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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
30 Jul 1990: Gqozo, Oupa
POM July 30th and I'm talking with Brigadier Gqozo. Let me start first by you perhaps briefly recapitulating why the coup was necessary and what you're trying to do as head of state in the Ciskei that's different from the previous president.
OG We thought that the coup was necessary at the time we pulled that operation because we were observing the total chaos according to our military assessment and projection of the future. We realised that within a month or so we would have almost everything up in flames. I'll tell you why. Because within the last six months or more prior to the coup date we realised that anarchy was becoming more and more in Ciskei between the people, the residence, the Ciskei population especially when it started taking much ground in the rural areas where people were traditionally the most obedient and the most humble. We realised that as soon as this gets into the urban areas where people were more enlightened and more prone to be dissatisfied with the authoritarian rule, that inside there was brewing and insensitivity to people's problems and people's needs and people's requests for a better life, a better standard of living, better consideration of their problems rather than just be imposed upon by a government.
POM Now under President Sebe this was in effect a one party state?
POM So it was not really a democratic state?
POM Have there ever been elections held for a National Assembly where a number of political parties competed for those seats?
OG No, no there was never. He was actually a life president. He was president for life.
POM And were members of the National Assembly elected or were they chosen by him?
OG No, they were all chosen by him. Even the members of parliament were chosen by him. And the headmen and the chiefs were actually at his mercy or at his pleasure because he would change you from your natural chieftainship if you didn't toe the line and he would just place somebody who was completely not a chief and just make him a chief and frustrate you plus your followers to such an extent that, there were a lot of such frustrated people in Ciskei that violence was increasing daily. People were looking at everybody that is a government servant as an oppressor because all government servants had to do what Sebe wanted. If Sebe didn't like you, no one would talk to you. So it was such that now everybody in the government service had lost his own conscience because if it he didn't then you were suspected of just a little bit of dissatisfaction, you would be followed by the elite squad that was run by his son and your house would be bombed or you would be framed for this or another. There was a lot of insecurity.
POM What are your plans? Do you see yourself as kind of an interim head of state who is going to have elections at some future stage or what do you see your own role now as head of state?
OG The Ciskei has been so much subjected to chaotic management that for the last fourteen to fifteen years Ciskei has really been mismanaged and there is quite a lot that should be done in Ciskei. I don't suppose what we did we did only to abandon half way. My plan and my Council's plan is to get Ciskei where we think that it is reasonably liveable, we've got the level of the people's lives and developments to an extent that we can easily say tomorrow, when we have an election everybody will be responsible enough not to grab and resort back to the era.
POM But are you encouraging the formation of political associations?
POM Are you allowing people to form political groups?
OG Immediately I took over I expressed the appeal to all the political groups in Ciskei to operate openly. No more night meetings, surreptitious meetings and so on. They should all open up and develop. And the people who profess to be the leaders, political or community leaders should do everything in their power to educate our people in the political structures.
POM I don't know how to quite frame this question, you are the head of state of a country that is recognised by only one country in the world, the country that created the state?
OG That's right.
POM So this sets you aside in a sense from other heads of state in other countries who don't recognise the legitimacy of the Ciskei as an independent country. Do you see the Ciskei as a fully autonomous independent state or do you see it as a creation of the South African state that would be brought into a new relationship with the new South Africa that is hopefully beginning to emerge?
OG It is completely not a truly independent state. What we are doing now we are trying to pull it up from nothing. In actual fact it was degenerated over the years of federal rule into a real puppet of a government of South Africa in that everything that was done was not done to uplift the people and restore self dignity and self, you know, creativity to the people. We are trying to restore some pride in the people, self confidence and some dignity. We are trying to let people think that they are not Bantustan subjects, they are open to think the way they want to think. So in that sense we cannot classify ourselves as independent because you can't have political independence without economic independence. So what we are hoping is that the new South Africa will actually come up with a dispensation that will make whatever, in actual fact whatever will come will be better than what it is now as long as we have equal distribution of wealth which is the only thing that makes us unviable at this stage. We've got to beg for everything that we have. And if Pretoria, Big Brother, feels that we are not, you are about to get a very powerful ally or friend or contact overseas, he definitely makes sure.
POM Turn off the money.
OG> All your problems, all your efforts.
POM Of the total amount of public expenditure, what proportion would you say roughly comes from Pretoria?
OG It is about, we are generating out of our own sources about 30% or 40% of the total budget.
POM What do you rely on most for raising revenue yourself?
OG It is not much, we have agricultural export, pineapples and things like that. We have labour, our own people working outside to get some taxes and some customs. And of course we have things like selling of land to farmers and to people in townships. We have police revenue, traffic police and very little, we haven't got any ...
