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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

21 Jul 1985: Tutu, Desmond

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DT     Help us strive for a new kind of South Africa, a free, democratic, non-racial South Africa. Freedom is coming and we want you to be amongst those who will celebrate with us.

POM     Did you register this ... today?

DT     Yes. I have not ever done this. The signs, the black power sign, it is not really a black power sign, it is a sign of unity, the clenched fist, the fingers that come together not separated, I have never used it because it was so emotive but I think it must become clear to our people that, fine, many of us in the church are really and truly identifying with them, are in solidarity with them in their struggle, our struggle to be recognised as what we are, human beings created in the image of God.

POM     Do you think if the government doesn't make reforms quickly that violence will increase?

DT     I have no doubt at all. They may be able to restore what they call law and order which I am not impressed about because there is law and order in Russia, there is law and order in Soviet Russia. Law and order is not an absolute, law and order is a means to an end and it is how you get that law and order. Law and order is based on just laws, the rule of law. South Africa long ago abandoned any pretensions to a country that observes the rule of law, which was abrogated long ago. The authorities believe that they can get law and order. They will only get a surface calm, a sullen calm if they can cow the people because there will come a time when the people will say we've had enough, even the world will turn – it's an English expression.

POM     Do you think that time is rapidly coming that people will have had enough?

DT     I think that we are nearly there but I still believe there is an outside chance, there still is an outside chance, one holds on to this belief almost by the skin of one's teeth, I still believe that there is – if the government were to declare that it intends to dismantle apartheid, that it is not placed against speaking about a form where ... the non-essentials of apartheid, the peripheral things – if it were to say so, if it were to ensure that our leaders most of whom are either in jail or in exile were released and permitted to participate in negotiations that the government would call we would still turn the trick. I believe so.

     But what I have no doubt about is that we are going to be free. There is no question about that. No-one is going to stop it ... not hippos and casspirs and teargas and guns and dogs, they won't. We are going to be free. We would like whites to join us because we are sane and we are nice to them, we are saying join the winning side.

POM     Thank you very much. This is Patricia Keefer. Patricia comes from Washington DC and she has a special message that may be of help.

PAT     We do some work with Randall Robinson of TransAfrica.

DT     Our soup is going to be cold. Let's say grace so those who are not participating here can have their soup.

PAT     And we had people put out the first letter that helped us get 8000 people to join this TransAfrica that you signed for us. We would like to do it again, we would like to send another letter perhaps not the same type and a note from you that would go into a package that would just give the people who are willing to give money a sense of their importance to you, the kind of support they're giving to TransAfrica. I don't want to jeopardise, I mean we respect your position and having done this before and that it did cause a little bit of trouble. If you don't think it's appropriate that's fine but Randall and I talked about it and he said he can't converse with you about this kind of thing over the phone.

DT     Well I'm ready and you want me to write a letter?

PAT     If you could just dictate.

DT     Yes. Dear Friends, We are now in a state of emergency in South Africa. You realise that our crisis is a deepening crisis. Nearly 500 people have died since August of last year and therefore we want renewed efforts on the part of the free world to exert pressure on the SA government to dismantle apartheid. But the purpose of this short note, actually inadequate as it may be, is to express a very deep appreciation on behalf of the victims of apartheid for all that you have done in your efforts to assist the Free South Africa Movement and TransAfrica in its sterling efforts to do precisely that and I must say that the things that are happening in America are quite staggering and have had already a signal effect on what is happening here. Don't let anyone kid you and say what you are doing is insignificant. It certainly has bolstered the morale of those opposed to the system and it has undermined the perpetrators of apartheid. Thank you very much.

POM     Finally, I wrote a book on Northern Ireland which I took three or four years doing and I would like to dedicate a copy to you.

DT     Oh it's wonderful. You are magnificent.

     May I ask you a question?

DT     Oh I thought I had already sung for my supper!

     Well you have. But this just struck me as I was watching the service ... the ladies about me. What I was saying is I haven't been able to understand is just how open and friendly ... I don't entirely understand why there isn't more resentment. Have you any experience of that?

