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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Jan 1992: Twala, Philisile (Pilold)

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POM     OK let's start with just a little bit about yourself, about your family, where you went to school.

PT     I went to school in Cape Town. I passed Standard 9, I will be going into matric. We are a family of twelve. My father is managing though. A few kids are still going to the schools here in the location.

POM     Sorry, some of the children are here?

PT     Yes, they are here in the location school.

POM     But the others?

PT     The other four, we are at school in Cape Town on bursary.

POM     Did you find Cape Town very different from Alexandra?

PT     Yes very different from Alexandra.

POM     Could you just enumerate for me some of the ways that immediately come to your mind?

PT     How different is it from Alexandra? The main difference is that there is no violence that side. The people there are very different from the people here because that side you find it's very nationalised, it's Xhosas and maybe coloured people and then whites and so on unlike here you get all nations, you get that clash between people as it happened previously.

POM     So here there are far more nations concentrated in this small township than you would find in Cape Town. So when are you going back to school?

PT     I'll be leaving on Saturday.

POM     So do you come back and you help your father during the holiday period?

PT     Yes.

POM     Were you here in January/February of 1991 when the violence broke out or had you gone back?

PT     No I had gone back that time but we had reports and so on, have seen on television and have been told.

POM     When you came back last winter what differences did you see here as a result of the violence? How was Alexandra different?

PT     People were more reserved than they were before. You'd find that people were more reserved. You'd find that at eight o'clock in the evening nobody is in the streets and so on. They're scared of the curfew because the cops might find them on the way and they are again scared of the Inkatha people because if they find you on the way they will kill you and so on. So that was the only difference. Nobody was free to go anywhere any more.

POM     Nobody was free to?

PT     To socialise with anyone any more.

POM     So it made people far more cautious in their dealings with each other. Did it make the place far more divided?

PT     Yes, yes, it made the place far more divided.

POM     Do you think that's odd or ironic that one of the consequences of this movement towards a new South Africa and the enfranchisement of blacks is - ?

PT     OK, I found it a little odd and then I came to accept it because we are in a process of changes and so on and in that process people will change, people can never remain as they were before in the year 1991. People change so I came to accept it.

POM     At school what history do you learn?

PT     History, I learn South African history and general history which is European history.

POM     But is the South African history as according to white South Africans?

PT     Yes it mainly is.

POM     So do you have trouble with that history? You can hardly accept it as being the real history of South Africa, can you?

PT     Because the text books are written and compiled by the Department of Education or whatever, they write what they think is right for us, not what we think is right. So they do write about the Shaka history and so on and so on, black people, previous black people, the Great Trek and so on, which, of course, those things for us they're not relevant. We'd like to know about how the ANC began and how the other leaders of the blacks did speak or got killed and so on and so on. Those are the things that we'd like to learn about in history but they prefer to give us the Great Trek and so on, those are things that they give us, but because we want to pass we must learn it.

POM     Sure, in your matriculation exams that's what you're examined in, right? You said here there are many nations, here in Alexandra, do you see or do you regard some of the violence or all of it that took place as being the result of ethnic difference between Zulus and in particular Xhosa speaking people?

PT     When the violence began it started as the Zulus against the Xhosas but as time went on it became apparent that it was Inkatha against the ANC because the Inkatha people, the majority of them are Zulu people, in fact all of them are Zulu people, whereas the ANC is non-racial and, of course, the leader is Xhosa so that's why they used to say that you see. But otherwise, even before Alexandra was always like this, many different nations, there was no violence. As soon as Inkatha came into being they started this thing of violence.

POM     Mandela says all along that the hand of the government is behind this violence.

PT     Oh yes, that's true, very much true. The government itself is behind Inkatha, supporting Inkatha, because the last time I read in the newspaper that the Inkatha people are being funded by the government on the Caprivi Strip (that's in South West Africa) while South West was mandated by the mandate to South Africa.  They used to train these people in that country, Caprivi Strip, but now they take them to these security companies to be trained there in combating. But when the government is questioned about it they deny it, though some people know about it but they won't say anything about it.

POM     So what's your opinion of De Klerk? Many black people two years ago regarded him as a hero and Mandela referred to him as a man of integrity. What's your thinking on him?

PT     De Klerk is OK to me, he's OK but he's moving too slow.

POM     He's moving too slow?

PT     Too slow. If he was very fast for me he would have given us our votes a long time ago. He's being too slow.

POM     I was going to ask you that in a couple of contexts. When you look around here in Alexandra and you look at the last two years of change and the major pieces of apartheid legislation have been done away with and there's a process of political reform and talk is under way, have conditions here in Alexandra, living conditions, gotten better or gotten worse?

PT     No they have got better anyway.

