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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

15 Jul 1992: Khoza, Themba

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POM     Before we start, Themba, what I'd like to get is just a little bit on yourself. Where you came from, what your background is, what your parents did, what your upbringing was like, what were the circumstances that led you to be in the position that you're in today?

TK     Thank you so much for the opportunity at this moment. Personally, I was born in Zululand in a place called Eshowe. Then in the history of the Anglo-Zulu war and Anglo-Boer war Eshowe used to be the point of focus in the 19th century because most of the negotiations between the Zulu empire and the British took place in that small town, so it is a place of political climate. Then my mother is the princess of KwaZulu royal family herself.

POM     Is your mother still alive?

TK     She's still alive, yes. I'm actually the first born of the five children that my Mum had, but unfortunately the first two died and then I inherited the first born. My mother, even when I was still young, very young, at my teenage or even before that, she used to tell me stories about their royal family, the falling down of the Zulu empire and things like that. On my father's side, my father is also coming from the prominent KwaZulu people, well we are called Khoza, and actually my great-great grandfather together with Buthelezi who was in 1897 the prime minister of KwaZulu, who's now the grandfather of Dr Buthelezi, they were both leaders or marshals of the Zulu warriors that conquered the British Empire and the British warriors at the battle of Isandlwana in 1879. So generally speaking I am coming from a line of heroes and from families of political orientation.

     I grew up in that Eshowe area and after my high school education well maybe actually we were quite poor in the family if I look at it now because normally we used to eat dry porridge at that time, it was cheap, and then normally we would have sour milk and all the vegetation. I used to look after I was the shepherd.

POM     You were the shepherd?

TK     Yes, I was still young. Then that thing that I liked then was hunting. I was very good, very good at hunting. We used to shoot pigs and bucks. When other guys came empty handed I would definitely come with something. Even hunting, I was just good. Well unfortunately, as I said, I came from a poor family. Actually I wanted to take law and then I couldn't make it. I ended up in industrial training. I took welding, I took boiler making, and then I started working in an industry.  I felt racism ... That was now 1980 when I came up here.  I was born about 1959.

POM     This was white racism?

TK     White racism. There was clear oppression and taking one step back in 1975 when the IFP, Inkatha Freedom Party, was launched. I used to be mostly in the company of the Black Consciousness people who were BC politically orientated.

POM     Steve Biko.

TK     Steve Biko and others. So that's the largely how I grew up. Then later when the IFP was explained to the people, there was a village meeting, a tribal chief in our area convened a meeting and explained to us the position of that new organisation which was now Inkatha. It was then a national cultural liberation movement and then he had a very hard time with me because I asked him many questions, questions like how are you going to liberate us without a single arm in your hand? We need to have weapons, we need to fight and we need to train, things like that, and then you are telling me that this IFP is not going to be a violent organisation. I asked him questions like do you really think that the white man from Pretoria will come down and say, 'Have your freedom, I'm tired' if you don't push him and fight him? We need to organise and get together, have collective strength, things like that. I think I successfully argued all those points that he made because finally he said, "Well if all fails we will then fight." So I think I won that. All the same I liked what he was saying though I think I had an upper hand in debate but I liked all that he said. I wasn't very clear of Dr Buthelezi's policy then but I remembered his name. I promised to join them. Then they had another meeting, we attended, I think we had elections, things like that. I think the people who were elected were also not quite clear about what was taking place and so eventually it gets cold.

     At school again, from primary school, the first standard up until I left school, I used to play a leading role. I remember at school I used to be a prefect and at high school I used to be both a prefect and a member of a debating society which we had at school, and things like that.

POM     Who ran the schools you went to? Were these KwaZulu schools?

TK     It was a KwaZulu school. Then my father was working up here as a labourer and then I think he was working for a building society.

POM     Would he have been a migrant worker? Was he living in a hostel?

TK     Yes, he lived both in the hostel and in the township and then sometimes he also lived in the suburbs, but in a back room, quite separate. When I first then started doing my job, about 1981, up here in Johannesburg, so I found that things were actually terrible. A black man was really a black man. A white man was the boss all the time and even if you were doing the same job, the salary would not be the same, the treatment would not be the same, and then it was just unbearable.

POM     When you came here the pass laws would still have been in effect?

