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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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: Thokoza Hostel Residents
Interviewee No. 1: Hostel No. 3
POM I am talking to Clem Moses Makisi at Thokoza Hostel. He has just made the point that when Mandela says the government and the ANC had agreed that the hostels should be phased out and that in the meanwhile tight security fences should be erected around the hostels, the men in the hostels feel resentful and they feel these fences are more or less putting them into a concentration camp and the resentment is very high.
I would like to ask first about Boipatong, whether people who live in hostels, particularly this hostel, feel that the hostel dwellers in Boipatong are being unfairly accused of having perpetrated the massacre.
When you speak of the hostel in Vanderbijlpark it is known as KwaMadala. Mr Simon Mchunu will respond to your question. He will speak in Zulu and I will translate.
SM I know the image made to the outside world by the ANC is to create the impression that people from the hostels are the perpetrators of violence and simultaneously the KwaMadala people have been blamed as the people who caused the massacre of the people at Boipatong and this is an absolute lie because anything that happened, the law is there to bring the person to trial and he will be convicted on evidence. The ANC is doing is targeting of KwaMadala hostel because they know that it houses members of the IFP and Zulu speaking members.
Patrick, here is the translation as I heard it:
The statement that has been made that the KwaMadala residents carried out the attack on Boipatong is not true. This was said by the ANC because they want to discredit and dismantle the hostels. Some of the residents of the hostels are ANC members, but they do not say this, they only mention IFP members.
There is also a hostel in Sebokeng which they don't talk about. The residents there support the ANC. There is a hostel in the West Rand, they don't talk about it; the residents there also support ANC and they constantly launch attacks on IFP members. Even the police don't talk about these attacks. There is another hostel in Germiston at a place called Khuthala, where there are ANC supporters and Xhosas, they also don't talk of these hostels. They only target IFP dominated hostels.
Particularly the hostels that are in question are the hostels that house IFP members. In Sebokeng there is a big hostel which houses ANC members and Xhosa speaking people. Those hostels are not in question, they are not even put under siege up until now. We have never heard of searches being conducted in those hostels because they house ANC members and Xhosa speaking people. I can name a few hostels to substantiate my statement: there is a hostel also at Bekkersdal which houses Xhosas and ANC; that hostel is not under attack even though the residents have killed a number of people belonging to the IFP and Zulu speaking people. Nothing has been done even though the police are aware of these attacks. We have not heard of any arrests being made in relation to those attacks. We have another hostel at Khuthala in Germiston which mainly houses Xhosas and ANC members; that hostel has never been under siege and has never been searched, as has been the case with Zulu speaking people and IFP member hostels.
To come back to Sebokeng, there were a number of cases reported to the police that people have been killed, kidnapped, put into that hostel and the following day found dead and thrown outside of the hostel grounds with their stomachs and chests having been ripped open and their private parts missing. Both females and males. In one case, a person was abducted but got away. She was taken to the police by a member of the IFP where she made a report. She took them to the hostel in question, which was in Sebokeng and pointed out her kidnapper who was arrested. But he was later released by the police saying that they did not have sufficient evidence against him to convict him. But, much to our surprise, at KwaMadala, no person has been identified but we learn that a number of people have been arrested up until now. The newspapers say the number is 81, some people say it is 30. They have been arrested without being identified by anybody.
(We the hostel dwellers were surprised by these events. I have been living in this hostel for seventeen years, without any problems. But since the erection of these squatter camps called Mandela Park, Sisulu, Holomisa and Slovo squatter camps, there has been trouble here. This is the case all over SA, wherever there are squatter camps there is trouble.)
I have lived here for seventeen years now staying with the residents of the township, of which I am part and parcel, and we have never had any conflicts with the township dwellers, in fact we used to visit one another. But since the establishment of shacks, which are named after Mandela, Holomisa, Slovo, name them all, they are there, since their establishment there has been violence and war in SA.
