About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Jan 1992: Twala, Linda

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POM     Thank you first of all for taking the time to get all these people to see me. I appreciate it. The last time we talked, I kept trying to see you last July and August, it never kind of worked out and we talked the previous year, we talked just after the violence had broken out in other townships and you were really proud of the fact that Alex had managed to escape the violence. Then in late January and February and March the whole thing fell apart. What happened?

LT     I wouldn't comment much on that but what happened was we had these people from outside who came to Alex. They were IFP guys, they came and stayed here in the hostels. Some of them were from George Goch and other places. George Goch in town. When they were running away from other areas they came into Alex. That's when the trouble started.

POM     And they stayed in - ?

LT     Yes they stayed in the men's hostel.

POM     Were these all Zulu speaking people?

LT     Yes they were Zulu speaking people. Then what happened was we quickly tried to form a committee whereby we had the ANC, IFP, PAC, AZAPO, all political organisations were represented and then we tried to solve this problem of violence. Yes, that is now just after when many people died. So we tried our level best because were it not for that meeting that we convened, we had to call that meeting at the Methodist Church, the church is somewhere in the suburbs, so that's where we met.

POM     What impact has that violence had on the community itself? What has it done to the community?

LT     Well it has damaged because many people died, we wouldn't like to see people dying. But through that committee at least we managed to ease things. It was now no longer like before. People were able to tolerate each other and people were able to report if there are some incidents that are happening.

POM     Under the National Peace Accord there was a whole structure. Has there been a structure set out here?

LT     Yes. We set this up as concerned residents.

POM     And how does that work?

LT     Well it's working all right except for we have not had a meeting lately and it's a big worry because anything can happen. Maybe somewhere along the line fire can spark off and we are still hoping that we should meet before anything goes wrong. Once we can see that the IFP is being discredited by many people we should not be seen to be siding with certain organisations but at least we should try and meet in order to solve our problems.

POM     Is Alexandra primarily an ANC community or is there support for a range of other organisations?

LT     It is divided because Alexandra is an old area which was established in 1912. We have PAC, we have ANC, we have IFP, we have AZAPO, all these political organisations, we have them here.

POM     Does this kind of multiplicity of political organisations make it difficult to get people together to do things in common because of their political competition with each other?

LT     At times it does because right now as it is it's a bit difficult to call a cabinet meeting. If it's called by the ANC maybe only ANC supporters will go there. If it's called by the IFP or PAC the same will happen. The best thing is that this meeting must be for everybody, or whatever discussions we hold they must convince the neutral people, the church ministers and the residents and business people because if you are going to say the ANC will convene a meeting it makes everything difficult. It's not a neutral body that will convene a meeting.

POM     When you look at Alex today have conditions here for the ordinary people gotten better, gotten worse or stayed just about as they were when this whole process of political reform was launched in February 1990?

LT     Well things are still as they were although hopefully we are waiting for the changes. Changes have begun but now we are having this programme of unemployment. The unemployment rate is a bit too high.

POM     How many people, what would the level of unemployment here be?

LT     In Alex? It's a very high percentage because of firms that have been operational  and Wynberg or Sandton, if I may put it that way, most of them have pulled out because of sanctions and most people are not working, many people are unemployed and our biggest worry now is that unemployment breeds crime. That's our main worry.

POM     So when you say changes have begun?

LT     There is no law, people start doing all these nasty things in order to make a living and yet it's not the right way.

POM     When you say changes have begun, what changes would you point to that have begun in the last two years?

LT     I would put it this way, now that changes have begun we have schools that have been opened to blacks.

POM     These schools are in?

LT     In the suburbs. They were never open for blacks.

POM     But how many children from Alexandra are going to those schools?

LT     Some do go to those schools but I'm not talking entirely on the whole of South Africa that things have begun changing. We have children that are going into these white schools whereas before you wouldn't even try to set your foot there unless maybe you're Mr So-and-so's child.

POM     What about in Alex itself?

LT     In Alex itself we have children who are now in the suburbs at those schools.

POM     Are they bussed out there or are they taken by kombi or what?

LT     No, they go there by themselves.

