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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
30 Sep 1996: Twala, Linda
POM Linda, let's talk first about the recreation centre. How many years has it taken you to bring it this far? It now has a roof, it has a large recreation area that can be used for many purposes, you have a clinic that is conducted from Monday through Friday. Have things come a long way in that direction?
LT Yes it has now been more than five years we have been battling to put up this centre. We have been relying on donors who kept on helping us and most of the bricks you saw there, the bricks that we've used, were made by the senior citizens themselves though we got stuck a year back and we battled again, but through the help of our friends overseas the building has been completed though not yet 100% because we still have a kitchen which we want to equip with kitchen utensils and make it a proper kitchen. We've got toilets inside now and we have a clinic. Before, the time when you came here, we used to operate twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays but ever since we completed this building the doctors came here and requested that they would like to operate here on a daily basis. As you have seen there are many people in the hall there and some of us senior citizens, we have those that are coming here for family planning and children's immunisation and, of course, venereal diseases for the youth, and on Fridays it's a day for the elderly only and on other days it's for everybody.
POM So how many years have gone by since you put down the first brick to when you put on the roof?
LT I would say it's about five years back, yes, it's about five years back because the first structure that we had that was a structure that I had built on my own and that was the structure which was bombed by police in 1986 because of my political involvement. When it was bombed by police we then struggled after that until in 1988/89 we tried to prepare for this structure you see out there.
POM But this structure has all been put together with money that you've raised yourself, with help that you've put together yourself, it's all been done by members of the community without any government assistance?
LT No, there's no government assistance because we have a fund raising number, we are a registered welfare organisation but the previous government we could not get a subsidy from them. Even with our present government at this stage we haven't started requesting for assistance because they were still crawling but now that they are up and running we are hoping that we are going to start now asking the government that this is not mine, this is for the community, it's not helping me alone, it's helping the entire community of Alexandra, so that they should also give a hand if things go well.
POM So you say it's used for many purposes. Could you give me an example of some of the purposes for which it is used?
LT On Sundays we have the Sunday School that is going on here in the mornings for children and on Saturdays too and on Sunday afternoon we have got church gatherings from the Methodist Church. All our senior citizens come to this centre and we have what we call now the Alexandra Gospel Association. When we started in this centre we had about five gospel choirs but to date we've got more than sixty gospel choirs in Alexandra and they hold meetings right here where we are seated. Then we have what we call the leopards. As you know we've got three committees, the committee of the elephants, the committee of the senior citizens we call them the elephants, and our age group, me and you, we call it the lions. And the leopards are the young chaps and the young kids you see outside there. They are here to come and do voluntary service and we usually go and do home visits with them. They come here to the centre and clean the centre and when it's June or December we get companies to pay them so that they must not loiter around the streets of Alex because at the end of the day they end up being arrested for stealing in shops because they need something that would make them happy during the festive season. But then here we do try and allocate duties to them but get companies to pay them at the end of the day and we submit a report that this is what they have been doing.
POM In the last two years when you look around Alex, can you see visible changes that have taken place since your own government has come into place and especially since you've had your own local government?
LT I would say really things have been changing though the pace is a bit slow but things are changing. I haven't shown you our new bus/taxi rank where commuters are going to be boarding their taxis and the paving that is going on in the township, the servicing of roads. For instance, as I'm talking to you, on Friday we were opening up a new cemetery. We have been burying our dead in ashes where it used to be a dump site and we've been battling for so long with the previous government requesting a new site for a cemetery and they never could give it to us. We now have a cemetery, though it's small it will take about 7419 graves. We are hoping that as we start burying in this cemetery we will now start getting a bigger cemetery that will give us a life span of about 30 - 50 years like the old cemetery which we had which is full now. And all those are our efforts as councillors, especially of course this organisation Putatishaba because that's where things happen most of the time.
POM So was it the Council who approved the new graveyard and are providing the funding for it?
