This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
27 Aug 1991: Mkhize, Goodwill
POM. I am talking to Goodwill Mkhize on the 27th of August. Tell me about yourself and your background.
GM. I was born in Pietermaritzburg. My mother, father, brothers and sisters were all born there. Then we moved to Durban in 1969. My father had a house in the township in Maritzburg and he was working in Durban. At the time it was illegal for him to have a house there and not work in Maritzburg. He had to look for a house in Durban and he got one in Umlazi, and that is how we settled here.
POM. What did your father do?
GM. He was working as a driver for Kayser Irvine, the shipping company, and he was there for 30 years. He died just before he was due to be pensioned off.
POM. And your brothers and sisters?
GM. I have got two brothers and a sister. We were four in the family, three boys and one girl.
POM. I understand that your brother is a Zulu Chief?
GM. Yes. He is a 'cousin brother'. He is the son of my father's elder brother. In the line of succession, my father would have taken over the chieftainship had he been the first born. But my cousin took over because his father was the first born. It is hereditary.
POM. Does that ritual play a big role in your life?
GM. Not so much. I think I am now partly detribalised, though I find that I still follow certain customs and rituals. We still go home periodically and we still call it home, although I am settled here and the next generation will be here. We still have that link with what we call home, where my mother and father were born.
POM. Where did you go to school?
GM. I went to school in Pietermaritzburg town, at Dundee High School and then I went to university in the Ciskei.
POM. When did you become aware of apartheid?
GM. As early as 1951, I was doing standard one or two. I was about eight or nine years.
POM. How did it effect you?
GM. We felt the changes when Verwoerd took over. The Malan transition, I was not intelligent enough to perceive what was happening. When Verwoerd took over in 1954, that is when I felt certain changes, such as in our education system. These were the things that were very close to us. The schools were run by the Provincial Administration, we had school meals, books, pencils, but it all stopped. And they started introducing the vernacular medium of instruction. One had to study arithmetic, geography etc. in Zulu, except English and Afrikaans. Two years later, in Standard six, we had to do geography in Afrikaans. We were poor in the language, but they wanted to used it as a medium of instruction, even for those technical subjects. That is when we felt the effects of what was happening.
POM. Your family was not subjected to any kind of forced relocation?
GM. We were. As I told you, that was the reason why we had to move to Durban. It was because of the Influx Control laws. That the housing in the satellite of towns, where blacks were housed, were only for people who were working in the town. Since my father had always been working in Durban, we had to move from Maritzburg to Durban. We were just given a warning that our tenancy in the house in Maritzburg would be terminated as from the 31 December 1959. My old man had to move fast and find alternative housing for us. At that time again we had a problem. The influx control laws stated said that one could not get a house in the township if you did not work in Durban, and you could not get a job in Durban if you did not have accommodation. Fortunately my father was working in Durban.
POM. What other things did you realise as your consciousness developed? Were you aware of inequality?
GM. Yes. We were very much aware of that. Previously we used to get into the same buses as whites; although we used to sit at the back and the whites in front, and there was no alternative transport for us to certain areas in town. We had a cinema in town called The Grand which we used to go to every Saturday morning, we were stopped from going there because it became illegal. The owner of the cinema was liable for a jail sentence if he allowed blacks in.
POM. Did you experience anger at all this?
GM. A lot of anger.
POM. How did it express itself?
GM. When you find that you have a potential of doing something and then you are not allowed to, and also getting to a point where you know that you are at school and it another five or six years time, you should be at the university and you realise that universities are not going to accept you because they are white universities and we only had one university, that was Fort Hare, and it could only accommodate so many and no more, it means that if you were not accepted, then you were completely deprived of a university education. To get to any of the white universities, you had to get a permit from the Minister of Education and Interior. And you had to have a good reason why you could not go to the black universities. And if you said it was full, they would tell you to wait for the next year.
POM. So you ended up at Fort Hare doing Science. Was there a political atmosphere there?