POM     They go by themselves. So their families would be able to provide the transportation?

LT     Yes, transportation for them.

POM     So would those be families that are better off kind of families?

LT     I would say those are better off families, if not so you will find that somebody has been sponsored.

POM     I see. If people had a choice, if people here had a choice between having to bus their children or send them by some public means of transportation to a white suburb to a school in which there were whites, if that was one choice, and the other choice was a school here in Alex that would have just as good resources, just as good teachers and just as good conditions as the school in the white suburbs, which one do you think people would prefer?

LT     Well the very good high school because even I for one, if this system can be changed I don't see any reason why should I send my children in the suburbs because it's costly. If things changed then I would take my child here.

POM     So when you look at your own life and the life of your family, again, can you point to anything specific that has improved since the repeal of the major elements of apartheid legislation?

LT     I would say yes, somebody who has been in this little business I'm doing, Alexandra Refuse Removal, we have been trying to negotiate or to talk to the councillors but in order to keep Alex clean money is needed. But all these years our councillors could not help us until now recently where we had spoken to a Mr John Griffith who is the Administrator of Alexandra. Since then it seems there's hope that our grievances might be met.

POM     Just for information, does the Alexandra City Council still sit or have all its members resigned?

LT     There are still those who are there because they want to be there. Nobody wants them there.

POM     So they don't really exercise any power. This John Griffith?

LT     John Griffith.

POM     Now is he with the Transvaal Provincial Administration?

LT     That's it.

POM     And he has the task now of overseeing Alexandra?

LT     Yes.

POM     So you think that's going to lead to some improvements?

LT     Yes.

POM     How about the Civic Association? Does the Civic Association play a large part in trying to formulate - ?

LT     They are playing a large part because there is an organisation that has been formed and they are working hand in hand with the Alexandra Civic Organisation. In those organisations you have political organisations, it's called JNF, Johannesburg Negotiating Forum, something like that. We have organisations like the civics, they are now meeting the Regional Services Council, RSC, that's the TPA you just mentioned now, so they are now trying to shape up things. Before they could not meet with the councillors because councillors were not representing us as residents so they have taken over now, that's now the civics, they are working jointly with the council.

POM     With the TPA?

LT     Yes with the TPA.

POM     Now is there any move afoot to take Alex to join it with a white municipality to form one municipality?

LT     A move has been taken whereby we have Randburg, we have Sandton, we have Alex, they are going to be one thing, they are going to merge into one municipality.

POM     Is the planning for that already under way?

LT     Yes it is under way because they have started meeting and it has appeared in the press that Alexandra is going to merge with Sandton and Randburg.

POM     I'm just interested in the kind of population figures in the new unit.

LT     In Alex we have 250,000.

POM     And how many would the other two communities have?

LT     Other communities?

POM     How many would Randburg and Sandton have between them?

LT     Oh, Randburg and Sandton. Oh no, they are not as many as we.

POM     Do you think that you will find resistance in those communities to the fact that in a new council blacks would have a majority and be able to lay down the rules of local government?

LT     They have agreed to join hands and work with us. What I'm trying to say is that in the housing section we will have representatives from our area almost on everything. What we try to do is to meet with the civic organisation to tell them that whatever they discuss about this location they must make it a point that we should be in the know because we are the residents, they would not be representing anybody were it not for the people. If they represent the people they have to be in touch or to communicate with the people here.

POM     You said now Alex is a very old township and it has a big proliferation of political parties, it has the ANC and the IFP and the PAC and whatever. Do political differences among these parties make it sometimes difficult for the community to present a single view of what it wants?

LT     There is that problem because, I would start with the civics, we are having two civic bodies in Alexandra whereas we say it's uncalled for.

POM     They are?

LT     The other one is called ACA, Alexandra Civic Association.

POM     And the first one is called?

LT     The first one is called Alexandra Civic Organisation, ACO. Both of these organisations it was said at some stage that they should disband so that there must be elections. That's something which hasn't happened as yet. We are still hoping that one organisation must be disbanded.

POM     So in a sense these two organisations are competing against each other and that means it takes longer to get things done I would think.

