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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
08 Aug 1990: Jack, Pro
POM I'm talking to Pro Jack on the 8th of August in Cape Town. You were saying, Pro, you are the chairman of the Interim ...?
PJ Command of the ANC in Langa.
POM That's to organise the ANC in a township of about 250,000 people. The 2nd February, De Klerk's announcement, were you taken by surprise?
PJ In fact, not. In the past year people have always said to me I should give a judgment as to when do I think this present regime will be brought to its knees and I have always said by 1993 we will be having a people's government. You know, I'm serious, and I was saying this in 1987. And people have always asked me, why am I saying that? But I have always looked at the economic position of the country, the armed resistance that uMkhonto we Sizwe has been putting up against the government and the mass mobilisation and mass action that was taking place inside the country in terms of protests, arms boycotts, stayaways, and consumer boycotts and how whites, in fact, were becoming more and more worried about their standard of living, that the living of the whites in the country has been going down. I knew that that would definitely push them to a point whereby they will have no option but to succumb to the demands of the people. I think De Klerk, when he started last year as the President, he made a number of promises and I always expected him - I knew, for example, Comrade Mandela had meetings with PW and he was in one way or another meeting with FW de Klerk and Kobie Coetsee and I was really envisaging a situation whereby De Klerk will stick to his words when he moved into the office as the President.
POM Do you think that De Klerk has conceded on the issue of majority rule?
PJ I would say initially it might have been a problem, especially with the Afrikaner indoctrination which has always portrayed the situation in the country as being between - denounces uncivilised blacks who will take everything from the white community or from the white constituency and De Klerk, he really had to move slowly in terms of accepting certain demands. Even today they still talk about group rights, and in as far as we are concerned, we are not talking as the situation in South Africa or in the country in terms of blacks, whites being smaller, in terms of Afrikaners, Xhosas, and Zulus, we look at them in terms of South Africans. They are first and foremost to us individuals then when they are together they are South African. I think they realise that. For example, De Klerk, the Nationalist Party's constitution on the question of franchise system, it is that one which is open. It is not a qualified franchise system. And they can't change it when it comes to a situation whereby blacks will participate. So, in that situation, I would say the only thing that De Klerk is really opting for, they are really opting for, is a conciliatory situation whereby even if the majority of South Africans, when South Africa is free tomorrow, at least the question of animosity must have been resolved to a certain extent.
POM What has been the impact of the last six months in your township? What are your friends, your colleagues, your comrades, what are they thinking about what is going on?
PJ Well, people are very, very optimistic. But sometimes it creates problems for us, especially people who are saying we support no negotiations. You will have a situation whereby De Klerk will be saying, we are trying to normalise the situation in the country. Tomorrow when you will be meeting some people they will tell you that they were shot by police. And even about a week ago people in Ashton and in Robertson, those are the outskirts or the rural areas of Cape Town, people were shot by police. And even today in places like Crossroads, police are involved with one of the factions in Crossroads and, in fact, they are physically involved in the fighting in Crossroads. They promote conflict. You know, all those things, they really put us under pressure, because we must account, because we are saying, give these boys a chance, let's talk to them. But there are a number of things like the way police conduct themselves. But all in all I must say that people, they've got a high regard and confidence in our leadership, especially Comrade Mandela. He has really proved himself to be a seasoned and tested leader of the people.
POM Just yesterday when the armed struggle was suspended, what was the reaction to that?
PJ In fact MK, that is uMkhonto we Sizwe, it hasn't been really, ever since Comrade Mandela and our leadership, ever since they were involved in some talks with the government, the ANC, it has in fact, without publicly announcing the question of withdrawing or of not involving MK cadres in some armed activities, it has done so, and people realise that we are talking about a peaceful solution or transformation of the country and they understand that the suspension of the armed struggle does not mean that when things don't go right in the country, we won't go back and take up arms inside the borders.