DT     I have no theories. It is that our people are peace loving. Even white South Africans, we went to Duduza, that funeral when we got involved in ... not yesterday. When I was with the Bishop of Grahamstown and at the home of (Mrs Bennett?) they were very deeply touched at the warm welcome they received in the townships when they thought that the sight of a white person would be almost inflammatory. I think our people believe, it's very difficult to describe it, there is no English. In our language, in Xhosa we speak of ubuntu and in Sotho they speak of ... It is the quality of being human but it also is the quality of being humane, that ... A human being who is not humane in a sense forfeits their right to be called human. Our people, the ingredients that go into ubuntu are not easy to define but if you think of compassion but also strength, gentleness but also toughness, they all go into this and the kind of dignity that comes from the fact that you are humane, you are human. I think our people don't understand racism. They can't act racially. They may sometimes be tribal but when they see a poor white even the poorest of our people will feel very, very sorry for them. They will say it's not right that they should be so because they say whites don't know how to suffer, that somehow God has given us a capacity to suffer and so poverty is something that we know how to handle, whites don't know how. And so black people feel very, very sorry, but that is true. So when they turn against white people it goes against the grain, it's something that goes against the grain. It must mean that the hurt is so deep and young people when they do that because you see you would have thought that UDF would be a thing that could not possibly survive given the kind of situation we have. It is incredible that – I mean you saw how they lifted Beyers Naude shoulder high and his dignity as an Afrikaner. They don't say his father was the founder of the Broederbond, that he's a member of the Dutch Reform Church. No, he's a human being and he's a human being who is committed to our struggle and therefore he's OK.

POM     I have done so much work in Northern Ireland where no matter how you describe the situation the level of oppression is not remotely similar to what the level of oppression is here and yet the comparative level of political violence is really higher. Why do you think that perhaps might be so?

DT     I believe that in Northern Ireland you still have the possibility there of people having redress through the normal means, parliamentary and otherwise. There is still the rule of law however they may regard, say, the British government. They can't ride roughshod and they still, I think, may be restrained by the fact that those conventions are still observed. We don't have them here. They have, whether they like it or not, they do have the law on their side to the extent that you can't have a blatant disregard of, say, the normal rule of law procedures that obtain. When you go to court you expect that the tradition of your being presumed to be innocent until you are proven guilty will obtain. Due process still exists. Here we don't in fact have due process. There are many instances where the accused has the onus placed on him to prove his innocence and of course, I mean, habeus corpus went out of the window long ago. That is why in fact you are surprised that we should worry about a state of emergency because we have been living in a virtual state of emergency for donkey's years.

     Thank you very much. Call my office and make an appointment. Please.

     This is Father ..., he's really a retired priest. When I was ordained priest he had been around quite a while and he was amongst the ordaining priests so if you have anybody to blame he's one of those.

     How long will we go on? How long will they accept our intervention? Because that boy who had this argument with me, I think illustrates the level of anger because you see in the past they would probably have said, OK, the Bishop has spoken, it's enough. But he said, 'No, we can't just keep accepting anything. Why have you stayed – where are you taking him to? And why do you say it because that man is going to get us into trouble. Let us teach others a lesson.' And so we had that argument and the only thing that eventually got to convince him, I said, 'Do you accept me as your leader?' ... It was in Duduza. It was tough.

     Where is my driver? You are looking after him. Thank you. It would be awful the Bishop without a driver, a hungry driver. Have you been reading the accounts of the reaction of whites to the Irish, calling them activists?

POM     Oh yes. These poor girls. I mean we arrived with them and we were detained for two hours. We had to travel from the United States to Dublin and then from Dublin with them. They got confused as to who we really were. We had already also taken the .... We rang a made a reservation in a hotel and we said, 'Check the hotel, we're just tourists', but they've had us under surveillance since we got here.

DT     It's a paranoia because had they let those girls come in, what would they have done? All they would have done is go round and see the things that we have described and that would have been about all. Now they give them a credibility, they've given them publicity that they would not really have had had they just let them in.

POM     They were feted in the streets of Dublin, crowds turned up at the airport. Hundreds of people have been going to the store and standing outside.

DT     I spoke to Don ... and he said it's just been incredible.

PAT     We got the treatment from everyone that they were to meet and Padraig is taking them back tomorrow.

POM     So we will join them first thing tomorrow morning.

DT     Tremendous.

PAT     Have you seen these girls? They look like they're 13 or 14 years old.

DT     I didn't meet them, no.

PAT     And to be accused of being able to ...

DT     I met them in London at Heathrow, yes. They gave me a wonderful bowl or whatever.