LT     Yes. So we are having this organisation called ACO, it's very active in bringing about some changes.

POM     Which one is headed by Moses Mayekiso?

LT     ACO.

POM     That's the one that's doing a lot to bring about change?

LT     And the other one is led by Mike Bea, that's ACA.

POM     Going back to the violence for a moment, some people say that there is an ethnic factor involved in the violence but there is a reluctance now in South Africa and particularly in the ANC to recognise that. I was saying that some suggest there is an ethnic factor in South Africa but there is a reluctance in the ANC to recognise the existence of an ethnic dimension to any form of conflict. Do you think there is an ethnic dimension to politics here that must be recognised if there are not to be more problems in the future, that it must be somehow recognised and provided for?

LT     Yes it must be recognised and provided for because as it is the violence that's going on when you look into it you find that most of the leadership in the ANC are Xhosas and some people are against that, hence now there are some little changes because if we don't do that now, in the future we are going to pick up big problems because the majority may be Zulus and they may say within the leadership of the ANC we've got no representative. So this must be discussed and brought to order.

POM     But it's not been recognised enough yet, has it, in your view? I mean the ANC so far don't seem particularly concerned about it.

LT     Well they are now because they have been told.

POM     They have?

LT     And the truth has won, they must at least accept other races, other nations in the organisation.

POM     If you were looking at Alex today, what are the most important problems it faces as a community?

LT     Number one is housing and then number two is lack of services.

POM     Now lack of services would include?

LT     It would include everything, refuse, lights and this bucket system, toilets you know, lots and lots of other things.

POM     How does the bucket system work?

LT     Some areas where they are still using buckets, still not flush toilets, where they just put a bucket in the toilet and that makes the place unhealthy.

POM     When a new non-racial government takes over how long do you think it has to start what must it do to show that majority rule actually makes a difference in the lives of people? And I'm talking about Alex, what must people here see happen so that they can see real change?

LT     In which way?

POM     Whether it's in the provision of facilities or in the provision of housing. Let's say tomorrow morning you had a government elected by universal franchise, the government, let's just say for supposition that it's dominated by the ANC, and let's say three years from now you're still trying to find money for your clean-up services, if toilets haven't been installed, if there's been no housing programme, you'd obviously be very disappointed.

LT     Yes, yes.

POM     What I'm asking is how long does a government have to start doing things so that the ordinary people living here can see that their new government is actually making a difference to the way that they live their lives and to the quality of their lives?

LT     Well they have to start moving fast because we are hoping that they are going to be OK though they claim that influx, not influx what do they call this? Where we're now going to live with whites in the suburbs?

POM     Group Areas.

LT     Yes, this Group Areas Act, if this thing can be speeded up, if you look at white areas it is not the majority of people who live there, it's only the people that are in money, people who can afford, people who are working for big companies, so it is not for every black South African. So in order for that to change the government will have to negotiate or re-negotiate with the people because when these people bought land here those years it was still cheap but now lately I, as an ordinary person, if I want to buy a piece of land in Sandton, they will claim R60,000 to R80,000 just for a piece of land without a house and where am I going to get money to purchase that land or to purchase a house? It's going to make things difficult for us as blacks, there are still going to be divisions whereby you're going to be seeing blacks living there in that little spot and whites living in luxurious places because the money that we are getting when we are employed is very, very low.

POM     If I'm hearing you correctly you're saying that the repeal of the Group Areas Act really means very little for the majority of black people because they simply don't have the resources to go and purchase either a plot of land or a house in a white area. Let me ask you, could it even have a detrimental effect? I'll tell you why I'm asking you this, it is that in the United States they found that where you had ghettoes in the fifties and forties, just like Alexandra where all black people would live, where some would be quite well off, some would be well off, some would be middle class, some would be working class, but they didn't live in white areas. And then as integration began in the sixties middle class blacks and blacks who got an education moved out of the black ghetto and moved into white areas so what you had left was a more impoverished black community because the people with education and the people with vitality had left it and moved into white areas. Do you think that could happen in South Africa?