POM     They have gotten better?

PT     Yes because we have sewage systems for toilets now and we never had that two years ago, should I say. We have more taps, running water taps. We have that now. Two years ago we never had that. We had a few and we had to go with our buckets and so on and store the water inside.

POM     Do you attribute these changes to being partly a result of the political changes that are taking place?

PT     Very much so.

POM     Well at the same time you're disappointed with the slow rate of political change. What do you expect to come out of CODESA?

PT     CODESA, I expect CODESA to come out with saying that we have our vote, we are going to have our vote on such and such a day. If they don't have that I may just regard it as a very weak organisation. Right now we regard it as powerful but if they can tell us that on such a date De Klerk agreed to give us our vote then I will be very happy.

POM     So let's say this date is 1st January 1994 and let's say as part of the agreement made at CODESA is that the two main parties, the ANC and the National Party, that part of the bargain that's arrived at is that the ANC agrees to share power with the National Party, in other words that you'd have this partnership where the ANC would be the senior partner but the National Party would maybe hold three or four ministerial portfolios, maybe Finance, Transportation, Agriculture. Would you find that an acceptable outcome?

PT     Yes it should be very acceptable because the National Party it's a very new organisation. The ANC has been in operation since 1912. The National Party I am sure 19-

POM     Much later.

PT     Yes, later than that.

POM     So you wouldn't mind the ANC sharing power with a party of a government that oppressed you for so many years?

PT     I wouldn't mind that as long there are changes, that it is a non-racial country, very non-racial and equal, equality is our slogan here.

POM     Are there other reasons why you would find that to be a good outcome? Some people have suggested to me that there is a wealth of experience and knowledge concentrated in the white community and that a way must be found to make this available to everybody.

PT     I think we should share that because we've been fighting for a long time to get it and if they find the ANC that it's not very much experienced then those who claim to be very experienced must teach those that are not experienced. We must share it.

POM     Now this doesn't really apply to you but I'll ask you the question. If you had the choice between going to a school in a white suburb, a good school where there would be black and white children attending the school, you'd be bussed there by public transportation, or going to a school here in Alexandra that would be just as good as the school in the white suburb, that would have just as good teachers, that would have just as much resources at its disposal, which one would you prefer to go to?

PT     The one closer home.

POM     Closer to home. In the same way when you graduate from school, I assume you hope to go on to college, would you prefer to live in a mixed neighbourhood with whites and blacks or would you prefer to live in a black community?

PT     I'd prefer to live in a mixed community because I'd like to experience what it is to live with the so-called whites that have been apart from us all these years.

POM     Growing up have you had much exposure to white people?

PT     Yes I have had.

POM     How have you found their attitudes? Let me put it this way, in the past how have you found attitudes towards you and has there been any change in their attitudes towards you in the last two years? I'm not talking about people who come to the centre here to help, that's not what I'm talking about, but whites you would deal with on a casual basis?

PT     Before we were looked down at with condescension. We were looked down at as blacks because we were told we're blacks, we shall remain blacks and that's the attitude that they had, but now their attitude has changed, you see, because they seem to regard us as equals.

POM     Do you find that in your day-to-day dealings with white people?

PT     Yes.

POM     So you see a real difference in the attitude of whites towards you? In the same way in the last two years have you observed any differences in the behaviour of black people?

PT     Yes, the black people did maybe a few years ago regard themselves as very inferior to whites but now that attitude has changed.

POM     So you would see, I don't want to put words into your mouth so if I am tell me because I don't want to be putting words into your mouth, do you see black people as being more assertive, more self-confident, more demanding?

PT     Not more demanding. But, yes, they are more demanding towards what's deprived of them like the working people. They have been deprived their rightful earnings but now that the unions have come into being they're demanding that they should be given their rightful earnings of the month and so on. They demand that they should be given equal education. Those are all our equal civil rights, that's what we demand.

POM     When you look at Alex again what are the most important problems here that must be addressed in the next three to four years?

PT     In the next three to four years they must provide housing and more schools and libraries. Libraries of course, we don't have a library here. There must be a lot of community centres and so on. The population here is too great to cater because we only have two community centres, three I should say, and the population is far too great.

POM     350,000 people or something?

PT     Yes.

POM     How about things like water and electricity.

PT     Yes water and electricity and so on.

POM     And those things. The question I'm getting at is that let's say there's an election and a new government elected by universal franchise takes over, what must it do for a place like Alexandra to show people here that having their own government really makes a difference to their lives?

PT     They must look at the needs of the people as a whole, general needs, not individual needs, general needs to satisfy people. They must make a survey of opinion from people. Really all these changes, like building houses for the people, they must take place very quickly. The houses here have been built: Alexandra has been under construction since I was ten years old, they have been building houses.  But the real Alexandra here, the old Alexandra, they haven't concentrated. That's the question that you're asking. So why shouldn't they bring about changes quicker? That's what we want, better houses.