POM What are people's fears and concerns? Do they think the government might renege, that this is just a deceptive act on its part? What if there is a settlement and it doesn't immediately bring about black majority rule, what are people looking for? What are they expecting to come out of this process that will make a difference in the way they live their lives?
PJ There is one good thing about the situation in the country; although most of the newspapers, especially abroad, people had a tendency of portraying the situation in the country as black versus white whereas, in fact, it is not so. And when we are talking about majority rule, we, in fact, mean South Africans, irrespective of race, colour, or creed. They will just vote for the person that they feel will be capable of giving them security, of promoting economic growth and providing the basic needs of our people in the country without hurting the economy. I think that is what the people are really looking for. People in the township, when talking about the ANC, like the Freedom Charter, it has it been, almost in the past years we were promoting Freedom Charter, Freedom Charter, more than the world can tell. We've got songs that sing about there shall be housing, security and comfort, there shall be peace and friendship, the doors of learning and culture shall be open to all and the people shall govern. I think what people are really looking for it is a situation whereby they will be able to participate in the administration of their lives, even if there will be a government, a type of a government who will allow them. For example, we've got structures like the PDSAs that award different schools, parents, teachers, and students citations. As long as the next government, or for that matter, this government, can allow those PDSAs to operate and to be involved in the decision-making of, at a number of levels within the education of their children, I think that is what people are really looking for. We have been subjected to a situation whereby certain people that we have not elected as leaders were telling us what to do and not to do. And that was a very unfair situation.
POM If there was a majority government tomorrow, in the next four to five years what difference would it make to the average person who lives in a township, or to somebody who is a squatter?
PJ I think, if one looks at today the allocation of funds, especially by this present government - for example, if we believe that the future government, although we are not saying we'll be in a position to reverse the present set-up in the township within the next five years, but we believe that the standard of living of our people will definitely go up, will definitely improve because in those areas where they are living in the squatter camps, some of those areas are polluted, they live in a polluted world. At least the government will try and upgrade those areas and make their situation at least better off as compared to what it is today. And the government might also have to assist people in terms of providing building material, even if it is dreams and plans so that at least they can have an adequate shelter. Of course they will definitely expect the government to give us funds so they can engage in self-help projects. We have got people who are skilled in the township but they are skilled where they are not developed but will envisage a situation whereby that government will be in a position to assist those people to develop their talents.
POM In Langa, what percentage of the people might be unemployed?
PL In Langa, I would say about ...
POM Say, of young people, people over 18.
PL I would say about 80% of them.
POM What will happen to them?
PL Well, some of them have left school because of a number of factors like hooliganism, which is also promoted by no-one else but the present system and especially the police. They will arrest these boys, take them into the police stations, organise them, and release them the following day, they will be arrested for killing today, they will be back in the streets tomorrow without even appearing in court. And some of them are also waiting - when the Boers were forced to pull out of the townships the Boers opted for a different way of destabilising, of making the townships ungovernable, and that was by means of promoting gangsterism. And we believe that tomorrow, with some guys coming down from outside the country, some of them, they are skilful, who will be in a position to organise projects whereby, literacy projects, one, try and impart them with skills, bricklaying, carpentry, so that tomorrow if there will be a housing project, we should be able to draw resources, human resources, from the very same people that we have trained.
POM A number of people we have talked to have mentioned a generation of young people who left school at the time of the Soweto rioting, just walked out and never went back to school, who are unemployed and probably unemployable, who have very little skills, who may not be literate. Are they a problem in the townships?
PL In fact, not really, because most of them presently they are moving back into night school and we have been really involved or engaged in a drive to encourage people to take up education seriously, to go back and do some private studies even if they go to some of the night schools. For example, presently in places like Langa, we've got literacy projects for elderly people, we've got night schools, and the number of those night schools is growing almost every year; that is, night school projects that are operating there, are growing almost every year and that is to a certain extent to me an encouragement. Most of the people who are going back into the night school are the very same people, some of them who left school during the period of 1976 and 1977-78, and those who left school in 1980. Everyone is presently eager to complete one's matric and study in one of these teacher institutions that we have here.