(Another bone of contention with us is that on the 30th of September last year, 24 of our people died during clashes with ANC members at the stadium. We did not hear media reports about that. At Crossroads we lost more people where even children died, but this was also not reported. But whenever ANC supporters die, we never hear the end of it, whereas whenever IFP members are killed by ANC supporters it is not reported. We told Mr. Vance this when he was here and he saw it for himself at Crossroads.)
To further elaborate on this question of hostel dwellers, on the 8th of September 1991, I was leading the Amabutho (this is a group of people moving together under a command), we were moving towards the stadium where we were going to have a peaceful meeting talking about the conditions of the hostels. 24 members of my group as well as members of the IFP were killed by ANC supporters. The world has not done anything about those killings, furthermore it is silent about. It seems even a dog would have got more attention than we do. This year, recently at Crossroads, another 24 people were killed. Old women, died in a vicious attack by ANC people and Xhosa speaking people. Again the world did nothing about this, we have not heard any reports about this up until today. But look at Boipatong, the world actually came to a standstill because ANC members were killed and we feel that the world is somehow pandering to the wishes of the ANC, if not furthering the aims of the ANC; it also seems as if they have taken sides in this situation.
Much as we appreciate your coming to SA and visiting the hostels, we know you are the only one and few of your colleagues have visited this hostel and we appreciate that. We can even go further and tell you that Mr. Silas Vance, who was around here was taken to Crossroads after having visited Boipatong and we made him speak to people at the grassroots level. He saw disabled people who had been attacked by ANC supporters and Xhosa speaking people, and the world was silent about it. He saw shacks which had been demolished, he saw deserted shacks with the belongings of those who could no longer come back, or of those who had died during the attacks.
(We the hostel dwellers want the hostels to be renovated and made more liveable. As you can see they are in a terrible condition; when there are high winds and when it is cold, we freeze here. We want them to build us new hostels, and this should not be built to the specifications and demands of the ANC. The ANC is not the government of this country, there is a government in this country. We don't want to be locked up, because we are not lions, we don't eat people, we just want them to be renovated so that we an improved quality of life like other South Africans. We know that the ANC hates the Zulu nation and its history. We killed the whites at Blood River, we killed the English at Isandlwana, therefore they are scared of us because this country should be returned to us as Kings).
We can go on and on that we, the hostel dwellers, would like improvements on the structure of the hostel. As you can see yourself, there are cracks where the wind blows through. If conditions could be better we would be happy. The reconstruction of hostels should not be conducted at the beck and call of Mandela. What we resent most is the fencing around the hostels as if this is the Kruger National Park where they have lions, etc.) We are not lions, we are not going to kill anybody. We have controlled ourselves over so many decades, why should we do that now. The ANC is not the government, the government of this country is still in place, and we still respect that government. The ANC is afraid of history, they know that in 1838 we fought the Afrikaners and lost our lives for our land, not the ANC; those were the Zulus who fought for this land. In 1879, we fought at Isandlwana with the English for our land, which was usurped from the Zulus. The ANC is aware that they will be stealing this land if they want to rule it and the crux of the matter is that the land must be returned to the King of the Zulus if there is any chance to give back what belongs to the person from whom the land was taken, the King is the only person, not the ANC. If the ANC wants something from this they must go to the negotiating table for it, they should not dictate. If they keep on dictating, there will be a terrible war.
(Another problem that we have with the ANC is this mass action programme of theirs. We do not call it mass action because this can be interpreted to mean that all sections of the population participate in the activity. This is ANC action, it is not mass action, it is the ANC action and its allies. We are not mad, we are not full in the streets, we are working. Right now we have a problem, they are not working, if the whites employ us to fill up the gaps that they have created, they will attack us. We want to work for our children.)
ANC's mass action in our opinion is not a mass action. Our interpretation is that if it is mass action, it should be the masses of Africa, it should be everybody there. This is ANC action, not mass action and its allies. It is not the whole country that is behind this, it is not the whole South Africa or the southern hemisphere that is doing this, it is only the ANC. We want this to be noted by the outside world that it is ANC and ANC ally action, not mass action. We would urge the outside world to send in or to invest in SA so that our people should get work and come out of bondage. If they work there would be no poverty and the economy would then grow. We have learned that they have been staying away from work since last Monday. A lot of people are going to lose their jobs and we would go and work, but we know that we will be attacked by them if we do so.