GM. It was highly political. You will find that most of Africa's political leaders, some from Zimbabwe and Zambia, right up to Nigeria, are ex-Fort Hare students. A lot of Cabinet ministers in Zimbabwe are ex-Fort Hare students.
POM. Did you get involved in politics?
GM. A lot.
POM. How were you involved?
GM. We were fortunately in NUSAS (National Union of South African Students). It was multi-racial. That was a good political message for us. In 1970 we saw the coming of the Black Consciousness Movement, Steve Biko, etc.
POM. Did they have a big impact on the students?
GM. It had a big impact on most of us and it was drawing people away from NUSAS to the BCM.
POM. Did you also move to become a BCM member?
GM. No, I remained a NUSAS member. I saw no reason to make the move.
POM. Even though it was becoming the rage at the time?
GM. Yes. It was very much in fashion but I found that NUSAS was feeding my political aspirations adequately.
POM. How would you describe your political aspirations at that time?
GM. At the time we were working on the introduction of a certain system wherein everybody would be accepted by his worth and not the colour of his skin and NUSAS was propagating that. The BCM was saying that one was black first and they did not want to have anything to do with whites. It sounded rather too extreme for me. Hence I could not join them. I had friends who were BCM members and we got along well despite our differences politically.
POM. So what was your progress from there?
GM. I left university and came to Durban and I joined SA Fabrics, a clothing factory, and worked there for about three years.
POM. Is this how you met Mildred?
GM. I met Mildred whilst I was a clothing salesman, before I even went to university.
POM. Take me through the seventies so that I can tell how your politics developed, what impact separate development had on your life etc?
GM. It had a great impact because I could not even marry my wife at that time. It was illegal for me to do so because she was Xhosa from the Transkei and she had no permit to come to Durban. So we had to marry in the Transkei. After getting married, we had to negotiate ways and means of getting her a permit to live and work in Durban. Fortunately, she had a profession and there was a shortage of social workers. So she got a job first, and then they applied for an exemption for her and then she came to live in Durban. We were married throughout this period but legally we could not stay together.
POM. Then you came and joined her here in Umlazi in 1973? Then Biko was killed? In Umlazi, what were the politics at that time?
GM. It was very hot at that time. It was a highly sensitive period. Mr. Mxenge was assassinated too at that time, we had Dube Msizi. ANC cadres were busy organising for the ANC at that time. During that time the ANC was operating from underground and it was more powerful than when it was legal because there were cells practically in each and every section of Umlazi.
POM. Were you a member at that time?
GM. I was not. But again, I had friends in the BCM and ANC and I was playing a very neutral role. I was, however, keeping company with mostly ANC people without being a card-carrying member.
POM. So you moved into the ANC during this period?
GM. At the time we found that challenging and fighting the system, as the PAC and BCM were advocating, was self-defeating because the government was heavily armed and there were laws controlling each and every facet of one's life. Being a martyr was self-defeating. The only option we had was to try to disseminate political information to the community and that was what we did.
POM. At what point did you see things begin to change? Was there a point where you began to realise that what you hoped to achieve could in fact become possible or was the control of the state such that you could not see your way?
GM. It was about three years ago. But it was shattered by the PW Botha speech that he had quelled a coup. That was in 1985. I thought things were progressing well and each and every head of state was trying to come up with something that was going to be comprised which could metamorphose into a real normal society. But when we reached that point, I realised that one could not change this government.
POM. So what conclusion did you draw from that?
GM. It was a matter of trying to look at whatever the liberation movements were doing to undermine the state, e.g. intensification of sanctions, anything that is peaceful resistance. I found that sanctions was the best and most peaceful tool to use against the state.
POM. When your children were growing up, did they notice anything? Particularly your daughter who grew up during this period, did she ask you questions like why do we have to travel on racially segregated buses?