POM What are the state of the schools now? Are children back in the schools? Tell us about the state of education in general and the problems that are there.
PJ Well, the state of education is really very pathetic and I wish to divide this into three categories: the role that the pupils were playing, the role that the community is playing, and the role that the state is playing. In terms of the students after we had those disastrous matric results in 1979 people were very disgruntled, our communities were very angry, in fact, rightfully so. Then there was a tendency within the pupils of engaging in political activities; some of them they happened to be senseless, to be quite honest. Calling rallies during tuition time and we were saying to them, Look, boys, don't do this, because you are involved in a situation whereby you don't have adequate facilities, where we would say, The situation is not conducive for learning and teaching and the more you engage in these activities the more you worsen the situation. But we were really able to address that aspect of the pupils' role in terms of disorganising tuition, tuition and learning. But then there was also a question of the community taking part in the education of their children. This has been a problem. And most of the parents, I would say, they have almost taken a back seat because the Department had a tendency of taking everything to itself, that we will control everything, you don't have a role to play. And as a result, now we are having a problem of trying to encourage parents to be involved in the education of their children.
The third problem or category that I can mention is the role of the government. I don't think at all that this present regime is really serious in terms of addressing education inequalities. Where, I suppose, the more we will be having capable blacks, the more some whites might lose their jobs tomorrow. But I'm always saying to these guys, even when discussing with me, the guys, the officials from the Department of Education and Training, whatever future administration that we are going to have, it will have to reflect the composition of our population in the country. It will be a very abnormal and sick situation when things have changed in South Africa to discover in an office we will have about 80 white administrators and 20 black administrators, whereas the population says there are for every 80 blacks, there are 20 whites.
But the problem that we are really facing is with the Department of Education and Training. They are deliberately refusing, in fact, I would say they are destabilizing, learning and teaching in all schools. They don't provide proper or adequate facilities. For an example, there is a question of laboratories. Most of these laboratories, they are empty, they don't have chemicals, some might be having a few apparatus but they don't have chemicals. But in some schools, they don't even have the apparatus, let alone the question of chemicals, the shortage of chemicals. And there is a shortage of books and furniture. Like, in one school, there is a school which has just been named after Comrade Oscar Mpetha, it's called Oscar Mpetha High School, it is in Langa; that is with 1,154 students and only 634 of those students can be seated. About 474 of them, or so roughly that number, they don't have furniture. And that really disrupts, in places like Mpetha. In Paarl there is a school, I've been to that school, I've visited that school, when the teacher teaching, some students they will stand against the wall, because they don't have desks and then the boys when they have to write in there, they'll have to go down on their knees. Some of them they will even sit in front of the desk, in front of the teacher. I have blacks in that situation when I was doing sub-A, sub-standard A, when my teacher would tell us, Now, boys and girls, you can sleep. We'd all sleep on the floor. I've never seen that, in fact, this department is really not serious.
POM You've mentioned some figures for the Western Cape, out of 195,000 students, was that how many?
PJ That was a national, those are the national figures that had given about the 1979 matric results. I was just saying, last year we had 195,000 matrics here and only 17,000 of them received an exemption, 70,553 received school leaving, which means they can go to some colleges to do things like teaching and all that stuff.
POM When you look at the negotiations that are going to start, do you think that the question of the economy, the structure of the economy, is going to be a big issue during negotiations?
PJ Yes, I would say it might be, but at the same time when I look at it, when we talk about Afrikaners, they own Sanlam. They have got this one big institution here which is Sanlam finance institution. When talking about the question of monopoly industries like the mines, fisheries, transport, they don't control those things, really. And I don't think they, even De Klerk, they don't have that much to lose, even if we will talk about the nationalisation of monopoly industries. In fact, one might discover that the Afrikaners, they are very, very close to us indigenous people in this country, more than the English-speaking whites. In fact, I've always said I prefer them to the people who control the wealth in this country, they are not Afrikaners, they are the English-speaking. We might, if we reach compromises and clinch deals with the Afrikaners, because they own nothing, they only own the pieces of land, they've got farms, most of them, they are farmers, that's why we call them Boers. They are farmers. Now I would say, I'm not sure whether that is a simplistic analysis of this division, at the same time, I'm saying we might easily clinch deals with them in terms of the economy.