LT     It will happen because as long as there are no jobs for people it will stay like that because we are trying to get rid of shacks. For us to get rid of shacks it's still going to be difficult because there will never be a subsidy from the government for houses. We are talking about affordable houses, even if they may be affordable and be about R5000 to R7000, still there are families who do not even earn R100 a month, who are still being exploited either by their employers or because they are not at work.

POM     I remember when we talked before how optimistic you had been about the great changes that were on the way and how high people's expectations were. Do you think two years on that people are a little disappointed with the rate of change, that things are going a lot slower than they thought they would?

LT     From 1990 to 1992, things are a bit slow. The education system, nothing has changed. If things have changed nobody would be bothering, taking children to other areas for schooling whereas there is no money for that.

POM     So people are disappointed a bit in the rate of change, that it's too slow?

LT     Yes.

POM     Do they blame anybody for the slowness of the rate of change?

LT     Number one they would blame the government, that the government does not listen to the people and, yet again, we as the people we have to see to it that the right things are being done. But you find that most of our people are there just for power or positions but they are not there because they are serving the people from the bottom part of their hearts. So those are some of the problems we are encountering. If things were to change really they should start at schools. Things must change there, they should start within that area where we are having council employees. They must be given some better wages because we have whites there who are equally educated as the blacks but blacks get peanuts.

POM     So it's still in the people who work in the City Council or the administration, you still have a situation where whites who do a job that is similar to the job done by blacks get paid at a higher rate? That, do you think, would have changed by now?

     Again, like two years ago the standing of De Klerk was high. This was the time when Mandela was calling De Klerk a man of integrity. What sense do you get of the view that people have of De Klerk now?

LT     Well we still regard De Klerk as a hero, if you want to put it that way. So they are now tracking progress, they are tracking progress instead of rolling the ball and doing the right things. They keep on calling his elders' meetings. In any case the cause to all this is the third force because maybe if it were not for the third force we should be saying there's something on the way.

POM     What do you understand this third force to be?

LT     Well this third force it consists of whites and blacks that are against the ANC, those that are against the majority rule. Now because some of our people are very, very ignorant they think maybe if they support organisations like IFP or AWB they will end up living in a wonderful country. They won't. Our people are being misused and they are being misled. Hence now you find that some of these people go to the ANC and kill some of the ANC members and go to the Inkatha area and kill some of the IFP members so that people say the IFP, the others must say it's the ANC. There is somebody in between.

POM     Why do you think that the government has not been able, with its sophisticated security apparatus, has not been able to apprehend the main people involved in this third force?

LT     I think, Patrick, because they still want to be in power, because if they wanted to see the truth, nothing but the truth, they were supposed to take those people away from those positions altogether and direct things the way they are supposed to be. But instead of that happening they keep on beating about, calling meetings, calling homeland leaders. There's one thing that people need, they want equal rights and they want to have a share in their motherland.

POM     What do you think will emerge out of this CODESA? Do you think it's going to finally lead to something real or will it be one more series of meetings that will go endlessly on?

LT     If it were not for organisations like PAC and IFP that are dragging progress I should be saying right away that we are going to see changes with CODESA. There may be changes but there will be people watching, wanting to see if they cannot disrupt what is happening.

POM     So Mr Mandela said in Bloemfontein a couple of days ago that within six months there will be an interim government and there will be an election for a Constituent Assembly before the end of 1992. Do you think, given what's happened in the last two years, that's too optimistic a statement or would you think that this will happen, those two things will happen this year?

LT     Whether they do happen or not, though we are hoping that they should happen, while there is still this third force operating within our organisations it is still going to be difficult.

POM     So what do you think? In your view the main barrier to real change is this third force?

LT     Yes, this third force.

POM     If the government continues to be unwilling to tackle it, to arrest the main perpetrators, what's going to happen?

LT     They must be arrested.

POM     If the government doesn't?

LT     If the government brings these people they must be brought to justice.

POM     But if they're not brought to justice. I mean right now you're saying the government lets the third force operate because they allow the government to be in power and it slows things down. Well let's say the government continues to behave in this way so the third force continues to be out there, what then happens to negotiations, what happens to the ANC?

