many things. But they learn one very important thing. They learn to behave well to all people. We are big but we are peaceful. We don’t go around kicking sand in peoples’ faces.

The dangers of teargas

DID TEARGAS KILL MAUDE NZUNGA?

On the morning of the 3rd September last year, the police threw two teargas cannisters through the windows of house number 3818 in Sharpeville. Inside the house was the Nzunga family — with their old granny and a seven month old little baby girl called Maude. Little Maude died a week later.

“It all started at about 11 o’clock that morning, ” says Mrs Nzunga. ‘The police were chasing a group of people down the road. The people all ran in different directions. Some of these people ran into our yard. But they did not come into our house because all the doors were locked. We were very scared.

“When the ‘hippo’ stopped outside, the people ran off again in different directions. The police got off their hippo and surrounded the house. They broke the dining room window and threw a teargas cannister into the house. Then they broke the kitchen window and threw in another teargas cannister.

“We all choked and burned inside the house. The house was full of smoke and the couch was on fire. But we did not run out the house straight away. We only ran outside after the police got into their hippo and left. When we got outside, we all ran straight to the tap. We threw water over our faces. Later the neighbours helped us take out the couch and the cannisters.

“That night I slept at one of the neighbours with my baby Maude. But Maude was very restless. She did not sleep well. The next day I could see that Maude was not well. But I could not take her to the doctor.There was no transport. And I was too scared to walk in the street. There were police everywhere.

On Saturday morning I took my baby to a doctor in Sharpeville. By this time she was vomitting blood. The doctor gave her an injection and some medicine. He told me to bring her back on the Monday.

On Monday she was much weaker and she was still vomiting blood. We took her to the hospital. But she died soon after we arrived.

WHAT THE DOCTORS SAY

Mrs Nzunga believes that teargas killed her baby. But she is not the only one who is in mourning because of teargas. There are others — like the children and grandchild­ren of Martha Ndabambi of Sharpeville. Martha died on the 3rd October last year. Her family too blame teargas for her death.

Like the Nzunga and Ndabambi families, all the doctors Learn and Teach spoke to said the same thing: teargas is poison and it can and does kill people.

The doctors also blamed the police for using teargas without caring about the health of people – and especially innocent people like Maude Nzunga. The doctors all say that teargas must be banned.

“The police say that teargas is safe but this is not at all true,” one doctor told Learn and Teach. “We do not know what teargas the police are using – but even if they are using the safest teargas, it is still a very dangerous poison.

“Teargas is only safe when it is very weak and when it is used outside in sunny, dry weather on healthy adult males. But the police, as we all know, don’t use teargas in this way.

“They have thrown teargas into churches, schools, houses and even clinics . When teargas is used in this way, it is very poisonous – espe­cially to babies. Babies can easily get skin and chest infections. And if a person stays in the room or can’t leave the room quickly enough, the teargas can kill them.

“Teargas is also harmful in other ways. Anybody who has been gassed knows what it’s like. The eyes are the first to suffer. The eyes become itchy and painful at the same time. Many people can’t see in bright light for a long time. And sometimes the teargas will damage their eyes for good.

“After the burning of the eyes, the teargas will cause a stinging pain in your nose, ears, and chest. Many people will have difficulty in breathing. Many people will start vomiting – and because of this, they may suffer from bad stomach pains.

“And teargas always hurts your skin. There will always be a stinging pain on the persons face mostly around the lips. When a person is hot and wet, the teargas does more damage. The person will get blisters and their skin will crack open. Sometimes this may turn into a bad infection.”

Another doctor, Dr Joe Variawa also believes that teargas should be banned. Dr Variawa works at the Coronation Hosptial. He is also on the Azapo Health Secretariat and he is a member of the Black Health and Allied Workers Union.

“I have seen many people both in Lenasia and in the Vaal Triangle who have suffered from teargas,” says the doctor. “I believe that teargas is dangerous and that it can kill people. I believe that teargas should be banned altogether.