POM When you look at all the things that have to be done in the future, the huge backlog of housing, the lack of electricity in townships, the lack of running water in townships, this huge investment that you need in education, where are the resources for all this going to come from?
PL Without nationalisation or heavy taxation of the big industry, we cannot be in a position to address those problems. Hence, nationalisation is extremely vital for us because in the past years we have been talking about us providing housing, security, and comfort for our people. We cannot at this point in time turn our backs against whites. We say, in fact, the Freedom Charter, it is not a document of the ANC, it is a document of the people. But the ANC was the first organisation to adopt the Freedom Charter, and it is no-one else but only the people who qualify to change any of the rules or clauses that are contained in the Freedom Charter. And, you might really have to nationalise certain aspects of the economy.
POM What aspects would you look at?
PJ I would think of, really, the monopoly industry like mines, transport, railways, forestry, sea or fisheries, and if we control forestry. That means to say, whoever would be making furniture will be getting timber from us. Whoever will be, and, of course, even the government itself, the government can - there are companies, big companies, that make furniture - the government, we might have shares within those companies. That's making everything or every commodity, accessible to our people, without, in fact, saying, yes, you whites have got so much in the bank, therefore we will have to squeeze you in terms of taxation. No, we don't want this to upset the standards of living of whites. They will still have to live the way they are used to. There is nothing wrong about whites affording to have a big house, to have a car, to be able to go to the beach when Cape Town is sunny, but all that we will need to do, we need to uplift the standards of blacks so that they can be almost in the same power of position with their white counterparts in the country. That will have to happen without really affecting the standards of living of the white constituents.
POM What about the question of the land?
PJ Well, it is one of the crucial and controversial issues. For an example, we've got people who were driven out of their fertile lands where they used to grow vegetables, where they used to farm, I'm talking about black people. And some of them, they are still claiming those lands today, but those lands have been taken over by some white farmers. The Freedom Charter says the land shall belong to those who work it. And, of course, in that situation most of the people who have done farm work they are women, and that will mean that women are going to own the land.
POM Are these questions like nationalisation talked about in your community, do they come up at meetings? What would be the reaction if a new government didn't nationalise, by and large left big business as it was, would people be disappointed? What are their expectations of what is going to happen? What can happen to disappoint them, what would disappoint them, I suppose I am asking?
PJ If the government cannot be in a position to provide, for example, free and compulsory education, housing, security, and comfort, uplifting their standards of living, in fact, if our people cannot be given an economic freedom in that process, people can never be free. My understanding of freedom, or, I would say, this is our understanding of freedom, it means economic freedom. It is only when you are free economically that you will be able to lead a better social life and have a proper and constructive participation, politically. Otherwise, without the economy how can a standard person be in a position to contribute positively, politically?
POM In the last six months, what difference has it made to you as a person?
PJ Well, to a certain extent it has, I am no longer raided by police. And now I can talk freely about the African National Congress without fear of being arrested and detained. Well, in fact, I have never really had fears, but I suppose everyone today shouts about the ANC, something that we were doing about some years ago, shouting about the ANC, in the mass rallies, and our mass funerals. But I think the present political climate has put more pressure on us, to be quite honest. Because when they unbanned the organisation, I would say most of us, we were not ready, we were not expecting them to unban the organisation. In fact, I would say most of the people were caught out of balance, and that has really put stress and more pressure on us in terms of organising the ANC structures. And that caused us to move away from clandestine or an underground type of political activity into an open type of political activity. That sort of initiative, it has created problems for us. But we are also involved in a massive drive to try and engage people in this new phase of political struggle, where people will have to be part of our structures, contribute the shape and the life and blood of the African National Congress which we are optimistic that it is going to be the next government. But at the same time, we feel that the question of the ANC becoming the next government, and us saying we are standing for the people, we are for the people, it must not only be reflected in terms of theory, but even in terms of decision-making. People like Comrade Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and others, they must just carry out decisions that have been agreed upon by no-one else but the masses of our people.
