About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

24 Oct 1994: Alexander, Benny (!Khoisan X)

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM. So are you adjusting to life out here on the gravy train?

KX. Yes, we are, we are.

PAT. It must be an awful lot of work.

KX. Being the only representative in the parliament? I hold my own against all of them. Most of them really look up to people like myself across the board for leadership because most of them are Civic Association guys. The ANC did not think it would do as well as it did. These political parties say I'm going to win, there's no political party who will tell you they are going to lose an election, but the ANC didn't really believe it will do as well as it did. It did not really believe that. As a result of that, in this province, which is really the province which is the economic heartland of the entire region, southern African region, they did not make preparation for leadership. There is Tokyo Sexwale and beyond him there's nothing as a result of which there is a very weak - most of them don't even open their mouths, they just sit there and listen and look for leadership.

POM. Have any of them gone through training sessions about how parliament works and what the rules are, how they're to be used and what the committee system is?

KX. No, not before the election. They did that afterwards when they were already committee members and they didn't know what it means to be a committee member. Then we got international parliamentarians, we invited parliamentarians from Canada, from African countries, from European countries, from Britain, even from former communist countries, to come here and to tell us how they run their systems, how they differ from each other. Even the French came here. We had a few Speakers as well, Deputy Speakers of legislatures, and they came and they ran workshops. We paid them to come and do some workshops. That was most valuable. Then we had to take the whole parliament into workshop and things like that. But I think by now everybody understands. Just today now again there were some decisions taken by some committees which once again put their understanding of committee work into question so we just said that in the afternoon of 31st, late afternoon, we'll have to call another workshop of committee chairpersons because of the decisions which they have taken this week which really they had no right to take. I mean the Pensions Committee this morning, I am a member of that but I heard at lunch time that they took a decision on pensions for members and they are now going to go ahead and make the forms which members must fill in and implement the thing. I said, "But you can't do that. The House must decide. A few of you decide and distribute forms and parliament doesn't work like that." So we will have to call another workshop and tell them that you can't do that.

PAT. They did something pretty critical.

KX. So that shows you there is still some work needed to be done. I just said to them over lunch time, I called some of them together and told them that what they had decided this morning is out. They said, "You should have been there to tell us"' I said, "I am just an ordinary member of parliament like you are. I'm not your leader." So it's quite interesting.

POM. So does parliament meet, is it in session until ...? How long do the sessions last? Do you meet every day of the week?

KX. We meet on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and Fridays. Parliament only meets in the afternoon from 2.25 to 5.30. In the mornings of course, committee meetings. Wednesday is constituency day, so on Wednesdays we encourage members not to set foot here, we usually discourage them from coming. They must go to the masses and must explain what you are doing and let people know that you are available. You are at home on Wednesdays. Let everybody know that you are at home so that they can contact you.

POM. Is that working well?

KX. Yes, although you find a lot of members here on Wednesday mornings. We'll have to call another meeting again and tell them not to come on Wednesdays because if they insist on coming that defeats the object of giving them Wednesdays off. They should be at home. Everybody should know that on a Wednesday I can find so-and-so at home.

POM. That's a good idea.

KX. Yes, that's the idea. But we still need a lot of assistance now because you know, to cement democracy in the country, you see in today's papers Buthelezi threatens that he might not take part in local government elections. The thing is still very fragile but you must empower people at all times. First of all parties must be empowered, first of all to make the transition from a liberation movement to a political party. Now the ANC has already converted itself from a liberation movement to a multi-purpose front, a multi-ideological front. It has not converted itself from a liberation movement to a political party. The PAC has converted itself from the liberation movement to a hybrid type of thing between a party and a movement.

POM. You're slightly constitutional.

KX. Yes, yes, slightly, but the ANC is completely not. So the ANC would need more assistance than we would need to become a single coherent, single ideology, party. It's a long way off but there's going to be some sort of upheaval in the ANC for that transition to become necessary and that's unavoidable within their context. It's avoidable in our context because the PAC is more coherent ideologically. So it's important that they make that transition still. We claim to have made the transition for political reasons but in reality we have not made the transition to become a political party and that is very important to understand. Another very important issue that has happened is that the parties, the political parties, have not been able to break with one thing, which is not bad, the masses will want to be consulted. That's not too bad because people still insist, if you want to electrify this place, if you come in here we're going to stone you out of this place. You will not electrify our place without consulting us. You can't really sit there as a parliament or a politician and take a decision that so-and-so needs electricity and say that you will be very glad to know that I'm starting on Tuesday to electrify their place and you are surprised to find that they actually object to that. You come and build houses for them without consulting them, you have a problem. That's why in the PWV we first have to build a few prototype houses and then ask them to come and choose which one more or less and they indicate this one. In the Western Cape they thought that near Atlantis they were going to build some houses and not consult the people, but since the people are living in squalor, squatter conditions, they will be happy to have a house. And the people actually came and looked at the houses and sniffed. "No, no, no, we don't want this house", and went back to their shacks. They said, "You did not consult us." Right now the whole housing development is completely standing there and people don't want to move in. It's a big problem convincing them to take them and in the meantime they are living just with a piece of plastic over them, but they don't want those houses. So that means basically that even if the ANC should be voted out in future that practice itself will not go down. So you will not be able to be a party which will come into power and say that now that I've come into power I'll do things differently from the ANC, since I'm a different party I'll do my own thing. You'll not be able to do your own thing. You still have to come back and the people will likely tell you the same thing they told the ANC.