     Now what are you doing? Why are you taping us eating?

POM     I've been taping everybody for the last couple of days. It's a reflex action.

DT     This is Mrs (Ellen) Kuzwayo. they are going to be publishing a book, 'Call me Woman'.

EK     It's being published on Tuesday afternoon. It was published ...

POM     ... I'd like to go around the table, I'd like to do this.

EK     It's been a great pleasure to meet your countryman. We cannot believe it. My love to you always and ever, we missed you because you couldn't come into the country. I am Ellen Kuzwayo with love to all of you. Thank you.

DT     They are talking about a Nobel Laureate, they're not talking about any Tom, Dick and Harry.

     You see they know that there is a thing white South Africans have about me.

EK     But now this about your son. You heard it for the first time? What happened, Bishop?

DT     We don't really know. His wife told us on Friday some people came to his place of employment and said that they were Messengers of the Court and that he had an account of R180 which he had not paid, a medical account, and they were taking him away. Now he has nobody checking on identity ...

EK     It's too dangerous, who those people were.

DT     But he said they were looking all over the place. Yesterday morning they said he was here at Diepkloof Prison. I was going to Cradock. I didn't in fact get to Cradock. When I arrived in PE the people who were supposed to meet me were not there and you know it only now, when I got here, that I discovered – I tried to rent a car. Now there are four car hire firms, all of them, I went to them, all of them said, 'No they are booked out.'

     That's right. It wouldn't strike me at all until I got here.

DT     They must have got instructions, don't give anybody ... because there's nothing in PE that would have made all four of those companies ... Budget, Imperial. I'm very trusting. I'm really very trusting because it was only now that I became suspicious and said that that is a very strange incident that all four, yes, and all big companies. You see I stood there for about two hours and didn't see a run on the cars. If they had been booked out you would have seen a lot of people coming off planes and going - nothing of the sort. Now we'll write their head offices nice little letters to say just know that we will remember this.

PAT     Well we have a row that we're pursuing with British Airways on this whole trip because first of all they sent the girls back but they were still abusive to them, the airline was, they were acting as if they were an agent for the SA government and ... and the way in which they were treated and the way in which – we have quotes from the pilot of the airline when we were detained in London who came over the loudspeaker saying that there were some people who were ... possibly not going to be flying with us. Then there was a little bit of an altercation going on and he didn't want them to fly with us. And this was the pilot at the airport and their baggage was being removed.

     ... and they gave all the information, the reason Patrick and I were detained was because we were on this trip and British Airways had given to the Security Police here so they knew that we had booked with the others which was their justification for keeping us. So ...

POM     It's going to be interesting to see what happens this evening, if they attempt to confiscate our tapes.

     We've sent almost everything out ...

POM     We still have to send out what's here, what we've done here today and a statement from Archbishop Hurley so if I could take a statement from you and take it from Archbishop Hurley that will create more headlines ...

DT     They are crazy. I actually think that they are bent on being so inept, they seem to have gone to college and got themselves degrees. I mean look at what they did with de Jong. They say, Pik Botha, he says it's just a technical whatever it is. But really what does the international law say about it, what's going to happen to de Jong? He'll stay inside for ever ... after some time he will have to be handed over. They might say that an Embassy car even is an extension of the Embassy and take him out in an Embassy car and say that the car has diplomatic immunity.

EK     How do they ... get into the car?

DT     They are always waiting at the door, in the yard. They go round and give it to ... but they may then refuse them access to Jan Smuts. But then you see they can take him out to Botswana in their car ...

     But when he reaches the borders, the border gate?

DT     No.

     Passports?

DT     It's a diplomatic car. These guys have got diplomatic passports.

     Unless they go to Bophuthatswana and then that will be very interesting.

DT     The bantustans might have a use, hey?

     Mr Mangope will hand him over to the South African government.

DT     I don't know. SA may be well advised just to forget it. It's so terrible, they go to Kabinda ...

(I don't know if the next part was recorded at the same time or on a different occasion.)

DT     We could be doing so many more useful things right now. Can you imagine the day apartheid ends? Of course I'm worried about the white people who will be without jobs because you see they will have to close down Co-operation and Development and we will have all those white people who won't have jobs and they will have to close down Bantu Education. Just think of all the Commissioners and all the people who have to – I mean the people who administer the pass laws and influx control. Maybe of course we'll be able to get them to do things that are slightly more productive. They will have to do something productive. They can't sit in an office so that they can put a stamp and toss it out. At their whim a man can be told, no you don't belong here, you've got the wrong stamp in your pass.