POM Do you have a sales tax of any description?
OG Yes, we have sales tax. We have the normal sales tax. But we have just given an exemption to Bisho town because of the fact that Bisho is at the very awkward state, situated very awkwardly, so no-one gets from King William's Town and comes to Bisho, and there's all these shops, there's more merchandise in King William's Town, just to ride a bus here and come to Bisho. Bisho was dead, was becoming dead, dead, it was becoming a ghost town.
POM When you think of yourself and when the people of the Ciskei think of themselves, what is their primary identity? Do you, for example, think of yourself as a South African first, then a Ciskeian or do you belong to a particular tribe the Xhosa, which do you see yourself as being first? For example, if you asked an Englishman who he was he wouldn't say I'm British, he'd say I'm English.
OG We cannot run away from it. People have got their own national pride. We are Xhosas and the whole Eastern Cape is dominated by Xhosas. We are Xhosas in the Eastern Cape and because of these migratory system and labour laws most of our people didn't have job opportunities here so they landed us in all the metropolitan cities, like Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth (PE), but PE is still, it's in a border region, it's still Xhosa territory, up to Cape Town until here. But it is really natural that we should be proud of this region, Xhosa region. And it is in that light that we feel that in whatever new dispensation, we feel that Xhosas will always have an identity as Xhosas but we don't want it to be enforced separatism. People should feel we are in this region, we are Xhosas, the Zulus are in Natal, but we shouldn't be forced that this one should be a homeland for Zulus, and it has separate infrastructures and amenities for Zulus. That's making us little pigeons to experiment, that's an ideology. So that is what the whole struggle is all about, you know. It is not that really people say people don't recognise their separate entities or their images or identities.
POM De Klerk's initiatives on the second of February, the release of Nelson Mandela, the unbanning of the ANC, the SACP, what impact has those developments had on you on the Ciskei?
OG They had a tremendous impact in Ciskei because that is the same reason that contributed towards the climax of events which led to the coup. Those people were for a long time not allowed to express their political views openly in this government. As soon as the South African government unbanned the ANC and released Mandela everybody said, look it is only in Ciskei where people are not free. We are supposed to be more free here. It is supposed to be an independent free state. But the whites have freed all our black brothers in South Africa, what the heck, and then it was complete chaos. And of course even the forces were becoming more and more intolerable of the situation and more and more disgruntled about having to suppress their fellow people for nothing. There was absolutely no reason that he should always go and sjambok people, check at people having their meetings and so on. So that really made a big impact on the Ciskei's quiet and passive sort of existence. That helped a lot to develop a spirit of fighting in Ciskei. And that made us feel also that we are liberating the people from actually mental or psychological bondage if we do this. That's why we, we didn't plan to do it because we wanted to be leaders. We just had to do something about the situation, otherwise no-one else would.
So the release of Nelson Mandela also gave a lot of people hope in this region because we are very proud of him, to us he is a real sort of messiah, a man that actually sacrificed a lot of his life and a lot of courage and bravery in that during those times of Mandela he could have been killed and no-one would have even raised an eyebrow. But one should really commend that man. And we felt that if he is out, perhaps really something now is going to move towards the destroying of apartheid and the Ciskei shouldn't be left behind in the mainstream of political black aspirations.
POM Do you see yourself and this country as being part of that process of change? And how do you see, well two questions, one, how do you think the negotiations between De Klerk and Mandela or the ANC and the government, how do you think they will unfold? And at what time do you think that you become part of that process or how do you see yourself becoming part of that process, that negotiating process?
OG I believe that the talks will depend entirely on the two main players, Mandela and De Klerk because we cannot really foresee what they will agree and not agree on because they've got their own constituencies who say don't agree on this, don't agree on that. So to ask, it's a little bit uncertain what and how long they can be but we feel that in many ways more than one we can really contribute to that process. In actually fact we don't need to be told by FW or Mandela what we want, we know what we want. I feel that we are in unison in our mind about what we want.
POM Which is?
OG Which is to have a free society. To have a non-racial society. To have a democratic society. To have equal distribution of wealth. And what I feel is we are already contributing towards this because we have set out local government structures that make the people actually already practice a democratic sort of ...
POM Are these the residents' associations?
POM Could you tell us how those work? There are local elections. Are people chosen or are there elections?