TK     It was very in effect but fortunately my father, since my father was working here, he could prepare some documentation arrangement for me. But it wasn't the case with my other brothers and sisters and my relatives. I think I was the only one who managed, who was that lucky. That also brings up the other issue that caused me havoc. I remember it took me quite a long time before I got my documentation fixed. You used to go to the administration, back home to the township, it was just an unbearable situation but it was the situation that was there that drove me to cross before you get settled. And then you couldn't sleep in a hostel without a permit because there were raids, almost on a daily basis in the hostel, and then they will come in asking you  for your reference book and your permit.

POM     So you were staying in a hostel?

TK     No I didn't stay in a hostel. My father stayed in a hostel and then I stayed with my grandparents, they were up here, they had a house here so I stayed with them. Then at that place where I worked it was that type of oppressive situation and I started saying we can't take it. I discussed it with some few other people and many of them said, "Yes, indeed, it is so, but if you dare open your mouth you are gone, fired." Others would say, "Just take it and try, try and tell them they are wrong." So I remember one day a black Zulu security guard who was posted in a certain entrance, nobody was allowed to move in and out to use that entrance. I can't remember a specific reason but nobody was allowed. So we couldn't then use that entrance either going in or going out. One white man then wanted to use that entrance, in fact he forced his way out and that Zulu man told him that, "You stop doing this, I can't allow you." They had that argument and then the Zulu man said, "Dare you do it again." So it was a nice time. Then the white man was using that entrance going out to the shop. On his way back he left the other entrances that we all used, he went to the same entrance, so this Zulu man hit him with the stick on the head. That Zulu man looked very weak but he was like dynamite that keeps strength in a poor looking   So he hit that man and then he was fired, the Zulu man was fired. I do not know how it came that he was fired, whether the issue of his position placed there was not looked at, because if that issue was looked at then he was right to say nobody goes in or out. Maybe then the only thing that was looked at was that he hit somebody at work, but even if there is a cause I should today say maybe it was not looked at. But anyway he got fired. I couldn't just believe it myself but, mind you, I think I was then 22 years old and I was the youngest in the company; most of the guys were quite old.

POM     You were saying you were the youngest.

TK     Then just some few weeks later there was an argument again between a black man and a white man and I cannot now remember what the whole argument was about but at the end they fought, and the black man was fired again. Look, personally I didn't know the reason behind him being fired and I didn't know the process, the trial, internal trial, I did not know what happened. But now taking the first instance and the following incident, it wasn't the right thing to do and the entire environment which was just a racist environment. So I discussed it with one guy there, "Why don't we write a letter to head office and expose all this that is happening to us." And then he said it was a good idea and then I prepared a letter and sent it to the head office. A week later a meeting was convened during lunch time and then all the bosses, including the general manager, they looked nervous and then I realised that that letter might have done something to them. So they stopped us all from work and called us to the meeting. Instantly I should have realised there was something wrong. Then the management said that they want us to have a committee. There was no union action effective by then, it was still coming up. They said that we need to have a liaison committee which would work to facilitate and liase between the management and the black staff. Somebody called me interpret what the manager was saying, I can't remember what that was, and then I did the interpretation and then when they wanted the name and then someone said, "You", pointing at me that I will be that person. So it was myself and somebody else and that was it.

     I then convened a meeting to work out the strategies of how to get this done, so far other people had not heard about it so there was not much unity on the work floor. Then the story went out that I initially wrote the letter to the head office and that is why. So after the meeting that I convened, the next day at lunch time I was called to the office and I was told that my services were terminated. Look I was young, but when I asked why, and then the personnel officer, who was a lady, landed in front of me and gave me my salary. That was the story and then I left and I went to the Black Sash and asked them to help me; they just couldn't. And that's what happened.

     So then I left them and I worked with other guys. I took my permit with the Building Society where my father was working as well so I worked as a clerk there and I just did well. I think there it was another side of the story because there at the Building Society we were all treated equally, there was no such thing like black bosses and things like that. The only difference that was there was that with me personally the job was too stereotyped, you could do the same thing every day and you've got too much restrictions and limitations and I felt a bit frustrated. Then I left them and I joined the labour. But again there were some few things with the Building Society, it was because I was liaising with the public, I was exposed to the public, I used to discuss, talk to people and then helping people because I worked in the promotion office, internal promotion office, so it was just good. Then I remember we had a competition which I won and I won a trip to Sun City, the casino place somewhere up north. At least it was better but still I felt it was strict, there was too much restriction, stringent red tape and all that. But I understand with the financial institutions you need to be strict, strict needs to be the name of the game, the order of the day.

