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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

06 Sep 1992: Focus Group Soweto - Dube

Click here for Overview of the year

Introduction and explanation of Focus Group.

Now in a deliberate, quick but nice manner, I would like to know also with whom am I sitting here today.   You must tell me your name, what you are doing, where you live and something about yourself.

Ø. He has a wife, two children, a boy and a girl.  Unemployed.

Ø. I'm a Chief.

Ø. She's working at a ... before they were married and they have just eight children, beautiful kids.  I have a problem here, I just cannot remember their dates of birth.  The only thing I remember is that their ages make 21.

Ø. He's unemployed, he's trying to establish on the road business.

So first why don't we start?  I want to ask a question which I really just want you to give me your first thoughts about this question.  And as I said, your honest opinions of really what you think.  And here is my question : - When Nelson Mandela was released in February, 1990, there was a lot of happiness and belief that South Africa was changing.  Since February 1990, do you think that really things have been changed for the better or things have been changing for the worse?  Very briefly.

Ø. I think on the whole things are changing for the worse every day.  I think one was a good thing but after that the things followed, they don't give someone any hope or any positive working towards the future.  So I would say on the whole things have not gone as personally I  expected.

Ø. I think there have been a lot of changes since 1990 and overall we can't ...  There has been a lot of change and because now we do have some information on what is happening in other countries which didn't happen before people made us to believe that we should expect these things to happen.  However, what is happening now is totally unacceptable.  Death has nullified all the positive changes that have come.  Death, dying.

Ø. She says that Mandela should focus on the causes. Mandela is responsible.

Ø. Things are worse since Mandela came out.

Ø. She says there's too much talk and things have changed.  She said there must be also, they don't like ...

Ø. He says that the biggest change he sees is that there is change because there is a lot of political activity.  People were afraid of being brought into politics, they're now coming out, forward.

Ø. We had great expectations and then we thought the solution would be easy.  Now it has caused confusion amongst our people because even the two parties ...  All right, we have ANC government, we have PAC government.  Well, ANC was prepared to speak to the government, PAC was not, and now our confusion is this, that now PAC people are prepared to speak to the government when the ANC wants to opt out.  Now there is that confusion.

Ø. I remember one boy said to me after Mandela's release - but now he seems as deliberate, he passed to the negative.  ...  given us hope.  I remember him saying, "It seems as if we can compare, that things were better than after his release."

Ø. I still maintain that it was proper political thing to be out of ...  So we are not going to place his release ... It was right for him to be out but ...   But it seems as if he was threatening him, backing out and then they are creating things that will make it seem that his release is  ...  And if those people were looking forward to a black person being liberated while over the years he was acknowledged his place and go for whatever itinerary in choosing a black person or in liberating a black person.

Thank you very much.

Ø. She says that there have been changes.  Now we can have political expression and there is at least a basis to begin to believe that we might get liberation.

Ø. According to me when Mandela was released everybody was happy but the confusion came when the other leaders tried to crush him down because of his fame.

So then things got worse?

Ø. People were campaigning.  For me it's like a drug. To understand that in terms of change ...  And unfortunately in our country the system that the government ... so that we should end up ...  It's got that we made a change but it's unfortunate that people are losing their lives.  But I think we should also realise that ...

Ø. ... saying ... that when Mandela was released it ... some of our children or younger brothers never saw this man and they always heard about this man. Like most of the blacks ...  You say what you think.  But immediately Mandela was released we became brave.  We were able to say, "No, this is my right". For our liberation somebody has to pave the way and others have to come in to join.

What we're going to do for the next 10 - 15 minutes, I want us to play a game which they call 'word association'.  For instance, if you say 'family', immediately what comes to your mind?  Children, yes, parents and so on and so on.   Now I'm going to ask you to do this and then I would like you to give me a word that is next to that or a phrase, but please don't say it.  So what I'm going to do is that I will mention the word and you think of any word that is associated with that word or phrase and then you sit down.  OK?   Church.

Ø. Choir.

Ø. Prayer.

Ø. Place of prayer.

Ø. Congregation.   (A very nice one.)

Ø. Children.

