About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

18 Jul 1985: Madlala, Protas

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

(With Pat Keefer and Louise Richardson, Mrs Emily Sithole, Fr. Dieter Gahlen and Alex Dubey) (X – German woman: XX – person unknown)

PM     This is Mrs Sithole. You can talk to her, ask her some questions. She has been in the news, some of you who were in Durban must have heard about it. So I want you to hear from her before I can say anything, what they experienced, what is happening to her, how long she was in St Gwendolines and what has happened recently.

ES     I have been staying here it's more than 40 years. My husband was born here and I married 1947 and then I have been planting madumbes (sweet potato), potatoes and all these bananas. That was to serve my life and to serve the children's lives and schooling them. Then one of the days they come here and told me that I must move. At the time I was just worried, worried so much, looking at my madumbes and my bananas, they have spoiled them all, spoiling my madumbe field that side and this side and that side with my bananas and my pumpkins that side. There was a garden of cabbages just down there with carrots and something to serve my life. First they told me that I'm just outside of the map and by the time when this contractor was working they told me that I'm just inside of the map. These men which are just working here, they were just treating me just like a dog, they were just moving me to say, "Move, move, move! You have got your money." And I told them, "No, I didn't get any money from the Port Natal." They say, "No you have got the money, you have to move."

     The time I went there to Port Natal they came here and took me to Kwandengezi.  Before they were telling us that we must choose work and we go.  By that time they were coming with all – I was willing to go to Kwandengezi because these buses they are very scarce and Kwandengezi they've got so many NTC buses. They stop at eleven o'clock. I am a sick person, I am now sick and then have to take a bus and there will be no transport. They took me there to Kwandengezi, they showed me one house with three bedrooms, kitchen and a dining room. I told them, "How can I just get in this house because I'm a family of 20 or more than that." Oh! that man was forcing, "You have to take it, you can't do otherwise, you have to take it", because if they are taking me, those people, I have to kick you too. I was just wondering, I just came and tell my son this one. I don't know how can I live.

PM     How much did they expect you to pay for the new house in Kwandengezi ?

ES     Oh they expected me to pay R36 for the house.

PM     A month?

ES     A month, a month.

PM     And here. are you paying anything here?

ES     I'm not paying anything here. I'm not paying anything here.

PM     You told me you used to pay R4-50 a year to the monastery.

ES     I used to pay R4-50 to the monastery but the time my husband was sick with TB sickness they told me that I have to stay without paying.

PM     And in the township you can only stay there as long as you can pay rent but here you're staying freely and peacefully.

ES     Here I'm staying freely, peacefully and nicely. I don't know how can I mention it.

X     How many rooms have you got here? That's all your house?

ES     Yes this is all my house.

PM     About ten rooms?

ES     It's about ten rooms.

POM     Ten rooms?

PM     They were giving her a three-bedroom house in the township.

ES     They did but I even asked them, how can I make the boys and girls to stay together? They said, "No, we can't do otherwise." If this contractor is kicking them they have to kick me too.

POM     And how many people are living here altogether?

ES     Twenty. My first daughter has got five children, I've got six, my second one has got five too and I've got my sister who is staying with me.

X     And you have to move all the family to a little house?

ES     Yes, they told me that we have to move, we must all be crowded together in those rooms.

POM     When did they first tell you that you had to move?

ES     They told me, it was 2nd May. They gave me a notice on 2nd May.

POM     Of this year?

ES     Yes this year.

PM     And she had to move by the end of the month.

ES     End of the month, 30 days. 2nd to 30th.

PM     And why she has to move is because they want this area for Indians. They are developing it for the Indians. As you see this is the Indian township of Chatsworth so all these people, all of these Africans have to move away to that settlement township called Kwandengezi where she has to go.

POM     What's it called again?

PM     Kwandengezi. It's about 18 kms from here or a bit less than that. It's way out this side.

POM     Have they moved any Africans out to that township?

PM     Oh yes, yes. I will show you the other side. A lot of people have moved from here.

POM     Are they doing it voluntarily?

PM     No they were forced to move.

X     And you said that they've been spoiling them. What did they do with your cabbages and your … ?

ES     Oh they just dig on that cabbage and they break five lemon trees that side and they were breaking this side, my bananas. They were very big.

X     They took it out?

ES     Yes they simply took it out.

X     Who did?

ES     This contractor. There's a contractor that side.

PM     You see the government hires a contractor to come and do the digging of the roads so they just did this job. They are employed here so the contractors just do what the government has told them to do. So they're pulling down all her fruit trees and vegetables, pulling them all apart.

POM     And she has no right of appeal against that happening at all?

PM     Legally speaking no.

ES     When I was complaining about my vegetables the one man there who's the head of this contractor told me that if they dig that side it means that all here is theirs. I asked them, "What about my madumbes and my bananas?" They told me that this place is bought already, it means that if they are digging here everything is theirs.

X     What about the property. From my understanding it's the property of you but this is not legal after your laws. They decided an Indian area so the property doesn't exist any more or what is it?

PM     Well we don't speak about legal perspective in a sick country like this one. I mean this is South Africa. In other countries you could speak about her rights to ownership. This is a sick country. We don't even need to ask about legalities of it. It's a terrible country. I mean especially as it applies to Africans, they're just treated like dogs. As she said it, you have to move, go, no negotiations, you have to go.

X     Were you offered compensation for your house and your trees?

ES     No, no.

