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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

01 Aug 1990: Xego, Mike

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POM     Mike you were just saying that you were heavily involved in organising the youth in PE. Would that have been in the early eighties or when did you start doing that?

MX     I started being involved in youth politics in 1974. I was one of those who were members of the Student Christian Movement, SCM. In 1975 we waited in joining political organisations of the Black Consciousness Movement, that is the South African Movement. In 1976 I was one of those who were pioneering student protests against Bantu education and unfortunately or fortunately I was arrested on 20th September 1976. I was tried in the Supreme Court of Grahamstown by Justice, President of the Eastern Cape, Justice Bruwer. I was sentenced for five years to Robben Island and I came back on 20th January 1982. I quickly got myself organised and went back to the youth politics. I was one of those who formed the first youth organisation in the country and that was the PE Youth Congress. I was involved in the process of the Youth Congress up until this year when the PE Youth Congress was transformed into being a branch of the SA Youth Congress. Remember when we formed the SA Youth Congress it was a federal structure that gave autonomy to the different sectors of the youth, but the decision that we arrived at in Nelspruit this year at the AGM of SACO we decided that there should be a neutral structure then those interested structures made it possible for all of the Youth Congresses to be transformed into a SA Youth Congress branch.

POM     You said early on you had been involved with the PAC.

MX     Not PAC.

POM     With the Black Consciousness?

MX     I was involved in the BCM, yes.

POM     What moved you from being in the BCM to being in the ANC?

MX     When I lived on Robben Island for the first time I was exposed to the realities of the work, the realities of the pros and cons of a person and gradually I was glued with these intensive political discussions on the Island. I went there only very much narrow into the study of things and it was only when I arrived there that there was some change in my understanding that I need to see things in a broader scope than a narrow scope due to the political discussion and political education given to individuals on Robben Island. Then I shifted because it was necessary for one to shift at one point in time into politics that understand the differences between racial groups and the necessity of the racial groups to stand together and face this common objective.

POM     Were you surprised when De Klerk announced all these initiatives on 2nd February? Were you surprised by the scope of them and the rapidity with which he appeared to be moving?

MX     I was surprised, yes, because I didn't think that the state was ready to make the changes it has made. But by the same token I was quite aware that the state was beginning to panic over the pressures of its position by all people from all quarters of the world, particularly the South African people, the oppressed people and at one point in time the state will attend to some of the demands but the speed in which these were accepted surprised me.

POM     Some people have said to us that the changes themselves and the fact that it was made between just the government and the ANC and the SACP exposed some divisions in the liberation movement. Do you think that's a fair assessment?

MX     I am a member of the ANC and I have been associated with the ANC politics since 1977. I have never seen an organisation which has stood so fair, which has also given such a strong leadership to its membership. I have never seen an organisation whose leadership has been separated for so much, for such a big period and still come out being one. History has shown that many leaders go to prison and came out talking different stories. But I would firmly deny that the unbanning of the ANC and the SACP has caused divisions within these two parties or in the liberation movement per se. If this was the case this would have been evident right now because major policy decisions have been taken, for instance, talks about talks. If that initiative was unacceptable then it couldn't be solved by some dissension, some accusers of either the communists or some other members of the ANC who are participating.

POM     I suppose what I mean more is you have the ANC, you have the PAC, you have AZAPO, you have the BCM and those three or four felt they've been left out of the process, they feel resentful in a way of being left out. Do you see, what I'm talking about is not within the ANC itself, must those be addressed?

MX     No. The people within the ANC are speaking with one voice in terms of our relationship with other organisations. There can be no doubt that the ANC and the PAC are different organisations with different policies. The same applies to the ANC, PAC, AZAPO, BCM, these people have got their own agendas. The ANC's agenda is the Freedom Charter and it is the policy document of the organisation. But it would be naïve to think that they have been left out because there have been no negotiations so far about the fundamental issues facing the country. What it is doing now is simply just a process towards negotiations under the ANC, it is the senior partner of all these partners, but the ANC because of its authority briefs them about the developments despite their having their own agendas.

POM     The ANC briefs them?