X     I saw an article in the paper about the Archbishop of Canterbury sending a Bishop ...

DT     Yes he's sending the Bishop of ...

X     Is he already here?

DT     No he's coming tomorrow.

DT     He was not elected by the majority of the people and it is a repressive government seeking to foist itself on the people and it will not achieve. I've never ... my fist until today.

POM     You never have?

DT     No, but I am angry. I've never done that. It's the very, very first time.

POM     What makes you so angry today?

L     Was it the state of emergency?

DT     Well I mean, yes, they are just silly by talking, let's do the thing, you say I've got to ...

POM     Three very quick things. One I'd like you to make a statement to Mary Manning and the girls who are denied entry and we will take it to them tomorrow morning. Secondly, to deliver a message to the people of Ireland.

DT     Right.

     My dear friends, Mary and your colleagues, you are just superb people and I want to commend you very, very warmly. I am sorry that I was not around to welcome you when you became the guests of the state rather than our guests. You are just magnificent. I said long ago that you really help us recover our faith in human nature. For in a real sense there is no reason whatsoever why you should be doing the kind of things that you and your colleagues have done for nearly a year and I believe you have said that if need be you are prepared to go on for another year.

     On behalf of the victims of the most vicious system since nazism and communism, thank you very much. It seems such limp and inadequate words but do know that they come from the heart and especially at this sombre time in the life of our country when a state of emergency has been imposed or declared. We want to thank you for reminding us that we belong to one family, the human family, God's family.

     God bless you and strengthen you.

POM     Would you give a message to the Irish people in general?

DT     Yes.

     Dear people of the Emerald Isle, you are committed to the struggle for justice and peace in many parts of the world in your own country. We ask you – help us, help us to change an evil and a vicious system so that all of us in SA, black and white, will be able to live amicably together as God intends us to, where each one of us, black and white, will know that we matter enormously because we are created in the image of God. Help us before it is too late.

     As you can see violence is escalating in our country and we hope that you can help us to break this spiral of violence so that we too, black and white, in SA can walk tall, hand in hand as we stride forth into the new kind of SA, a truly democratic, non-racial SA. Freedom is coming and we want you to be amongst those who will celebrate with us.

POM     You said you raised your fist for the first time ever today.

DT     Yes. I have not ever done this. The sign, sometimes they call it the black power sign, it is not really black power sign, it is a sign of unity, the clenched fist, the fingers that have come together, not separated. I have never used it because it was so emotive. But I think that it must become clear to our people that I and many of us in the church are really and truly identified with them, are in solidarity with them in their struggle, in our struggle to be recognised as what we are, human beings created in the image of God.

POM     Do you think that if the government does not make meaningful reforms quickly that violence will increase?

DT     I think there is no doubt at all. They may be able to restore what they call law and order, which I am not impressed about because there is law and order in Russia, there is law and order in so many parts. Law and order is not an absolute. Law and order is a means to an end and it is how you get that law and order. Law and order is based on just laws, on the rule of law. SA long ago abandoned any pretensions to being a country that observes the rule of law which was abrogated long ago. The authorities believe that they can get law and order. They will only get a surface calm, it will be sullen calm if they can cow the people because there will come a time when people say – we've had enough. Even the worm will turn, is the English expression.

POM     Do you think that time is rapidly coming when the people will say – we have had enough?

DT     I think that we are nearly there. But I still believe there is an outside chance. There still is an outside chance. One holds on to this belief almost by the skin of one's teeth. But I still believe that there is an outside chance. If the government were to declare that it intends to dismantle apartheid, that it is not playing semantic games, speaking about reform where it is merely tinkering with the non-essentials of apartheid, peripheral things. If it were to say so and if it were to ensure that our leaders, most of whom are either in jail or in exile, were released and permitted to participate in the negotiations that the government would call, we would still turn the trick. I believe so.

     But what I have no doubt about is that we are going to be free. There is no question about that. No-one is going to stop it, not Hippos and Casspirs and teargas and guns and dogs, they won't. We are going to be free. We would like whites to join us because we are saying they've already lost and we are nice to them, we are saying – join the winning side.