OG Now I'll tell you, we are just starting. After the coup I said all the old structures should be disbanded immediately. ENIP was the only political party. But I said that the headman, the concept of tribal authority should be disbanded. The chairman of the residents' association should succeed what we used to call a headman in a village. And then the headman had counsellors who were now reporting to their chief. But we have made the chief an honorary figure, a sort of a honorary head in the village, in the structure. The chairman should have his committee members, treasurer and secretary and all that. They should be elected democratically. We are working on an Act that will actually give them power to use their initiative and decide for themselves what they should do about the funds generated from that village. Funds will be generated through ways of taxes, tax about this and that in the village, and then they would also sell the land, which used to be communal land. It will be sold now and then we are easing or changing legislation that make it possible to bond the properties on those lands because they will be surveyed.
POM So you're introducing a whole system ...
OG It's a complete local government.
POM A local government system that in a way is meant to replace in time the tribal hierarchy of authority.
OG Yes, that's right. We have completely disbanded it. And at the moment it is a new system even to the ANC because they didn't work it that way. There's always been a sort of a loosely knit something, a committee, but we're making it a real authority.
POM Tell me a little about the ANC. The ANC is of course unbanned here, did you unban the ANC when you took over?
OG It was never actually banned but it was simply taboo. Not even allowed to - didn't even have to talk about the ANC.
POM Would the same be true of the UDF?
POM And any of the Mass Democratic Movement organisations?
OG Yes, they were all just tabooed. The only thing that was actually banned was the unions. They started somewhere in 1982 and the government, the previous government, banned it.
POM So it has no member organisations down here?
OG No it was banned then. I mean the only thing that was unbanned was the unions. But all the other groups were never even allowed to even start operating. So I just announced that they can come out in the open and operate.
POM So do you see yourself working kind of as a partner of the ANC in moving this part of the country into a new South Africa? When I asked you about the process, how you would see yourself in the process, I'll back up and say, we've been told of three, people have told us of three general scenarios that are feasible. One, is where you have the negotiating table with the ANC and the government. The table is expanded a little.
OG I wanted to tell you how we see ourselves contributing because apart from the structure we have already set that up. Our people are already being put into self government you know, in terms of the new concept of democracy. We are already considering the boundaries around us as very soft boundaries. We are already operating as a region. We are already propagating the idea of not tying ourselves into Ciskei as an entity. We are already, if you like, you can say springing out of the shell and seeing ourselves as part of South Africa already in that we are already regionalising whatever we do. Our economic policies no more confined, our health policies, we already made overtures to the neighbouring hospitals and we are already exchanging expertise on the real things, we are already talking about municipalities trying to come together, getting our people to be utilising these many qualities so that they can learn what type of things are being done there or vice versa. Educational systems, we are already looking at expanding our talks to getting King William's Town opened up to other black children and you know, we are already doing that. I think that that is already showing signs that we are actively engaged in helping whatever outcome. We will not wait for them to come with an outcome. We are already putting in our own share. And if it comes to a push, if that will be a democratic process at all, it will mean that we will have to be consulted also as to how we feel in this region. And we know exactly what we want in this region.
POM So you would envisage, these are stages I want go through and put your finger on it, one, that this negotiating table is expanded and more parties within South Africa sit around it. One scenario has there being an election for a Constituent Assembly and that draws up an election. The second is the table would be broadened to include representatives from every political constituency and party and it would develop a consensus about the mode of government to replace the current one. And the third is where you might have an interim government developing of the ANC and the government and parallel with that a special commission of eminent persons but then representing all political persuasions. Which of those three scenarios do you think is the more likely one to be followed?
OG OK, the scenario that I think will most likely be followed is the one where the ANC and the National Party agree on a ceasefire and an interim sort of government and during that period all participating groups will be involved in discussions and sharing of opinions because I think there are quite a hell of lot of opinions. I don't think it will be any good to centralise all authority or government in Pretoria. It has failed in smaller organisations. I don't think the government can really tie it up. I think we are looking, I'm personally looking at a decentralised sort of arrangement.
POM Would it be kind of a federal structure?
OG That's right. This region already comes up strong that, look, we have these structures, we have that, we would like to form part of this whole thing in a sort of a federal thing. If you have other districts they can also be brought in. I think that will be what this region, I've talked to many people already, MPs and other opinion makers in this region, I think we are pretty confident that we can contribute with that type of thought.
POM This is a poor region. Let's assume that tomorrow morning there was a black majority government and Ciskei was part of that new state, federal state. What difference would that make in the life of the average person who lives here?
OG It will depend on the economic policies that will be adopted by that government. Whether it was, whether it, it is unfortunate that we were born here. I think we like this place. We like this place so nothing will change. It will not all of sudden be taken here and dumped onto us. So whatever will have to be done will have to be done by us here. I'm encouraged by the much talk of equal distribution of wealth which means that enough money will have to be pumped into this region to make it more viable and more industrialised and things like that.