PM     There was no word about compensation, even in the letter I can show you.

POM     Does she have papers showing that she has ownership to the property?

PM     Well as she said, this was mission property, as I told you when we left. So in other words all of the people who were staying here are tenants to the mission so the mission used to own this land before, before the government expropriated it.

POM     Then the government simply said to the mission, "We are taking over this land and rezoning it as an Indian area"?

XX     They rezoned the land.

X     And even the mission who is the owner of the land can't stop it?

PM     You can't say it. They say, "We've expropriated" or something like that," 'We take it." They rezone it without consultation with the owner. They don't consult the owner when they rezone an area.

POM     Do they offer the mission compensation for it?

XX     Yes they do. They tell you, in other words, "We expropriate, we want that land, we need that land for our plans", which in fact means an expropriation or selling, sell it to the government. From the information I have there was a big fight going on before it was eventually expropriated. Then I believe they paid a certain amount of money, a very small amount.

L     How much is it?

XX     Oh I don't know.

POM     Would you regard this as a case of where the government is dividing coloured, blacks and Indians against each other in their rezoning policies?

PM     Exactly. What they want us to feel is that they want us to fight the Indians or Mrs Sithole to hate the Indians because they want this area for Indians. That's exactly the divide and rule strategy. It's a typical case and it's an example also of the Group Areas, how sad it is because if there were no Group Areas Act Mrs Sithole could stay with the Indians. Why not? She would love to. Why can't she benefit from the development projects that are going on here? Why should she be thrown out of this area? A lot of people have said in this area, I know, even the other side of Marianhill they said, "To hell. I mean if there are Indians or whites who need accommodation wherever they may be, let them come and stay with us." The problem is Group Areas, it's apartheid. So she has to pay the price and everybody has to pay the price.

X     You are the only black family around? Are there some more black families who are to be moved?

PM     Some of them have moved already, OK. Hundreds and hundreds from this area. You will see it on the walls but there are still a few left. About a hundred families. They used to be a scattered area here.

POM     But most of the families have in fact left? Most of the black families have left?

PM     Yes. You will see the walls on the way out. You see this Indian township is coming nearer and nearer, pushing everybody away.

     She says she's in a state of deep anxiety. She has been in suspension for such a long time, she wants to see some action, whatever comes.

POM     But at any time the government could simply come in tomorrow morning and say she has to move?

PM     They have done it and she is strong, she is resisting that. They have done it.

ES     They even forced me to go to Pinetown and sign a cheque of R750. I told them that I can't expect R750 with these houses and vegetables.

POM     R750 for?

PM     As compensation.

POM     As compensation.

PM     She's just saying something like that.

POM     And they were trying to force you to sign that and you refused to sign it?

ES     Yes and I refused to sign it.

PM     As you know, as she said, I think the key thing is that if she goes from here it leads to a family breakdown. I mean how can you expect a family of twenty to live in a three-bedroom house? It means that the family has to be broken down and someone has to go and squat somewhere. The second factor is that she has to pay there and how can she pay being a pensioner? She lives on these fruits that she sells and in the township where is she going to sell that, how can she grow a thing? In other words she can only stay or use that so-called compensation for a while and then it's all gone and then what is going to happen to her? Like all what is happening in all the African townships, even Indian and coloured ones people are being evicted. They can't afford rent any more. And the third fact of course is this is a closely knit community of a few decades so then she goes to a township where she doesn't know anybody. Breakdown of a nice community like St Gwendolines.

POM     So when they're moving black families out they're not moving them into the same black township? They're dispersing them over – or they wouldn't be living in close proximity to each other any longer?

PM     Yes, you stay next to a person you've never seen in your life while all the time she has been staying with people she knows. If she's in trouble she knows she can run to the neighbour and say, "Look, do you have some salt? Do you have ten bucks to give out?", or something like that. But in a township it's nothing like that. Community spirit is nil, it's nil because there is so much hardship people have become atomised as it were and they have nothing to do with the neighbour any more.

X     Is it impolite just to ask you how old you are? I don't know.

PM     You can ask her.

ES     I'm 60.

X     You are sixty. I think it's also a problem to be moved if you are so long here.

PM     Yes.

PK     Who is helping you in this effort?  Where are you getting your support?

ES     Oh I am getting pension and I used to sell something, bananas and everything just to get myself. I just plant pumpkins and everything. That is why now I'm standing firm because I don't know how can I – I must buy madumbes and plant potatoes and plant now. I can never do it because I don't know whether are they going to move me. I wonder if they like to use this place. I am not refusing them to take this place but they have to move me so I can better plant something there, little, little. I can never stay there in that location, it's a very small place, very small yard, very, very small. It's another one there and another one here, another door there. I can never.

PM     … wanted to move her somewhere.  There's no-one who works in the family. I mean who's going to pay for all this?

POM     There are twenty people and the only income coming in is your pension and what you sell from your produce?

ES     I haven't told them that I'm getting pension. I can never pay R36. They would say, "Oh, we will deduct from there and pay that."

PM     And the pension comes to them every two months by the way, not every month.

ES     Not every month, two months.

PM     Whatever little they get it comes to them. It's unlike the white group and Indians and coloureds. They get it every month don't they? But Africans get it every two months.

X     How come the pensioners - ?

PM     It's old age pension or disability.

POM     How much does it come to?

ES     This month they give me R103.

POM     Every two months?