LT We started it as Putatishaba and we put it forward to the councillors and to the local government and at the end of the day, because they were in power, they ended up giving us that piece of land hence we went and hosted a very, very big thanksgiving ceremony. It was because of joy. If I can show you where we are burying people you would be shocked because it's full of plastic, ash, bottles and most people were not happy about that and all those are efforts of the new government, if I may put it that way.
POM So how many years had you been burying people really on a dump site?
LT Oh it's quite some time because it's quite a big area. If I had a chance I would go and show you. It's not far from the Maputo area where people are living in river banks. I once showed you the place. That's where the cemetery is, where they were burying people in a dump site.
POM Have there been improvements in health care in Alex as a whole, not just in your clinic here?
LT Yes there has been some health care because we have mobile clinics, clinics that are going around in the area and they are helping a lot even though now we were intending that we should try and bring the people all here because this place is centralised. Where we are it's so congested. As you know, in a square mile we've got more than 400,000 people and across the road in Sandton where whites are living in a square mile you will find 200 families. So I would say things are really changing. There is progress though the delivery of houses is a bit slow.
POM Could you talk a bit about that? Is there any significant new housing going up?
LT Yes there are houses up at East Bank, I will show them to you now, where they have started building. But that's not going to help the community of Alex because we are so many. Here the answer would be to fight or get more land for all the people that are living in this area because in 1985 we were about 80,000 but to date we are more than 400,000, so can you imagine? That's not healthy. We can't be crammed up in a square mile like that. Something has got to be done. We are trying to get a piece of land adjacent to Alexandra which is called Frankenwold but there is this problem; the people who are owing that land they want up-market housing and we want affordable homes, because they say their houses, the value of their houses is going to go down if we come with these match-box houses. And there is no other way because we need houses right now.
POM Could you just spell that area for me?
LT F R A N K E N W O L D, that's Frankenwold. And there is another portion next to Modderfontein and in Lombardy East. We are still having this problem. It's all because of the apartheid system which has given us all these problems. Were it not for this apartheid system I don't think we would be in this problem because I can see the people that have bought houses, their houses are about R200,000 and we want to come and put up a structure of about R15,000 and to them if we are going to build houses near them it's going to create problems for them when they want to resell or sell their houses. But then it's not our problem. We want land. We want to build houses so we were hoping that by now those problems shall have been sorted out.
POM How do you find it working with residents of Sandton and the other wealthy areas around here on the Council? Do you find that they are sympathetic to your concerns but don't really want to address them or that they want to address them as long as you don't live next door to them.
LT Well they are sympathetic somehow because we sit together now in that Council in the Eastern MSS. We are together and we have got those that are from Jo'burg and those that are from Sandton, they sit with us, meaning the DP, the National Party, the IFP, ANC, name them - all the other organisations, we are now together. But there is still that problem, as you know housing is the first problem that we have and to address that problem it's still going to take some time because these people, those years, as you can see Soweto, some parts of Soweto, I would say Soweto part of it was from Alexandra. Alexandra gave birth to Soweto and Tembisa and all these other areas. Maybe to answer your question, you were asking about how are things now whilst we are holding meetings with these councillors, are they sympathetic? Well I would say they are in a way but what annoys me is that when we hold meetings you will find that an agenda of about 400 pages, in that 400 pages you will find three pages discussing Alexandra problems, the rest is their areas. But we are now addressing that problem because we are trying to show them that Alexandra needs to be given first priority because it's a slum, if I may put it that way, whereas you are in better areas compared to Alexandra and most of them have never been to Alex and they have only been here because there were police driving around with them in a bus or whatever but they haven't done things the way you people did, because when you people came here you never went to Soweto only. Because whenever we get visitors from abroad they usually take them to Soweto because in Soweto there are Mponyas there and all the other Motlanas, the rich people, they never bring them to Alex. So what we do, we pull visitors from overseas to Alex so that they must see the living conditions.
POM Is the ANC in a majority on the Council?
