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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

19 Jul 1985: Xundu, MO

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POM     I know you're very rushed. You live in a township overlooking these two huge hostels, it's a township where there's been unrest and you appear to me to be extraordinarily frustrated with every form of the authorities around. It comes back to this question which I keep asking but have not yet got an answer to, an answer that I can understand, and it is again, why with this massive level of oppression has there not been a far more, stronger degree of violence?

MOX     Most of the people come from rural areas. Take the hostel community alone it is all rural. They are here temporarily on a contract for a year and by the time they look for work they are so desperate that they are able to withstand anything. OK, there was a time when there were less stringent laws and the rural people were mobilised like during the time of the ANC when they were focusing on stock limitation, there was a level of conscientisation and there were also no stringent rules about holding meetings even in the rural areas. But the system has become harsher in that you have to have permits. Apart from that the interpretation of the Bantu Authorities Act which enabled Matanzima to run a government by himself and Sebe and so forth, the thing about that it has caused more hunger and more desperation because the wealth of the Transkei is held by nine, ten percent. The rest of the people are not earning anything. They can only earn their livelihood by coming through the ... they are labour reservoirs as it were. And for the time they do that they are so desperate. When they get here it takes a lot for that guy to join a union and easily work in a situation in which he is going to get better quality of life for himself.

POM     Do you see the younger generation who are getting better educated looking at their parents and saying you should have fought more, that you have been too passive, that force is the only way to deal with a regime that concedes nothing?

MOX     I see that as a possibility. For instance the only sign of rejecting the system in the Transkei was the university students when they started mobilising one another in the Transkei university and expressing a degree of saying to hell with the system. And for the first time ever you had people within the Transkei who were saying this but the younger people definitely will take greater risks. What they have done in the Transkei is they have loaded the so-called ruling class, the public government servants, but the government servants have so much to protect, the police are so well paid, but now they say these people want to take away our livelihood, make sure that this state continues. The army is strong but you need to have a tremendous in-surge, you want to say that the younger people in the Transkei are much, much readier now to and they read a lot of progressive literature than the older people. If there is a revolution in the Transkei it will come because of the universities, in the Ciskei particularly because the Ciskei fortunately is more unionised, the Bizana area.

POM     You were saying, in the Ciskei?

MOX     In the Ciskei for example, in the Bizana area which has a long history, East London area has a long history of the union and therefore the people are able to resist there by using forms like boycotting buses and so forth. There was a strong resistance, in fact there is a strong resistance in that area because of the exposure of the people to any industrial area as a whole together with their families. The difference is that in the Transkei the people who are in the hostels come here as individuals, the people who come from the Transkei in Zululand come here as individuals.

POM     As individuals, right, yes.

MOX     Therefore they get stuck in the hostel institution and they say, Look, I have come here because I'm already owing so much tax, I'm in arrears with my tax, I'm in arrears with that. My kids aren't going to school. Therefore if I get a job I will stick to it whatever.

POM     When you're dealing in your own community do you find it more difficult to get across to younger people that non-violence is the way forward? Do they buy the message of Christianity as people did, say, ten or fifteen years ago?

MOX     They don't. Quite frankly they don't. Quite frankly they want to show by forceful and violent means that they have a claim to a just government and quite frankly the signs are clear in that direction. They will even resist the police, they will fight with the police. In fact the thing which diverts our attention is Inkatha because the people are ready to face up to the system.

POM     They are ready to face up to it?

MOX     To the system, yes. Inkatha is an obstacle in that once you have a confrontation with the system Inkatha comes in, the Inkatha movement.

POM     The Inkatha movement, that is Buthelezi's movement? Yes, OK.

MOX     Comes in and obstructs the people from their demands.

POM     Do you see that as being a counterproductive movement?

MOX     Very counterproductive.

POM     So Chief Buthelezi, he has not accepted independence for KwaZulu, right? He hasn't accepted it?

MOX     No.

POM     But at the same time you see his party as being it's the largest organised party?

MOX     I think he's compromised by the fact that he is working within the system and therefore can't go very far in opposing that system. For instance, he's also part of the economy in that he owns, or an extension of his government owns bakeries, owns transport. But when people want to strike against these it is said that they are not being loyal to him or to the nation. Whereas if he had not been in that thing he would, together with the people, be fighting for ...

POM     So that even though he has not yet accepted independence as such he still runs things entirely?

MOX     That's right.

POM     So he has his own police force?

MOX     Police force, his own education programme.

POM     His own education programme?

MOX     His own health services.

POM     And they're all run by his own people?

MOX     When people complain about pensions, for instance, ordinary pensions, now those people are clobbered because Buthelezi says they are attacking our government. It's no longer ... but you should have left those things to be done by the Botha government of SA. When he is paying bad pensions people are saying it is Buthelezi that's being bad and yet it's prescribed by Pretoria. But now he's caught in a fire and because he's caught in a fire he fights desperately with anybody who attempts to say that the government is wrong and therefore uses the muscle of the Inkatha members to threaten violently those people.

POM     In what direction do you see young people moving? Again, within your own community how do you channel their energies away from their desire to be more confrontational or is it necessary to become more confrontational? I suppose that's my question. If the system is so corrupt has it reached the point where it cannot be reformed from within, that you cannot dismantle fascism bit by bit, you must drive a stake through its heart?

MOX     Yes I agree but the point here is that you're going to calculate the weaknesses and say if we did that how much are we going to lose and gain in terms of human life? What we have done in Lamontville so far is to mobilise old people if they are suffering by young people, they understand why, because you get a problem when there's polarisation between the old and the young. What we have attempted to do is to bridge the difference and we have meetings which are mainly chaired by young people deliberately, a young person, a young student chairs a meeting and learns to listen to the different points of view and co-ordinate them. This way we enable old people to appreciate in front of the young people and, OK, we make attempts to say, Old people, let's move together, let's go and see what has happened today together, together, and see how good it's going to be. Look, you see how old he is? Are you saying therefore that there is still room for negotiation? They themselves begin to accept that the alternative is going to be confrontation. We are lucky in Lamontville that we are relatively a small township compared with sprawling Johannesburg. Sometimes Lamontville does get out of order, sometimes leadership completely does not know what is happening. Even youth leadership, sometimes the events there overtake them so much that they do not know what is taking place. But fortunately we are a relatively small township and as such degrees of control are measurable.

POM     How do the authorities regard you? You mentioned that they came in during the upheavals looking for you.

MOX     They think that in fact I am the pawn of the ANC. They have said so, I'm the pawn of the ANC. Same as Chief Buthelezi has said and when Chief Buthelezi says that I am the pawn of the ANC, a black who is running a state, he's inciting Pretoria to focus on me so that they are able to obstruct me or ban me or deport me. Whenever he speaks he will speak criticising ANC.

POM     Whenever who speaks?

MOX     Buthelezi.

POM     He always criticises the ANC.

MOX     But insofar as the system itself, the white authorities, they think that we are the greatest obstructing group. They think that we are communist inspired. They think that we are non-Christian in fact. But they have learnt to live with us because they realise that if some of us are not in the scene there will be a bloodbath. There would be more bloodbath if some of us were not in the scene.

POM     In the ANC?

MOX     No, if some of us were not in the township, if they would eliminate some of us they realise that there would be more bloodbath because at least we still communicate, at least we still talk to them too. When there are police in the township we still go and say, Gentlemen, why don't you move the police out? Then they have to make terms and we say, We're not taking terms. But about education also we still talk to them about education problems.

POM     OK. Thank you very much for coming back.

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.