Ø. Prayers.

Ø. Youth.

Ø. Prayers.

Ø. Fellowship.

Thank you very much.   Another word must still be here.  OK I'll give you another word.  I said I want the word that comes immediately into your mind.  Apartheid.

Ø. Oppression.

Ø. Anger.

Ø. Race.

Ø. Hopelessness.

Ø. Poverty.

Ø. Separation.

Ø. Murder.

Ø. Hate.

Thank you.  Democracy.

Ø. Human rights.

Ø. Human rights.

Ø. Freedom of speech.

Ø. Fairness.

Ø. Tolerance.

Ø. Free, but not free.

Ø. Fairness.

Ø. Reconciliation.

Ø. Jobs.

OK.  Let's stop here.  If I say: elections, voting?

Ø. New government.

Ø. Literacy.

Ø. Ballots.

Ø. Long queues.

Ø. Victory.

Ø. Nothing comes to mind.

Ø. New government.

Ø. Change.

Ø. Loss.

Ø. More violence.

Ø. Leaders chosen by the people.

Ø. Choice.

Ø. Campaigns.

Ø. Confusion.

Ø. Fairness.

Thank you.  I want to mention another word.  Ready, go:  Secret ballot.  Let's just raise our hands now.  If I say 'secret ballot' what comes to mind?   OK?  You can raise your hand if you've got something.  Yes?

Ø. Unfairness.

Ø. Cheating.

Ø. Corruption.

Ø. The very word secret shows that something's happening which we cannot control.

Ø. Uncertainty.

Ø. More violence.

'One man one vote' or 'one person one vote'.  I just want to get your honest, individual ... around this point.  What comes to mind if I say one man one vote?   What word would you associate with that?

Ø. Victory.

Ø. He says that sometimes when they say one man one vote there is confusion because people are thinking that people have to vote for one person.

Ø. Everybody getting a fair chance.

Ø. Consensus.

Yes, that's a very good one. OK.  The last one, 'constitution'.

Ø. Bill of Rights.

Bill of Rights - good!

Ø. Respect.

Ø. Order.

Ø. Liberty.

Ø. Direction.

Ø. Law.

Ø. Sense of values.

Ø. Sense of identity.

Thank you very much.

Ø. To choose somebody you'll be able to express your wish.

Ø. To give somebody a mandate.

Ø. She says it is a process where you are able to choose someone who will put things in order and who you actually want.

How do you explain that?

Ø. In short it's actually, as far as I'm concerned, you give a mandate to the guy you think is capable of delivering the goods because we have our own expectations which we could not put across. We have the confidence in this man.

Ø. She says we have to exercise our right to get the person of your choice.

Ø. Really elections is ... no matter who you elect.

Ø. That elections is choosing someone who will do what you do.  It must not be like a committee, councillors who say they will stand on our behalf and they don't.

I want to find out, let's say we have an expert around the issue of elections, what questions would you like to pose to them about elections or on elections?

Ø. He says how can you bring yourself to trust an electoral process. He said, for instance, what happened what happened to Dukakis shows that not always the best person wins.

Ø. How do they choose the officers in charge of whatever  to get people who are good officials?

Ø. I think in a country like ours where we haven't had elections as black people, how much effort will they put in among our people?  What effort have they put in or how much effort should be put in?

Ø. I would be happy to have such a person to ask him as to whether people are expected to be able to use a pen and paper.  But what about the rest of the people who cannot read or write, how can they cast their vote?  Because as far as I'm concerned it should be like the levelling of the field so people have got an actual equal opportunity.

I don't know.  That person that explains what elections are, he comes back to me and says but what happens on the day of elections?   What is this and how ... in talking about voting?  How do I do that?   What happens on the day of elections?  Yes, sir?

Ø. Well you go to a voting place, fill in a form of the person you're voting for, you walk up to this box, this slot and you put that thing inside.  And that's how you vote.

Ø. She is saying that this whole thing, how you vote, is such a difficult thing that when she tried to exercise this in the homelands she was totally confused and today the whole issue of elections in any case it's something that is limited to the young people and she doesn't see where she could be expected to -

Ø. One time I was asked to go door to door. I went door to door telling them how good Tshabalala was and that's how he became mayor.