POM Where will that money come from?
OG South Africa at the moment is holding up all the money for projects in towns and for whites and so on. So the black man's thinking is that if money was really, if the whole South Africa was developed equally, or in proportion to the needs of those, so everything would be right.
POM Do you, when we were sitting outside somebody told us that you made a point of staying in touch all the time with the opinions of people and that you talk to a lot of people and always know what is on their minds. What do you find are their expectations about a new South Africa? What are they expecting and can the new South Africa fulfil those expectations?
OG Yes, the expectations of people that are well informed are not that all of a sudden they will turn white. They think they will be free to stay wherever they like. You can have, if he's rich he can buy a house in King William's Town or London or right in Jo'burg. If he wants a business and he's got the necessary will and courage or expertise to do it he will be given that without being asked any questions. And that he will be able to take his child to school without paying through his nose when other children are not doing that of other races. The same educational facilities will be extended to his children. Whatever, there are many things that people have, you know, like there's quite a lot of privileges that people feel that we are not, for one reason or another because we are black, there's this that we don't get, there's that that we don't get, there's that. Our schools are packed, jammed and we pay a lot when other people get it easy.
POM What I'm asking I suppose is what if a couple years go by and the schools are still as packed and the housing hasn't improved very much and there hasn't been a lot of new availability of water or electricity, do you think the people are going to feel disappointed, let down?
OG Yes. The general people do not want to be leaders. They just want those things. They just want to be happy. They just want to feel that what he can get the other man can get equally and he is not in any way looked upon as inferior. But they don't care who, what is the colour of whoever brings those things to them. Honestly, that is. So they won't care, if there's a black government would not produce those things and they still see signs of exploitation even in it, they would most probably say, look we want so and so, somebody else. But I'm telling you our people have been so conscientised these days of their rights that I don't see any problem. Because if they have elected democratically whoever should rule, if he is not doing the right thing they will immediately kick him out. So to me the basis point of departure is democratic election.
POM You talked about redistribution of wealth. Do you think to bring about just the kind of things you've mentioned that there would have to be a fairly large scale redistribution of wealth? Like 87% of the land, for example, is owned by 13% of the population. How do you think that should be handled? Should white people be offered a fair price for their land by the government? Should that be compensated, should it be appropriated? How should this process of redistribution begin?
OG To tell you the truth I don't think I can answer that question because I don't know how these people think. I've never even given it a thought, even a thought myself.
POM When you say these people, who do you mean?
OG Our people, especially now the ANC because they are the people that are in the forefront about that. But I would suppose that in a simple case like Ciskei, Ciskei has land that was given to traditional chiefs as traditional common land, it was just given, you're a chief, this is your area. They never bought that land. So they cannot expect to be compensated now when we have people jam-packed somewhere and what I told them, I said, look, you are all people irrespective of whether you are from this chief's tribe or from that chief's tribe. There is land there that is not being used. I am going to extend this people's development or expansion to this land. Finish. And I look at you as people irrespective of tribalism or ethnicity or whatever. So I'm looking at it that way. It's because I know the history of the land. It was never bought by any chief. He was just given this piece of land as a traditional right of his to give, to be allocated to his subject. But now if it goes into the whole South African context it would mean that one would have to know whether this man bought the land or whether it was just given to him because it was historical or whatever. If it is like that than definitely there is no need for anybody to buy anything from anybody.
PK What about white people in the Ciskei. Did life change much for them once the Ciskei became independent? Were their properties redistributed?
OG Yes, in Ciskei during the previous regime there was, Ciskei is basically a non-racial country. People can own a house in Bisho or wherever he wants to, there is no problem. He can marry or whatever, there is no problem. But the question of allowing whites to buy farms was controlled, neutral state, it was prohibited for the simple reason that Ciskei is a very small country. Blacks haven't got money, especially in Ciskei, you know they are very poor. The only people that can do any little farming are the public servants because they earn a good salary. So they can at least buy a few goats. But that is just where it ends too. Then he needs some loan to make a real commercial farming, and so that is why. But the other people haven't got money and the businessman looks at his business. If he has a farm he just makes price at that farm. So they said, the argument was that if we allow whites farms they will probably buy the whole Ciskei out so it will be useless. Well at any rate, yes, that was a good argument. They have enough land in South Africa to buy, you know. Sebe would have been slaughtered long ago if he allowed five, only four, four white farmers could buy the whole Ciskei.