POM I have got three follow-up questions. Who do they believe was responsible for Boipatong? Are they in favour of hostels or new housing being made for family units so they can bring their families here? Did they go to work last Monday and Tuesday during the stayaway or did they stay in the hostel?
SM We don't know who is behind the Boipatong massacre because the ANC is in the habit of wearing SAP uniform and then attacking people so that they can implicate the police and the government as instigators of violence in collusion with Inkatha. Therefore it is difficult to say. Boipatong is a place where residents of this hostel have many friends they frequently visit.
If a person does not know the tactics or the strategies of the ANC, you would wander in the wilderness because the ANC has been proven, over and above anything, that they have been found in possession of police uniform, SADF uniform and IFP membership cards. They go about and do all these criminal things, kill people so that they can portray the image that the police are involved, the government is involved, SADF is involved and the IFP is a surrogate of the government. Therefore, no-one will know up until the case is proved. We still believe that the ANC is behind this thing, hence it has made it possible for Boipatong to get all the publicity that it has received. No hostel inmate could have done that. In relation to the place where the massacre took place, it is a long way away from the hostel itself and it would be difficult to see at night if the perpetrators ran into the hostel. Therefore we do not believe that the attackers came from this hostel. The truth lies somewhere else, despite the fact that people have been arrested and interrogated. We don't know to what extent, but we believe that some of them have been beaten to such an extent that they are in hospital.
SM To come to the question of the stayaways. We are working and we have not stopped.
Coming back to your so-called mass action, which we call ANC action, since Monday, or since the factories reopened this year, we have been going to work daily. My fellow brother Mapise works at Screenex where they are under daily attack, but they will not stop going.
POM Where does he work?
POM Is that close to here?
It is in the East Rand, in Alberton.
POM The workers are attacked every day?
Everyday, all the IFP members, all the UWUSA members, who are members of the union which comprises mostly Zulus, with other races as well. Only ordinary Zulu speaking people have been attacked.
SM Since this ANC action started, we have had to organise kombis to transport them to and fro from work, they cannot use the public transport.
Since this ANC action started, we have been incurring the expense of hiring kombis to collect them from the factory and in the morning to take them to work because they cannot use ordinary public transport, where people are being intimidated.
POM So have they been doing that this week?
Yes, up until now.
POM Did everyone go to work this week?
They have been to work since Monday, they did not stay away. Since Monday they have been incurring the expense of hiring kombis to transport them to and fro for their safety.
POM Was there any trouble from ANC members here in Thokoza because they were doing that?
Since the ANC action we have lost a few people, although I am not quite certain now from which companies, but we did have casualties and fatalities from various firms, of our people who were attacked by ANC/COSATU allied members.
On the Monday of the ANC action, we took a vehicle and went down to the main road, Khumalo street, at the intersection we found some youths there in a position where they were about to set a tyre on fire, so that they could intimidate people and would block cars from driving past there. We got out of our vehicle with our sjamboks, and we said to them, "You dare do it here in Thokoza, you will get it where you did not expect it", and we took the tyre, extinguished the fire and threw it away. No incident was then reported and there were no more barricades on the streets. We were there to assist some of our members who live in Extension 2 who had been prevented from going to work.
Over and above everything, the Negotiations Forum has been opened now. The ANC should not use delaying tactics of running in the streets, they should go back to the negotiating table. South Africa is just ahead of us, we can see it coming, if they are genuine, they should disband MK because this creates fear amongst some people who could be participating in the negotiations because the ANC has got the AK47 on the table and people have to negotiate and at the same time keeping an eye on the gun on the table. They must disband MK and go to the table and negotiate genuinely so that we can have a new SA without further delay.