Ø. She says she was responsible for door-to-door conversations for one of the men who became Mayor of Soweto but she had to tell them what to do.

Ø. I imagine that there would be boxes.  I imagine a lot of confusion.

Ø. Voting composes of writing the name of a candidate on a piece of paper and putting it in a box that has his name on.

Ø. First you have to know where you should go because there are certain places you can't go.  And secondly there are certain things also that you are not allowed to do at the voting place, like wearing a T-shirt of other organisations or trying to get people to vote for them. Another thing is that you're going to be given the list of candidates of all organisations and then you will choose which one. But only you have to do that, another person can't go behind you or in front.  Certain things like that and many other things.  There are many other things that you should know you are not supposed to do.

Somebody said that, or Peter just made a point, that you're not qualified to vote and in fact the question is you need to prove that you are a South African above the age of 18.  Now one of the things that you know always, you are the one being used to identify yourself.  We in South Africa have got now what you call ID.  But you find that most of our people have IDs, how well do they really understand? Why are some of our people reluctant? Why is not everyone having an ID?  Why is it difficult for these people to get an ID?  Ask ... to help you.

Ø. Two of the things he said, the one is that the easiest way for government to trace you ...  The second one is this whole question of citizenship, whether you still need to go ...

Ø. For instance, if you have a driver's licence, then the ID is no longer expected.

Ø. So you do some of the things, you go for this new ID.

Ø. That's why it's advisable that you keep the original.

Ø. There's something behind this ID.

Ø. So  he doesn't trust anything about this new ID?

Ø. You don't trust, anything that comes ... the ANC they don't trust, so they think there's something behind it.  But if you go to the level of trust, and when you think of the procedures. you think they are going to do the same procedure the whole day so you think you'll stay with this old one.

Ø. Just to end off that I think the initial procedures and the issue of elections and also to say most of the institutions ...   If they have to send you where you were born, maybe Baragwanath, to go and check your birth certificate you know you can't get it. You have to go to a certain place and also, like, for instance, if you lose your ID, it takes six months to get another one, so just to go back again and say wait another six months, it just seems  ...

Ø. It's just that people feel they need to keep the original because the whole thing is almost ...  So there is no value taken in ID because it was like people as advertised, no, no ID.  So what's the difference, you are still as oppressed as when you had that little thing so you might as well stay with that.

Ø. I think what it means, they don't have contracts, they don't have things that need IDs so he can live without that ID because when they hire you you're going to say ... temporary basis.

Thank you.  OK.  They're the last two on this one.

Ø. There are two reasons for not taking a new ID.  One is the fact that in the old days, the ID book, the reference book has got so many important stamps, remind me of where to stay, where not stay, how long to stay there and the inspection by the doctor.  You know you came to the doctor for physical inspection, then that was really humiliating and that one has got a red stamp as opposed to other stamps.  And I saw that book, each time I look in it I can see my whole history.  That's number one.   Number two, I don't know of a single person who has a new ID book who would say everything is correct, the information is up to the mark.  I think people can -

Ø. Either your name is wrong or your birth date is wrong or your driver's licence is wrong.

So a lot of particulars which are inaccurate, a lot of inaccuracies.  OK.  Thank you very much.  I want to ask you a personal question.  I'm sorry about it, I have to be a little bit personal.   You know we have been discussing now this thing of elections.  Who has had elections? Answer each one with 'yes' and 'no'.  If there were elections tomorrow, or let's say obviously there's going to be national elections in South Africa and maybe a candidate  ... would you vote or would you not vote?  Yes or no?

Ø. No.

Ø. I'll only vote for Jesus.

Ø. Yes.

Ø. Yes.

Ø. No.

Ø. Yes.

Ø. Yes.

Ø. No.

Ø. What ... ?

Ø. Yes.

OK.  We have there people who might say they won't vote yet and we've got other people who say they won't go and vote.  OK.  I want you to tell my brother here why would you go and vote now.  Why, why, why?  But before that I would like mother there to tell my father there why he is not going to vote, first.

