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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
20 Nov 1996: Mzizi, Gertrude
POM. Gertrude, let me begin with a question, in the 2½ years that you have been in the Legislature in Gauteng what are you most proud of having accomplished?
GM. Personally I haven't accomplished that much but collectively we have accomplished quite a lot. Collectively I mean the multi-party system we have here of working together although there are some hiccups.
POM. When I met you first back in 1991 in Thokoza you used to talk then very strongly about how the ANC was a Xhosa-run organisation that was out to destroy the Zulus and the Zulu people and establish a one-party state. Do you still believe that or have you changed your mind?
GM. I haven't changed my mind, I still believe that but the fact of the matter is that they have got no alternative because we are here, the National Party is here, the Democratic Party, the PAC and the ACDP so they have got no alternative, they have to work with us but in some other aspects they do isolate us because they are in a majority.
POM. So you still think they want to establish a one-party state?
GM. Hopefully. I think if they can have a chance to do so they will.
POM. Now there are only three IFP members in the Legislature here. What kind of influence do you have on legislation?
GM. That's very significant because the ANC here doesn't form a two thirds majority so what one must do is to manoeuvre your way into the most influential figures and sell your ideas because sometimes they need our vote to go through certain things and surprisingly it seems as if we have got too many things in common, more especially when it comes to the black constituencies because you find that in some cases white parties are still interested in protecting the white rights so we will join hands with the ANC and the PAC.
POM. Even though you're still suspicious about what their ultimate motives are in terms of wanting to destroy the IFP?
GM. Yes, yes. In fact that one is what I will always continue to say, they want to destroy us because they look at us as one black party which would be a threat to them. Even our number of three here I think it's reduced by them, we were not supposed to be three members here.
POM. In Thokoza, do you go back to Thokoza frequently to see how things are there and have things calmed down completely or are there still tensions between residents of the hostels and ANC Phola Park, supporters of the IFP and the ANC, or are IFP supporters able to declare themselves openly for the IFP without fear of intimidation or retaliation?
GM. Thokoza is my constituency. I am in that constituency almost every day of my life if I'm in the country. What I can tell you is that although there is peace in a sense that there's no gunfire, no people dying, but it isn't the genuine peace. It's a kind of a peace where IFP is lying down and ANC is walking over IFP. That's no peace.
POM. IFP is lying down and the ANC is walking over them?
GM. Yes of course. Yes this is what is happening.
POM. Why is that happening? Why is the IFP lying down?
GM. The reason why I say we are lying down and ANC is walking over us is because the no-go areas are still existing. In our stronghold or in the territory labelled as IFP territory the ANC people are moving freely but we are still not able to move freely in the ANC strongholds. Myself I serve in the Education Committee. If we need to go to schools and do certain inspections I won't go to any school where there is ANC stronghold because my life is still threatened.
POM. Is that right?
GM. Yes it's right.
POM. When you tell that to your ANC colleagues what do they say?
GM. Oh there's nothing we can do, Gertrude, you know those people are mad. The language we talk here in the parliament with the ANC members it's a completely different.
POM. Sorry you were saying the language you speak here in parliament is a very different language?
GM. The language we speak here in the parliament is a completely different language from the language spoken out there with the grassroots people. I have peace with ANC members here. I work with them, they can come to my office, I can go to their office, but out there in the constituency that does not happen.
POM. Is there an ANC constituency representative for Thokoza?
GM. Yes there is one from Thokoza here.
POM. And have you ever said that it might be the good idea if the two of you went to areas together, particularly in the areas where IFP people are not free to move around or to make their political allegiance known?
GM. He can't do it, it isn't worth trying it because he is also too scared of those people in his constituency.
POM. Now when you say 'those people' who are you talking about?
GM. I mean the people of the constituency. I said to you the language we speak here is not the similar language which we spoke out there. So the people of the constituency of the ANC are still arrogant, rude and militant so it doesn't even have control over them.