ES     July. I got September, July August. September, October, November we are getting. You know you pass a month and pass a month. They give it out very early on the 9th of July and then we are going to get it on September.

X     Who is helping you in this area? Who is helping you fight the government?

ES     It's these committees. It's Save St Gwendolines' Committee they are using to help me.

POM     This is St Gwendolines Committee. This is your committee, Father?

DG     Yes, that is again a different committee, a committee of all the people who are staying outside the reach of St Gwendolines who are all threatened by the move. They have made their own committee.

POM     So all the black families who are still staying in the area who have not yet moved have formed a committee to continue the fight?

DG     Yes.

POM     And is there good solidarity between them or do some of them give up?

PM     There's no split.

POM     There's no split, so the rest of the families who are here will stay here and fight?

PM     Yes, sure. I mean the committee is solely for those people who don't want to move. In other words it's not agitating against anyone who wants to move. If you're a person who wants township life let him pack and go but the committee, those people say, look, to hell with this government now, we want to stay in our areas.

PK     But the government can forcibly remove people? Would they come in and forcibly remove people?

PM     They have done it in the past. We had the neighbours, I'll show you the walls. Where are they? Gone.

POM     And when they forcibly removed what kind of tactics did they use?

PM     Oh they use very different tactics. It depends on the community spirit. If the community is very strong like St Gwendolines what they do is they pick one today and one next month and then one so that they don't provoke a mass resistance. But if the community is weak, if the community spirit is weak so they just take the whole of you, they say, "Look, you go now", just like that. But if you are really strong in the community they take one, like for instance Mrs Sithole at the moment, she looks like she's the only one. She is not. So neighbours would say, "Oh it's only her today, well we are all safe." If she goes then everyone is going to go.

POM     Could they, for example, simply come in,  build a road across her fields, destroy her plants, remove her means of livelihood so that she looks out of her door one morning and all her plants are gone and she has really nothing to live on that she can draw from the land and they force her in that direction?

PM     That's right. They can do that. They already – the contractors are already here. Last time we came there was, I don't know if you call them pegs.

POM     Sorry, they did what?

ES     They wanted just to dig.

POM     They wanted to dig from here?

ES     Yes from here.

POM     Right through your door?

ES     Yes, yes, yes.

POM     My!

ES     They were troubling me very much, too much, putting their pipes there. There. They are asking who pegged these pipes, who pegged these pipes? This man. Oh, they were coming too much, too much. Now I don't know what are they trying to do because they've dug my bananas and everything and they are keeping quiet. They don't tell me, they say, "Oh you think that this sewerage pipe we're digging for you?" I told them, no, they were not digging for me. "If you want to move me I am not refusing, move me to St Gwendolines, that's all." No, to the location because I can never pay. R36 is too much, too much for a month. R36 a month. And even those rooms are very small. Just like this. Just like the toilets.

POM     The rooms were?

ES     In the township. They are just this size. You can only put one bed, only one bed. Only one bed for a son, one bed for a daughter, one, one, one. We can never put two beds.

PM     And also they paint on your houses, they put numbers so they know these people have to move. They paint numbers on the door.

POM     They paint numbers on the doors and that indicates that the family – ?

PM     That the area has no future.

POM     The family has to move.

PM     You will see bigger than this, some numbers that are bigger than this.

POM     The number on this door is?

PM     553. It means it's a number to control to know that Mrs Sithole has got a number, you will see bigger ones than these actually and you can take this one. That means that we have to go one day. Once they put numbers like this it means you have to go. They come and paint the number on your door without even telling you. This one is even smaller.

POM     So do you think ultimately in this particular case they'll settle and let them go to St Gwendolines rather than to the township?

PM     Yes. But they want to move them so there are a lot of families over there. She's not the only one. Most of the families, as you see, have moved already around here, they were not strong enough to resist so they've gone. So she's one of them still remaining who say we are not going to move. She's one of the few people who are still in the area.

     I want to take you over now to the other side so that I can show you more about St Gwendolines.

POM     Could you just say who you are, what you do, where you're from and just give them a message?

PM     Do you want to do it now? My name is Protas Madlala. I work in St Gwendolines in a community threatened with forced removal by the government and I've just returned from the States. The situation is so terrible here and I want to take this opportunity to talk to the friends from Ireland who were turned away by the regime in Pretoria so could not come and see our misery in this country and also to those comrades in Ireland who are taking such a tough line against South Africa's fascism to say we are all with you, the struggle is one, our struggle is yours and one day you will come to a freer South Africa as long as we stay united and show solidarity. Don't feel humiliated but feel more courage and feel more proud that you were turned away and all those who were kicked out of jobs because of their stand they should feel proud that we are very, very happy with them and their stand and their suffering. The struggle continues.

POM     Thank you.

PM     We are very proud of them you know, the stand they have taken.

POM     They were on strike for – in fact tomorrow will be the anniversary of their strike. It will be the 19th July, they've been on strike for exactly one year.

PM     Oh great. I mean we in South Africa, we underdogs, we feel so proud when we hear that there are some people, especially overseas, who care about our suffering. We are very, very proud of these people. We wish we can have hundreds and hundreds of them. The struggle is big in South Africa and we need a lot of support.

POM     I think as a result of their efforts they were met in Dublin - hundreds of thousands of people turned out in the street to welcome them back so there's a much higher consciousness of the whole issue.

PM     That's good.

POM     In a way the government did more harm to themselves by turning them away than by letting them in.