LT The ANC is in the majority.
POM Who prepares the agenda?
LT Together with other councillors.
POM If you're in the majority how come that there would only be three pages devoted to Alex?
LT That's how they used to design things for us. We are still new in the Council. It is only now we are rectifying those mistakes.
POM Do you find that the councillors you work with from your own community are good? Do they do their job? Do they look after their community?
LT They are doing their level best even though at times you cannot expect a person to do things overnight. The previous government was in this fort for more than 48 years and this new government has not even five years and we ought to sympathise with the new government though I still believe that the only way to speed up things is to make sure that we get more land because we don't want to look upon the government as the Messiah, as the people that are going to deliver. We as the people at grassroots level we must deliver by making sure that we build houses like the houses that I've once shown you from Habitat for Humanity which started in America. We've started building those houses here. It's a non-profit organisation and all those houses people enjoy staying in them. They are better than the ones that are being built by the government.
POM Now the ones that are being built by the government, you said, are too expensive for the residents of Alex?
LT Those are the first houses but the ones that they have started building now they are not complete four-roomed houses, they are two rooms, you must finish it off yourself whereas about five years back when you have R12,000, for instance the houses that we have put up the cost price was R12,000, R10,000 or R12,000 and the people have long finished paying for those houses because when we - it's an unprofitable organisation. We build your house, after that we go and build somebody's house, just like that together. So that was another way of showing the government that if given a chance we can do things on our own but not look upon the government to do things whilst we are seated.
POM So you say the houses you are building now they are two-room houses. Who is providing the money for that?
LT Well the government is subsidising each house for about R15,000. The rest you will pay.
POM You said Alex had grown from 80,000 to 400,000 really in about 12 or 13 years. Is it still growing at that fast a rate?
LT Yes it is because on a daily basis we are having people coming into this area and they are building. If you drive around the streets of Alex you will find that people are building on pavements and the rubble that they pull out from the yards they throw it in the middle of the street. It's just chaos because everybody wants Alex because Alexandra is nearer working cities. It's unlike other places where you will go and stay and you are going to be unable to go to work. Alexandra is better though the unemployment rate is very, very high because it's never more than 70%.
POM More than 70% unemployment?
LT Yes, unemployment rate in Alex. We are still struggling to teach our people to do things on their own, to start their own little businesses if they can and that will still take a long time because crime is curbing all those things. Crime has gone up and we have reached a stage whereby now we don't know what to do because they are hijacking cars, they are killing people and the drugs are coming in from all these neighbouring states whereas when it was still the previous government they used to close the taps and the drugs were not coming in. But now it's worse. It seems to me the third force is also involved in that because before they used to arrest people. Guns, drugs, our children in school are eating drugs now, they are using drugs, whereas before you would never see such a thing in Alex. So we must also form a strategy and try our level best that if we want leaders of tomorrow we must make sure that - we don't say we will do like the PAGAD did in Cape Town but we would like to say, "Away with drugs". We don't want drugs in our areas.
POM So has crime overall gotten a lot worse in the last four or five years?
LT Yes it is worse because now they are able even to go to white areas to hijack cars there, whereas when we used to say crime is worse that's when you see it happening within the township. Now it's in their areas.
POM But is it worse within the township? Are there more car-jackings, more assaults?
LT It's worse because that's where they find all these posh cars. They find most of these posh cars in the suburbs and they want these cars. I think until the government must bring back death penalty - I know it's against the policy of the ANC but most ANC members are in favour of the death penalty because maybe that will make them to be afraid. Right now they know that if they kill they won't be killed. They can kill as many people, they can do whatever they want, they can rape a two year old, it's just going to be in jail and be supported by our taxpayers money and after that he comes out and does the same thing, he goes back in jail. He knows that he is not going to be hungry.
POM In fact for a lot of people they might be better off in jail in terms of having food and clothing than if they are unemployed on the outside?