We may conclude with the statement that the outside world that is assisting the ANC by training MK should desist from doing that because these MK members are not being trained for De Klerk's government, they are being trained for the Zulus and the IFP, to come and kill us and we object strongly to that. They should keep in mind that the De Klerk government members have not been killed, up until now it is only the Zulus that are dying. That is the man we believe, who has got apartheid, and in our perception, I don't think he still has apartheid because he has opened up the doors and said, "People let us come and talk." Whoever has the majority will then rule the country and I don't think a man who has that mind could be regarded as a person who still carries on with apartheid.
Another issue that sits badly with us is that we have learnt that Clarence Makwetu and Nelson Mandela, at the New York Peace meeting, insulted our leader Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi. We feel very much offended that our leader was insulted in this manner because in our opinion, he is a true leader for us who has stood for the truth and has brought changes so that the ANC could be un-muzzled; he made it possible for the exiled SA community to return to the country. Mandela himself was released because of this very man. We would not have fought with the whites if we were condoning the deeds of apartheid, or if we were advocating that apartheid should exist. That is the true reflection of the fact that we were never at any stage teaming up with any person who perpetuated apartheid in any country, and we don't want violence. But if these people keep on insulting our king, our leader, they must know that there will be no end to this war, there will be that ill feeling for ever.
We also have a problem with the ANC and the outside world should not listen to whatever they read in any newspapers of SA. It is quite evident that the SA media has aligned itself with the ANC. We can prove this by the fact that during the strike of MWASA, a lot of the demonstrators were carrying the ANC flag. You will remember that there was no news coverage throughout that strike and people were toyi-toying with the banners of the ANC, we were therefore convinced that all the people who took part in that toyi-toying under the ANC banner were working for the SABC then they are all ANC members. The church people, whom we believe are holy, when people died in Thokoza as I mentioned earlier, they did not come and pray. Instead they went to Boipatong because ANC members died there. We have seen that there is nobody on our side, we feel that the outside world should know that in SA, the IFP and Zulu speaking members would not attack any person or wage war with any person either than retaliating when it is necessary to defend themselves.
POM I want to go back to the question of what they would like to see done to the hostels; whether they want the hostels to stay, or whether they would like to see housing built, family units built so that they could bring their families here?
Skhumbuzo Shelembe is going to answer that one. Simon Mchunu is the Induna.
Shelembe what do you think about the plan to convert hostels into family units?
SS I want the hostel to remain as it is.
With a big no, I want it to be a better hostel.
My wife is at home doing the work that she needs to do, such as looking after my cattle. I am a Zulu man, I must have cattle.
POM Where is he from?
From Umsinga, in Tugela.
SS I have a well established family at home. I have a house, I have cattle and I also have land to plough. My wife is looking after those things. If she comes here now to live with me, who will stay behind to look after my cattle. I am working here and preparing for the day when I will go back home.
POM Does he have children?
Yes. He has two children.
POM How long has he been living in this hostel?
I have stayed in hostels for the past seven years.
N I am Ngobese. I don't want the hostels to be changed into family units for the same reasons as the previous speaker. I have three wives if I bring there here where would I keep them? I have lived in the hostels since 1959 and I am happy about that.
POM How many times a year does he go home?
In the past we used to go home during shutdown period, but now lately that we have vehicles going every weekend and everyday, I can go as often as I want, which I do.
POM So how many times a year does he go home now?
Every month end.
POM So he would drive down on Friday and drive back on Sunday?
RM Yes. My name is Reuben Maphisa. I am in agreement with the stand of the other two speakers. I would like to add that we have customs, we as Zulus, we don't normally stay a long time with our families. For example, a person who has three wives cannot stay with the three wives in one place, or four wives in one place, therefore we feel that we don't want to lose our customs because if we could allow that to happen, we would be like these people who have lost their customs completely. They don't know whether they still belong to the clans from which they descend, therefore we don't want that. We would rather remain with our customs.
POM Is he married too?
RM I have two wives.
POM Does each wife live on a piece of land?
They live in one kraal with different houses, each wife has her own house and lives her own life with her family.
POM Do they all together look after the cattle?