PM     They always say that blacks in South Africa are better off than in the rest of the African continent, but then what were they afraid of? Why didn't they let those guys in? What was Pretoria afraid of? They're basically afraid that they shouldn't see cases like this one of Mrs Sithole who is being forced to move. Then they shouldn't see people who are being detained just because they fight for justice. Pretoria was afraid that that should happen, to let them see all that scandal. It's a scandal. South Africa is a scandal. And any country that associates itself or deals with this country deals with evil, it deals with fascism. Here is fascism on our doorstep in 1985, when the whole world claims to have advanced so much in so-called civilisation. In 1985 South Africa is so much backward in human relations.

POM     In painting the number on the doors like in Germany in the 1930s.

PM     We don't have names any more, we have numbers like in prisons. It's a prison society and in a country that is ruled by fools. I mean you would always expect something like this and they could never back down unless there is force, especially an economic one. It needs economic force, then they will back down. All negotiations or whatever, they won't work, but it makes sense some economic disinvestment, then it will work, or more pressure from abroad.

POM     Do you see any changes happening in the next couple of years or do you think things are just getting worse?

PM     Things are getting worse.

POM     The government is just digging in and getting tougher and tougher.

PM     Change will bring more bloodshed, more bloodshed than before and more misery.

POM     What strikes me about what you said here is that it seems a very conscious attempt to split all the disadvantaged against each other, to put Indians against coloured, coloured against black.

PM     That's exactly, that's what they're trying to do. For instance the Indians and the Africans and blacks they travel on the same bus, the same coach, which are described as third class. They do everything, they've been always for years they've been in one category of oppression but yet here you have these manoeuvres of dividing them again so that they don't end up strong to fight and to see who their enemy is. But I can give you one word of consolation, that the people of St Gwendolines in this area are not fools, they know it's not really the Indians but the government who is using those few Indians who support the government. They are using those few Indians against us here.

POM     These Indians, just looking at the houses, they appear to be more affluent.

PM     That's right, these are middle class houses. People who don't care. As you can see those are all very rich. They don't even care what is happening next door here.

POM     So how many black families were here originally?

PM     Oh I would say about 250 on this side alone. I can show you more but most of them have gone. 90% of them have gone and the rest still have to go.

POM     How would you spell Mrs - ?

PM     Mrs Sithole, is Mrs Emily Sithole.

X     How do you spell your name?

PM     It PROTAS MADLALA.

POM     Thank you. The girls – it'll be great to hear this.

PM     You read much about removals. I mean it sounds like a theory at times. You have seen a typical case of it.

X     Could you tell me what's more the name of that lady?

PM     It's Emily Sithole. Mrs Sithole.

X     I think it's a good thing just to see somebody. I think we mostly only see the removal areas and we don't have the right idea for how they are living before.

PM     I'm just worried about that guy. I don't want him to lose us. Oh he saw us. OK, come over here. Can you see the monastery where we were?

POM     The monastery? Yes.

PM     So the whole land in front of you used to be mission land, the whole of this area here it used to be mission land. You see stretching all over from the monastery, there is Pinetown. It used to be mission land. But then, as I said earlier on, in 1966 all these areas were zoned. I was telling them, all this used to be monastery land and the whole of the people who stayed living here, the Africans, predominantly African, were told, "You have to go." Why?

POM     They were all tenants of the monastery, right?

PM     Right, all of them. So the reason is that this is Chatsworth, the Indian township just behind us. From Durban this comes all the way from the airport side, there is no other way for this township to expand except to come towards St Gwendolines. This is an Indian township. The same thing applies to Pinetown. You see Pinetown over there where you see the big towers, it's the white residential area of Pinetown, south of Pinetown. That area, the only way for it to expand is to come in this direction. So in other words even the Africans in between, so what they did was part of that area, the whole of this area, you see Mrs Sithole we have spoken to now, all of them, there used to be African families, they were moved. This area was zoned Indian in 1966. The other area, you see Pinetown coming this way, so it's becoming more and more of a white residential area.

X     Where is Pinetown coming, on this route?

PM     There is Pinetown, see that big tower.

X     The big tower, yes.

PM     That's Pinetown white residential area coming this way. So originally, 1977, they gave all the residents of this area, they said, "Look, you have to go. Either the area has been zoned Indian or it has been zoned white. You have all to go." They made a mistake because then there was a mass resistance. If you chase everyone out everyone feels touched then they become involved in the struggle, they resist. So quite a number of families after that they moved, all over here there used to be houses here, they went. The struggle went on and on, protests were made and then eventually the government said, "OK, we can only give you back that part of St Gwendolines, which is the ridge." That's the area. You see that street where there are a lot of houses, but the rest will have to go all outside, outside the ridge you will have to go eventually, including where we are now because Indians will have to be settled here.

     A rather interesting case with that ridge, it was not kind of saying OK the ridge must go back to the Africans. They said the ridge can only go back to the Africans on one condition, that someone is going to put in infrastructure, but not the government. The government would only do it for the Indians, the Indians that are going to stay there. But if it is Africans someone must do it. The basic condition is that that area can only stay African only if someone is going to develop it, but not the government, it's not going to put in not even a fence. But the rest of these areas outside this ridge will have to go. That's how the mission came in and said, "Well, as long as the people can be saved we can take the lead. We don't have money ourselves but we will try to do something." That's what their office is all about, to try to organise a place a bit into a good shape. But as I say it's a struggle now to save also even these other areas outside the ridge. There are still a few families here, you can see down there on this side but a lot of them were here, they're all gone.

