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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
08 Aug 1992: Mzizi, Abraham
POM You have just been telling me why you think the ANC wants the hostels phased out and shut down finally. What do you think is behind that demand?
AM Well my perception is of the ANC, the alliance, that the hostel inmates are together and united and it's easy for them to communicate any message to any person at a short given time whereas in his camp it would be difficult even to convey a message within 21 days and therefore if you could probably destroy these people then that communication would have now failed and broken completely down. I think that's it's fear, it's main fear that these people are united and are together.
POM So when I was back here at Christmas your house was in a much greater state of disrepair, an attempt had been made to burn you out once or twice. Are things more back to normal now? What's been happening to you since I last talked to you?
AM Yes, we have actually tried to make improvement on the structure itself. As I bought this house as a voetstoots I had to rewire it completely, put new electricity wires and other improvement on the ceiling and many other things. As you see the furniture is not up to the standard, this is second-hand furniture which I have. Now being the man actually working all by myself, my wife is not working, as you see we still have kids who are still young, she cannot go and work and I have to struggle. I did not have any assistance from anywhere else. I had to start all from scratch out of my salary so that from the company where I am working the company itself it had helped me with other things. I was grateful that I am working for an American company, Three M South Africa, it has shown concern on what has happened to me and they have helped me a great deal out of the problem.
POM What about the political situation since I talked to you about last time, first of all in Thokoza itself and then the larger picture?
AM Well in Thokoza when last you were here I think we had war, not violence, in 1990 and 1991 and ever since then a formal line of communication was opened where ANC, Civic Associations, IFP, SADF, SAP and many other structures of the government structures such as the security police and many other people, the Minister of Fellowship, Fraternity and Chamber of Commerce came together and had a discussion till finally we had to form a local dispute resolution committee which is functioning well though it has quite a lot of loose ends which we will need to tie up but I think the discussion that went ahead had forced it through, made a better relationship between organisations because ever since then we haven't had a large scale of war. It is only minor incidents which I think now lately it is only the tsotsi element that is prevailing, if I may use that word. (Tsotsi means thugs). Also in adding to that I think one of the things that contributed quite a lot is that the shacks which are called Phola Park was so wild that in February it was termed as a no-go area. The residents has killed all civilians, black and white could not go past the old Alberton/Vereeniging Road and I think on that killing police, killing traffic inspectors ...
POM You say the thugs were doing this?
AM Well it was the residents of - it was now the defence unit of Phola Park as well as uMkhonto weSizwe. I'm sure you must have been aware of that what Chris Hani said recently about uMkhonto weSizwe in the Vaal Triangle as well as Phola Park. Now that has actually forced the government to put the place under siege and by doing that the rate of crime and violence was brought down almost to zero. I think that was the right step that the government took.
POM So is there still a big police and military presence in Phola Park?
AM To my belief, although I don't go to the place, you know I've been terrified to such an extent that I don't even envisage coming closer to that place. You know it looks like, if feels to me, they would just see me walking, say, "He's a Zulu man." I can't even go near.
POM How would they know you are a Zulu?
AM That is my fear. I don't say they will know me as such, but that is the impression which they have created, the fear they have created to me that I feel that probably walking in that area they would just see me even if they won't see me. You know if a person walks in the street and he sees a policeman he will start running away. He declares himself an obvious thief or anything of the sort, so I think I would do the same when I come closer to them, when they are looking at me I will start running away and they will give chase. Those are the things that I believe.
POM So you think things have been getting better in this community, in Thokoza?
POM How about the larger political picture? What do you think is happening there?
AM I think it's the same thing which we need to do in other areas which we would try to put the message across, though I say when talking to people about these local dispute resolution committees, the process, it is a slow process which will take time before it could be achieved. But what I think is that people should start at the low places, talk to one another. The hostel inmates should come out, extend hand and talk to the township people and then remind them of the friendship that they had in the past and forget about calling the shacks surrounding the townships because those are the people who actually fuel violence, because they are living in shacks, they've got no remorse for what is happening in the township. They can destroy our houses, they can destroy the hostels, they can destroy anything. If you destroy a shack you've got a home in the Transkei, you've got a home anywhere else where you came from. Those are the things that I think in other hostels they need to embark on it.
POM Do you meet with the local ANC person who is on this dispute resolution committee?
POM Have you built up any kind of a relationship with that person? You meet as adversaries but as you have gotten to know each other has any kind of relationship, personal relationship developed?
AM Well we do meet with them and something that has actually happened recently is that it was discussed at the local dispute resolution committee (in most cases I'm at work and Gertrude, my wife, she represents us there). There was a pamphlet which was issued out by ANC Women's League, Youth League and COSATU, SACP that the renovation of hostels must stop immediately which we regarded as very fuelling violence, a statement which would cause violence.