POM And how will what the masses of the people want them to do in every case be conveyed to them? What kind of a decision-making structure must you have?
PJ For example, we will still have Provincial Councils. But our situation will be different from the present political structure whereby if you elect a person as an MP, the only time that person you will see again, it will be during the next general election. Anyone who is going to do that with us, we'll ask him to step down, unfortunately. We will just come up with a vote of no confidence. By 'the people shall govern', we don't just mean a participation of the people during, and putting their X, and their participation during general elections. We mean, in fact, they have constant participation or consultation. It will mean a constant consultation between the MPs, the Provincial Council members, and with the people. For example, our areas could be divided into wards. Somebody will be responsible for ward one, two, three, and four. We already have time to put up our street committees. The question of street committees, like dividing in area street committee, neighbourhood committee, and then regional, branch committees and regional committees, that is what is going to assist us in terms of taking issues from street level up to parliament. And they will be people who will from time to time be responsible for each and every member of parliament, a person who will collate some demands and feelings from the people. Like an MP's office in Langa will be responsible for putting together all the information. An MP must have an advisor, a person who will say, this is how people feel these days, one, two, three, four. I think that will be the most democratic way.
POM Going back to Mandela for a minute, what do you think are the biggest obstacles or stumbling blocks in his path as he tries to guide your community towards the fruition of this process?
PJ Well, the fact that we don't have resources. And Comrade Mandela, even we as well, we really depend on personnel, human personnel, for our resources, human resources, in terms of us organising mass meetings, telling people that this is our position, this is how we must behave. But we don't have, for example, a machinery like TV. The present regime does not give us enough time so that we may put our own programmes as they do. We need to have our own programmes in the TV, whereby, for example, we, as the African National Congress and any other person will be able to say, this is what we want, this is how we want you guys to behave, this is how we wish you guys to do things, and all that stuff. That is one. The second one is that the organisations were banned for a number of years. For a decade we were operating under extremely difficult conditions underground, and all of a sudden things have surfaced, above board, everything now is above board, but we don't really have enough personnel to go to each and every street and call a street meeting, politicise people, give them direction. We don't have funds, for that matter, to even translate the Groote Schuur Minute and Pretoria Minute into Xhosa so that our people can be informed about what is really taking place in those talks. The only times that we will be in a position to do so is when we have got the mass meeting, where we have someone to come and report and tell them what has transpired during those talks. And in most cases the only people who benefit are people who are members of our organisations, because we normally invite them. And in a report back, feedback situation, like at the University of Cape Town or the University of Western Cape, we will inform them about what transpired during the talks and then those go back into their respective organisations and report as to what really happening during those proceedings.
POM Is the PAC any threat?
PJ PAC? Who? No, PAC could be a threat if they were not using the language of the enemy. They have made a mistake, they can never match the African National Congress because they have used the language of the oppressor.
POM Which is?
PJ We are communists. These people are selling, they are traitors, they are talking to Boers today, and our people have been dying, we've been the leadership, we've been coming in and out. I'm not part of the leadership, I'm in the rank and file, but most of the people who are on the receiving end, they are ANC people. For example, in my area there is no one in my area who can call an ANC meeting without accounting as to where he's going. First and foremost a person has to explain why progress is not in the making. And anyone who calls a meeting in my area has got, for example, to say, they must see me distributing pamphlets or see the comrades that they know distributing pamphlets, then they will say, yes, this is genuine, we can attend this meeting. And the PAC, it has wasted its time by engaging in a smear campaign against the ANC, which is what Vlok was doing, which was what PW Botha was doing, and by so doing, by the people, they were identified as part and parcel of the enemy. The type of language that they talk about Nelson Mandela, he's a traitor, he is this and that. You don't do that with a person who is held at high esteem by the people. It is very suicidal for anyone to come up and say, Nelson Mandela is selling out. Whereas people, they know that he has spent some time in prison and he has stood firm on his belief and he has never changed, he is still in one piece, he is still pushing the cause of the people.