LT     They are going to fall down because people want to see progress and the way things are now we all want to see progress. Everybody is ready for anything but if we are now going to drive things backwards and those things are happening now it's still going to be tough.

POM     So if the ANC falls down what happens then?

LT     The next thing they will do they will overthrow the South African Defence Force.

POM     The ANC?

LT     Not the ANC, I mean the very AWB members so that they can be in power. Some strange things might happen because they might, I don't say they will, they might make the defence force to take over the ruling of this country, that is now to safeguard the minority.

POM     Do you see the threat of right wing violence particularly as spreading a little in recent weeks? Do you see this as a real threat or, again, as something that the government can bring under control pretty quickly if it wants to?

LT     The government, if it wants to, can stop everything, they can bring this to an end but they know that if they bring this to an end there are going to be problems on their side.

POM     So they're slow.

LT     Yes, it would be better to slow everything up so that even outside countries must say, "Look now, you said you wanted freedom. Now that you are getting freedom you're busy killing each other, you don't want to negotiate." They are trying to discredit blacks in that way and some people, because they are ignorant, they are unable to see that. For instance, some IFP members are unable to see that, they don't know what is happening, they are just fighting because they must fight, they are used to fighting among themselves and if there is somebody to fight they are just happy to fight but get to the roots and find the truth, it's still difficult for them. If you address blacks in English, blacks who have never been to school, what would you expect? He won't know, they won't even listen but when you say fight they will just go and fight, they will just go and kill. So it's a problem.

POM     So you see this continuing threat of violence either among blacks because they're being incited to do so by the third force or by the right wing because it's trying to slow down what the government is doing? Do you see those as being the two major obstacles?

LT     Yes, those are the major obstacles. And not until they address those problems, we are still going to be dancing in one place instead of going forward.

POM     What about within Alex itself? Is there a high level of crime?

LT     I would say now there has been a high level of crime because of unemployment, because of this violence that has been going on, even thugs who were I would say thugs whom we know that they are thugs but they could not do all these nasty things, they are unable to do them now because they will just disguise and get to an area and pretend to be an IFP group or go to an area and pretend to be an ANC group and do all these nasty things among the people so that people must be confused.

POM     When you said that the third force was composed of whites and blacks who were opposed to change and you talked about that the people in the hostels in Alex had come in from other areas, have some of those people been paid to come in?

LT     Most of these people are being paid.

POM     So black people are being paid to kill other black people?

LT     They are being paid. Nobody would enjoy to go and kill for nothing. They are being paid. They know that there's somebody who's backing them up financially and other support. They are being paid, yes.

POM     Do you find it surprising that people, for what might be relatively small sums of money, would really just go out and shoot members of their own community or shoot members of their own people, not their own community, just for money? Does that surprise you or not surprise you?

LT     Well it doesn't surprise me because hunger knows no law. They do this because some of them they are hungry, some of them they do these things because they feel it's a quick way to get rich and they cannot see that they are lost. They think that they are doing the right thing.

POM     I was talking to Jeanette about the structure of family life in Alex and we talked about the very high rate of teenage pregnancy and the high levels of incest in the homes themselves. Is there a high level of what might be called domestic violence? Wife beating, the husband beating the wife?

LT     Well we have those problems partly because of the hostels because the pregnancies, or the children that are pregnant, or children that have been impregnated, most of them have been impregnated by hostel dwellers. These people leave their wives in the homelands and they stay in the hostels and they meet girls there, they give them money, they attract them with money. That's where the problem starts. And when the husband and the wife get at loggerheads in the home it results from all those things.

POM     Sorry, you were talking about domestic violence or wife beating.

LT     Well I was just saying that if you look at it properly it results from the hostels. As Alexandra people dating back we've never had problems like those and now we are having them in big numbers. The second problem is liquor. You find that the husband drinks and when he gets his money he goes to a shebeen where he spends half or all his money and when he gets back home instead of explaining he will come fighting the wife or fighting the children for no apparent reason because he does not want to be asked for money, he hasn't got money.

POM     How many hostel workers are there in the hostels here altogether?