POM     Thank you very much.

DT     Now our soup is going to be cold. Let's say grace so that those who are not participating here can have their soup.

PK     We are the people who put out the first letter that helped us get 8000 people to join Trans Africa, they signed for us. We'd like to do it again, we'd like to send another letter, perhaps not the same type, and a note from you that would go into a package that would just give the people who have already contributed money a sense of their importance to you, the kind of support that they're giving to Trans Africa. I don't want to jeopardise – I mean we're sensitive to your position and having done this before and that it did cause a little bit of trouble. If you don't think it's appropriate that's fine but Randall and I talked about it, he said he can't converse with you about this kind of thing over the phone.

DT     Well I am ready and you want me to write a letter?

PK     You can just dictate one.

DT     Well yes.

     Dear Friends, We are now in a state of emergency in SA. You realise that our crisis is a deepening crisis. Nearly 500 people have died since August of last year and therefore we want renewed efforts on the part of the free world to exert pressure on the SA government to dismantle apartheid.

     But the purpose of this short note, utterly inadequate as it may, is to express a very deep appreciation on behalf of the victims of apartheid for all that you have done in your efforts to assist the Free South Africa Movement and Trans Africa in its sterling efforts to do precisely that.

     I must say that the things that are happening in America are quite staggering and have had already a signal effect on what is happening here. Don't let anyone kid you and say what you are doing is insignificant. It certainly has bolstered the morale of those opposed to the system and it has undermined the morals of the perpetrators of apartheid.

     Thank you very much.

PK     Thank you.

POM     Finally, I wrote a book on Northern Ireland which I spent three or four years doing and I'd like to dedicate a copy to you.

DT     Oh isn't that wonderful. You are magnificent.

X     May I ask you a question too?

DT     Oh I thought I had already sung for my supper.

X     Oh well you have. This is something that has just struck me as I was watching the service and chatting to the ladies about me. One of the things I haven't been able to understand since I've been here is just how open and friendly the blacks are to me who, after all, is white. I don't entirely understand why there isn't more resentment. Do you have any theories on that?

DT     I have no theories. It is that our people are peace loving. And I say they are peace loving to a fault. Even white South Africans, we went to Duduza for that funeral when we got involved in this other guy – we say that one, not yesterday's ghastly thing, and I was with the Bishop of Grahamstown and Mr Bennett. They were very deeply touched at the warmth of the welcome they received in the townships when they thought that the sight of a white person would be almost inflammatory.

     I mean I think our people believe, it's very difficult to describe it, there is no equivalent in English. In our language, in Xhosa we speak of ubuntu and in Sotho they will speak of guthu(? spelling). It is the quality of being human but it also is the quality of being humane, that a human being who is not humane in a sense forfeits their right to be called human. Our people, the ingredients that go into ubuntu are not easy to define. If you think of compassion but also strength, gentleness but also toughness, they all go into this and the kind of dignity that comes from the fact that you are humane and you are human.

     I think our people don't understand racism. They can't act racially. They may sometimes be tribal but when they see poor whites, even the poorest of our people feel very, very sorry for them. They say it's not right that they should be so, because they say whites don't know how to suffer and that somehow God has given us a capacity to suffer and so poverty is something that we know how to handle. Whites don't know how and so black people feel very, very sorry for them.

     But that is true and so when they turn against white people it goes against the grain, it is something that goes against the grain. It must mean that the hurt is so deep and where young people, when they do that. Because you see you would have thought that UDF would be a thing that could not possibly survive given the kind of situation we have. But it is incredible – you saw how they lifted Beyers Naude shoulder high and didn't say he's an Afrikaner, they didn't say his father was a founder of the Broederbond, that he's a member of the Dutch Reform Church. No he's a human being and he's a human being who is committed to our struggle, therefore he's OK.

     ... they didn't say his father was a founder of the Broederbond, that he's a member of the Dutch Reform Church. No he's a human being and he's a human being who is committed to our struggle, therefore he's OK.

POM     I don't want to interrupt your soup again. I have done so much work in Northern Ireland where no matter how you would describe the situation, the level of oppression is not remotely similar to what the level of oppression is here yet the comparative level of political violence is really higher. Why do you think that perhaps might be so?