PK In regards to this King William's Town it looks like, it's the first time I've been here, a few hours ago, but it just strikes the eye as being a typical South African white town. And it doesn't look to the eye as if life has changed much for the ordinary white business person living in the city with their family. Was there white flight? Do whites in South Africa, I mean we know in South Africa they are very fearful about what will happen to them in this new South Africa; is Ciskei an example of a non-racial society that works or are there a lot of under the surface or on the surface tensions between the two races?
OG No, I think we are still going to make this a real example of whatever the new South Africa is going to be. My first thing is the type of local government and self-government of democratic government structures that we have made. It is just about three months ago that we started this, or two months to be exact. But it is being developed, its coming. And as far multiracial is concerned I think Ciskei is tops there because our attitudes towards whites is normal as attitudes towards other blacks. There are blacks you don't like. There are whites you don't like. It's to do with personalities rather than colour.
POM Under the law can whites vote?
OG Where? In Ciskei?
OG Ciskei at the moment is a military government.
POM Sorry. Before that, under the way it was set up, like is it only that the ...?
OG There was never any vote in Ciskei. Whites can take citizenship of Ciskei.
POM They will be able to vote?
OG They will be able to.
POM Going back a moment to ...
OG Since I have taken over we've got four whites who have just asked for citizenship. Most of them are expatriates, so they call themselves. They say we are not South African. They don't even have South African citizenship.
POM What is the opinion of, again in the community here, about De Klerk? How do people see him?
OG Naturally I think I'm talking on behalf of many people when I say we regard him as a hero of this era. He has done a courageous thing. We know he has got pressures. We know he is an Afrikaner. We know that many people are lifting their noses when they see him, I mean his own people. But many people really feel that he is quite a great guy.
POM When you look at, let's take each guy, De Klerk on the one side, what do you see as the major obstacles facing him as he tries to manage this process of change? And then on the other side, taking Mandela, what are the obstacles that he faces in trying to manage change as well?
OG That both of them say is the prospect of black expectations, expectations of people who were never actually exposed to being prepared for this type of change. That can be problematic. To me it is a little bit frightening because if you look at the joy that people had after the coup, you wonder whether people are really balanced in their thoughts. They were so pleased that they burned almost everything down. So to tell you the truth I'm looking at scenarios that could unfold and disappoint us really.
POM That's what I want you to do.
OG But now again you look at the fact that we've got a lot of ... Secondly, I think that there are too many conflicting and contradicting parties within South Africa itself that have not even been activated yet like the PAC, Inkatha, you know the CP, the Boerestat, and all those things. That's the second one. The third on is that within their organisation itself, it seems to me there's quite a lot of divergence of ideas.
PK You mean the ANC?
OG Yes. Basically there's the three that I find facing Mandela. But FW has the biggest threat from the right wingers who include also most of the police we know. And it is a worry whether they will not try and take him out, you know. To assassinate him, an awful bad thought.
POM Do you think that a coup in South Africa is not out of the question?
OG That's what I'm saying, yes. And I'm damn worried about that. But I don't know how, they've got very good intelligence machineries to check that, FW But when considering that the forces, I don't know about the army, but I think the police have too much rightist element in it. If you have the same percentage of right wingers in the defence then of course, I must get worried. This is my personal opinion.
POM Do you think if an election were held today in white South Africa that the Conservative Party would be returned, would get a majority of seats rather than the National Party?
OG Yes, I think it would but I would put the blame squarely on FW.
POM You would? Why?
OG I think he's taking his time doing whatever changes he wants to do. I think that by delaying these things he's giving people more time to organise and actually consolidate and see more reasons. Because everyday the ANC makes a blunder. It is black people having confidence in FW. Everyday Hani speaks, there's even less people still clinging to FW and even more people going to the conservatives and whoever thinks like them. I think that if FW could have, when he announced the February 2, I think he should have just suspended the constitution and set a date, say four months, six months, for everybody's general elections. Let every party organise itself and do some campaigning for elections.
POM Some people would say that it's the ANC that's been going too slowly. That De Klerk caught the ANC off guard not only when he released Mandela but unbanned them and just what you were talking about, there are many opinions within the ANC and they haven't quite worked it out. They are not yet a political party.
OG We wouldn't have seen those, if he had just done a one thing for all, we wouldn't even have seen them because that group would have reorganised and done its bit. His people, his National Party would have actually come running around him and made sure that they win. The CP would have got nothing. But now they are getting more and more things because everybody is talking, everybody's threatening, everybody's wagging a finger. I think he made a blunder there, that's just my opinion. And it will still get worse before it gets right.
POM When you look at the ANC, what internal problems do you think it faces in trying to get its act together so that it appears to speak with one voice? The example I give you again is that, again many people, and we've met everyone like right across the political spectrum at this point, but many people would say, one day Mandela is talking this way and the next day he is talking that way and he's trying to steer a course between two sides, but he hasn't imposed his authority.