     Then I left that and I worked with a labour consultant guy and there I did well because I was in fact a training officer. There I had all the freedom and then I could work with the people there and finally I decided to lead them and open up an IFP office. I already had the backing of the IFP.  It was in 1983 that I made the final decision to be with the IFP.

POM     What led you to make that decision then?

TK     What happened is that in 1983 it was the time that the United Democratic Front, which was the ANC's internal structure, was launched and what they were doing was unbearable in the townships because I saw them starting killing everybody who was in opposition, having no tolerance to anything other than themselves and the so-called comrades, their youth.

POM     Were you living in Soweto at that time with your grandparents?

TK     Yes. I'm telling you it was violence after violence and again in 1983 when the UDF was formed, when I heard that there would be a launch of the UDF I'm telling you I wasn't much involved with politics but I was very happy with that. I said, now we are going to have a strong force in the country. Well then I think I missed the point because the first day they got it on to stage they lambasted Dr Buthelezi, to my surprise, and then I was shocked and I said to myself, "But what United Democratic Front will come out if they blast out leaders of status?" Then I stayed cool but it went on and getting in the way. Then I said, "No, these people are missing the point. The right organisation is Inkatha and they are making useless troubles in the country." Then I joined the IFP, then I took a measure that, look, I'm joining the right party. In a nutshell I wasn't recruited to the party because after 1975 between me and the IFP because I used to be a churchgoer then, going to church every Sunday and I had no time for politics, but in the development of 1983 and the harassment of the people and the rent boycott, burning of houses, burning of properties, makes one to decide and take a position. Either you are with the destructors or you join those who are for the property of the community. Then in my view IFP was for the community and the UDF was for the destruction. I joined them.

POM     Now is the community in which you lived in Soweto - ?

TK     I'm referring to the entire community of this country because the effect of violence was actually down in Cape Town, not much up here, but since we were living here we could feel it. Basically in 1986 I was elected to an IFP Youth Brigade position and thereafter that was the beginning of it all. In 1990, February, I managed to have the first IFP office in the state, have the office and organise the office. That was an achievement because thereafter we have flocking membership, at least we had a place where the IFP can say something from. Basically that's where we are today.

POM     And you were in the IFP when you were living in Soweto. Are you still living in Soweto?

TK     Yes.

POM     Were you openly known as a member of the IFP?

TK     My friends were actually UDF members, they were comrades, we almost grew up together. They knew me very well and then I used to debate with them every day. On those debates I used to take them off in points when we all argued policies. Then in fact in my area many people agree that Dr Buthelezi was better than De Klerk. As skills developed and then I lost the contact because wherever you go you grow apart. And then in fact I left Soweto last year, December, and in the area where I stay - I left my grandparents two years before I left Soweto, that was somewhere in 1989. I stay in my own place but still in the township, I found my own place to stay. And even there when I arrived people tend to come to my place and use my place as a complaining office of some sort because eventually we have that decreasing of the ANC in the area, there was some sort of an order in the area without me having to go in public and call public meetings. But local IFP leadership used to call meetings, I never attended one meeting. I'm already committed with the regional and provincial things. Then when the news of me leaving the area went out the local people were complaining, saying no, that I remain there. It is the only area in the township where there has been no confrontation.

POM     This is the township where - ?

TK     FENAONE, that's in Soweto, part of Soweto. So in that area it was just quiet. I was coming home twelve o'clock, leaving home five o'clock sometimes, but suddenly there I'm there home, after rallies on Sunday I'm home by three, then everybody, people were greeting me and then youngsters used to come to my home and then we had no problem at all, nothing whatsoever. So I think the ANC was a bit nervous and basically that's what happened.

POM     Have attempts been made on your life?

TK     Not actually that one can say, but I have heard with reliable sources that such and such areas were plotting my assassination. But to say that somebody's ever pulled a trigger, no I don't know about that.

