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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

13 Jun 1992: Fletcher, Prudence

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POM     Could you tell me a little about yourself first? Were you born in Alexandra

PF     I wasn't born in Alexandra, I was born in East London but I grew up in Alexandra.

POM     Do you work in Alexandra at the moment?

PF     At the moment I am with Buthelishaba.

POM     You work for?

PF     Buthelishaba.

POM     You're actually living at the moment in Alexandra?

PF     No I don't because two and a half years ago, let me say three years ago, because of the Group Areas Act hundreds were forced to leave Alexandra. There's a place called Annandale, Rabie Ridge, that is at Halfway House, before you get to Pretoria and that is where they built houses for us. I am no longer living in Alexandra.

POM     That just happened two and a half years ago?

PF     Yes, let us say three years ago. We were forced out of Alexandra. Some of us didn't want to leave Alexandra for Annandale Rabie Ridge.  The first reason why we didn't want to go there was because in Alexandra life is a bit cheaper than in any other place in SA because there are farms near Alexandra where you can go and get spinach and carrots. People in Alexandra we all knew one another, it was always easy to say that when I don't have, my neighbour, she or he will give me. Now if you are taken to a place that you've never been in, that you don't know anything, because most of us were unemployed when we were chucked out of Alexandra.

POM     Now did you know the other families that were forced out with you or were a lot of them strangers?

PF     No I know all of them because Alexandra is not a big place and we knew one another even if you get hurt on 20th Avenue and somebody gets injured or attacked at 2nd Avenue before night we all know that all what was up there and when you get to the scene of the crime you find that it is somebody that you know.

POM     Do you still regard Alexandra as your home? Would you live here if you were able to?

PF     I still regard Alexandra as my home and most of the people that side still regard Alexandra as their home.

POM     If you had the chance again would you well now with the end of the Group Areas Act couldn't you move back here if you liked?

PF     I would definitely do that.

POM     But can't you? Aren't you legally able to do so now?

PF     Yes but for financial problems I cannot at the moment. Where I work it's a non-profit organisation. If there is food they give me food and they give me money for my account. I'm in a very bad condition as a result.

POM     So have you been disappointed with the rate of change in the last two years? When you come back here to Alexandra and you look at what it was two years ago just at the time Mandela was released and the ANC was unbanned, do you think conditions here are better than they were then or worse than they were then or just about the same?

PF     I think they are better than they were before because many years ago, three, four years ago, you could not wear a T-shirt that says UDF or ANC or go to a meeting of the ANC. People would always come, the Boere, would always come and destruct. But at the moment they don't do such things any more. There are changes and things are changing day by day.

POM     When you look at the future, when people talk about a new SA or the new SA, what's your vision of what the new SA should be?

PF     My vision of what the new SA should be I think it is like a newborn baby, something fresh and wonderful to look at. That is how I see the new SA. The other evening I was watching TV and they were discussing on Agenda the properties and the land which was taken from the black people in the homelands and how they worked in other areas, the way they were taken from their places or their land was very bad. They were actually chucked out of their own land. But when I look at it again I can see them at their own place being home like the one they used to have. I want to go home and whoever is occupying my land, I'm not angry with those people, but I want to go home. That is how I see the new SA. I know we are going to have a new, pleasant South Africa.

POM     Almost everyone else I've talked to today has mentioned the fear of violence particularly after the outbreak of violence here in Alexandra in January, February. Do you have any fear of there still being a lot of violence that's going to happen along the way? Right wing violence?

PF     For many reasons there will still be violence. Let me mention one of them to you. Inkatha is there at the hostels and we are saying they have taken the hostels. I think a hostel is for youngsters or people who want to learn or people who are in school. Now because of this I am saying the government

POM     Sorry, because of?

PF     The government are tearing families apart. You can imagine if somebody has to tell you that because you don't have a job and your family has to live and you have to go and earn a living, work. You are taken from your family into a hostel and when you get there you are mixed up with a lot of Zulus and they tell you that if you don't fight you won't get money or if you don't join up you cannot live here. I mean a hostel is not a permanent place to stay and in the end you find the very same people who are taken to the hostels from their families, you find them getting into the township, raping women, and when you report it to the police nothing happens. I don't blame them, I blame the government for having taken those people from their families. Some of them don't even know in the homelands what happened to them because of the unrest and all this nonsense that's taking place in our country.