GM. Yes they did. I was telling Pat that about ten years ago we were allowed to walk around this area, but our kinds were not allowed swim. One question that my daughter asked was, "Daddy, why can't I swim? Other children are." It was difficult for me to tell her that it is because you are black, you can't. I knew that if she defied me and went into the water, a policeman would come in and kick her, and I would have to fight that policeman. And what impression was that going to make on the child? In most cases one tried to avoid those places for the sake of peace. When they grew up again and told me about their aspirations, I used to tell them that, "Let us face reality, this is not possible under the present government", and their question was, "Why is it not possible?", and I had to answer that question. I told them that whites in this country feel that they have certain things are exclusive to them only and they are their God given right. Until somebody comes along and tells them that it is wrong.
POM. Did you have an anger towards whites? When you walk around and look at their affluence, their big houses, etc.?
GM. No, never. In most cases, I used to empathise with them. I knew that they had a problem. I did not have a problem; they did. Their life was very artificial. You could find that you had white friends who would like you to visit their homes but were scared of their neighbours. If they dared to invite you they asked you to come at night. Those were not normal problems. They could come to my house and have breakfast any morning they liked. I used to empathise with them on this but I never lost faith that some time in the future things would be normal, during my lifetime.
POM. Did you think that it would happen in your lifetime?
GM. Yes. I knew something was going to happen. I don't know whether I was being over optimistic or I could project into the future and see that the status quo could not last forever.
POM. You worked for Shell. How was the work place structured? Was management essentially white and blacks were subordinates?
GM. Yes. I would say that ten years ago you found that for all blacks their entry point was the highest they would go. Because although Shell was international, it was managed by South Africans. It was only when the Managing Director was from The Hague that we saw some changes in some areas, about four or five years ago when things started improving a lot.
POM. How would you rate it as an employer now?
GM. I would say policies and practices at the moment make you feel like you are a man. I have got whites who are three, up to five ranks below me and they accept me as their senior. It is normal. It is so normal that you find that the outside environment becomes abnormal, where a white man will meet me in West Street or market and say, "Hi, meet Mr. Mkhize, he is my boss", or, "Meet Mr. Mkhize, the guy who helped us with our house when we had that housing problem", which were things that the same guy would not have said five or six years ago.
POM. When February 1990 came and De Klerk made his announcement about the unbanning of the ANC, SACP and the release of Mandela, did you think the moment had arrived?
GM. No. I did not think that the moment had arrived because I could see that he was under pressure because of the economic realities. He had to do that or the economy of this country would have collapsed. The government had three options. One was to be as conservative as Treurnicht and sanctions would have bitten into the economy of South Africa to a point where we could not do anything and it would result in bloodshed. The second one was the co-option of blacks to move with whites to build structures of unity and show the world that at least something is being done. The third one was going for a really fair democracy, where we would be as normal as any other country, which would have attracted investors, eased the unemployment situation and improved the economy of this country.
POM. Do you believe that that is the direction the government is in fact moving in?
GM. They are reluctantly moving in that direction.
POM. Do you believe that the government is in fact pursuing a double agenda, as the ANC says? That they are involved in the negotiations process on the one hand and working with Inkatha or with elements of the security forces to kill off people in the townships, so as to undermine support for the ANC the other?
GM. Yes that is so. They are dragging out the whole process of arriving at the negotiating table and they would like to whittle down the support of the ANC before they get there.
POM. One things that I have come across is the surprising amount of support for De Klerk. Where does that come from?
GM. That is true. De Klerk has their support because he is seen in most quarters as the bravest Afrikaner ever. No other Afrikaner leader has ever made the same utterances, who could release political prisoners like Mandela, etc. It was so surprising and nobody expected him to do that. It is that element of surprise that has earned him all round respectability. We thought that to get the NP out there would be a lot of bloodshed but here came a man, sold us an idea, and even looked as if he meant it.
POM. Do you sometimes think that the government is behind the violence or do you not associate the government with that?
GM. The government is responsible for the violence.
POM. People do not hold De Klerk personally responsible?
GM. No, we do not hold him personally responsible. People think that this is happening behind his back. They accuse Magnus Malan and Vlok.
POM. What do you believe?
GM. I believe he was aware of part of it. I don't think he can sit in parliament and have all these things done without him knowing. It is impossible. He should have know about the formation of the Askaris. Maybe it was cushioned in a way like he was told that we are doing this for this purpose or that for that purpose, when in actual fact the purpose was something else. But he was aware.