POM     Do you take any precautions?

TK     Normally precautions like when you drive around you stop when the robot is red or when you come to a stop street you just stop, those type of precautions. I don't know, I cannot say that we have taken precautions. You have been in our office, you saw many people arriving, coming in, going out, coming to join the party, and there was not much.

POM     Let me ask you more general questions today and then when you get it back we'll look at it and we can fill in parts because this would be a process that will take place over several years. I'd like to get your reaction to all of the publicity around Boipatong, the massacre that happened there.

TK     Let's deal with that categorically. First let me just address, let me deal with the question of the Boipatong massacre. Here in this country, you can check if you want to, you take all newspapers now and look at them, many of them first page to last page they will be telling you about ANC. Now do not ask me why they do that but I am saying propaganda is doing its rounds and unfortunately my party is the victim of this propaganda. Further than that, at Boipatong people were killed, we know about that. Those people who were killed I am saying they were not members of the ANC, but the ANC jumped onto the running bandwagon to claim sympathy. But further than that one, it is the part of propaganda that we have in this country that the SA Communist Party and ANC alliance are playing, because when you talk of the killing at Boipatong, you talk about the people now, human beings being killed, we were not seeing that massacre, or a massacre of that sort, for the first time in this country. Very much unfortunately the previous massacres have been on the IFP, it has been Inkatha's people that were killed.

     Let's take the issue of Crossroads here on the Reef again which took place just this year on 3rd April 1992, only four months back, not much publicity was given to that one, but the people are said to be ANC coming from an area which is known to be ANC supported, were seen by eye-witnesses travelling at night a distance of about five kilometres to where Crossroads is and then they massacred, more than a hundred shacks were burnt down to ashes, 29 people were killed on the spot overnight and then another eight people died later in the hospital. In that killing there was also an eight month old baby which was burned alive in the shack. It was gruesome. Then again there was an old woman who could not just run away and then she was burnt alive in the shack. Then we found arms of people, fingers, laid around and then dogs were burnt in their coals. So it was gruesome and I didn't eat the following day.

     You didn't have SA Council of Churches making an issue about that, they didn't even go to the scene. They didn't even go to the hospital to give a prayer or sympathy to those people. It was reported once the following day and then that was the end. Up until today not a single person has been arrested, let alone convicted, but I am saying arrested, on that issue. So nobody ever made that noise. Now the universal question is: were those people not human beings? Why do we make noise on the left? Why didn't we make noise here instead?

     Further than that one, just last year, not more than ten months ago, members of the IFP marching to the stadium in the same area of the East Rand, here in Johannesburg again, Thokoza township, which we call Thokoza massacre, were actually ambushed. Ten died on the spot and another 18 died in hospital on the same day, on the same massacre. Nobody bothered to write of it throughout the SA press. I'm talking about local, the problem that we are facing locally. And then not a single priest bothered to go and pray there. Those are the type of things that we are experiencing. This took place last year on 10th September. Now we are having this much noise.

     Anyway the Boipatong killing was actually used by the ANC to help them justify their withdrawal from CODESA even though ANC announced their withdrawal from CODESA even before the massacre of Boipatong. Let me put it this way, so many people are now arrested about the Boipatong massacre. I am saying the previous two that I've mentioned not a single one was arrested or even convicted. Now coming to this one of Boipatong, because the ANC was screaming so much the government went skelter helter trying to prove to the world and the ANC that they are doing something. So many people have been arrested from KwaMadala Hostel simply because all fingers pointed at that place, (i) because it is a hostel, (ii) it is not supporting ANC. It is not the only hostel that we have in this country or in the area of Vaal Triangle where Boipatong is. There is another hostel there where there is killing among the ANC members, I'm not talking about secret killings, I'm talking about a member coming with an AK in a meeting and shooting other ANC members. It is known but we don't have that in the media. It is reported once and then somewhere in the media of the people in a very small, maybe two paragraphs if not one.

POM     Weren't many of the people who were arrested identified as members of Inkatha?