LT Yes, especially the ones that are thugs, the ones that are doing all these nasty things. I think their rightful place is in jail and again, there they must not be given food like they enjoy food in the townships here, because that's another problem.
POM Is there a lot of gang activity in Alex?
LT We haven't got gang activity in Alexandra. We have thugs, especially because you see now we've got most people that are coming from Maputo, from Nigeria, all these outside countries. These people are nice during the day. In the night they change, they do anything because hunger knows no law. They would kill, they would get into people's houses, demand TVs, take TVs, radios to go and sell so that they can also make a living. They only do those things in the night. During the day you will see nice people but in the night they change. All this was because of the previous government, even though they scrapped this influx control we are now unable to control the numbers of people that are coming into South Africa because they know that influx control was scrapped and having it scrapped it gives anybody an allowance or any privilege to come into the cities as much as they want and yet those are the people that are problematic. They come, of course, with all these diseases and the number of people that are having AIDS is growing day by day.
POM Is that a big, big problem?
LT It is a problem because at this stage you only know the number of the people that appear in the census list or at the clinic but if you look around in Alexandra when you see these people from outside some of them are nice people, they make love to ladies from this area and that's causing a problem.
POM Are there many people from other countries in Alex? Are there a lot of people coming in?
LT A lot, they are coming into Alex because they know that when you're in Alex it will take years for police or anybody to find a person. Even thugs that have done wrong things in other areas they run into Alex because here we haven't stood up like the community, like we did in 1986 whereby we stamped crime out in ten minutes. These days we are having this -
POM In 1986?
LT Yes the crime that we had we managed to stamp it out in ten minutes whereas now the very crime that we have it's a bit difficult because the constitution of the ANC is not allowing us to take law into our own hands. For instance, before they could tell that you rape we cut your penis off, you steal we cut your hand off. So some of these things were scaring people but not that we were doing them, but they were scaring people. But now that they know that the government is saying, "Oh we're not going to kill you, we are going to be nice all the way, all the time", hence you see this crime escalating daily. Doctors are being mugged, lawyers are being mugged, everybody, nobody is safe. Only the parliamentarians are safe because they have got 24 hour guard in their houses wherever they go but here at grassroots level - hence now those that have got the money they are running away from places like townships because they feel they are not safe and we, the people that haven't got money, we feel that we are here to stay. For instance, a person like myself, I cannot leave Alex and leave all these hundreds of people starving to death because of the crime rate that has gone up. I must be seen to be curbing this crime if I can.
POM So do you have a situation here, Linda, where people who are better off or who can afford it are leaving and the people who are coming in in their place are illegal immigrants from other countries? Where are most of the illegal immigrants coming from?
LT Well we've got those that are coming from Zaire, Maputo is worse, we won't say from the Transkei, but these other African countries they are here now and they are here in big numbers. We are talking about illegals in South Africa but sometimes they forget to talk about Chinese and other whites that are coming into this area on a daily basis and they are also illegals but they can pinpoint people who are from Maputo. I know that these people have been sympathetic when we had problems in this country but it was controlled because our guys were living in camps. They were not living in cities anywhere they wanted, unlike now where they want to own our places and chase our own people away. Well with the IFP, as I have shown you that area, most of the people fled that area because they left their homes and they had hoped that they would die in those areas. Instead their houses are being occupied by illegals, people who never owned those houses.
POM If an illegal person comes in here does he or she just set up a shack?
LT They just set up a shack. If you were to ask permits, for instance, when you grow up in this area where permits, children were all in these green permits, but not lately the people you see here none of them have got the rights to be here and that's giving a problem because children who were born and brought up here like now they are busy writing names of all those that need houses, first preference must be given to children that have been born and brought up in this area and this hasn't been done as yet because these people, the ones that are here, they claim to have been here more than ten years and they want houses. And where are the people that have been born and brought up here because Alexandra started in 1905? In 1912 a township started to spring up in Alexandra when it was still owned by Mr Papenfus, the man who owned Alexandra then, then when it was called Sewefontein.