Yes. The ANC is advocating for the closure of hostels because they are aiming at destroying our culture, they want us to lose sight of what we were brought up with. We have a King to respect and if we all come this side, who will be there, who shall we pay respects to. Furthermore, we believe that when I go home there should be a home there for me. Our Zulu nation should remain intact and protected, rather than bringing everybody here. If you go around here in the township and approach any Zulu, you will find that he has lost touch of some of the things which he grew up with, which his ancestors taught him and believed in.
POM How many years has he been living in the hostels?
I arrived here in 1973. This man also says no. His name is Mkhonzeni Mpanza. He says the hostels should be made presentable, no family units should be established. We have got homes where we live, if we want homes here we will tell the municipality to build us homes in the townships and those who want homes here will go there.
POM Is he married with land and cattle?
I have one wife and I have cattle which she is looking after and ploughing the land. I arrived here in 1979.
POM How many times a year does he go home to visit his wife and his land?
Communication has been improved, so I visit home as often as I want, if they need me and they send a message I can go today.
POM If you have to go on an emergency is there any problem in getting time off from work?
There is no problem, whatever problem I have I take to my employer who will listen to my complaint and will give me permission to go home and come back when it is suitable.
SB This is Sibusiso Buthelezi. I support what my colleagues have said so far. I would however like to add the point that, up until now, it is only the ANC that has called for the hostels to be demolished. We as the hostel dwellers have not complained or asked for the hostels to be demolished. Even the IFP, which is the party which we support, has not raised that point. Why does the ANC poke its nose into our affairs? We are the people who should say, we don't want this, we want that, not them.
In the past the same township which you see comprised of four roomed houses. In the past when families expanded, those families used to go and get permits from the municipalities so that their sons could come and live in the hostel pending allocation of a house. These hostels therefore served a good purpose in the past. Should it be necessary that they be phased or restructured, we are the people who will say when and what we want out of these structures.
POM How long has he been here?
He arrived here in 1964.
POM How many wives has he got?
I have only got one wife.
POM How many children?
I have got nine children.
POM Are they all still living at home or are they up here too?
Yes. They look after my cattle.
POM If they were to bring their wives here, would they lose their land?
Yes. If my wife comes here there is no hope. What will happen to my cattle, what will happen to my land, what will happen to the crops that we have planted? There will be nobody to look after all those things and eventually I will lose my land. Because there is a Chief where we come from, he will confiscate the land if it is not used.
POM So if the land is not used it goes back to the King?
It goes back to the Chief and he will give it to somebody else.
Mr. Mchunu says whilst town dwellers were eating yellow maize meal, we were eating white maize meal and we had enough food to feed our families and ourselves. We were surprised to find that there is a shortage of good maize meal here in the urban areas.
AK My name is Alfred Khene. I am Southern Sotho and I want to contradict what they say that the hostel belong to Zulus. I also reject the idea of phasing out hostels. This is our home and we love it, all we need is for it to be renovated. It is an old structure which needs some work to make it presentable.
We differ from whites for whom it is easy to go anywhere and get a home; with us once you have established a home that is it forever and you have to look after it. We also cannot afford to run two homes. We cannot move our families to bring them up here. Our purpose of coming here is to work and go back. I have been here since 1971.
NZM My name is Nduna Zephelot Mbatha. I also reject the idea of demolishing hostels.
POM Has he got land and cattle etc.?
Before I answer your question I would like to extend our gratitude to you for coming to us, the people who are being regarded as very vicious people who could not be visited by any person.
I have a home, two wives and cattle. These things are looked after by my wives. We would be very happy if the information that you gather during this visit here could be heard overseas, so that people can come for themselves to come and talk to us as you are doing. We also hope that you will tell them that you went to visit the very same vicious people whom you regarded as violent people; I was with them, I talked to them, I stayed with them where they stay in the hostels. I did not call them to come to a hotel. We know that overseas we, the hostel dwellers, are regarded as animals, people think of the Kruger National Park. I have lived here for the past twenty two years.
POM How often now does he go home compared to ten or twelve years ago?
I go very often.
POM Thank him for his remarks and I appreciate what he has said.