MX     Briefs them, it still goes to them and reports to them because it feels they are anti-apartheid organisations. Whether they will go to negotiations or not is going to be their own decision as independent partners but the ANC will talk to them, the ANC will prove its authority by going to them and asking them so that everything is being done on a fair basis, that no-one says I was not consulted, no-one says the ANC goes against its mandate. So this should be seen as a people's move, not necessarily as a move by an organisation.

POM     Do you think that De Klerk has now conceded the issue of majority rule?

MX     It's a good question. The NP, even before De Klerk came to power, knew very well that it can never suppress 32 million people for ever, practically impossible, because whites are only four million, then we've got the so-called coloured people who are also four million, you've got the so-called Indians who are one million, blacks are 32 million people who are predominantly African. Put that group of people against four million and within that four million there are those who said the Africans should be given the chance to participate in the rights of the country, in the government of the country, the administration of the country. So in that process you have got these people who have been in power for so long realising this factor, hence they spoke of 'swart gevaar' the black danger. Be careful of swart gevaar , be careful of black danger. That statement alone signified one point that the Africans will pose a problem, so De Klerk simply endorses what his masters have always said and what they have always taken care of.

POM     Talking about whether or not De Klerk had conceded on the principle of majority rule and you were still saying you spoke a phrase that meant 'black danger'. Could you spell that phrase out for us?

MX     In Afrikaans, it is called swart gevaar . Black is swart, danger gevaar.

POM     So you don't believe then that he has yet conceded on the issue of majority rule do you?

MX     Well I wouldn't say necessarily that De Klerk has conceded to majority rule because he has only shifted towards majority rule in that by unbanning the ANC and other organisations, by releasing the authentic leaders of the oppressed majority of this country, then by also being prepared to discuss through negotiation then I can only say he has considered insofar as preparing the way to majority rule, whether he is committed to majority rule is another question. You get my logic? Because majority rule means that negotiations will take their course and come to a composite of the Constituent Assembly, then general elections, then the party that wins goes there in the central government. That is a whole area which has to be entered into. We have not yet been in that area but we are in the way to that area. Insofar as going to that area he has considered that we can go to that area.

POM     Everyone in the government that we've spoken to, and even outside of it, have said that the government simply won't give into an election for a Constituent Assembly because they would be conceding majority rule before they even negotiated it because the CA would be elected on one man one vote or even if it was proportional representation it will would give more weight to the ANC and organisations like the ANC. If there is an impasse, like we're sitting across the table, I'm the government, you're the ANC, and I say no Constituent Assembly, what leverage does the ANC have to press the government? What cards does it hold?

MX     We are committed to a CA and that is the general demand of the people so far. The people of Namibia forced the SA government towards a CA but we are not necessarily saying because Namibia did this then the SA people should do this. But a CA is a breakthrough, is a stage where we have to go towards majority rule. If the state refuses to go to that stage then we have to go back to the drawing board and see what other pressures can we use to force it to that stage.

POM     What pressures come to your mind?

MX     Right now we've got economic sanctions that can ruin the SA economy. We've got disinvestment that can ruin the SA economy. We've got a cultural boycott that will ruin tourism in this country, sports activities in this country and so on. And of course for tourism in this country we have to accept ... Above all we've got the resistance of our people who for years have shown beyond doubt whether there is what or what they are prepared to make sacrifices in this regard. South Africans of the day, the pressure that we rely upon with the masses on the ground will be our political structures and people.

POM     What role do you think the trade unions would play in that? Are the unions a powerful weapon that you have in the sense that you can virtually bring the economy to a standstill?

MX     The economy of this country at this point in time is bleeding and if you speak about investors they would love to invest because the country has got the potential for the growth of the economy and for the potential for capital development and there is again that the capital development if being utilised properly it can be exported and bring more fruits to the country. Unfortunately, because of racism, apartheid, capital development in this country has been aborted, it didn't grow to the lengths that it was supposed to grow. As a result trade unions have been politicised by apartheid. As a result trade unions today by virtue of being members of the political organisations are bound to black solidarity with their comrades and brothers who are being affected by apartheid on a daily basis. If shacks are being demolished, if people are being over-taxed, then they are forced and bound to take up some political action. This means then the trade unions may either call for one action or another as a form of solidarity with their black brothers on the ground.