POM There is a census coming up as far as I know, is that being organised here in Alex?
LT They are busy organising the census.
POM Are they going to go from door to door?
LT Door to door counting people.
POM I heard somebody tell me that if you don't answer the questions of the census taker or the person doing the census that you can be arrested?
LT Not that you can be arrested but it's just another way of making people aware that it's important to know how many people we have. Maybe we're talking about 400,000. We now have more than that number so we have to know how many people are we having. As you can see people are living in river banks, people are living in dilapidated houses, scraps of cars, on pavements. You can imagine if we were to give them land how many people would have to be moved away here to give way for the right number of people that must live in a square mile.
POM When you go to City Council meetings in Sandton do you often take people from Alex with you?
LT You mean other councillors?
POM No other people like community groups or members?
LT No they have been there because there was a strike some time ago where they were fighting rentals or whatever, they came to the Council offices to come and demand whatever they wanted to demand. They know about Sandton though I, for one, I am not so happy because we are dealing with Alexandra problems in another area. When seated in Sandton, when you are in those Council chambers, it is as if you're in half way heaven and whereas you come from a township like Alexandra we want those offices to be not far from Alex but to be adjacent to Alexandra so that the people of Alex can see them.
POM When you go there and the other councillors go there and you look at all the wealth and you see all the huge homes, all the property attached to the huge homes, they're like estates more than just houses, you could build maybe 200 or 300 houses on them.
LT You can build 500 shacks on one property that belongs to these people.
POM What do you feel?
LT Well it's just that a black man is kind, maybe we were born kind because we are still having that smile in our faces, but to tell the truth it breaks our hearts because if only we were given the privilege of the rights in our communities and if we were equal with education I should have been not sitting here, maybe I should have been more educated too, but because of the previous government we are not. Those that were educated they just happened to be lucky because as I am talking to you we are having thousands, hundreds of thousands of our youth who are thirsty for education but because whites had what we call compulsory education they got the best and these children they want to further their studies. When it gets to matric either the parents can no longer make it to take them further or if he goes asking for a bursary fund (we call it a bursary here, maybe you call it a scholarship) they won't give him until you're Mr So-and-so's child. If you look a people like Desmond Tutu, maybe Motlana and others, their children used these scholarships, they used these bursaries, but the very, very poor, the very, very needy children at grassroots level they don't enjoy that comfort. I sometimes feel like I don't know who would help me. I sometimes feel like starting a bursary fund whether I call it an Alexandra Bursary Fund or I call it a Linda Twala Bursary Fund whereby it's not going to help only Alexandrans, even children from Soweto, Tembisa, Pretoria, Durban, but something that will help these children to further their education.
POM When it comes to schooling do any of the children in Alexandra go to schools in Sandton?
LT Well those children whose parents are working for the government or doctors or clinics or hospitals, they will be able to take their children to go and school in Sandton or in any school in the suburbs. But here we are talking -
POM Is that because they've got the transportation?
LT No not transport but because they have the muscle to do that. But the people like ourselves in Alex we are unable, if you have a family of about eight children and some, let's say five of your children are still at school, you are going to be unable to take them to those schools because for each child it will be maybe about R500 a month. Where are you going to get that money? You won't be able.
POM So you would have to pay? Are the schools in Sandton private?
LT Any school that is outside Alexandra is expensive.
POM They're not all Model C schools now? There's not one system?
LT They may say it's one system. It's not yet like that because if it was the very people that are sending their children to town, to the suburbs, they wouldn't have been doing that because they would feel that the education is the same.
POM So the schools are much the same as they were before?
LT They are still the same as far as I'm concerned because I still feel unless we get qualified teachers, we get whites to come and teach in our areas, that is the only weapon that is going to improve our education. If we can get whites to come and teach in the black areas that will help a great deal.