POM. Would you say that while there's a lot of tolerance in parliament of different political parties and identifications that in places like Thokoza at least there is still a very low threshold of political tolerance for different political points of view, or is that just confined to the ANC?
GM. In fact the trouble is always from the ANC. The ANC is very intolerant. Even here they have demonstrated on many occasions that they are intolerant of any other opinion which doesn't subscribe to their own opinion but here it's been done more constructively unlike out there in the constituencies.
POM. Now you said you're on the Education Committee. How do you find the conditions in the schools now compared to 2½ years ago? Are the schools under better discipline? Are the classes smaller? Are the teachers better? Is there less overcrowding? Are black children still going primarily to black schools?
GM. The condition is still the same although the legislation is no longer the same. The schools are still overcrowded. You still have the very same quality of teachers which we had before and there is still a very huge influx of black students from the township who go to white schools because of the better education, maybe because of the highly qualified teachers, discipline and a culture of teaching and learning.
POM. There are a high number of children going from the townships to white schools? Is that what you're saying?
GM. It's a high number in terms of what people can afford. Any person who can afford to pay for transport or to pay for the fees there, they send their children out.
POM. But now with the new system will there still be a charge for education? Will parents still have to pay?
GM. According to the new Gauteng Schools Act children could not be rejected from enrolling because the parents cannot pay but the former Model C schools and their governing councils they still impose the fees of up to R1015 per annum which the parents from the black towns afford to pay, some of them, not all of them, because of the quality of education and the classes which are not overcrowded and the discipline, they send their children there.
POM. Are your own children going to school, a Model C school, in Alberton or what kind of school are they in?
GM. A long time ago they haven't been in the township schools, since 1986, they have been in white schools because there has never been education in black towns. There were disruptions, toyi-toyis and demonstrations and picketing so any parent who thinks for the future of his or her children will devise ways and means of getting better education because children are growing, they are not growing down they are growing up.
POM. So where are your children going to school now?
GM. The same white schools in Alberton. It's no longer a white school it's multi-racial. They started to be multi-racial in 1986.
POM. So what's the proportion of black children at the school?
GM. I'm not really so sure. I can't give you the accurate statistics there, but there's quite a significant number of black students.
POM. Do you have to pay to send them there?
GM. Yes I pay. For those ones in the primary school I pay R1015 for three of them per annum and the one in the high school I pay R1350 per annum.
POM. And will you still have to continue to pay next year even with the new legislation?
GM. The new legislation doesn't prohibit the governing council to set up the fees. I still have to pay, I will pay. I can afford to pay, there is no reason I can say I should not pay because the fiscal resources of the country in general don't allow any free education.
POM. In your 2½ years in parliament what has been your biggest disappointment and what, in a way, are you most proud of?
GM. My big disappointment was when the Premier reshuffled the Cabinet and created the new Ministry of Public Media which the province doesn't even have. The province doesn't have the public media. The reason why he did that was only to reduce the power of the National Party because three of the ministers were from the NP and when the NP walked out of the government of national unity the Premier had to reshuffle the Cabinet again and do away with the Public Media and to me that was really a disastrous thing to do because it's money there you have to appropriate money to the ministries and you can't just shuffle money like cards.
POM. So when he did away with this ministry was this a ministry that previously had been held by a member of the NP?
GM. Three members of the NP were responsible for social welfare, agriculture and transport and public roads respectively and he took away the social welfare and mixed it with something else and created a new ministry, Public Media, and we voted money into that Public Media. And then all of a sudden when the NP walked out he completely removed that ministry from existence and social welfare was given back to another ANC member because it was only ANC members. So that was a very big disappointment to me because it showed that he is not really serious about his work. You can't vote money into a certain ministry and after two or three months you just do away with that ministry, you bring another ministry back to that thing and you have to do the Adjustments of Appropriation Bill and vote another money again. That's not the way money is being handled.