     But now that Buthelezi and Mandela have finally decided to put their heads together and hands joining, trying to stop the violence, with our help I think there will be a  better SA. It will entirely depend on us whether we want a better SA or not but I think most of us want a better SA because we all have kids, some of them are at school, the others we don't know what happened to them because of the violence that we have in SA. One other thing is that so many kids fall pregnant, they fall pregnant at school. You don't know what the reason is but when you look into the whole thing you find that it is hunger from home, they haven't eaten at home, they go to school and they meet up maybe with some taxi driver who is prepared to buy a chicken licken or a hamburger to bring to the car, into the taxi and from there it seems that all these funny things are happening. But I still blame the government for all that.

POM     Is teenage pregnancy a big problem?

PF     It is a very, very big problem in the area where I live.

POM     Where you live in?

PF     Rabie Ridge. I am sure there are about 15 of them that left school towards the end of the year last year.

POM     How about AIDS education? Is there any education about AIDS?

PF     Yes there is.

POM     Is it sufficient do you think?

PF     Not sufficient. I would say that if it was sufficient people wouldn't go through all these things but now if I want you to know that using this spoon and if you put it into dirty water and you don't wash it you are going to get sick. It's the very same thing as that spoon. Now the people who are giving the AIDS education, the last thing they want is the AIDS pamphlet. But now I cannot come to you and say OK read this pamphlet, you need a proper explanation or a situation where people are being called together and once a week you might try and educate them about this AIDS that is killing people. You talk to them and you make them understand, but there is not much.

POM     One of the criticisms raised at the ANC's last conference, their first conference in the country, was the very low membership they had in both the coloured community and the Indian community. Are the people where you live supportive of the ANC or do they see the ANC primarily as an African organisation?

PF     They see it as an African organisation and as a result they don't want to join.

POM     They don't want to join.

PF     No. The population out there are coloured. There is still that thing, 'we all belong to the same and yet I won't join a kaffir organisation'. On 21st December in Rabie Ridge there was a Christmas party for the senior citizens. I can tell you that a number of senior citizens that we deal with, very few are ANC.  These pictures are from the Christmas party held here in Alexandra for the senior citizens. I just want to show you, these are the women that cook for the senior citizens here in Alexandra. You can see the population of senior citizens that we have there. Now in Rabie Ridge there were not even half of this amount here, there were very few because they feel that Buthelishaba is linked to ANC and that it is a black organisation. Now when I say 'kaffir' that is Afrikaans, they speak Afrikaans up there and they say it's a kaffir organisation so they don't want to join the ANC. They think that our organisation is a political organisation.

POM     The one here? Linda's?

PF     Yes, Buthelishaba.

POM     And what party would they support?

PF     Probably they would go for the Labour Party.

POM     Have many of them started supporting the NP?

PF     Yes. Can you see the ones here in the photo, from here to there are the senior citizens in Rabie Ridge that support it. There are still about five or ten left up here, but these are the main supporters.

POM     Since Mandela's release and the unbanning of the ANC have you noticed or observed any change in the behaviour of Africans? Do they appear to be more assertive to you, more self-confident, more purposeful? Do you know what I'm getting at? Has the fact that the major elements of at least the apartheid laws have been repealed and the fact there is some political reform on the way made them more, I suppose the word I'm looking for is 'autonomous'?

PF     I tell you, since Mandela has been released there has been more violence amongst people; the black people think that Mandela is the solution to the problem. It is not like that. As a result they take advantage, they just do everything, violence, killing people. They say Mandela is out, what are we still waiting for? And it's not supposed to be like that.

POM     What's happened?

PF     I don't know how to put it to you. I think that, do you know what a totsi is?

POM     No. Spell it for me first.

PF     Totsi. They use Mandela's name as an escape of crime.

POM     As a way to justify crime. And they say it's political, it's really just is this what they're called those people? The totsi?

PF     Yes. Some call them Comrade Totsi.  There are lots of them. Two, three weeks ago, just  before Christmas, someone was wearing a T-shirt of the Labour Party and they tore it off and he said, "Mandela's the leader, why do you still wear Labour Party T-shirt?" I went up to the guy and said to him, "You know what? If he's no better, you teach them and you tell them that this is wrong. You don't take from anybody in the name of Mandela."

POM     So when you look at the future are you optimistic about it?

PF     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.