MN My name is Mbongeni Ngobese. I have lived here since 1967. I have one wife (he is still young anyway, he still has a long way to go). I like the fact that we as people have elected to stay in the hostels and we are still happy with the manner in which we are staying, all we need is that improvements should be made on the hostels. Over and above that, I think we are the last people to stand up now and say we are tired of living in the hostels without our families, and demand that our families should come and stay with us. I am sure if we said so, we would be listened to more than an outsider. We don't need people talking on our behalf. I can also add that it would be very strange for the ANC to ascribe that we should have our families because if I die here I will be taken back to my land of origin for burial. It will therefore be futile for me to bring my family here. If they want to pay me a visit it does not mean that they cannot do so as people say. If they want to visit me they come and visit, and go back home.
POM How many times does your family visit a year?
We have lived this life some long time. She comes and stays for periods of even one month. I hire a room in the township and live with her there.
POM Does he have children?
I have got seven children.
POM Are they all at home?
Yes. I have got cattle and land which they look after.
AM I am Abednico Mthembu. I arrived here in 1970 and have lived in the hostels ever since. I reject the idea of demolishing hostels.
POM How many wives and children does he have?
I have got one wife and five children.
I have got a beautiful home, better than these four rooms here. The ANC has got it all wrong, if they thought like mature people, whoever came about with the idea of demolishing hostels and phasing them out was thinking like a child. If he was a mature person he would not have gone and talked to the government or the outside world, the UN, about our hostel, he should have come to us, the very people who live in the hostel, to consult with us first. Even the government cannot decide for us. They decided to build the hostels but beyond this they cannot tell us how to live. We accept the structure for accommodation but we do not accept being told how we should live.
I have children at home who are looking after my cattle. We would like the hostels to be made presentable.
POM Why do they think that the ANC wants the government to phase out and close down the hostels?
The ANC is aiming at one thing, it is not aiming at the hostel as such, it is aiming at the Zulu speaking people and the IFP, it wants to destroy them so that they should not exist, so that we should find ourselves very inconvenienced. You cannot run two homes. The very people who live in the four roomed houses at times close their four rooms because of financial constraints. Right now they are in arrears with their rentals, so how can I afford running two homes? I would find myself in problems and eventually I would lose my job and go home where I would not find a job. The ANC is aiming at the Zulu speaking people and the IFP, as Mr. Mchunu has already said.
SM My perception of why the ANC wants the phasing out of hostels is that the ANC has got a problem in that they know that the Zulus are a respected nation who believe in respecting one another. As you see me, young as I am, there are elderly people who are sitting here with us who I am an Induna to, they act under my command, not because I am older than them but because of the respect they have for my position in society. The ANC is therefore challenging that respect. We would not have fought in Isandlwana in 1879 and won the battle, or fought anywhere else, without the respect and command that we have for our leaders and they know that if they can destroy that then they will have destroyed the Zulu nation.
POM Can he help me understand why Zulus are killing Zulus in Natal?
The ANC has injected the wrong medicine into the minds of some Zulus. The very respect that they are trying to destroy by challenging the Zulu kingdom, puts up a bad reflection to some Zulus. They are giving the image that some Zulus are part and parcel of apartheid, are the extension of those who oppress other people.
POM Has anybody else got an opinion on this?
As you have heard everybody talking at once, that was in agreement with what Mr. Mchunu has said. Mr. Buthelezi comes in to say it is true indeed that the ANC is proceeding with their evil deeds because of the Zulus that are on the other side helping him. If it had no Zulus on its side, there wouldn't have been any ANC, or there would not have been any strong opposition to the IFP.
POM Thank them very much for taking the time to talk with me. I really appreciate it and I will do everything that I can to make their views known when I go back to the US in newspaper articles and other writings that I will do. I would hope to come back and visit them again at Christmas. It will be December or January.
We would be pleased if what we discussed somewhere gets a hearing. We would also like a feedback or results on the impact they have on the outside world. Please encourage the businessmen to invest their money here.
POM Thank you.