POM Why did they issue that statement?
AM Yes. There was a complaint.
POM I was asking Gertrude, when you look to the future, the next 5 or 6 months, do you see things getting better or getting worse?
AM One would be pessimistic in saying it's getting better or it's getting worse. But in the area where I am living things are shaping in the right direction. As I told you earlier by clamping down Phola Park with the presence of the police there the place is better policed and I think in the near future there would be no possibility of having any other full scale war. With the neighbourhood having people still toyi-toying, having people still becoming very insulting to some of the other organisations' leaders it will lead back and the more you have people of that calibre, even if the place is better, it might be influenced by forces coming from that side. I'm pessimistic and as I say if one can maintain the order itself, now, it will then maintain it for ... get closer and have other neighbourhoods or a sisterhood organisation in the neighbouring councils to cultivate some of those bad elements.
POM Do you think the mass action last week was successful mass action? Do you think the ANC made its point to the government? They claimed 4 million people.
AM The laughing stock. You cannot say let's negotiate and when a person prepares a table where everybody should come and talk you go to the street. It's exactly what they were doing in the past when they were in exile, when they were talking right outside the country, when the government could not respond. Now the government wants to respond to their call and they go in the street. It had no impact whatsoever. It was actually exacerbating, it makes everybody now become a conflict. You might have seen on TV what the AWB did at Krugersdorp. There was a formidable confrontation. If the police were not there, there would have been a smash. Now can you see that they are stirring other organisations which were not actually, would normally not have risen up and take arms and say, "Now we go for it." And over and above that mass action did not apply in the people's mind. People who were walking in the street they did not know what they want. It was excitement which made them go there and nothing else. After two days and up till today the mass action makes no sense, contributed nothing. Whites were still white, blacks were still black. If apartheid existed it existed even more. As I said to you, apartheid now it is existing but if you have money in your pocket then you don't have apartheid. If you don't have money in your pocket then you have apartheid. Those who are losing their jobs, their pockets will be filled with apartheid. And that's exactly what it will be. Misery. It has caused misery. It wasn't a success in any way because people have been intimidated. OK, some other companies decided to go to a compromise and said to their employees, "Take leave, take two leave days if you still have leave days for 1991", as in my company we still have days left over which some of us did make use of those days.
POM Where is Three M located, the company?
AM In Elandsfontein next to Isando, near the airport.
POM How many people turned up for work there?
AM Well most of the people, including whites at Three M, some of them took their leave, not only blacks. There were a few blacks that came, those who were probably non-union members if I can put it that way, they turned up for work. But some of them because the factory would have been virtually closed down they had no option they had to go and submit their leave forms.
POM So you think most people who didn't go to work did so because they were afraid of being intimidated?
AM Exactly. It was not a question of a possibility, it is a fact. They knew. In some other places kids were moving around as early as Friday and Saturday and Sunday saying "Monday nobody goes to work, Monday nobody goes to work", and people know that when the kids go on the streets and say that then there will be some sort of a drama and most of the people, some companies that actually continued with their work, people had to leave by Sunday night and had to put up at their factories and slept there. Those who could not get out could not, they were caught in between.
POM What's your reading of what happened from the time that there was a deadlock at CODESA but de Klerk and Mandela tried to put their best face on it. They both said, "Yes we're deadlocked but the problems aren't insuperable", to a point where less than a month later you had the ANC walking out of CODESA, you had mass action being taken from the back burner being put on the front burner, you have the ANC making a whole list of demands that the government must meet before negotiations could be resumed. You had Mandela making very direct personal attacks on de Klerk. What happened in that period to move the ANC from deadlock to absolute collapse?
AM Well the deadlock as such has been referred to and the demand made by ANC, I fail to understand at times when people talk of 'demands'. A demand is not a negotiated settlement. A demand is when you say, "I demand, I've got no compromise. This is what I want." That's a demand if my understanding is correct. But when you say you will negotiate it means we will talk and reach a compromise. Now I cannot understand one thing, how many demands have been made which were not met? He should rather desist or rather phrase his input in a better way rather than turning them into demands. The demands he is making, they are not demands and the proposal he is trying to put across, these are unreasonable demands or unreasonable proposals which the government cannot meet in any way. Those are some of the things that he actually again try and mislead people, tell people or bring to the mind of the people something that he would never achieve. He talks of the 'people's demands'. Who are the people? In the people's demands, are whites being the people? Why doesn't he say, "I want a black government"? Then we would understand because the people to him is the ANC. I'm sure the Indunas told you that the words 'mass action', to them would have been that mass action should include everybody in South Africa, in fact it was only ANC and allies in the marches and toyi-toying and therefore it was just a portion. Those who were actually captured or caught between crossfire, those people were actually employees and belong to COSATU. COSATU made a demand and those don't go to work.