LT     We are having three hostels. OK, let me not say three because the other one it's for women, it's for ladies. We are having two big hostels in Alexandra and apart from those hostels we are having people who are living in shacks, people who lived in these small little hostels in Alexandra. When some of those hostels were demolished they then started building up shacks all over the show and those are the chief ones who are creating problems for us.

POM     How many of them might there be altogether?

LT     It's quite a big number.

POM     Roughly.

LT     Each property in Alexandra you may not find families only, you must find one or two or four shack dwellers who are single, who are not married but who are staying with women, local women.

POM     Would they be people who were formerly living in a hostel and now built a shack of their own and are living with a woman, or would they be people who came in from the outside?

LT     Most of them came from the outside though some of them came from the old hostels and started building up shacks.

POM     So is there then tension between the people who live not only between the people who live in the hostels and the residents of Alex but also between the people who live in these shacks and the people who live in Alex too?

LT     There is tension because I for one, as an Alexandran, I don't like shacks. I know that these shacks are there because these people haven't got houses but because these people just come and build anywhere they want forgetting that we have children in Alexandra, or people that are on the waiting list, people who want to build houses, they are unable to build houses because here now somebody came yesterday and started putting up a shack.

POM     So could you in fact buy a plot of ground to build a house and then come along in a couple of weeks and find that somebody had established a squatters' dwelling on your piece of land and you could do nothing about it?

LT     You could do nothing about it.

POM     You can't go to the authorities, there's no authority that you can go to?

LT     There is but they won't just help you.

POM     This is a difficult subject to bring up but as I said to you I'm going to try to chart the changes that will take place in Alex over the next four, five, six years. That's why I'm asking you questions, have things improved, not improved, where do you think they are now, so that we have some way of measuring change in the future. But there is one area that comes up that I find people reluctant to address in other places and that's the question of the role of the comrades in the late 1980s, from 1986 on, in the community, the manner in which the young people, children sometimes, dominated the community and held kangaroo courts and more or less terrorised people. Could you just talk a bit about that, how that happened here, what forms it took and how it was brought under control, if it has been brought under control?

LT     I wouldn't be able to expand on that much because I am also one of those who are against these kangaroo courts or against children discussing elderly people's problems. So on our side what we did, because we felt that this was wrong, we tried to call our children to order and to form gospel choirs. When we started there were about five gospel choirs but today we have got more than thirty gospel choirs in Alexandra and in each choir you find that there are 60 or 80 members. Most of these children are ANC members but it's just that we wanted to pull them away from the things that they have been doing, which we did though in turn some of those who are in the leadership of the ANC came and discredited us and said, "You are now taking our people to do all these things because you want to please the government." No, it was not like that. We did this because we could see that when they do all these nasty things they become involved in liquor, they become involved in drugs and there was an article in the paper that most comrades drink and they get drugged. I said, "If you needed soldiers I will be able to produce big boys who could do anything that you want but before I could do that show me some of your soldiers." They couldn't because most of them were involved in drugs and liquor.

POM     But how did the situation arise that allowed 12, 13, 14, 15 year olds to gain this level of control over their own community?

LT     This was done partly because there are people from outside. If you can look at the people who have been involved in these things most of them were not Alexandra people. They did it first to gain power or to gain recognition using our children who are also ignorant but in reality they were not Alexandra people. We, as Alexandra people, would never do that.

POM     But what I'm getting at is if there were a kangaroo court and there were like five 16 or 17 year olds sitting on it, why would the people recognise them? Why would they simply not say, "Go home, you're children." Where's the power of control come from? How were 15 and 16 year olds able to dominate their parents, make people do what they wanted?

LT     If you see about 100 kids standing in the yard looking for you, they want to wallop you on your buttocks or they want to do anything, what would you do? You just go out and listen and they did that to people where they could see that they had an access, they could do anything there. But some people like ourselves, I don't think the comrades would ever dare enter my house and come and ask me why I was at loggerheads with my wife. That would never happen. I would never allow it. But for some people it was a bit difficult because they were not originally Alexandra people too and they were just messed up.

POM     In just a different area, since February of 1990, taking that as the starting point, have you observed any changes in the behaviour of black people towards whites? What I mean is have blacks become more assertive?

LT     Yes.

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.