Ø. If I vote for an unpopular guy it means I'm a target to the one who is opposing. That is why I choose to say no.

Can you tell me why you say he will vote?

Ø. Whether I vote or not, if maybe the majority have voted a particular way even though I don't like it, the laws and everything did ...  So probably I can make a difference.

Can you try and explain to us why you say 'I'm not voting'?

Ø. I will not vote basically so I can keep my feelings to myself because you never know what other persons are going to say.  She says I'm not sure,  being that I'm a church goer.  I would like to know first by voting, am I voting away the right to continue my life as a church goer?

Ø. She was ... don't mean to be intimidated into thinking that your present privileges will go.  If you choose a person that you can trust -

Can you tell me why are you going to vote?

Ø. I would do anything to push this government off its power.  Even if it means having to paint this whole building as it is for nothing if I'm told that by the time you finish up the government of De Klerk will be over.  I would do anything. That's why I say I would vote with an attempt to push it out.  We've had enough.

What do you say?

Ø. He's just said that I would feel ... because the people that I will probably want to vote for will never stand up for election.  So that's why he says you really need to look at the candidates.

Mama, you want to say something?

Ø. She is saying something very interesting.  She says that because I have been involved in community council before I am really concerned now that because I was such enemy of the people then I'm not sure if I could really turn around and be accepted.  ... a very strong ANC member ... so not become involved.

If I may just ask, would you say that very many people, Mama, you would say they won't vote because of some of the reasons that you gave?  Would you say there are many people in the community who won't vote because of some of the reasons that you had?

Ø. And in most cases these leaders say if you vote for me I'm going to do this and that and that's how they get votes.

Ø. He says he will be pleased to get Mandela into place to get rid of the apartheid.

Ø. I grew up on the old ID system ... too much trouble ... but with Mandela's help the problems have minimised.  I think she's saying she doesn't think, she's also getting IDs because it is far less problematic with the new IDs.  It is indicated that things will definitely become much better.

Ø. Lack of voting readiness.

Would you say the fact that people will not know how to vote and what the election process is, that makes people reluctant to vote, would you say that's very important?  One of the most important reasons?  Or rather people do know how to vote?

Ø. I want to believe that as soon as people know how to vote, where to vote, why then I think they will find it easy and they might change their minds.  Most people are going to say 'No'.  How do you make your choices?

Ø. Another important thing is that they believe elections will not be conducted in an honest way, that some partisan movements will try to steal elections and manipulate results.  I think that could be a reason that could make them say, ugh, I'm not going.  Do you think so?

Ø. That may determine who's responsible to do fair elections. But it seems to be that a neutral person, a person from outside, then people may try their luck and say maybe, but if it seems to be a person who's also here ...

Do you think that some people are just, 'I don't care, I'm not interested', even, 'My vote won't make a difference'?  Do you have such attitudes?  What would you say, who can just give me one of the main reasons that makes good reason, like, what do you think would be one of the most important reasons like this one is?

Ø. I think the history of our land has ... whatever I have, contribution ... government ... nothing that I am or what I do matters.

Nothing what I do matters.  OK.  That's a very good one.

Ø. I was going to say something.

It's a voting slot, the way we do our things.  If you think of Soweto - no I'm sorry, before we talk about that OK, let's say now today that we want to ask you to go around on this and that issue of elections.  If we want to encourage our people to come and vote, I want to know what kinds of material do you want to have and what you need to take with you?  Of course pictures and things.

Ø. Piece of ballot paper.

Ø. He said he took pictures to show what took place, what it looks like because people will have never been there before.

Ø. Awareness of the reality.

Did you find this helpful?  If you look at it did you understand?  Don't look at the language but look at the concept.   Look at the cartoons.  Could you use something like that?  Would you find such things helpful?  (He's describing our most cultural  ... )

Now, if I had to ask you what would be the best way of teaching people, newspaper adverts, television adverts, radio adverts, radio programmes, radio call-ins, meetings, speeches, rallies, video tapes?  What would be the best?

Ø. Combination.  All of them.

Ø. And then secondly CNN programmes.