POM. How would you rate Premier Sexwale's performance as Premier on a scale of one to ten, one being very bad and ten being very good?
GM. I can give him six, fair.
POM. How would you rate the performance of the government over 2½ years?
GM. The provincial government or the national government?
POM. The provincial government.
GM. The major problem with all governments is the availability of fiscal resources so it's very difficult for one to give them any kind of rating because even whatever they would like to do they cannot do that thing because there is no funding. But my own personal opinion is that if provinces had enough powers they would be able to do things for themselves, unlike sending pillar to post the national ministry, the director, the this and that and that.
POM. So when you go to Thokoza, it being your constituency, in 2½ years are the people there in general better off, are they worse off or are things just about the same?
GM. They are worse off. The unemployment rate is climbing up high. Most people are out of jobs. The most important thing for people is to get employment and houses so I don't see any change in conditions.
POM. Is crime a bigger problem in Thokoza than it was or is it just that the level of ...?
GM. It's like everywhere in South Africa. Crime is a very big problem because of unemployment. The unemployed live on the employed.
POM. Is there any dissatisfaction or do you get any sense of dissatisfaction among the people with the ANC? It's the ruling party, it's the major party in government in Gauteng, it's by far the dominant party in the national government at this point? Are they disappointed that in fact things have gotten worse for them in 2½ years rather than better?
GM. Yes it's true, people are very disappointed, even some of the ANC people normally approach us and tell us they are disappointed. All the promises which were made are not being fulfilled.
POM. Do you expect in the next election that the IFP will be able to gain more votes because if the ANC continues not to deliver or to improve the quality of the life of the people in areas like Thokoza would you expect that the IFP would do better in Thokoza or, again, will the intimidation factor come into play?
GM. The intimidation factor will still play a very significant role and now the ANC is in control of both print and electronic media and propaganda in politics is the most important thing and the majority of the electorate is still illiterate and they are easily convinced.
POM. How about the hostels? Have conditions there improved any or are they just about as they were before, I'm talking about the early nineties?
GM. Some of the hostels are being upgraded. Some the conditions are still bad and deteriorating.
POM. Who has gotten better off in the new South Africa?
GM. The people who are still better, the better people. The people who are still the lower grade are still the lower grade. Nothing has changed.
POM. So would you say that the standard of living of whites, from your perspective, has gone up, gone down or stayed the same over the last 2½ years?
GM. Stayed the same, stayed the same. It's only a very few people whom I can say, very few black people who happen to members of Provincial Legislatures, those who are now going to be the NCOP and the national government, their standard of living is better because of the salaries they earn, and those few people who happen to be occupying the top posts in the government. But the rest of the people are still the same. Prices are going up. They can't even match the increases in the salaries.
POM. So if the elections for 1999 were held today, let's say there were elections tomorrow, would the ANC do as well as it has done in the 1994 election or would it do a lot less well? Would the IFP do better? The IFP really didn't do all that well in the local elections last year. So how are people expressing their dissatisfaction with the performance of the ANC in government?
GM. As I told you, I'm sure you didn't understand me, we keep on repeating the same thing, I said to you the majority of the electorate is illiterate and he who is in control, who also controls the print and electronic media can easily manipulate the electorate. The ANC in the 1999 election will have the way out through the media. So it's very difficult now for anyone, any rational South African who focuses very clearly on the right angles, to say this one will win or this one won't win. It's very, very difficult. There are some splits in the ANC. You don't know what will happen to the splits and the electoral system we have is a very disadvantageous electoral system where people vote for the parties. We won't have independent candidates. If we would have independent candidates certain people from the ANC would go the independent route and reduce the majority of the ANC but because of the electoral system we have people who will still have to be identified with parties, in all parties, not only the ANC. Most people cannot leave the party because the parliament to them is a source of income and leaving the party means you need to have more money to start the new party, campaign and do all sorts of things, so it's not going to be easy. It's like in the Holomisa saga where the constituencies loved Holomisa but because of the electoral system of parties it's only the elite few in the party who can accept you or chuck you out. Their representatives are not accountable to the constituencies, they are accountable to the party and the party is not the masses out there, it's an elite few people.