DT     I believe that in Northern Ireland you still have the possibility there of people having redress through the normal means, parliamentary and otherwise. There is still the rule of law however they may regard, say, the British government. They can't just ride roughshod and they still, I think, may be restrained by the fact that those conventions are still observed. We don't have them here. You see they have, whether they like it or not, they do have the law on their side to the extent that you can't have a blatant disregard of, say, the normal rule of law procedures that obtain. I mean, when you go to court you expect that the tradition of your being presumed to be innocent until you're proven guilty will obtain. I mean due process still exists.

     Here we don't in fact have due process. There are many instances where the accused has the onus placed on him to prove his innocence. And, of course, I mean habeas corpus went out of the window long ago. That is why in fact we were surprised that they should worry about a state of emergency because we have been living in a virtual state of emergency for donkey's years.

     Thank you very much.

PK     Thank you.

POM     Thank you.

DT     Well we are supported by so many ...

     OK then, look, call my office and make an appointment please. This if Father Hlahla(?), he is really a retired priest. When I was ordained priest he had been around quite a while and he was amongst the ordaining priests so if you have anybody to blame he's one of those.

FR     You can thank me for it. ...

DT     Marika, how long would we go on? How long will they accept our intervention? Because you know that boy who had this argument with me, I think illustrates the level of anger because you see in the past they would probably have said, OK, the Bishop has spoken, it's enough. But he said, 'No, we can't just keep accepting anything. Why have you saved that man? Where are you taking him to? Why do you save him because that man is going to get us into trouble? Let us teach others a lesson.' So we had that argument. Then the only thing that eventually got to convince him, I said, 'Do you accept me as your leader?' It was in Duduza. It was tough.

     Where is my driver? You are looking after him? Thank you. It would be awful, the Bishop without a driver, or a hungry driver.

     Have you been reading the accounts of the reaction of whites to the Irish?

POM     Yes.

DT     Calling them activists.

POM     These poor girls. We arrived with them and we were detained for 2 hours but since we had from the US to Dublin, then from Dublin with them, they got confused as to who was who, who we really were. So we had already also taken the – from London we were detained. We rang and made a reservation in a hotel and at the hotel we said we're just tourists.

DT     So they allowed you in.

POM     But they've had us under surveillance for – since we got here.

DT     It's a paranoia because had they let those girls come in what would they have done? What they would have done is go round and see the things that we had described and that would have been about all. Now they go and give them a credibility, they've given them publicity they would not really have had if they had just let them in.

X     It puts far more pressure on the Irish government to take action than would ever have been ...

POM     They were treated as ... in Dublin, crowds turned up at the airport to greet them. Hundreds of people have been going down to the store and standing outside.

DT     I spoke to Don Mullin and he said it's just been incredible.

PK     Well we've got statements from everyone that was to meet them and Padraig is taking them back tomorrow.

POM     So we will join them first thing tomorrow morning.

DT     Tremendous.

PK     But if you'd seen these girls, they look like they're 13 or 14 years old.

DT     I didn't meet them, no.

PK     And to be accused of being able to overthrow ...

DT     I met them in London at Heathrow, yes. They gave me a wonderful bowl or whatever.

     Now what are you doing? Why are you taping us eating?

POM     Oh, OK. I've been taping everybody for the last couple of days, it's a reflex action.

DT     Mrs Kuzwayo – they are going to be publishing a book Call Me Woman.

EK     It's being published on Tuesday. It was published in London ... translated into Dutch.

POM     Why don't you send the girls, the strikers, a message too? Say who you are and that will go on the list of all the people, then we will go round the table. I'd like to do them to do the same.

EK     Mary, it's been a great pleasure to meet your countryman. You cannot believe it. My love to you always and ever. We missed you because you couldn't come into the country. Keep well. I am Ellen Kuzwayo, with love to all of you.

POM     Our connection with the strikers was that we've done a lot of work in Northern Ireland and Don Mullin came to us about 6 months ago and he told us about the trip here and asked us could we help them raise the money to get here. So we were able to do that in the US and do other things. Bishop, the only reason we got in was that we travelled first of all from Boston and Washington to Dublin, joined them in Dublin, then went to London and when we were being detained at Heathrow first of all and ... something was going on, Louise rang ahead to Johannesburg and it was a hotel reservation. The two of us, since we've Irish passports, were detained along with them. Patricia wasn't, she was let off because she has a US passport.