POM     All gone.

PM     They're all gone.

POM     Now when the government said to the Africans that they must move, were they going to move them all to the same township or to a number of different townships?

PM     There were two townships. One is Kwandengezi this side and the other one is Kwadabeka. So those were the two townships. What is interesting about these two townships is that they are all under KwaZulu, under the homeland. This has been a freehold area all along but then they want to take them to those two townships either Kwandengezi or Kwadabeka which are under the KwaZulu Administration. You know what all that means? And also they are very far away from town and all sorts of things like that. By the way, this is an old community of more than, I think more than a hundred years this community. It's very old and people know each other so well. They care for their orphans, widows, and all of a sudden they are told to break down all these beautiful houses, you have to go because Indians have to stay there, and that really caused some bitterness between the Africans and Indians.

X     Could you tell me once more the name of this?

PM     Chatsworth.

POM     Divide and conquer.

PM     So basically I thought I should just tell you that so you understand between what is St Gwendolines Ridge and what are the areas which are called St Gwendolines which are outside the ridge. For anyone living either within the ridge or outside the ridge they don't know anything about St Gwendolines Ridge. It's a new name altogether. They know themselves as belonging to St Gwendolines Mission.

POM     Is that REACH or - ?

PM     RIDGE.

POM     Oh, ridge.

PM     So this area they call it Savannah Park now where Mrs Sithole is, this area where we are, they call it now Savannah Park.

POM     Savannah Park?

PM     It's a new name, Savannah Park. It's no longer St Gwendolines. If you tell them you're in St Gwendolines they say, no, no, you're wrong, you're in Savannah Park. St Gwendolines is only that ridge. The other area between the ridge and Pinetown is called Nasaret but it's part of St Gwendolines as well. It's Nasaret.

PK     So they've renamed it?

PM     No it's an old name we had for it. So it's interesting also that they only gave back the land that is very rocky, the ridge, as compared to this one which is a bit flat and nice. The ridge is really rocky.

PK     Now this used to be populated, where we are right here?

PM     As you can see the footpaths.

X     But if they are in the middle between the coloured and Indian people isn't there the danger that they will be moved again one day?

PM     You mean those people?

X     Yes, on the ridge if they are making it a black area between the two?

PM     Well let's trust they're honest about it if they can, if you are really sane enough. They can do anything but I trust they are honest about it, I don't know. For once we trust that they will keep it.

L     Where is the money going to come from to develop it? What kind of resources does your office have?

PM     Only God knows where it's going to come from. We have to campaign for it as much as we can to save the people.

X     And what needs developing? Has the government given people a task to fulfil or what does it mean?

PM     I think basically what they mean is putting infrastructure, running water, proper roads. As you see there's only one road there. Something like that so they can also improve the housing. I mean basically that's what they mean.

X     What they do themselves.

PM     You saw it on Mrs. Sithole's house, they are putting some infrastructure, putting some roads there. They only do it for Indians, not for blacks. So the blacks must do it themselves then and with the current rate of unemployment where is the money going to come from? And inflation as well.

POM     So that if you're unable to install the infrastructure  there's be increasing pressure on even those Africans who stay to move?

PM     I think that's the logic, that if we can't afford it then people have to go.

DG     Yes, I can't make a statement on that.

PM     I mean if no-one says he's going to develop it I think they have to go. That's what I mean.

DG     They will have to go.

POM     You said putting in the infrastructure would cost about how much maybe?

DG     There is an estimate of something like thirteen to fourteen million rand. Whether it's still valid today, that contention was made about a year ago.

POM     Again with inflation and everything else it will be twice that amount ultimately.

DG     It could be. It could come to that, yes.

X     Are you from the church making this case public in the international sphere or what are you doing besides looking for the people?

DG     As far as I know, before my arrival here already, it even went to the Synod in America, the question came up.

X     So you had quite some international pressure?

DG     Oh yes, very much so.

X     And it helps you?

DG     I think so. I know, who was it, the secretary for the Department of the Exterior from the States, who quoted once the case of St Gwendolines where they saw some hope for the development in South Africa so it would come to a stop of the policy of removal of people because of that statement the minister made when he said the people of St Gwendolines can stay.

PM     The shacks, the structures. There are really strong houses like these which were built, I think, before the proclamation that people got. So people built nice houses but when they were told their area didn't have any future then they started putting up some temporary structures. These temporary structures house people from the homelands, rural areas, who are looking for employment in Pinetown and they want accommodation. So there is that mixture, you will see it yourself.

POM     Where we are and what this - ?

PM     I mean what we see here is a very solid walled house made in blocks which was moved, which was part of St Gwendolines. They moved, they left for the township. So the government had no excuse to say these people had a bad house or something like that, a shack or something. All it was, was because of the Group Areas that the people have to move because of the Indians. So all you see is just the ruins.

POM     You had a solid house here and they were compelled to move and then has the government been just tearing down the house or has it just fallen into disrepair?

PM     Well the government did so. They did. They pulled down this house. It's a family which has been here since I was born. They had a liquor shop here next to it, a shop next to it, a little supermarket and they have been here for years. Since I was born they were staying here and now they're all gone.

POM     So how many in this area here, how many people used there to be?