OG UDF contradict them on public platforms about their strikes and their stayaways and COSATU has it's own banner and it's going the right. I think the MDM/UDF were supposed to be a shadow of ANC in exile. One would have expected that as soon as ANC was unbanned it would be disbanded and form one unit. But it seems now there's a hell of a lot of position mongering.
POM It would appear sometimes that COSATU has a different agenda than the ANC.
OG Even MDM and UDF have different agendas themselves.
POM So Mandela, hasn't been able to impose his authority has he?
OG He hasn't been given a chance, after he came out he had these pre-talks, he went on a tour to thank the whole world because they did quite a lot for him, I think it was a good idea. But I don't think they've had a chance of really sitting down and recognising him as a force that is unifying or giving instructions in that. I get the impression that he is just one of their leaders.
POM One of the leaders, not the leader.
OG No. That is also worrying. At the moment there are too many people who want to be leaders and that is dangerous.
POM If you had to look at this performance since he came, was released, what has he done that exceeded your expectations and what has he done that hasn't quite lived up to your expectations, if anything?
OG What he has done so far is I think, the first talks that he had with FW were wonderful. I think they were, especially when he said they must forget everything, he doesn't have any grudge on them and all he wants is a peaceful solution of this whole South Africa; to me those were great words. And it seemed as though they were just on the right path. But what happened after he, I think if he came out and said that the struggle must be discontinued he would have had a big impact because all the youngsters, everybody is tired of these fires, but here he gave them, even a more fuel, that the struggle continues. I think that confused a lot of people. That confused, especially the youth. Now they have reorganised their ways to be more violent. To me that is the worst thing that he could have said. I don't fight about sanctions. I agree with him on sanctions and other things, but the struggle, he should have said, look now I'm out, stop everything, look at me, trust me to do - the atmosphere is right, the whole thing is right, the doors are open, the fight is over, just support us. Go to school, let's develop ourselves mentally, ritually, everything, financially, and talk more in a pep up sort of thing, in a fatherly thing, he would have won almost every heart.
POM You talked about violence among young people. When you look at the violence in Natal between Inkatha and the ANC, COSATU and UDF, what do you think is the cause of it, first of all?
OG I think it is Buthelezi trying to impose himself as a power in that region or in South Africa. If he didn't give his people the impression that Zulus are supermen there wouldn't be that thing. He's completely out of step of what is happening. I think that there is more operating here. He is unnecessarily trying to pit himself with Mandela. But everybody knows that he is one of the leaders. He shouldn't try and prove it. So to me he's making that mess.
POM Do you think that if that violence continues - and on the weekend we went out into some of the townships around, outside Durban, and Pietermaritzburg and talked to, just talked to people who had been burnt out of their homes, with tales of their memory of their families being killed, one got the feeling that this was very deeply rooted and will not be easily stopped. Two things, one, do you think that if Mandela and Buthelezi were to get together and jointly issue a call to their supporters to stop the fighting there that that would be sufficient?
OG I personally don't think that Mandela deserves to be put on any platform with Buthelezi, so that's out. I think Buthelezi should withdraw from whatever he's doing because I don't think he's going to win. He should be already because this thing started with Buthelezi sending his police, you know, MPs to go and show the UDF and everybody that they are strong too. It was based on showing who we are and that didn't work, so when the people started retaliating, the UDF and the MDM and the ANC oriented people, saying no, no, then the police took sides with the MPs because they were more along the white side of seeing the struggle as a threat to white dominance. So we all view him as an obstacle. So I feel that if he withdraws, because he has had all sorts of assistance which angered people more and more and more and more and unfortunately it is still carrying on and I feel that really he should be ashamed of himself.
POM If the violence doesn't stop, if it kind of just begins to perpetuate itself, do you think that that will be a real obstacle to negotiations at the national level going on? I mean can you have a settlement in South Africa without Buthelezi being at the table?
OG I think he's completely marred the chances. I don't think any, I wouldn't generalise, I would say that many people see him as an obstacle. In a sense that he'd demand to be feared, he demands to be feared, in the old fashioned way that Zulus are more than any other tribe, you know, Zulus are strong, that's nonsense. He believes that and he lets Zulus believe that. So he is actually dividing people in a big way.
POM So do you think that in an odd way he and the Afrikaner might be alike, that you have the Afrikaner who bid themselves off as kind of a super people and he's over in this other corner bidding the Zulus are a super people?
OG Yes, and they are thinking alike and I wouldn't discount any possibility of them joining hands. And I think that if that becomes the case there is still going to be a hell of a lot of struggle.