DT     And they thought you would have no connections with it.

PK     No, I'm the one who's taking all the tapes back.

POM     We've be sending off the tapes we have done out of the country by courier every day but these ones we will have to take by other means. Very complicated.

DT     I don't know whether you saw the two Afrikaans newspapers. One of them had a front page headline story, their main story was that I had found R600 000 which I used on these children to bring them here. They didn't have the decency of checking because they wrote as if it were a fact, undisputed fact. They were saying where – they were not saying did he get it or not. They said where did he get the money? R600 000. So I am suing them.

PK     Are you really?

DT     I'm going to sue them, yes. They are talking about a Nobel Laureate, they're not just talking about any Tom, Dick and Harry. No I think they've got to be taught a lesson. I'm suing them for half a million. But they are crazy. You see they know that there is a thing white South Africans have about me – ha-ha! And so they were trying to ...

X     Now this about your son, is this the first time? What happened there?

DT     We don't really know. His wife told us on Friday evening already some people came to his place of employment and said that they were Messengers of the Court and that he had an account of R180 which he had not paid, a medical account, and they were taking him away. Now it appears nobody shared their identities or anything.

X     Credentials who those people were.

DT     So he's been looking all over the place. Then yesterday morning she said they said he was in Diepkloof Prison. Well I was going to Cradock, I didn't in fact get to Cradock. When I arrived in PE the people who were supposed to meet me were not there and you know it's only now when I got here that I discovered – I tried to rent a car. Now there are four car hire firms, all of them, I went to them, all of them said no, they are booked out.

X     That's right.

DT     And it didn't strike me at all until I got here. I said, ah, they must have got instructions – don't give anybody, well anybody who wants to go to the funeral or anybody you think is going to the funeral, because there's nothing in PE that would have made all four of those companies, Avis, Hertz, Budget, Imperial. It's only when I got – I'm naïve you know. I am very trusting. I am really very trusting because it was only now that I became suspicious and said – now that is a very strange coincidence that all four, yes.

X     And all big companies.

DT     Yes and you see I stood there for about two hours and didn't see a run on the cars. If they had been booked out you'd have seen maybe a lot of people coming off planes and going, nothing of the sort. So I'm going to write their head offices nice little letters and say just know that we will remember this.

PK     Well we have a row that we're pursuing with British Airways on this whole trip because first of all they sent the girls back but they were so abusive to them, the airline was. They were acting as if they were agents for the SA government and one did again here. The way in which they were treated and the way in which they – we had quotes from the pilot of the airlines when we were detained in London who came over the loudspeaker saying that there were some people who were potentially possibly not going to be flying with us. Then there was a little bit of an altercation going on and he didn't want them to fly with us. This is the pilot of the airplane.

X     And they, again, gave all the information. The reason Patrick and I were detained was because we were on this booking that British Airways had given to the Security Police here so they knew that we had in fact booked with the others which was their justification for keeping us. So the role of BA was all very suspect.

POM     It's going to be interesting to see what happens this evening, whether they attempt to confiscate all our tapes.

X     We've sent almost everything out.

POM     The only things we haven't sent out is what we've done here today and a statement from Archbishop Hurley. I want to take a statement from you and a statement from Archbishop Hurley, that will create more headlines in Ireland, let me tell you!

DT     But they are crazy. I mean, you know, you'd actually think that they are bent on being so inept. They seem to have gone to college and got themselves degrees. Look at what they did with de Jongh. They say, Pik Botha he really – I don't know, he says it's just a technical whatever.

EK     But really what does the international law say about this. What's going to happen to de Jongh?

DT     He will stay inside.

EK     For ever?

X     After some time he will have to handed over.

DT     No I don't know. They might say that an Embassy car is an extension of the Embassy. I mean take him out in an Embassy car and say that the car has diplomatic immunity.

X     How do they expect him to return? They are always waiting at the door.

DT     I mean the yard is their yard.

X     The grounds.

DT     They will go round and give it – if they want to. But they may then refuse them access to Jan Smuts. No, but then you see they can take him out to Botswana.

X     How? Smuggle him out?

DT     No he will be in their car.

X     But when they reach the border, only one person having to come out.

X     Passports?

DT     It's a diplomatic car. These guys have got diplomatic passports.

X     Unless they go to Bophuthatswana and then that would be very interesting.