POM This time next year, when we are having another chat, what will have happened in the intervening year? How far will things have gone?
PJ Presently we are calling up from the government that we need to have an interim government. By 'interim government' we don't necessarily mean that it must consist of the ANC and the Nationalist Party. But at the same time we'll be realistic. An interim government, it might be a the type of a government that will facilitate the process of elections in the country, the process of, you know, integrating the armed forces, the police, the security personnel, and our security personnel. That is possible that it might take time some time in the next year.
POM Where would things have to be for you to be disappointed with progress?
PJ You know, to be quite honest, I think the testing ground for me, especially for the Boers, if these guys, they can do away with the Internal Security Act, certain aspects of Internal Security Act or security laws, then I will know that we have gone a long way with this process. But besides that, doing away with those laws, for example, they have done away with the state of emergency but they are using the Internal Security Act to do exactly what they were doing during the time of the state of emergency. So, I think that is what is very important for me, that they must just try. In fact, even now, although I am saying things have changed in terms of me being able to talk freely, I am still under pressure. I am not the only person who is under pressure. Our guys, they are still scared that they might be killed. They might be assassinated. Because we constitute action, we are the pillars of the African National Congress. Well, the masses are the pillars, but I would say we are the balls. When you want to put a pillar together with nails, you need to put the balls together. I would say we are the balls, without us, things won't move. And, of course, I know that the Boers, for example, this year, I think there were about four attempts that were made on my life. Just this year. Even after the unbanning of the organisation. On stage I was chased by Ascaris, that is a defector, people who defect from uMkhonto we Sizwe, they chased me, and I sped off until I reached a point whereby it was OK and there were people around and I stopped and when I stopped, they quickly took a U-turn and sped off. But I wanted them to knock my car and I knew they were going to get their share from the people. But then I evidently took a U-turn as well, and I chased them. They went into one of the passages. I drove into that passage and I overtook them and stopped and said to them, Stop! Then they stopped. I got out of my car. Now, I was wearing a lamda(?), you know, I had pockets in the lamda, they must have thought I had a pistol, and I said to them, Hey, guys, what are you up to? They were shocked. I could see water running out of these guys, they were sweating. And I said to them, Look here, we are sick and tired of you. I know you are scared. This guy was shaking, he was speaking Zulu, expressing himself in Zulu. Then I asked him, Why do you speak Zulu in Cape Town, because I'm not in a Xhosa speaking area, Why do you speak Zulu? He said, I was looking for another friend of mine. Then I said, Now, look here, there is one thing that I must tell you, you have been killing our people, assassinating our people, but what you must know, we are sick and tired of you guys, and we are going to kill you. Then I said to them, Never chase that car again, because tomorrow when you will be chasing that car, I might be having a bazooka in this car, so be careful. You know, there is that type of a situation.
But I think the Internal Security laws, as I am saying to you, those guys can't just go away with those Internal Security Laws where it should be at this time next year and they have done away with this security law. But still we know that these guys are still going to assassinate us. There is a question of the right wingers. They are also a problem. But those we can handle. But we want De Klerk, he must be firm, De Klerk must be firm. You know, in rugby, it is said that when those first three guys up front, the two props and the walker, (in Ireland, people play rugby there?) if those guys they cannot stand firm together, their pack will keep on collapsing because they are not moving in as a unit. But if De Klerk is not strong enough, next to us, then the scrum will collapse, but we are sure our side of the scrum will never collapse.
POM Thanks a million. Would it be possible to arrange something with some ...?
PJ Yes, sure.