PM     Basically quite a few left, like that one and that one. All of them have no future, they have to go according to the policy and there needs to be other houses over there. These are all part of what they call now Savannah Park. It's no longer St Gwendolines according to their language. I would say also just on this part alone there were about a hundred families just living in this little portion, a hundred families.

POM     A hundred.

PM     Yes. Squatters. This is another type of housing. They want to be along the road with some of them, big ones. These are the ones. Just walk around.

L     Do they mind?

PM     No they don't, they don't.

POM     They come from where?

PM     From the homelands, the rural areas where there are no jobs.

POM     So they should perhaps be in their homelands but they left their homeland?

PM     Because of the poverty there, yes.

POM     And they have no legal rights to reside in any other area?

PM     That's right. They can only get this type of accommodation, these temporary structures like this. That's why they are here but yet they are employed in Pinetown where there are no houses. The alternative to this would be hostels, single sex hostels. Some of these guys are old, they want to stay with their girlfriends, they want to bring their wife down and this is a kind of an illegal set-up because government doesn't want this.

POM     Influx control hasn't moved in to wipe them out or anything, has it?

PM     They don't want them here. They should be staying in the single sex hostels where you stay alone, you can't have your girlfriend coming in, your wife coming in. You stay as you are for the rest of the year and then you can only see your family once a year.

POM     A single sex hostel is for who? Is that for somebody who would - ?

PM     Who comes from the rural areas to work in the cities and doesn't have accommodation. So the only kind of accommodation they can have is single sex hostels and one of them is Kwadabeka, it's the worst in the country I've ever seen, the worst you can ever see.

DG     I think what is interesting about these houses is they were brought in, you can say, by the system. It was brought in by them and now they are here, now they are being called squatters and they should move again.

PM     Brought in by them in the sense that there are no jobs in the rural areas and the only place where they can get employed is these urban areas, the towns. But here the problem is they don't qualify for permanent residence and accommodation, so the only kind of accommodation they can get is this one or else they go to the hostels and the space in the hostel is not that much available. As I told you, in the hostels you can't accommodate friends there, you can just stay alone. You can't see your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your wife or whatever. Here they can do it.

POM     Could the government come in here and look at somebody's pass book and say you have no right to be here and they ship the person right back to their homeland?

PM     Yes they can do that. Yes, yes, at any time they can come and say you are illegal in this area, go back. They've got what they call a repatriation. They send you back to your homeland.

X     But these people they have jobs or haven't they jobs?

DG     Originally I think they had jobs.

PM     They had jobs, yes.

DG     But now they are – ?

POM     Because of the recession they –

PM     And even more than that is also preferential, divide and rule. These people are given a second-hand preference in the job market. They only employ those people with the urban status, what they call 10-1A. These ones are  -

X     You even have to renew your permits every year?

PM     No. This is what I am saying about divide and rule. Local guys here who are residents in this area, permanent residents of this area, have got a special, what they call special urban rights. So if a guy from the rural area wants a job and he competes with me he has got very weak chances of getting that job. I have got the first preference. It's again divide and rule. These things even backfire within the trade union movement itself. When there is a strike these guys from the rural areas say, oh no, we can't be involved in the strike because we are going to lose the job, and then these ones who are having the rights say, "You can go on strike."

POM     If they lost their jobs they'd be shipped back to the rural areas?

PM     I'm just thinking further now, I'm doing the analysis even further than that. Divide and rule is still there, it makes the trade unions very weak.

X     It divides even the workers.

PM     That's what I mean, the workers in the trade unions would say, look, we can't strike, we can't take a firm stand against management because we are going to lose the jobs. We have to go back to the rural areas where my wife is dying, she can't have anything to eat, while the guys in the urban areas have got all the rights to that job, if there are jobs available.

X     Where do they have water here?

DG     Taps on the road, alongside the road.

X     Alongside the road, they take cans. And where have they toilets?

DG     Somewhere here.

POM     They're called pit toilets?

PM     Called just a pit.

DG     It would be available, I don't think with these houses, but there's cost involved. Electricity -

PM     And telephone. That's all new.

PK     How do they feel about us coming here?

PM     I think they are used to it now, I always bring good people to them and they know I am here and Father is here so they don't mind because I bring good people. They are used to a sight like this because when we were fighting to stay here there were a lot of people who came to support us, so they are used to people like this. People were coming with goodwill.

X     What's the name of the place here?

PM     Savannah.

X     We haven't been to the township yet.

PM     So I want to walk you around and see.

POM     Legally speaking squatters are nobody.  What's your name? Hello. We're from Ireland.

     In these squatting areas nobody at all really works, do they?

PM     They do but because of retrenchments and the fact that their chance to get jobs is very slim –

POM     But would somebody like from here go into a town and work during the day and come back here in the evening?

PM     Yes they come back and sleep here. They can do that.

POM     But they're working at jobs that are temporary jobs so their pass books are really not in order? They could be picked up?

PM     They could be permanent jobs but the thing is they have to renew the contract. They could be permanent in codes you know but they have to renew the contract all the time to say, look, I'm still employed so I want still to come back and resume my job. Something like that. He's permanent but he's not really permanent.

POM     Because they have no legal residence or anything?

PM     Yes, they are nobody in terms of residence. The condition is that you can work in town but don't bring your wife or your husband because government doesn't want influx of people from the homelands.

POM     But on their pass book what would it say for place of residence? Would they have to give - ?