POM. Would you be in favour of a system where people from political parties would be elected from constituencies?
GM. Direct from constituencies, yes. I would prefer people to be elected directly from constituencies to ensure accountability.
POM. Is that the position of the IFP as well?
GM. It's my own opinion. You see in such a kind of a political set up as we have in South Africa we need to have this kind of electoral system to reduce political tensions. We can't afford the Westminster system. But when it comes to people out there it doesn't work well. Say, for instance, myself here, I am supposed to represent the whole East Rand. According to our electoral system I only need to keep very few people in the party happy. I can even ignore my constituents. You have to be a person who is committed. Some members of parliament from certain parties even people in the constituencies don't even know them. They are only known by the party and the elite few in the party and they are still their representatives. Some of them when you look at them you even want to know which constituency they represent. They are people from nowhere.
POM. So it's more that if you please the party bosses you're OK, you needn't worry about the people?
GM. Yes. If Holomisa kept the party bosses happy he could have still been the minister or the MP.
POM. Is the same true in the IFP?
GM. Everywhere, in every political party because of the electoral system.
POM. Mandela in an interview he gave last week, I don't know whether you saw it in The Sowetan, it was his 2½ year anniversary interview he gave, but he said that he would prefer to see a direct vote, people directly voted from constituencies but that other parties were against it. Is that untrue? Is it that other parties would favour that more, or once you have a seat and know that all you have to do is to please your political bosses it makes life easier than having to be accountable to the people?
GM. I am sure he was saying that to please those people who were interviewing him. If he believes in direct constituency election he had no reason to fire Holomisa because Holomisa had a constituency support and it's very difficult for me to speak for other parties. I can't even speak for my party on that aspect. I only speak my own personal opinion.
POM. Are you disappointed them after 2½ years in parliament that nothing has changed very much?
GM. I am not disappointed because I am a realistic person. It was very mad of the ANC to make those huge promises. The country's economy is not such a kind of an economy which would deliver all of those things. I'm not disappointed. This is what I was expecting. I was expecting to see things going very slowly, more especially because I was very reluctant if after 1994 elections we will have massive investments from other countries like Germany, America, UK, you can name them, because of the instability and uncertainty amongst investors as to how the economic policy is going to be shaped, I was very reluctant that those things would happen. So there is no disappointment. As I saw them, really very mad. First of all they did not have the correct statistical data to make those promises from. They didn't know how much is the GDP of the country. They didn't know the size of the population of the country because the only people who were being counted head by head were white people. Other race groups were being counted with the method of aerial photograph where they could only estimate that there are five houses here and maybe under one roof there are three people or there are four people. So making any promise out of such statistical data it's a very stupid thing, it's very rash.
POM. When you look around you, if I asked you who rules the country at the national level: Is it the parliament, the government or the National Executive of the ANC? Where are the real decisions made?
GM. It's the National Executive of the ANC.
. Oh Padraig, I've got quite a lot to do. It's like this person here, I must go and check on this person. I suspect he has got AIDS.
POM. How do you check on that? How do you check that prisoner?
GM. I know the symptoms. You know the very big problem with us is that we have got people who are HIV positive who don't believe that they have got the disease. They believe in witchcraft and in areas like Thokoza too many people were infected during violence because most people used to be shot with blood dropping from the wounds and certain people will carry them and help them and in contact with that blood on many occasions you find that that blood was swallowed somewhere, somehow, because you carry a wounded bleeding person. So this is the problem we have. Most people are being infected. Maybe from one infected person five people are infected. He has been sick for quite some time now.
POM. Is AIDS the biggest health problem or one of the biggest health problems in the East Rand for example?