POM. In the 18 months that have gone by since Mandela's release, have you been disappointed by the rate of change or do you think things are vaguely on course?
GM. I think things are on course, but the tempo should increase. If the process had moved faster it would have caught a lot of people by surprise and they would not have known how to react. But the gradual goings on are OK.
POM. What about the levels of expectations of the people?
GM. The level of expectations of the people has been very high. But fortunately, when they started moving onto the grassroots, that was in February or March this year, when the political structures went to the people and started politicising people, (the youth at that time just wanted to take over the country so that they could move into white people's homes, etc.), people like Terror Lekota came and started spreading the gospel. They told people that their expectations should not be too high. He said that if they moved into white homes they would have to be able to maintain those large houses and in order to do that they had to have high incomes. That reality hit them hard and people started realising that whatever one wanted to acquire you had to get it honestly. That awareness is growing. Then there are the drop-outs from high schools and primary schools. They are going to be a problem. They now realise though that they have got to lower their expectations or do something about their employability. That is encouraging.
POM. What about your own children? Mildred was saying that the two youngest will go to white schools from next year. Would you consider leaving Umlazi and moving into a white area in the city?
GM. No. I do not think that I would move out of Umlazi unless other factors force me to. Otherwise I have no such ambitions. As it is, I could be subsidised by my company to the tune of R190,000 to buy a house. This means that I could afford a house in places like La Lucia, Durban North, but I do not want to do that. My two girls are totally against that. The eldest is actually violently against it.
GM. She says it is an artificial type of life, which she is not used to. She is used to freely going to the next door neighbour's house and playing with the children there, etc. But she knows that in white areas one does not even know one's neighbour. My brother has in fact bought a house and moved into Westville. My daughter has been there two or three times and she says that it is too artificial; a place where you do not talk to anybody except members of your family.
POM. So she is used to the more communal way of life?
POM. Do you think that, and this has happened in the States, which in many respects is as segregationist as South Africa, it has just taken a different form, you find that better off blacks leave the ghetto, move into the city, assimilate, but those who are left behind are the poor, so that the ghetto becomes a haven for the unemployed and drugs and such manifestations. Do you think there is a chance of that happening here?
GM. No. You would find that if we were living in shacks or a poor four-roomed house it would be very attractive to move to Durban North irrespective of the social consequences of the area. But I find that the house we live in compares favourably with some of the houses in the white suburbs. My move would have been faster and easier if my accommodation in the township was bad.
POM. Is your daughter very political?
GM. No, not so much.
POM. One thing I have heard suggested a number of times when one talks of a future government, is that a number of blacks say that a coalition government between the ANC and the NP would be perfectly acceptable to them as a future government. Do you agree?
GM. Yes, I agree.
POM. Why would people allow their oppressor to become part of a future democratic government?
GM. The oppressor had an agenda. But further, he has the expertise in administration which we need. He has got the infrastructure of the know-how of running a government. To just go and break away from that just for the sake of Africanising is as bad as my being employed as an MD of Shell just because I am black. That will neither do me or the company any good.
POM. Is this what you think will happen when they get down to negotiations?
GM. I think so. It will be a mixture of both parties, and people will be in office because of merit.
POM. Mildred mentioned the on-going violence as being a source of concern to her and to a lot of people. Do you think they can actually have successful negotiations if this violence cannot be brought under control?
GM. The violence is going to be brought under control. The violence is state orchestrated for the purposes of trying to dilute the might of the ANC. If the state stops supporting the elements that are responsible for the violence, stops the Askaris, stops the SADF and the SAP and the ZP and Inkatha, then peace will prevail. The government is presently supplying money, arms, and manpower to fan the violence. And if that can be withdrawn it will end. At the moment, if you kill anybody here in Umlazi, and the police come and you tell them that you are an Inkatha member and this guy you have just killed was fighting Inkatha, they just leave you. They just forget about the case. That is the corruption that is going on here. But, if the person who kills another person is arrested and given a fair trail, they will stop this.