Ø. I think TV can use its ...

Ø. I'd say radio, I think. People can phone in and ask.

Ø. I think house calls would be better.

Please, quiet.  You see the point at the moment is you are looking at educating our African people who have never had a chance to vote, so we are talking about educating them not as ANC, not as PAC, teaching them, how we can teach our people to vote so that the people must understand their choice of voting.

Ø. We are also going popular places like shebeens (pubs).

I would like to ask a question.  How many times do you go to the cinema in a month?  How often do you go?  Hardly ever.   Twice a month.   Three times.  How often?  No.  How often do you go?  Three times.  Thirty times, oh!  Now we know where he is!  Once every two months since?  Once a month.

Ø. From my TV I get the ...

How about you?

Ø. Just once.

Just once?  Thank you. Thank you very much.  I think that concludes that.

Ø. I think the education is imperative ... when teaching people that for them a way of showing your power in your country, so it's their choice to show power, to empower people to know that elections could be ...

Thank you very much.  Obviously someone said that we need to use some people to do that.  But I want to find out, if you would just answer this one.  I want you to give me eight, I don't want to restrict you, who are the most respected and popular people in the community, referring to the whole country, in sports, music, religion, television.  In our community, who would you say is very popular and respected?

Ø. Mandela.

Ø. Mandela.

Ø. Slovo.

Ø. I think you mean who are the people we are likely to vote for.  I think people who love Mandela.  We don't have to use Mandela, there are more like him.

Ø. People who are popular ...

Ø. They probably influence people who normally go.

Would you say (Mandela??) is popular in the States?

Can I ask this question?  Who would you regard as the best person or organisation, who's best placed and people would be able to teach their people about elections.  Religious leaders, teachers, traditional leaders, civic leaders, political organisations, youth groups, women's organisations?  Who would you say that will be very effective in teaching the people about elections?  Which of the organisations?

Ø. Ministers.

Ø. Ministers of the church.

Ø. Anybody whoever voted before.

Ø. Teachers.  Teachers in the schools, because there are these young people who will say they have reasons why they are not voting and others why they are voting so if they all have one idea of why there's voting and how to vote, so at least when they leave school they will be knowing that this ...

Would you say CODESA?   I'm going to give you five minutes.  Suppose now that you are a committee that was appointed to organise and run a communication campaign to educate South Africans on elections and to encourage a broad participation in elections.  I want you to make three most important recommendations around this.  I'll come back in five minutes.

Right.   And it's set up now to organise and run workshops or communication campaigns.  Right?  For the broad people of South Africa so that you can encourage them to go and vote.  Now as a committee you are ...  I'm asking you to make two or three important recommendations of the situation.

Ø. Your committee is to take control.

Ø. Elections.

You are running a campaign of communication on elections.

Ø. We must consider what we must be able to say to educate people?

Suppose that you are a committee that was appointed to organise and run a communication campaign to educate South Africans on elections and encourage broad participation in elections.  What would be your two or three most important recommendations around this work?

Ø. The end result here is people should be taught how to vote.  So we are supposed to give three recommendations?

Ø. Very important.

Ø. I would say first of all the research.  You know, like a salesman got to know your programme and you've got to know also your target market and how to put your idea across.  To do your research and your people must be trained to be able to do that, you see.  You must know your market.

Ø. We are taking this somewhere else.  That in order for people to be educated in elections we are recommending that there be research made on -

Ø. We are talking about people who won't vote and people also who cannot vote  and people who must vote.  People who will be sort of influential to vote.  All those messages to give - there are people who are invalid.  There are blind people in our communities so you've got to know specifically who's where and how to reach that person.

Ø. I think that would lead us into ... I think it should be a European who is supposed to see ... and how do we determine who's supposed to be elected?  Now how can you raise that one?

Ø. Because there's also the question of knowing our youth. How many people will be following into the voters' roll like ...  and they will get to know a certain area how many people will be voting under the age of ...

Ø. So to have people making themselves in relation to the elections they are issued, to encourage people.

Ø. The issue of content.

Ø. (He's ... of our people and how the election will be partly ...)

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.