PK I have one question to take you back to the coup, just on a personal question, is there anything in the development of the military under the South African framework that educates, that calls men to a certain point in their responsibility where they might have to come in and take over government because the process is gone astray? I mean that happened here. Do you see real possibilities of other reasons, totally different reasons, that it could happen in South Africa? Is there any part of the development or training of the military?
OG No, I don't. It will come as a result of the military heads because they are very disciplined. It will definitely, if it comes at all, it will be inspired by the rightwing who are all, they said it also in the paper, the Sunday paper, that Mandela persuaded FW de Klerk with 10,000 soldiers, remember it was in yesterday's Sunday Times, but they have millions of trained soldiers and all of them are soldiers. They are either commandos, national service men, Citizen Force men, they, each of them has got the training, special training of one type or another and if most of them are, most of the rightwing mentality people, are in the forces, surely they will see it as loyalty. So it will definitely not be in terms of the military structures themselves doing that themselves.
POM Rebellion within the ranks, so to speak.
POM I was going to, just to finish up with you, ask you to tell us a little about yourself. Here I've only met you for the first time. You were a Brigadier in the army of a so-called independent homeland, you are now the head of state and yet you have very far reaching opinions in terms of what the integrity of a new South Africa should be about and the kind of things that must be done to alleviate the injustices that have been visited upon all the black people of South Africa for decades. Could you just tell a little of where you grew up and what were the major influences on you and what were the turning points. What moved you to take the actions that you've have taken?
OG Well I was born about 38 years ago and my mother died when I was still a baby and then I was raised by my grandparents. They bought a place about 50 kilometres from Pretoria, it was a farm. Then I stayed there. I learned all the other languages that were spoken there, Sotho, Tswana, Shangaan, Zulu, Swazi, all those languages; in actual fact that helped me to understand more people because I grew up in various places in my life. From there I went to back Kroonstad to my high school and I learned Tswana and I had to go and learn Sotho from Standard Six upward which was a big, big hurdle but I managed to do very good in school, I was a focal point at school because I was a strange person.
POM So you were kind of a strange bird at the high school?
OG Yes, as a result of my coming there with a total new language to learn and total surrounding I became a sort of a loner. I always liked to be alone with books. I was liked by my teachers because I was very obedient. I didn't like to go with a group, I was always alone. My upbringing made me also very withdrawn because I was the poorest in class, I was the last one to bring school and so on and so on and uniforms and things, so I used to work during holidays and after school and so on. But because I didn't have any brother, anybody, I learned to be on my own. I didn't trust anybody, and trust anything because I had a lot of disappointments in my life. And then when I left school I joined the Prison Department because I had a matric but there was no work opportunity. So I worked for about a year being a delivery boy with a big bicycle in town and I got this prison job. I went to train at the college in Pretoria; at the college I became, you know, the instructors liked me because I was very agile, I used to jump too much, and then I became an instructor there, a physical training instructor, then I was trained in gymnastics and we did all these shows and so on, trampoline and networks and so on, actually to work, after that I, in actual fact through that performances we used to go everywhere in these self governed countries, we used to go to Qwa Qwa, Transkei, and all these places. I met my wife in Transkei while we went to do these performances. And then we married later.
I decided in 1977 to join the army because in the prisons there was a fear amongst us all that when you are an instructor in prison you have everything going for you because you have the college, that's where all promotions start there and everything, you are just where the rules are made and everything. But as soon as you get old you may just be transferred, you know, you lose your identity, you may be transferred anywhere. I realised, I'm not going to wait for that. I decided to join the army. Because the army, the first black soldiers were trained by us at that college. They used our facilities, the first black army. So I was ahead of the physical training branch. So I used to give, as a special, because I didn't have any classes to give, I was just supervising everybody there, but I had all the free lessons, free period, so I used to give the soldiers PT lessons, during their PT period. I liked them because I used to go into their lecture rooms and listen and see their videos, war talk.
POM This was the South African army?
OG South African army. Then I became interested. This is more manly, you know and I think I'll do best in there because I see a lot of challenge. There's quite a broad sector. Here after becoming I'll have to go and become an administration man somewhere and it will be terrible. Then I joined the army in 1977.
POM I want to ask you a question. Here you were. You had been raised under apartheid, under an oppressive system, and you at this age were turning around and saying to yourself, I will join the army that maintains this oppressive system and that makes me an oppressed person?