TK     Not all of them, not many of them. But in KwaMadala many people are not members of Inkatha. So further than that one the story goes, the SA government is actually captive of the ANC's propaganda even if they are supposed to do the right thing the ANC is not I don't think the SA government can do that.  All right, nobody is questioning the reason why the ANC pulled out of CODESA and why they are putting the country in such a state, nobody is doing that now. But the whole question is about violence and Boipatong. All right, let's go one step back again, the ANC is the only organisation which has clearly, vehemently announced their violence In each event where they embarked on the campaign of whatever sort, even boycotts, they do that by forcing people to support them. It is either people support them or they get killed. This is not my wild conclusion, these are things that happen. You can have evidence in any of the structures.

     But now the ANC has called for mass action currently. It is obvious it is an ANC mass action, obviously people will be forced and then they will see another blood-letting in the country. Nobody cares to write about that and make that complaint in our local newspapers, let alone the international press. I'm not much interested, they do not much impact in our community within the country. So when then the violence follows the mass action somebody has to be accused, either the third force, the government or Inkatha, not the ANC. So I am saying that we are swimming in a huge pool of propaganda. You move a step you are in propaganda. I personally have fallen victim so many times but I must tell you, this makes one become too strong. You become tolerant, you become tough, you take criticism and then you learn to live with it and pursue your goal. Again, to us it makes us become a party of people who are really committed irregardless of the odds and all those things, the evens and the odds, all those things that the papers are saying.

     Anyway, coming to the issue of CODESA, I am saying the ANC lost the battle in CODESA and then because they didn't find their way through they decided to go back to the street and pull out of all negotiations and do negotiation in the streets.

POM     You say they lost the battle at CODESA?

TK     OK, it wasn't the government that proposed the federal system that they adopted in CODESA, it was the IFP. Again it was the IFP that stood firm and said that the percentage which will be regarded as consensus in the constitutional principles needs to be up to 90%, 87%. It was the IFP. But the ANC is trying to project it to the world as if it is their argument and the government and all those who are against the ANC are behind the government. They are trying to make it two-party negotiations. Then further than that one on the issue of the federal system in CODESA, out of the 19 parties that are negotiating in that the ANC normally have its nine and the IFP has its nine and then the Democratic Party which is a butterfly, flying from one side to the other depending on the issue, but when it comes to the hard crux of the matter when we were talking about a federal system and this point of percentage in consensus, the other organisations, delegations, crossed over to the IFP side and then you ended up having eleven against eight. So the ANC lost the democratic battle.

POM     Eleven organisations out of the nineteen?

TK     Were against the ANC.

POM     Out of the nineteen opposed the ANC's 70%?

TK     No 67%.

POM     67%. How many of those organisations supported the 75%?

TK     The other measures?

POM     The eleven organisations

TK     Were on the IFP side and eight on the ANC side. Now you understand that initially, in a nutshell, the short and the long of the matter is that the ANC lost a democratic battle and then they couldn't bear it and they pulled out of CODESA. In other words they are saying people in CODESA must accept what they are saying or else. That is not the spirit of negotiations. Negotiations are about give and take situations and compromise and compromise and even compromise. So that is what the ANC that's not how they do it. Anyway to me that didn't come as a surprise. What was a surprise was that they are in negotiations. I haven't known any communist organisation favouring negotiations. All I know is that they favour the handing over of power. But anyway, that is the same thing that we saw in the early 20th century when the Bolsheviks came to power, they did the same thing, destroy negotiations and force the government, the Bolsheviks, that's why they came to power and then they were using their newspapers.

POM     Does the IFP support the government in looking for 75%?

TK     It is the government that supports the IFP, not the IFP supporting the government. But anyway we are on good terms with the government, talking terms, not good terms but talking terms.

POM     What do you think happened at Boipatong?

TK     Can you believe that now lately the local leadership, IFP local leadership and ordinary residents in Boipatong decided that over 15 of those who were killed were actually IFP supporting people and they were buried under the banner, the flag, of the ANC because the ANC captured everything. Then further than that one, I'm asking you but I'm expecting no answer, why did the ANC urge the residents of Boipatong not to co-operate with the police, not to give evidence? And then why did the ANC all of a sudden use Boipatong as their reason to stay out of CODESA? Does that mean they planned it? Does that mean that their agents inside KwaMadala Hostel or other areas did that? Who knows.

POM     You say the ANC are telling people not to co-operate?

TK     Not to co-operate, not to give evidence to the police.

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.