POM. Where do you see Buthelezi in all of this?
GM. There are some people who are not going to forgive him. People who talk of the Nuremberg trials, people who feel that he should be tried for the atrocities he has perpetrated against his own people. But the ANC is very forgiving. He will end up by being given a position somewhere, even in the Cabinet. He has a constituency and we must not lose sight of that. He has lost a lot in his following, but he does have people still loyal to him and those people have to be looked after.
POM. Your cousin who is a Chief, where does he stand? Is he Inkatha?
GM. Yes, he is Inkatha.
POM. Why is this?
GM. It is because if he turns against Inkatha he could be killed like Chief Maphumulo was. He will also lose any government assistance which he presently receives for his people. Buthelezi is very fast in punishing.
POM. Have you talked to him about this?
GM. Yes, I have.
POM. Does he see himself as being in a bind, or is he accepting the situation as being a reality or what?
GM. He does not accept it as being a reality but he is aware of the fact that the Inkatha control over them is not going to be for much longer.
POM. Does he talk about most members of Inkatha as being in it because they have to be, rather than because they want to be?
GM. They have to, not because they want to.
POM. Where does the King fit into all of this? How is he regarded? I have had two meetings with him and I found him to be very open and very accessible. He talks a very straight line and that is that the ANC is a Xhosa dominated organisation that wants to try to establish a one-party state and is out to destroy the Zulu nation. What do you think?
GM. He says so, but privately he does not believe all that. He was not an Inkatha member before. He started another party called the Inala Party. It was started by the Special Branch in 1974-75, the same Special Branch that is now supporting Inkatha. Buthelezi nearly killed him. He was called to a meeting in Ulundi and somewhere during the meeting he sensed that something was going to happen and he ran away. He had his supporters who were in that party and they found that they could not stand against the machinery of Inkatha and he bowed down and capitulated and joined Inkatha.
POM. Was he a King at that point?
GM. Yes he was.
POM. What did this Inala Party stand for?
GM. The party was going to be fighting Buthelezi. They were saying that Buthelezi has taken over the real might of the Zulu Kingdom and he was moving the capital to Mahlabathini instead of Nongoma where the capital should have been. It was a big affair.
POM. Why has he just accepted the Buthelezi line?
GM. It has been under duress. His uncle, Chief Mcwayizeni is an ANC member. He is in the NEC. He has had his house burnt by Inkatha. They have turned off his water and withdrawn his stipend because of his association with the enemy.
POM. But if the Zulu King came out against Inkatha, it would make a powerful statement at this point. Would that not undermine Buthelezi's moral authority? Does not the King have the moral authority?
GM. Yes. That is what happened at the time. You find that people within the ranks of the royal family are divided over this ANC/Inkatha issue because they see that the King is what he is because of the pressure from Buthelezi and not of his own volition. If he had taken that stand at the time and he found that it was right, why did he change? Most of the Chiefs know about this and they will always whisper amongst themselves when they know that nobody is going to report them.
POM. Do you think that Inkathagate has hurt Buthelezi in his own constituency? Or is he immune to that? That it has just hurt him in the larger national stage?
GM. It has hurt him within his own constituency. Even the common labourers that work in the factories here got the shock of their lives when they heard that Inkatha is being supported by the Special Branch, the oppressors. It is like the Jews hearing that their leader was being supported by the Gestapo. The image of BOSS, the image of the security branch amongst all blacks in South Africa is like the Gestapo and the Jews.
POM. If you look over the last 18 months, can you see measurable changes that these reforms have made in your own life?
POM. What would you point to?
GM. I would point to the scrapping of the Population Registration Act, the Group Areas Act. These scrappings have made tremendous impact in my aspirations as a black man. I now see that I can move forward. There is now room to manoeuvre. Before I knew that the ceiling was very low. I worked for Shell and I also have a little private business which I knew that it was the only thing I could do even though I had the expertise to do more. But now, if I work hard, the sky is the limit. I could be a Board member of Shell because I have earned the right to be there. Not because I am black.