GM. Not only in the East Rand but in the country. It's now becoming very endemic more especially because people don't believe that they do have such a kind of a disease. They believe that it's witchcraft. Like this one, whom I won't mention the name, the girlfriend died of the disease so he is now about to die and they had a baby who also died of the disease.
POM. Oh dear.
GM. That's why we were very angry with the minister in Sarafina 2 because we believed that if this money would have trained people within communities who would talk to people and make them aware of the disease. You see coming from Thokoza you select one person from Thokoza, a well known person, you train that person. You don't have to be a nursing sister or a medical practitioner to know about the disease. You need to be a person who lives within that community who can get some training and make people aware of the disease instead of wasting money on dancing people.
POM. I've looked at the statistics and I remember when I came here first in 1989 I used to ask, then it would have been National Party ministers, about AIDS and they would look at me with blank eyes as though they had never heard of it, because in the eighties I did a lot of work in the United States on AIDS. But even now here there doesn't seem to be a huge drive, a huge health drive to either educate people or to make people aware of what AIDS is and how you can contract it.
GM. It's true, Padraig, the campaigns just come and go and they come like a storm, whoo, AIDS, AIDS, AIDS and after some time they just disappear, because I believe there are no proper strategies formulated by the national ministry or the provincial ministries as to how to deal with the disease because this is the thing which must really ring and ring in the minds of the people, more especially in our communities where people are not educated. Now I'm telling you the problems I am having. People who are infected with the virus they will tell you of witchcraft or TB. They don't even understand what is TB, the signs and symptoms of TB. They will just say I do have the incurable disease because of the witchcraft but you can see the whole thing is AIDS related. I have seen many dying.
POM. So they think that it's because of witchcraft that they have AIDS?
GM. This is what they are believing.
POM. And then do they go looking for some kind of ...?
GM. And pay huge sums of money.
POM. To sangomas?
GM. Sangomas and that is the problem.
POM. Yes, that sure is. But just to backtrack a little, I had asked you who rules, where are the real decisions made that affect the future of the country? Are they made in parliament or where are they made?
GM. Formally they are made in parliament but my own belief is that they have been made in the ANC National Executive.
POM. So to that extent South Africa still doesn't have a real democracy? Would you say that South Africa has a real democracy or that it's more a democracy on paper than in the way things work in reality?
GM. It's only democracy on paper because if the ANC majority won't like that or the NEC which is the machinery, the engine of the ANC, won't like it, that won't happen. Like now it's only a few ministers of IFP in the Cabinet. Even the decisions taken for the ministries which are under control of the IFP, I know the IFP doesn't like them and the ministers in the IFP don't like them but they have to abide by the majority vote which is the ANC's only democracy on paper. It's like these public hearings. Sometimes I find it a mockery because people can come and make a presentation although it's only those resourced groups, not ordinary people, who can come and make presentations but if the majority of the ANC doesn't go along with those presentations they don't hold any water and sometimes you will find it's ANC-aligned groups who will come and put the ANC perspective across. We only have democracy on paper.
POM. So what has to be done, do you think, to develop or to have more democracy in the country?
GM. Educate the electorate. The day the electorate is educated everybody will kick a stink out of everything and people will think independently.
POM. When you say educate the electorate does that mean first that you have to educate the people and then educate the electorate?
GM. Exactly. The electorate is the people. If people are educated they will be able to stand up against decisions they don't want. Say, for instance, a representative like myself won't go to a constituency and tell people who sometimes won't even challenge what you tell them. You have to go out and face people who will challenge and question because those people would be educated and that is going to take some decades.
POM. So in the meantime, for the foreseeable future the ANC is going to run things?
GM. It's my own opinion, the way I see things, the ANC is going to be in power for quite a long time.
POM. And is there room for the IFP in that to grow?
GM. Yes we will still have room to grow. It's going to depend on how we strategise our things because the way I see things you don't even have to go out for the new members or new voters, you just have to work on your present supporters. You have to have massive education, voter education, you have to make sure that they are registered, they appear on the voters' roll and the day of the election they go to the polls.