     Secondly, there is the whole wage problem in SA society which has been influenced by racism, imbalance in terms of wages between black and white, imbalance in terms of skills development within the factories themselves. All those factors make the trade unions more politicised because they find themselves in a tight corner because they know very well that was it not for apartheid they could have been at the same level in terms of managerial skills, in terms of administrative skills with their white counterparts but apartheid has denied them that right and apartheid has even denied the economy a very, very capitalist mode of production to develop for a scientific basis like in Britain, like in America, Canada, Australia and so forth, but this one, we need a unique capitalist mode of production because it is overshadowed by this racism that has been going on.

     Now the trade unions have one important weapon to use, there's a very big scope, the economic scope and the political scope that compels them to take action at one time or another.

POM     Why don't we hold it there? We'll come back at five.

POM     Mike, I think I had been asking you about potential divisions within the movement, between people who would want to adhere to socialistic structures versus those who might be for the free market. Do you see potential points of division within the movement that the movement must be careful to address or else they could become problems?

MX     What I can tell you is the movement, our movement, the ANC, doesn't adhere to any of those concepts, socialist concepts and free market concepts, that is the capitalist mode of production per se because the ANC is a parliament of the people. All people with different interests are at home with the ANC. As a movement, therefore, it must create a situation where all those interests are accommodated from within. We are bound by one goal at this point in time, the destruction of apartheid. What happens about apartheid will be determined by the situation then. But I can tell you that the ANC liberation movement envisaged a mixed economy, a mixed economy because of the different interests within the national liberation movement but at the end of the day we are praying for one thing, the destruction of apartheid. So there is no room for conflict in a situation like that one.

POM     Do you think that the government will try to have provisions put in the constitution that will guarantee the right to private property, that will limit the areas of possible nationalisation and things like that?

MX     Precisely because of the diversity of the SA people, SA situation, we are envisaging a situation where a constitution shall be representative of the interests of the people as a whole.

POM     But do you think this would be something that the government would try to get in order to protect really the economic interests and the economic security of whites?

MX     The government automatically is very much concerned with the interests of whites but in the same programme the government is concerned as well as we are concerned with the development of a sound economic system in SA. Our constitution will have to address that question. Automatically the SA government will want some goals within the constitution that will embrace the capitalist mode of production per se but I want to believe that the constitution that will come out of discussion will be a constitution that will be embracing the basic necessities of the people of this country. For instance, a constitution must guarantee whether the government pushes for an endorsement of a free market system per se but a constitution must endorse the ... as long as people are encouraged or are made to health, welfare, food and clothing. Whatever is next will be determined by the people in general. I know they will be pushing that but we are not necessarily interested as to who will be who, the people must live adequately and properly although it will take some time but we must declare that.

POM     When you look at this process of change over what time period do you think it's going to take place? Will it be over the next two years, the next four years, the next five years?

MX     In the struggle for change it is sometimes difficult to answer a question like that one because that is a vast question. We are prepared to go to the fullest - I am not in a position to give you a time under the process of change.

POM     What would you expect? When would you expect something to happen? Not saying when it will happen but when in your own mind should it happen ?

MX     I'll give you an example, in Namibia the process towards change started in 1978. That process took about five to six years up until 1990 or 1987/88, that's when negotiations started to commence. We have just started on 2nd February when the organisation were unbanned. I want to put it to you that we have demands that must be met and when those demands have been met automatically we won't be envisaging a situation where we will be sitting on our laurels and expect the government to change because of changed heart. We will need to put more pressure in the process towards change so this process of changing is being speeded up. Should we sit down and fold our arms and expect the government to change for the sake of changing or expect the government to think that the negotiations towards change are enough? So the time period, even if it's ten years or five years will entirely depend on us putting more pressure and getting ourselves in the struggle for change. I can say safely that we recognise the process in the last few months but it is not enough, we need to go a bit further before everything is finalised, one man one vote and a majority government.

POM     If I were Mr De Klerk and you are Nelson Mandela and I come to you and I say, Mr Mandela, I can only go so fast with introducing change because if I go any quicker there are going to be defections in my party to the Conservative Party from my parliamentary party. I could be toppled as the head of the government and there would be an incredible backlash from the right. What would you say to me?