OG No, it was more of a, I identified myself with a strong character. There was no other job that I could join. I didn't go there because I, I didn't look at what the army would be used for, I looked at going there because I would have a secure job, a government job. And I would train my heart out, you know. I would run around and be Tarzan and jump into rivers and do whatever. And I was looking at it as, when time comes I will go to the badlands and fight whoever is the enemy, it didn't strike me. To me it was sort of a job. And when we actually went to the borders I realised that there was a lot of, I started learning more, the more we were at the borders, and looking at our tasks, and against who we were actually fighting, and how old, the age of the people that we used to eliminate. We realised that some way here there is something wrong. But it was not until I went to the border that I realised that.
POM Which borders?
OG South West Africa, that I realised really that I was fighting my own people. Right. The 1976 riots also made us more aware that we were fighting our own people because many people left South Africa, youngsters, including our school mates, everybody we used to know, you would go home and hear that so-and-so has skipped the country, has gone to Angola. Then every time you are - the time I went to the border, the first time in 1978, this had already been 1976, many people left in 1976, and I joined the army 1977, now every time you had a prospect of a contact with enemy, you'd think that, oh, I wonder whether friends are not in this place. It went on and on and on until such time that when I heard that Ciskei was becoming independent and there was already a lot of thought that comes to you that, here I am fighting for South Africa but we are not getting any recognition whatsoever. We are fighting the people that are actually trying to liberate us. We are fighting for a system that otherwise could have been defamed if only we were actually having a say, you know, to express our views and things. So Ciskei is about to form its own army. I think it would be better to go to our own people and perhaps we can fight for something that is protecting our own pride and self-realisation and whatever.
Those were my thoughts when I came to this country, to Ciskei. Because I was born in Free State. My idea of an independent state was that at least you vote the people that rule you, you vote them into power. At least you get recognition as a person. And there's no way that, no place bad for you. You can't come in here, whites only, blacks only. So those were the main points in my head. I think it is the better of the evil of the two so let me go there. So that's why I was here. When I came here I became obviously the first to become, I was in the first group to become officers. And we did that and I was always representing whatever we don't like or we like. I was always in trouble with the white officials. I was always really a baddy because I thought I knew. I'd seen an army operating and here was an army that was being taught to operate in a secondary sort of stage and I was always saying, look, we don't like, we'll do it this way. So all in all I was always the man that wanted to get things done right. That is perhaps what made me unpopular with the previous government. And that's what made me at long last feel that, is there nothing that people here can do? I think we should do something. And even now I'm still, I think I will get into a lot of trouble because I'm not satisfied with whatever I see. I want the South African government to move better on giving us assistance, seeing the backlogs that they have left so long undone. I want them to give us more of the land that we're promised since 1972 that we should have got. People are jammed, they are packed and so on. So I think I'm more creative. I want to follow my own mind and I find the paternalistic approach the South African government is having on us really, you know, unacceptable.
POM It's another form of oppression?
POM This time next year, where do you think things will be?
OG Talking for myself, I think I will have done quite a lot in Ciskei. First to improve the economic situation in Ciskei, I will have more housing for people, I will have more people employed because I am planning to really get off my chair and start talking to people internationally to be more interested in Ciskei. And I might most probably have had a lot of fights with South Africa on this or another. But I definitely will have my effort moving and perhaps a harbour for Ciskei.
POM How will the negotiations between Mandela and the De Klerk government be proceeding? At what point ...?
OG I think, I don't know, my prediction, I was really thinking about this yesterday, I think that the talks are still going to be readying because I foresee the right-wingers doing anything they can to forestall any final negotiations. So I feel that there will be more trials before everything else gets right and I don't think it will be by next year.
POM Do you think there's a danger that if this process of change isn't completed within a reasonable time, like two to three years, that there's a possibility that Mandela may begin to lose his aura of being the messiah who is going to lead the people?
OG Yes, if it takes long, first his health is not very good, and his age is not very good and the pressure of his work is definitely not going to contribute to his living life. But apart from that I see a lot of people trying to jump from the extreme back, trying to jump right into to the front of the struggle. There are many people coming in, if it drags, there will be so many people it will be a free for all. I feel that they are dragging it too much. Soon there will be AZAPO, PAC, Black Consciousness, all those, soon it will be a sort of a terrible strife among the people and it will take us back, disorganised blacks. And, you know, all that, all that will come in and the whole thing will fall flat. I think they are dragging their feet too much on it.
POM Say something else so we end on an optimistic note. I don't like that ending so add something. Are you hopeful about the future? I'll give you an easy chance.
OG I'm hopeful very much about the future here in Ciskei but I wish I knew what the two people's agendas were, the National Party and the ANC. At the moment we don't know and the way I see it they are slow. I wish De Klerk, as the man I think he is, has the key, could move faster.
POM Thank you very much for your time.