POM. Nuts and bolts work.
GM. And you have to have strong people who will fight the manner in which - like in the 1995 local government elections we lost elections not because we were supposed to lose them. We were not in the majority, we knew, but we were disenfranchised by the voters' rolls. Like myself, I didn't vote. All of a sudden I appeared in Phola Park voters' roll. How would I go to Phola Park and vote? We didn't know what happened. Most IFP supporters were scattered all over. They couldn't vote.
POM. So you were assigned to vote in Phola Park?
GM. The no-go area for me.
POM. Even though you didn't live there?
GM. I didn't live there, I didn't even register under Phola Park. Sometimes I blame the people who were doing the voter registrations. It's very difficult who to blame because in my case where I registered under house number 52 Khumalo Street, in the end I appeared on Shack No. 52 Phola Park.
POM. Did that happen to many IFP supporters?
GM. Many. You see the problem with us in the IFP is that because of violence we ended up being confined into very small places in our hundreds of thousands and any mess in that small place it's a mess for the total electorate because in areas like Thokoza what we were expecting was to win one ward where we were contesting elections, where we are in our hundreds of thousands we are confined into that place. All the other areas are controlled by ANC and are no-go areas. And from that one ward we were supposed to get another three seats from the proportional representation allocation but we got nothing and the voting didn't even go on, it was a very haphazard voting where there were fights and this and that, because to our surprise people from (that ward is Ward 7) but people from Ward 12 were appearing in that voters' roll. They were bussed from Ward 12 to come a vote there. We didn't know what happened.
POM. Do you expect that to happen again?
GM. Possibly or else we need to be very vigilant and how are we going to be vigilant because we lost the 1995 local government elections and the people who will be doing those voters' rolls will be the ANC people. Maybe there was some kind of ulterior motive.
POM. But essentially you're saying that where your concentration of support was in one ward, that the voters' names appeared in all different wards all over the place where their vote really made no difference because they were ANC strongholds?
GM. All over the place. That would count on the proportional allocation of seats but when it comes to wards it wouldn't do any difference and then the major obstacle was that people could not go and vote in those areas because those areas were no-go areas and they know the attitudes of these people whereas the ANC just bussed it's own people under the army escort to come and vote on the other side.
POM. So when people say things have quieted down, Thokoza is quiet, all the violence of pre-1994 has gone?
GM. Because, I told you that it's IFP lying down.
POM. But are they not really seeing reality? In a way it's a false peace.
GM. In reality there's peace in Thokoza. There's no gunfire, there's no fight, but if you are a member or a well known supporter of the IFP you know your boundaries. You can't go beyond this and that.
POM. And does that still apply as you go along Khumalo Road? Would you walk along Khumalo Road down to Phola Park?
GM. Not at all. Not at all.
POM. But people from Phola Park could walk up through ...?
GM. Yes. Phola Park is even much better because it's being ruled by traditional Xhosa people who can still have that kind of a discipline, but not the township.
POM. Not the township of ...?
GM. Not the township, people in the township. You know the township of Thokoza is divided into two. It's IFP and ANC. So going into the township will be taking a chance. Most people come back very hurt.
POM. Very hurt?
GM. Physically hurt.
POM. How would people know ...?
GM. We know each other, Padraig. We are not just like white people who live in the same street not knowing each other. We know each other. That's the way we live. If you live in a section you know all the people in that section unless it is new people and because of this demarcation all people living in one section know each other and they are too quick to see the stranger.
POM. Do you miss that now living in Alberton in a predominantly white area?
GM. I only live in Alberton because I've got a house in Alberton. Most of my time I spend in Thokoza. I have got no interest whatsoever in Alberton. The reason why I live in Alberton is because the environment in Thokoza is not an environment under which one can raise children. But with me I am always in Thokoza.
POM. OK, I will let you run. Till my next time, OK?