POM Do you see any kind of a power struggle going on within the ANC? COSATU seems to have emerged as the driving force behind the mass action campaign. What's happening there?
AM If you will bear with me, the ANC it has seen that it has no followers. ANC, it's mass action coincided with a lot of strikes and ANC hi-jacked the vehicle of the strikers and came in and put it's banners there and it had the support because I will support you on your strike and it moved those people into the camp. Not necessarily that they are its members. And as it coincided with that, people felt that when ANC now had the support and wanted the wagon to be driven off, these people came in support. They did not go there because they were ANC members. They went there because ANC was seen actually supporting them in their strike. The COSATU people had joined in there because on the various things he had shown sympathy with their evil deeds and therefore they came to him in support and it also coincided with the NUMSA strike, they are on strike. When these people move around up and about in the streets ANC banners are being put there and therefore I would not say it was ANC alone, or that the people went there of their own will. Some went there because ANC was seen in our struggle, our strike, let's go and support him too. That's the crux of the whole matter. That's how I perceive things and that's how I think and I don't think there's anything else that one could probably describe better than that.
POM Do you see negotiations resuming fairly shortly?
AM Well Mandela will do the things he's got to do. He'll go and meet de Klerk but probably they are meeting right now. He's very fond of meeting de Klerk behind doors. He wants to meet de Klerk all by himself. He will meet de Klerk and sooner or later we will hear that they have agreed on something and you will see Mandela again back on top. That's it. It's not going to come as a surprise. They will go back to the table.
POM Is he being very clever then, Mandela?
AM No, no. Not that he's being clever. Before he dies he wants to tell - it's like you forming a go-between myself and Mr. Mandela. You would tell people that I am the only person who can make things happen and we do this now and so he says, "Fine. When you come to me please can we do this and this and this." The two will come together. And then he will go out and says, "It's because of me that I have done this". The two of us not aware that you have made yourself a go-between. That's exactly what he's doing. He pretends as though he's the only person who can make things happen. We respect the views of other politicians and other organisations but we would say, "To hell with him." We would tell de Klerk now and say, "We go on with negotiations now". The Zulus, the two million people, want to negotiate now. Whether he's not there, whether he's there we would say we go on. Nobody will stop us.
But we believe that we have waited so many years, 27 years for him to be released from jail, it is a fruitless effort to go ahead again when we will be having a split. We would try and get hold of the CP, as we are now, we have succeeded, we have spoken to CP. Can you see that gradually we try to break this rock and eventually we will be having a split in the CP. We will be having a splinter group that will be negotiating and we can say, well everybody's there. And sooner or later we have started probably talking to AWB though it was on a very separate incident, not necessarily that we were actually forming allies with them but we were talking on a very separate incident and along that line as well, sooner or later, if AWB is not going to do away with it's ties there will be a split and we will he having some of the AWB going to the negotiating table.
POM So do you see any kind of alliance that is anti-ANC emerging?
AM Probably in the future we would see that because ANC all by itself, I don't think it is the driving force to have all this mass action other than the SACP.
POM You think the SACP is behind it? But they are the dominant element in the organisation?
AM Yes at all times.
POM You know when you said you waited 27 years for Mandela to be released, obviously at some point you looked up to Mandela, obviously he disappointed your expectations. Has he?
AM That's it. When I say we waited 27 years, Dr Buthelezi had told Verwoerd when he structured homelands that he was not accepting this. Dr Buthelezi has told John Vorster when he became the Prime Minister that he is not going to talk to him, John Vorster, while Mandela is in prison, while my brothers and sisters are in exile because he learned the sooner we embark on this these people at some stage when we have another government they will come back and they will say, "We were not part and parcel of this", and this thing will fall down. The best way I'll talk to you when you have released all the political prisoners and bring back all the exiles, then we resume talks. That has been his stand right up until now. He has been waiting at the door. Now Mandela is busy chipping him out. He hasn't got a mandate. He hasn't got a strategy to end with. He will get there and say, "I am representing people's mandate or their aspirations", and when he gets there, when he gets stuck he would always say, "I must get a mandate". Who would always get a mandate? Is he not mature enough to take decisions for and on behalf of his people? And that is the reason why he cannot become a political party because he knows that nobody will join him or they will have to come apart, the SACP will have to move away from him and become all by itself. It will remain the liberal party so that all those who do not fall within the ranks of political parties belong to him, are in the rank and file of those people who are not in political parties.
POM So you don't think he commands widespread respect in the black community?
AM Not a lot. Not at all. One would be wasting one's time. Only those who are brainwashed would think that. But people who can reason, who have read his manifesto, the only person who could probably talk sense in the whole political spectrum across it is that man Buthelezi. That's the only man who any person anywhere would say what he says is practicable and what the other man says is impracticable, you cannot accept it.
POM OK. Thank you.