PM     What would it say there? It says 10-1D, or 10-1C, which means a person who is nobody. They put it in those beautiful terms, 10-1C.

POM     So a 10-1C in fact could be picked up on the street, arrested for being a nobody and sent off to their homeland tomorrow morning without any questions being asked or without anybody really being informed or anybody here being notified?

PM     Sure, right, unless he had proper papers from the homeland which are very difficult to get. He can go then and look for a job for three months, if you don't get it, go back. Some kind of a temporary thing like that.

POM     Temporary? Like a temporary working visa from the homeland for three months to look for a job and after that he'd be illegally in what would be called South Africa.

PM     Yes, but even if you have those documents they only allow you to be in a particular area. In other words you can't get a permit to come to Durban, to Pinetown and then you are found in Empangeni. You're going to get arrested. Or you can't be found in Durban, you're going to get arrested. You must be at the right place and at the right time. That's another thing, because curfew law also is still there, don't forget that. I'm not supposed to be in town after ten.

POM     Sorry, which laws?

PM     The curfew law.

POM     Curfew laws, yes.

PM     I'm not supposed to be in town after a specific time so everybody then there is affected, all Africans. You can't be in town after a specific time unless you are working at the time, working night shift or something like that. So you must be at the right place and at the right time with the right papers. This applies even to me. If I go to Johannesburg and they demand my dompas, my reference book, have you seen one of them?

POM     Yes.

PM     If they demand my dompas in Johannesburg they want to know why I'm in Johannesburg. Now this applies to everybody there, all Africans. Why are you in Johannesburg? Are you not coming to cause trouble there or what or why. You should say, "I'm going to look for a job", "Who has given you the right to leave your place?"  Before I leave this place I must go to the local Administration Board and say I am leaving this place now for Johannesburg to work there, I've got a job. Then they have to sign the paper. This happened to me when I was working in Pretoria for the Catholic Bishops Conference. I was eventually kicked out of Pretoria because Pretoria said, OK, your local board gave you permission, the permit, but they should have consulted us in Pretoria to see if there was no local guy who could do your job. It's a whole crazy thing. They said, no, there should be, at best, one of the good guys here to be employed in Pretoria, why did they get you all the way from Durban?

AD     Dubey is my surname.

POM     My name is Patrick.

X     I am coming from Germany.

AD     I wish to see the people from overseas who are coming from - ?

X     Germany.

AD     Hey! Germany!

X     Ja, we both are German.

POM     Would you send the girls in Ireland who were refused entry to the country last week because, they were on strike, the government wouldn't let them in and threw them out, would you send them a message? They were on strike for a year against apartheid and Bishop Tutu invited them here and when they got to the airport the government detained them for ten hours, then threw them out of the country.

AD     If I didn't hear this story, you see I read that in the Daily News. They are people from Ireland, Irish people. I knew sometime back that those people suffered for their own lives. They wanted the British people to give them a share. What is needed in these days is a share. We must have equal share no matter what colour you are. You may be black, white or yellow but what we need is a share and we must worship one person, Jesus Christ is the only creator. We must worship, all of us. You know those people they came, they were invited by Desmond Tutu to come and see all these things here, what you are seeing. You can see that. I have never been overseas but I don't think overseas you can find a place like this.  This is filthy dirty. You see what I mean?

     Those people came and the government barred these people not to come in because they can detect all what you are seeing here, back to Ireland and the Irish people will fight against this government. We don't need this government, no, it's very bad. That's why tomorrow you might find people not to understand one another because in some other African countries the people that side they want to eat you, they think you are just a monastery man and yet you are the helper but they think, God, the white person, the white colour, let's cut this meat here and eat it. Why? Because the creation of that belongs to apartheid. I hate apartheid. I want to go and live somewhere in England myself. I don't want to live here. I must meet people of different colours, sometimes they might understand what I want. What I want is only life, I want to live. I don't want to go and stay on the moon. I want to stay in this world and I must have my equal rights and I am a very good worker and I've got this. I can be also advanced in education. You know that? But no-one will ever do that. [I am going to live in … business and we want to settle our minds.]

X     Have you got a - ?

AD     You know where I live? If you travel this road here, Madlala knows where I live. Please come, come in. I want to show you the job I've done. I was fighting with Madlala and I've been telling these people that if they want to move me from that area they must take every tree, everything that I've planted and they must go and put it where I like them to be, not anywhere else. They must have the right place and my wife must see that her plants are there and I am there and they must never, never move me from that promise.

X     What did they do? Are you still living here?

AD     I'm still living. I fought with Madlala and white people, there's Madlala and Paddy Kearney, you know that gentleman? Paddy, Paddy Kearney. And Mrs Hinson. Mrs Hinson is in Kloof. Those people fought with us, they are our sisters and our brothers. No matter what else I never let them down because they have never let me down. OK?

     So as you do your round, tell Madlala to come and see me at my place then he might have some purpose in bananas. OK?

POM     OK, thank you.

AD     My name is Alex, Dubey is my surname. I am struggling very hard in this country. I am owning a car and I am trying to do something and they want to demolish the beautiful building and you must come there and you must take a snap. They want to demolish the building. That is worth R10,000. They want me to live in this thing, a mud house. This is mud, it can melt at any time. That is no good. I don't want to have a government like this one. No, it's very bad. The government is very bad. The government itself knows that we are very fed up with it. We don't want to be ruled by those people. We must get somebody to come and rule us. Of course we want to be intelligent, we want to learn, we want to have everything. We must have somebody to come and rule us, not this one. It's a failure. I'm telling you. OK.