MX     I will tell you simply that that is not expected from a leader. I would say to you in Nelson Mandela's words that by talking to De Klerk he has put his character at stake for the majority of South Africans. We support the move by Nelson. So Mr De Klerk then should be man enough to be prepared to push for genuine changes within a short space of time for one simple reason, there is nowhere in the world where change has never confronted resistance, a group of resisters. You go into revolution, there were some groups of people who refused to change from the monarchy into the free market system. You go to the American War of Independence in 1786-89, there were a group of people who refused when people wanted the unification of America and the freedom of the people of America. Who are we then to think that we won't have a group of conservatives, extremely conservative, who are in the same category, in the same atmosphere as what the people of Austria are. I would say if I was Mr Mandela to De Klerk, let's go along in a very shortness of time and effect change. In that process together we address the question of resistance of South Africans. I don't think SA as a nation can have a real problem around it although there will be a problem, they will be nuisance but I believe even if it will take 20 years for you, Mr De Klerk, or 30 or 50 years to change, you will still have the same problem because those problems are the product of your policy, your party. They are the product of the British policies that came here in 1785, 1652 and so forth. There will be a recurring problem from, imagine, three hundred and something years of colonial rule. We expect them when time for change has come to still ask for some time, some time, some time, and that's what they strive, strive, strive for it.

POM     Do you believe that the quicker things are changed the better? Should the ANC and the government strike a deal, go to the people and say this is the way it is, this is what's going to happen, and let people adjust and adapt to it or should they each go slower and educate and bring their own constituencies with them? On the one hand you have De Klerk who has to educate the white community, that they have to get used to a lower standard of living, that they have to get used to a redistribution of some resources away from them to the poorer communities. And you have Nelson Mandela having to educate blacks that all things can't be achieved overnight, that they must put a lid on their expectations, that all their problems can't be solved as soon as a black government takes over. Which mode of change is the better?

MX     I say to you, as I proved this morning, the advantage of the black resisters in this country is that in the process of struggle they get educated, they know exactly that an ANC government comes suddenly for the question of housing, comes suddenly for the question of health, but every government expects more hard work from the people. But in the course of struggle get educated, hence the expectations since the release of Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC that things are now starting to move. But they have a different type of expectation from the white community. They feel that things are becoming rapidly, they are moving too fast and so forth. So a question can be posed to the government, how do you expect to educate the people who have lived all their lives under the protection of the state? One that education takes too much time and affects the process of change. I would say the quicker the better because if we speak about educating the white community and sharing power with Africans it will take another two hundred years before they could understand what this is all about. I can also say the quicker they do it because the government will commit itself in the education process of the entire people of SA about what expectations they must expect in a new SA. Again it becomes important for the white community to understand that change is inevitable, whether it happens now or tomorrow that question is not necessarily going to be solved by the government and leaders, the people who are struggling are going to determine their course towards that as they have done so I believe if I was Mr De Klerk I would opt for a quicker change, lesser problems for him, more problems that are going to be a problem for the government, a non-racial government and the way those are addressed will be determined by time and space.

POM     Do you think that there will be a transitional government? Let me put it this way, that many people have said, or I've read or whatever, that the ANC wouldn't be ready tomorrow morning to be able to take over the task of running the country, that it simply doesn't have enough people with enough experience to run a complex government and that what it will need for a while anyway will be people with that experience, that is people from the present government or from the NP who have had experience of government, and that there will be a learning period and then maybe the NP or whatever phased out and it will become a full ANC government. Do you see something like that happening?