POM     Better houses. So if a new government were elected tomorrow and I didn't come back here for three years, if I walked down 17th Avenue in three years time what should I be seeing?

PT     You should see a lot of difference, much bigger difference, because before, I think I should say two years ago there was no tar here in 17th Avenue.

POM     There was no what?

PT     Tar, the road's been tarred. But now they have been tarred and so on, those should take place. 17th Avenue should see a big difference, maybe even the village homes being built and so on.

POM     What are your hopes for yourself? What do you hope to do in your life after you matriculate next year?

PT     I'd like to go to Technikon to do a course in business management and then go and work or start my own business or something.

POM     Would you come back here do you think or would you stay in Cape Town?

PT     No, I'll come back home. Home is home.

POM     Would you like to start a business in your community here do you think?

PT     Yes in my community. Charity begins at home. I should start here at home and then I can go out.

POM     Do you feel very attached to this community?

PT     Yes I do, I feel very attached to it.

POM     Your father seems to know everybody, you know everybody too.

PT     Oh not everybody.

POM     Close to.

PT     Yes.

POM     What do other young people your age, the people that you talk to, young people your age around here, what do they think is happening, what are their expectations of the future?

PT     They think like me as such that the changes De Klerk is bringing about are very slow and we'd like to live in a free South Africa and a non-racial South Africa whereby every man shall live freely and wherever they want to and so on, there's no racial segregation or anything like that and, mostly here in the locations, schools being built in a way that is suitable for that number of students it's catering for. More or less.

POM     Like Mandela said last week that in six months there will be an interim government and within twelve months an election for a Constituent Assembly, do you think that's going to happen?

PT     I don't think that will happen that soon because the AWB seems to be very powerful in a way. We are hoping that it happens sooner but I'm not as optimistic to hope that it will happen in six months time.

POM     So do you see the AWB as something that's really making De Klerk go slower than he would like to go?

PT     Yes.

POM     Or do you think he used the AWB as an excuse to go slower?

PT     Yes, I think he uses it as an excuse because if it was to his advantage to bring about changes he would have done that a long time ago.

POM     For example, do you think that he can bring this right wing violence, can he smash it if he wants to or can he bring it under control quickly if he wants to? Or will it just continue to build and to build?

PT     He can bring it under control if he wants to. If he stops this, if De Klerk is powerful enough he will bring this violence to a stop.

POM     Which would you be more afraid of, a recurrence of the violence that happened in your community last year or the organisations like the AWB exporting violence into your community?

PT     The main one to be afraid of is the AWB because they are the ones sparking fire for the violence and so on.

POM     Some people have suggested to me that this third force, do you believe in the existence of this third force?

PT     Oh I've heard about it but I don't really know much about it.

POM     We're making good progress here. I've been asking these questions all day. Can you remember the day that Mandela was released?

PT     It was 1989.

POM     1990.

PT     No, 1989, 11th February.

POM     No, 1990, two years.

PT     1990? Is it? No, it's 1989. 1990?

POM     It's 1990.

PT     OK.

POM     Can you remember what you felt that day?

PT     Oh yes, OK. That day we felt like we were in the real process of going about the negotiations with the government and we were going to be free in a short time. At that time we felt like we were really a united South Africa, the blacks were really a united South Africa and that day everybody thanked De Klerk for what he had done and so on.

POM     How would you contrast that with today, two years later?

PT     No, he's moving too slow.

POM     But is your euphoria gone?

PT     Yes it has gone very much.

POM     You must know a lot of young people and a lot of young people who are disappointed with the slow rate of change. A number of people have suggested to me that many young people thought that the ANC shouldn't have given up the armed struggle. Do you ever see young people getting so disillusioned with the slow rate of change that they would start to gravitate towards the PAC and start adopting a more militant stance?

PT     No. As young people we suggested I think, we think that because of the slow rate of change maybe we should suppose or think maybe in the near future we will be given what we want but then the armed struggle, uMkhonto weSizwe, it wasn't designed for bringing up our violence in the communities, it was designed for protecting itself against the government. Before the ANC became unbanned the government used to arrest the ANC members and they used to protect themselves against that. That's what the armed struggle is all about.

POM     So you don't see young people gravitating to the more radical politics of the PAC if nothing changes?

PT     Yes. The young people, we tend to become motivated by the fact that whenever there are talks nothing definite comes out and so on and that makes things otherwise for us because we have high expectations and then we become very disappointed with the outcome.

POM     How long can that go on do you think before young people start saying we won't tolerate this any more?