POM. It makes for slow movement.

KX. I think it makes for stability because the more you bring them in - I think the ANC did not realise that that's it's strength - the more you bring them in, the more they become less anxious because they begin to understand and begin to explain to each other and they do not become anxious. The ANC is opening themselves up by not explaining to people in detail and by reacting to newspaper criticism that they are moving slow. As long as the people don't say you are moving slow you have no problem, don't bother about the newspapers because the people are going to vote for you. But if they are going to start moving faster and leaving the people behind, you won't understand what they are doing and then they are opening themselves up to the opposition because then we come in and say the ANC is failing to deliver this and this, they are trying to move fast and they are doing nothing. If the ANC is not there then we interpret the ANC's action negatively and to our own advantage because we're having a local government election coming up soon so we must interpret what the ANC is doing negatively for our own effort to win the elections. That is the dynamics.

POM. Are you going to contest the local elections countrywide?

KX. Yes. Let me just come back to another point I was making earlier on about empowering the people to be properly democratic. Number one, you must be taught what to do if you don't agree with the elections. If you don't agree with the outcome of an election, so if people are not happy with the outcome of an election what legal steps can you do to contest it and have it nullified, legally? These are things which must be explained, it is part of the democratic process. You can have it legally declared if there was fraud, fraudulent, how party branches must take up issues, the grassroots. You know yourself that the PAC and the ANC soldiers if they don't like something in the army they just toyi-toyi. And for the white soldiers it is a horrendously, unthinkable thing that's happening in front of them because in terms of that, it's military discipline and once you are in the military there is order, any military, socialist or capitalist, and there's order and there's ranks, and there is seniority and there is discipline. So if somebody is just unhappy with something, a junior, he starts toyi-toying and says "I demand the President", to a white soldier that is unthinkable; the army doesn't work like that. Nowhere in the world can a soldier just say, "I'm starting a demonstration here and demand that the President must come here now."

POM. It might be a good way to end all wars.

KX. Yes, but I'm saying that if the trade unionists, if the trade union guys are not happy with something they just go out there and take some white people hostage and demand that the Cabinet must come to release these people, and that's that and it's done. The Cabinet minister comes, leaves everything he's doing and comes and releases the hostages.

POM. Has that happened already?

KX. It's happened often. Whites have been taken hostage by the trade unionists many times now. All ANC members, and they demand the minister must come here and if anybody around the area wants to come, the ANC leader wants to come, they say, "Oh no, no, no, a minister from the Cabinet must come here to me, talk to me"' That is why the soldiers merely followed a trend that was already there in society generally because the truck drivers stopped and blocked the roads and people said, "Let me talk to you", and so on and they said, "No, the minister must come from the Cabinet, fly in and come and talk to us"' At a college near Pretoria they took the Principal and other senior people hostage and the college students said that the minister must come, they don't want anybody else, from the national Cabinet, the Cabinet minister must come here, and he came.

POM. It can really ruin your day, running from one hostage scene to another.

KX. But they themselves should begin to understand as Cabinet ministers that they need to give proper leadership. You can't just say that because we're blacks, because we're in control now, I can take people hostage. That's not so. That is really unthinkable. But maybe those are the birth pains in this society, some things that we need to go through. I don't know. But the other problem that you have in the Cabinet now, the national Cabinet, is that the Cabinet ministers are increasingly perceived to be weaklings, very weak. Only Mr Mandela seems to be strong. That is why when Mr Mandela was in the United States the soldiers went on strike and the acting State President, Thabo Mbeki, said that, "If I talk to those soldiers they won't listen to me." The other members said, "If I talk to them they won't listen." Everybody in the Cabinet said, "They won't listen to me", and even the newspapers said, "They won't listen to these guys. Mr Mandela must cut his visit short and come here, come and talk to these people because they won't listen to any of those guys. None of them have legitimacy, the charisma, the standing that will make the soldiers listen to them." They won't listen to any one of them, which meant that Mr Mandela then had to come back, talk to them personally and then they calmed down. But it was the common understanding, it's not even a debatable thing, the ministers won't even debate that, the ministers will just state it matter of factly that only Mr Mandela will be listened to. They state it as a matter of fact and even analyse it, and the ministers all nod their heads in agreement; Mr Mandela must come, they won't listen to us.

POM. Will this prove to be a real difficulty when Mr Mandela moves on?

KX. I do not know what the implications will be. The Minister of Defence he knows he will be chased away like a dog. Modise. Not only that, and Jay Naidoo and Cyril Ramaphosa, they said the people won't listen. They said Mr Mandela, and that is something that I'm still trying to figure out in my own mind how that situation came about that the ministers agree that they will not be listened to. Not one of them said, "I'll go and talk to them, they will listen to me."

POM. You have to go back?

KX. I have to run back quickly now so that I can take those decisions.

POM. So I'll see you on Monday morning at 10 o'clock. Terrific.

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.