MX     I would say it depends on the audience you have questioned, what do they actually mean when they say the ANC doesn't have the experience to govern. In our experience as members of the ANC, the ANC has about 40 diplomatic offices throughout the world and those diplomatic offices need personnel. I am sure those personnel in the process of maintaining those offices got experience. For instance Comrade John Makhatini who stands there against other men as representative of the ANC and all those years they have got experience. And again you've got President Tambo who stood and played the position of being the president of the organisation and meeting all heads of state on an equal basis. I would say again the ANC did things abroad, like the running of the schools, running of the personnel, training of the personnel. There is the nucleus of a people who want to be in power. What will be lacking will be the practicalities of those people now in a new environment, that is an environment of governing. Yes, they might lack such experience in terms of turning the organisation into a proper government but that must be seen in the same light as the people of Namibia, that when the people were fighting automatically they were not the government but they were a liberation movement, but the liberation movement fights with the same understanding that tomorrow they will be asked to rule and no serious movement can just fight without training people for the task. The ANC has that category. Whilst it is fighting it is preparing to govern. When it is given this task tomorrow to rule those in the ANC won't say I don't want to rule, I don't have the experience. The ANC will rule and in the course of ruling they will get more experience like any other movement. They will be judged by time, they will be judged by history whether that experience is enough or not.

POM     Let's turn for a minute to Natal and the violence there. What's your understanding of (i) the cause of it and (ii) what do you think should be done to bring it under control or do you believe it can be brought under control?

MX     It can be brought under control. The root cause of the violence is caused beyond doubt by the infrastructure of the country as a whole, the economic structure of the country and the administrative departments of the country that the people who are in power thought that the African people will be so dependent or will be so narrow minded to the extent of neglecting their national obligations, that at no stage shall they pursue the struggle as groups and groups and groups. The African people outgrew that type of understanding, or outgrew that understanding way back. When the ANC was formed in 1912 people fought as a nation and they are still fighting as a nation. They cannot fight as Zulus, Xhosas, Tswanas, English, Greeks, Italians and so forth, they have to fight themselves into a channel that will bring a national identity to them. Remember there are about 32 million against whites who are four million. In that 32 million we have four million so called coloureds and one million Indians. In that process the state does not want us to forge as a nation, it would love to divide us further and further and further. In that course of dividing us many people came to understand that this is not the right ethic from Pretoria, but development like Gatsha Buthelezi, the homeland system is a hoax, our people started to reject the homeland system that it is not a viable option.

POM     Do you see Buthelezi just as a stooge of the system?

MX     Buthelezi is, I won't say a stooge but I think one can say he's forgotten, a lost cause, we have lost him.

POM     But do you see him as a leader of any section of the people?

MX     I wouldn't say now he is a leader of any section of the people.

POM     He's not?

MX     As far as I am concerned.

POM     As far as you're concerned he's not.

MX     I can only say he is a leader of Inkatha. That is a group of people in Natal who were drawn into the homeland system without necessarily understanding what the homeland system is all about, just like Sebe in Ciskei. He was a leader of the state of Ciskei, so-called state of Ciskei, but we knew that at the bottom he's not accepted by the people of Ciskei but it was difficult for us to convince people from abroad, from governments, we said he is not the real leader of the people. But as time went on it showed that he was not the right leader. The same applies to [Mpepho?] in Venda, the same applies to the whole range of the homeland leaders. People now are starting to revolt against Buthelezi.

     The state now is trying to plan it round the question of ethnicity because the majority of the people now, in Natal as a whole, see him not as the real leader of the people of SA. Why would he as a leader try to make his organisation Zulu? Isn't that divisive? Isn't that playing the tune of the state? Why isn't he, like Nelson Mandela, like Oliver Tambo, make a big national organisation that will challenge the authority of other national liberation movements like the ANC? Why has he been using such a mechanism, racialistic mechanism? It is only now that they have opened up Inkatha into a party, a party that will oppose the liberation movement. But we have put to him, because we don't see him as a leader now, we see him in the same category as the state today. If we have to go to, as a member, there is no difference insofar as we are concerned between him and the state in the violence. The violence can be solved on the simple thing that the government must understand that what has taken place in Natal is their own creation. Why in the first place in 1967 they came out with the Bantustans, the homeland system? Now they must address the question of the Bantustans as their product. The ANC is going to be involved and it has always got itself involved in solving problems of this nature but it has only been unbanned this year in July and the problem in Natal, was it not for the state relationship with Gatsha, Gatsha might have left that long ago but because of his arrogance, of being openly opposed to the ANC and the sanctions he becomes for sanctions, for disinvestment, he becomes pro-disinvestment, he becomes pro. Whatever the ANC does he's in opposition. So we feel, therefore, let him go his own way, we will go our own way with the people but the people are determined to solve the question of Natal.