PT     Any time, any time. If CODESA fails I am sure it will take place.

POM     How about the hostels? What role have they played in the development of the community?

PT     Hostels have been no benefit to the black people in the community. It's been a benefit to the firms where they work because I do believe that those people come from Transkei and so on so it obviously means that the companies wherever they work don't pay them like those that stay here, something like that.

POM     Is there a hostile relationship between even before this violence broke out was there all this did the people regard them as being part of the community or not?

PT     Before, they were regarded as part of the community, yes, before the violence, but now we're even scared to go up with the car next to those hostels because of the violence.

POM     Let me ask you something quite different. Is there a very high rate of teenage pregnancy in Alexandra?

PT     Yes.

POM     Is there sex education in schools?

PT     Yes, sometimes like maybe nurses would come and speak about sex and Aids and so on.

POM     Is there much either talk about Aids or education about Aids?

PT     There is much education about Aids like how to prevent Aids in our community and so on.

POM     The community here or where you go to school or all over?

PT     Yes, generally what Aids is all about and how we should take necessary precautions and so on.

POM     So you feel that the government is doing an adequate job do you in telling people about the dangers of Aids and how it can be contracted?

PT     Yes.

POM     Have you heard, and again other people have said to me that some black people believe that what the government is trying to do is to really limit the number of children by using Aids as a device, or using the threat of Aids as a device to limit the size of black families? Have you ever come across people who believe that?

PT     No, I don't think so, I don't think so because I mean now that people have knowledge, now that there are many family planning clinics, no I don't think the government is doing that. After all Aids is a dangerous disease so people must get to know what Aids is all about and what it is so that they can avoid it. I don't think that's the reason.

POM     When you look at the future what are your greatest fears of the future?

PT     Well there is going to be too much fighting. If we had to be given our votes, should I say tomorrow, whenever, there is going to be too much fighting for position. Even organisations which have not existed before, they will be in existence that day because everybody wants positions like, for instance, in Namibia. In Namibia there were too many fights going on before SWAPO took over the government. People were getting killed for the positions and so on and the ANC, AZAPO, there are so many political organisations and most of them want to be recognised and so on and they all want positions, there's no doubt about it.

POM     So do you think there's going to be a lot of violence in the future.

PT     Oh there is.

POM     So when you look at the future do you look at it in a number of ways, on the one hand you're optimistic about the kind of life that you will be able to lead and the kind of things you'll be able to do, the kinds of places you'll be able to live?

PT     Yes, yes.

POM     But on the other hand you're saying it might be a place where for a considerable period of time there would be a lot of violence and a lot of fighting over positions. Do you think that South Africa could become a one party state?

PT     No it wouldn't because we all don't belong to one party. It won't happen.

POM     Too many parties.

PT     Too many.

POM     Just one last thing, when you were growing up what did you know about the comrades?

PT     Yes when I was growing up I knew that the comrades were doing whatever they can to make us better people, maybe let us live in better houses than we're living in. In fact when my home got burnt in 1986 I had another idea of the South Africans, the place where I live in, because at that time there was this Kabasa group, a group called Kabasa. Those were the people, they led violence wherever they were because when my father, at that time he helped people you see and whenever he said to the comrades, "People, let's not do that, it's the wrong thing to do, let's just cool things, OK?" So the police used to take him all the time whenever he does that and ask him, "Why do you have the power to tell those people what to do and we don't that power?" So all the time they used to take him through to jail and so on and so on though he was not yet a strong member of the ANC whereas he did support a new South Africa.

POM     So who burnt down your home?

PT     The Kabasas. Not only my home, Mike Bea's home they burnt down too and he was a very strong civic leader there and another home at 10th Avenue and down here at 17th Avenue.

POM     And, again, who were members of Kabasa? Were they young people?

PT     I don't really know but I saw a man, a Kabasa member, here this side because he was dressed in SAP uniform and he was full of blood. Then I asked myself, how can this man be dressed in an SAP uniform? Then I knew immediately that this had something to do with the government.

POM     So you saw the comrades as helping to build a better South Africa. Did you know anything about kangaroo courts and things like that?

PT     No. I only got to know now.

POM     Are you a member of the ANC?

PT     Yes I am.

POM     Good. Do you hope to play a role in the future development of South Africa?

PT     Yes.

POM     Through creating trying to get foreign business to come here?

PT     Yes.

POM     That will be a real tough job. I think many people believe that all the companies that left will come back but they won't. It will be tough competition. OK, thanks very much.

PT     OK, sure.

POM     In time I'll make a copy of this and I'll send it here or I can send it to your school in Cape Town, whichever.

PT     OK, you can send it here.

POM     So when I talk to you again you'll have a copy of it go look back on. Thanks.

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.