“The police are not careful when they use teargas. When they use teargas against a group of people, it is not only those people who suffer. The whole community suffers because the teargas poisons the air. And many people already have lung or heart problems. The teargas can only make these people more sick -and it can sometimes kill them”.

A doctor at Baragwanath Hospital, Dr Errol Holland, also believes the police are using teargas in a very dangerous way. Dr Holland is a member of the Health Workers Association and he also has seen many people suffering from teargas poisoning.

“The police in this country use teargas without thinking about the harm teargas can do,” says Dr Holland. “And teargas does do a lot of harm. I’ve seen the harm it has done to a great amount of people. One of my patients suffered from a fit after he was gassed.

“I believe the police have no right to use teargas the way they do. I myself suffered from a teargas attack. I was working in a clinic in Lenasia when the police threw in teargas. We were working upstairs at the time – and we had to run downstairs through the thickest part of the gas. But before we could do that, we had to go and fetch one of our nurses. She is a cripple and she could not move very quickly.

“How can the police throw teargas into a clinic? Even in time of war, people don’t do things like that. And the police don’t just throw at people. They often shoot teargas from powerful guns. When they do this, the gas can burn people very badly.

“Maybe tne police have a right to use teargas against hardened criminals who are a danger to society. But they have no right at all to use teargas against unarmed people who are protesting in a peaceful way. I think everybody has the right to protest when they are angry or unhappy – without getting teargas poisoning when they do so.”

WHAT THE POLICE SAY

Learn and Teach sent some questions about teargas to Lieutenant Colonel Haynes — a policeman in Pretoria.

He said that the police do not think that teargas is dangerous — or that it can kill. He said the police have no ”record” of teargas killing people anywhere in the world. He said that before the police use teargas inside a building, they will decide how much teargas to use.

He said little Maude Nzunga from Sharpeville did not die from teargas — but of “natural causes”. He said the death certificate said she died from “haemolytic anaemie.”

We asked him to tell us how the teargas is made — because this will help doctors when they treat people from teargas attacks. He said the police use the same teargas that is “used for riot control in all other parts of the world.”

WHAT TO DO IN A TEARGAS ATTACK

Learn and Teach asked a doctor what people can do when they are attacked with teargas. This is what he said:

1. Do not panic. If you panic, more people may get hurt.

2. Try to get out of the teargas cloud. Check the direction of the wind and try to get to th& other side of the cloud.

3. Breathe slowly and not too deeply. But do not hold your breath. If you hold your breath, you will then breathe deeply for air. A deep breath will cause pain and burning.

4. Do not rub your eyes. It can only make your eyes worse.

5. f you no longer smell the gas, it does not mean that the gas has gone away. Teargas often makes you lose your smell.

6. Once you are in the fresh air, try to find a cool, shady and dry place. This will help to fight off the chemicals in the gas.

7. Take off all your clothes. This will lessen the damage of the gas.

8. Try to wash your face with vegetable oil and then wash it off with soap and fast flowing water. Then dry yourself immediately. IF YOU JUST WET YOUR FACE AND BODY, THE TEARGAS CAN BURN YOU EVEN MORE. Water by itself does not take away the gas. It is better to blow on your skin than to just use water. If it is raining, dry your skin immediately.

9. Do not swallow your spit. If you do, you will vomit. Rather spit it out.

10. If you think you may get teargassed, you may want to get ready for it. You can wear special clothes like overalls, gloves tucked into sleeves, a shirt with a high collar and a hat. If you want to look after your eyes, you could even wear goggles. Imagine many hundreds of people going to a meeting or a funeral all wearing goggles!

11. If you suffer from asthma, hayfever, allergy or any other sickness, try not to get gas­sed. If you are gassed, you should see a doctor soon afterwards. Teargas can be very dangerous for these people.

12. If the police use a large amount of teargas against you, try to see a nice doctor. The doctor will give you eye drops for your eyes and they will treat skin burns. They will check for infection and other damage. And some­times they will even save lives.