POM     But how can the violence the be brought under control?

MX     The violence can be brought under control as far as I'm concerned when the government really, really takes off the state of emergency in Natal, completely.

POM     The state of emergency?

MX     I'm coming to that, yes. Take off the state of emergency, allow the leaders of the movement to go free to the places where Gatsha Buthelezi is controlling. This is like the rural areas of Natal, KwaZuma area and so on, without any interference by the KwaZulu Police, that is that there is no interference there. That is the movement must be allowed to consult with the Chiefs in Natal about the Natal epidemic, the Natal violence, and in that I think there can be inroads made. Look at Sebokeng, Nelson only went there once telling the people of Sebokeng to resolve their problems amicably. The next day barricades were taken off by the youth and stands were being cleaned up, people were there to tour around and linger around in the various camps because people were so determined that the SA government should not interfere and create stooges that are going to be a stumbling block to the process towards change and process that will come into nothing disturbs talks about talks insofar as South Africa is concerned. Hence Sebokeng was quickly solved.

     But in KwaZulu there are some roots there because the state put them and this is a state they must protect, just like Mangope in Bophuthatswana. You are protecting a state, Mangope, death for whoever comes to organise against you. The same applies to Gatsha Buthelezi. Let him move off, let the movement be allowed to consult even with those people who are believed to be belonging to Gatsha Buthelezi. I am telling you that situation will be resolved. Those two points I believe the situation can be resolved.

POM     Where do you think things will be this time next year?

MX     I want to say things change. Nobody thought for instance that the ANC will come down into SA under the Amnesty Act, in fact allowing people to come in. Nobody thought that Mr Mandela will be around here, we thought he would die in prison. Nobody thought that.

POM     Where do you hope they will be in a year's time? Where do you hope this process will be? How far?

MX     This process needs to be handled with kid gloves, to be nursed like a small baby, because things might go this way or that way. This whole situation now depends on the liberation movement and the state. I believe if things go well then there can be major inroads by next year but really because everything now will depend, most things will depend on 6th August, talks about talks. I want to believe, there might be some comment from both sides on that day. If that is the situation then I am sure at least there will be an indication as to the prospects for next year.

POM     Will the Group Areas Act be gone?

MX     By next year? The state says they are going to address that in the next session of parliament.

POM     Will the Population Registration Act be gone?

MX     Those are some of the things that are going to be addressed by them.

POM     If these things have not been done?

MX     If these things have not been done, apartheid, then we can only expect sanctions. Believe me we've got nothing at hand, we are not the state, we are being victimised. The victims must stick to those issues that are done by the state, that the state is able to fill.

POM     Do you think at the talks next week that an announcement of the suspension of the armed struggle will be made?

MX     That is one of the items on the agenda. The state is very serious about that. The movement also puts up agendas with the state, so out of the discussions something relating to it must come up. Yes.

POM     But do you think that it will actually be suspended?

MX     I don't think if the response from the state is positive there is nothing that will stop the movement from agreeing to that because it has lost its fire. It may think there won't be instructions to the cadres to pursue or to carry on bombing, or to carry on planting limpet mines and so on around. That will be suspended.

POM     Last, is there anything that I haven't asked you that I should have asked you, that you would like to address yourself? Is there any question that I haven't asked you, any single question that I haven't asked you that I should have asked you? If so what is the question?

MX     I thought you would have asked me about international support. We have regarded international support as one of the most important elements of the struggle towards change. We have seen in the last few years the growth of the Anti-Apartheid Movement throughout the world. That growth has made the South African struggle to reach the lengths it has achieved and then we believe the changing atmosphere is partly because of the pressures that community have put onto their governments. It was not because of the soft heart of Margaret Thatcher that she has to meet Nelson Mandela today, but because of the Anti-Apartheid Movement of the people of Britain, the people of Ireland, the people of Wales, that has made our struggle to succeed in that country. The same applies to West Germany, the same applies to USA, the same applies to Australia and so on. The Anti-Apartheid Act passed in the USA was because of the struggle that has been waged by the Anti-Apartheid Movement throughout the country.

POM     OK. We'll leave it there because I know you have to be some place at six. Thank you.

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.