DT     So the bantustans might have a use, hey?

X     Mr Mangope will hand him over to the SA government.

EK     Then let's see him do it.

DT     I don't know. I mean SA may be well advised just to forget it. But they've been so arrogant. I mean they go to Cabinda, they go to Botswana and they behave like they were doing one of the most wonderful things. They were taking food to Gaborone or something. I mean they behaved that way.

L     Were you surprised at all by this declaration of the state of emergency last night?

DT     I'm not surprised but what I am surprised about is why they should bother because as I was saying, the government have got enough power. They can detain, they've been doing so, they've been detaining people. Tom Ntatha(?) who is one of the 22 appearing in this treason trial was taken in February and he appeared in court the first time in June. During that whole time from February to June they didn't interrogate him even for one minute, whereas they say the purpose of the law is in order that they can investigate properly without any hindrance until you give satisfactory answers. But Tom they have not – I don't know how many of those they have in fact interrogated but Tom has not been interrogated.

EK     ... They can't touch you and they touch somebody that they knew ... and I wonder if it's not the same thing about your son too. I think they just can't touch you and they are going to come as near as they can to hurt you.

DT     Well we are going to try and create a stink about Tom because he went to Sebokeng, the Vaal Triangle, because I sent him. I said, 'Tom, just go and see what is happening over there so that we can know how we might help.' And on one occasion I actually took him out of a retreat, a staff retreat, so that he could go and help us.

POM     There's been a history here, from the reading that I've done, that whenever there appears to be any threat of dissension against the government they crack down with not only excessive ... but an enormous amount, that in the past ...

DT     Have you had enough?

POM     Oh yes.

L     Thank you, it was terrific.

DT     I've not told his mother. I spoke to her last night. I was just on the verge of telling her, she was telephoning from Cradock and I thought he might be back but this morning I went to his house and his wife has gone to look for him. This is my son. Somebody picked up, some people picked him up and said he hadn't paid an account. It's a very strange thing that for an account they should want to detain him but they took him away from his job at nine on Friday and he's not yet been traced.

POM     Has anybody heard from him?

DT     No. His wife hasn't, his colleagues haven't.

POM     No-one knows where he's being held either?

DT     They won't say. She's tried and this was before the emergency was declared.

L     So you're not entitled to find out where he's being held or anything?

DT     Oh I'm going to try because it was before the emergency but then there are the people in the Eastern Cape who have disappeared and nobody knows what's happened to them.

EK     You are on that list and he could easily be. You could easily be replacing for the list on which you were placed.

PK     Has be been taken before?

DT     Well he's been arrested because they get annoyed with him. He was stopped at a road block on one occasion and they asked him to open the boot of his car, what you call a trunk, and he did but then I think they dumped some of his clothes on the ground and he – oh no, when they said open it, he said, 'I'm not going to do so until you say please.' They got very annoyed with him. They were already angry with him. They took him in and we got him out.

     The second time he was arrested for alleged drunken driving and they took him in on a Friday and we tried to get bail for him and they said, no, the alleged crime is too serious and he must stay and appear in court on Monday. So they took him on the Friday. Then on Monday we got a lawyer and the lawyer goes into the prosecutor and he said, 'I'd like to see the charge sheet.'

X     They are still here. Now they came into the yards to find out if people have left already, they're still in the house. Maybe sooner or later they will be coming to search my house.

DT     Are they here?

X     They've been going round in circles. They were in the yard ... what's going on.

DT     They are really crazy.

PK     Don't they go in cars?

DT     So this man goes and says, 'Where is the charge sheet?' And he says, 'I'd like to see the District Surgeon's report on the alcohol content in his blood.' And they said, 'No, we haven't got it.' He said, 'How are you going to charge him for drunken driving?'

     He is going to a party with some of these children who were confirmed, their parents are throwing parties and so he's going to bless the food.

     The police are taking away all the people who may be able to persuade people not to get angry and not to hate. And the believe their own lies you see. They've been telling so many lies about me that they've come to believe them. You do know, I think it was first told of Jesse Jackson but somebody told it using me instead of Jesse Jackson, he said I was boating with PW on Wemmerpan, which is a little lake in Johannesburg, and his hat fell off. I got out of the boat and walked on the water to retrieve the hat and I got back into the boat and gave ...

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.