POM     OK. Thank you.

AD     I am a human being here. We must be equal, we must do something equal. We must sing together, we must enjoy life together. You see? You must buy what you want and leave what you don't want. You must marry a woman you like and leave the one who you don't like because you must have your own choice.

POM     Thank you Alex. Bye bye.

AD     Black is nothing. I did not create myself to be black. God did it for me and I love my colour too.

X     I think it is beautiful.

AD     Yes. And I love your colour because God did it. I did not do it and I can't do it. You see what I mean? OK.

POM     God bless.

AD     Come to my place.

POM     Do you think as more young blacks go to university and become more aware of the inequalities that have been perpetuated against themselves that the more they will be prepared to fight? One of the things that we've been discussing among ourselves is like, why hasn't there been more political violence? The level of oppression is so total.

DG     I don't know how to explain this. I also have many students going to university. I think they only become aware of the problem when they are at university and from where they come from there is not this pressure on, they don't experience this pressure as they do here in this urban area. Maybe they know exactly when they cause trouble they will get into trouble themselves, they will be afraid. I think it demands a lot of sacrifice to stand up because you are sure that you are the loser, at least at the moment. I know many students they are just quiet, they would fit into the system somehow and get most profit out of it. Other students again who are more aware and going to make also the public more aware, when they become serious they cross the border.

POM     Do you think the level of violence is going to increase unless something pretty drastic happens in the next couple of years?

DG     I am convinced of this, yes.

POM     You're convinced of it?

DG     Yes.

PK     There has to be so much anger in there.

DG     I would regard even this area like some kind of bomb you can say it can explode any moment. I think this is now again an Indian area.

PM     Two classes. Nice houses for the artisans, middle class, but then you have these ghettos. You pay rent here. There's one thing interesting about Kwandengezi. This is Kwandengezi where all of the people from St Gwendolines were supposed to be resettled. Now there is something interesting about it. It's under KwaZulu and people like you coming to this town, you are supposed to get a permit. So legally –

X     It's a law of the country?

PM     Yes it is, yes I think so. It hasn't yet become a law. For people like you, you are supposed to get a permit to get into this township but I always say to hell with them and bring my visitors, they won't do anything. But I am just telling you about the South African situation. Unlike St Gwendolines where you can go freely, which is a freehold area. Here you have to get a permit unless you are a priest or a doctor.

PK     Anybody coming in to visit would have to have a permit?

PM     Whites, Indians, I don't think coloureds. Whites and Indians. I just thought I should mention that for information. It's very interesting. It's crazy.

POM     Because they're trying to make it as a foreign country?

PM     That's right. And also an area where you don't have too many visitors to see what rubbish is going on there. So those are double storeys. You see how many people? It's like a weekend, they are not employed, and children as well.

POM     The houses on the hill?

PM     They always put them at the entrance. All the townships, nice ones are at the entrance, like Chatsworth. You saw those nice houses near Mrs Sithole? But go into the township itself, you will see ghettos. They always put nice ones at the entrance for teachers, lawyers.

PK     Do people live here and work in Durban?

PM     Some of them, yes, they work in Durban. Yes they can.

PK     So they can move in that way?

PM     You can. They commute. They call them commuters. You commute, you cross a border. They call them commuters.

PK     Do they have buses that leave from here every day?

PM     And trains, yes. But you know how much? Then it means if you start work at eight you must leave this place at about five o'clock in the morning because it's so far from Durban and you expose yourself to dangers, traffic accidents all the way coming this way and also travelling expenses. You have to carry all that, it becomes a burden.

L     So here if you're employed your job doesn't pay the cost of your travelling.

PM     No, you pay it yourself.

POM     Does any black who is technically a resident of this township have to be out of Durban by a certain hour in the evening?

PM     Every African, it's a law. Africans are not supposed to be in town at a specific time. Whether it's enforced or it's not but it's a law. Curfew law. It's not very much in force now but it's a law. I know, I have seen cases when I was still a reporter. You find a domestic servant, maybe he was visiting another one at night, then he gets arrested. They don't even ask you any questions, put you in a van, off to the police station. You have to pay a special fine for that.

POM     R20 it would be? Or 20 days?

PM     I don't know if you have noticed something very interesting also about this, especially these lower class houses? Do you see that asbestos on top? And you know what asbestos can do? All of them are just ghettos, they have got asbestos, all of them whether it's in Soweto or in Kwamashu, Umlazi and no-one knows that asbestos is so dangerous, they just put them on.

DG     I as a member of the Missions Institute –

POM     Can I get your name, Father?

DG     Father Dieter Gahlen. I have been called by my superiors to Marionhill to help the people of St Gwendolines who have been struggling for many years already to stay in this area, not to be removed because of the Group Areas Act and we as the missionaries of Marianhill are very much concerned about these people and want to help them and we are trying to do our best to help them and fight a system based on apartheid which brings about the destruction of family life, of community life. All these people who are staying in this area have been staying here for nearly 100 years and we have built up a strong community spirit and we want to preserve this. This seems to be threatened at this moment through the Group Areas Act where they have to move from this area so that other race groups can settle here and this is what my work is all about and I would like to express my solidarity with all those people who contribute to do away with a system based on apartheid which brings about so much suffering in this country. Thank you.

POM     Thank you. Thanks Father.

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