POM How about, as they do in the United States, they bus children, bussing children from Alex to schools in Sandton and picking them up in the evening and bussing them back?
LT Who pays for that? Who pays for that in your areas? Are the parents paying? Now here if there is a kombi that will bus them from Alex to Sandton you have to part with money, you have to part with money for books, you have to part with money for the school fees. Now most of our people here in Alex are unable to afford that comfort. It's not easy.
POM Do you think most of the people in Alex would prefer to see their children go to good schools in Alex than to go to schools in places like Sandton?
LT They feel they would like them to go places like Sandton because they feel that they are going to get the best there but if we could battle this out, we get white teachers into Alexandra, into our schools, then it won't be necessary. Even the expense, the way that this thing is being operated is going to shape up better because we shall be having teachers that are teaching good English unlike our teachers who were never given that good background from the very onset.
POM Do you feel that you get a lot accomplished as a City Councillor or as a Ward Councillor for Alex or do you feel things move too slow, do you feel a lot of frustration?
LT I don't know how I would answer that one because all I can say is that I started my community work in 1967 and in 1967 up until now I've been working for this community. I did not start doing things for the community last November. It was in 1967 when I started hence when people were voting they all wanted me in. There I was not afraid, I knew that people would vote me in. But the only problem we are encountering as councillors - you know we go and hold meetings in Sandton and the offices there are up to standard, if I may put it that way, and when you get to our area we haven't got offices, we haven't got what they have. For instance, I was requesting that if we open up the cemetery I would like them to use computer machines there so that if somebody dies, is being buried, he must be in the computer, unlike writing in those pieces of paper. And in their areas that is happening and we want the standard of cemetery to be like the one in Jo'burg and in Avalon so that it must be the same. It must not show that here you bury blacks. So there is still a lot to be done.
POM Do you think that the people generally here in Alex are better off than they were two or three years ago or are the problems just multiplying at such a rate that it's impossible to get ahead?
LT The problems are multiplying because firstly we are having an influx of people coming into Alex on a daily basis and that's not helping us a lot and we have factories that are supposed to have been operating in Alex. Some factories, these people are running away because of this violence that is going on and we want to encourage investors to come back in this country so it's still going to take some time because instead of them coming into this area to come and do whatever good they could do they are being scared by this violence that is going on in this country.
POM Are the people, would you say, I mean the new government is now going into its third year, we are nearly in the post-Mandela era already, would you say they're disappointed at the progress that has been made?
LT Some are disappointed, some are not because they have that feeling that with the previous government it took them 48 years for them to do things for us, things that they never did. It was more than 48 years. So we still feel sympathetic for this present government because we feel that they should be doing things, they should be delivering, unlike seeing them being at loggerheads like what we've been seeing with Holomisa and the ANC. We are not happy about all that.
POM What's that all about?
LT Well it's about power, if I can put it that way. It's about power because somebody wants to be truthful and somebody wants to do things his own way and when the truth comes out it's bad.
POM Does that disappoint you in the ANC, that this kind of behaviour is going on?
LT Well I don't like it because it's going to give some loopholes to our friends and they will say, you see now we told you that blacks will never rule this country. They have been corrupt themselves, the previous government, they could go out here and go and kill people in all these other African states because they had the muscle but now we haven't got the muscle but what we need to do is to unite ourselves and we must not be at loggerheads. That's all we are praying for.
POM Just to go back to look for at moment at the residents of Sandton not paying their rates, what's the reaction here to that?
LT They are still fighting because they say the rates have been doubled up and they are not happy about that. Of course it is their right, they have to fight whatever if they feel that they are not happy. But then they came to our Council offices last week when we were in a meeting where they had come to voice out their grievances but then there's one thing that they forgot, that the cause, the people that caused this is themselves because they voted for the previous government. Today they are pretending that things were good all along. They were voting for that government to be in power. If they did not want the National Party government they should have said it some years back that we don't like what you are doing, as time goes on blacks are going to be problematic in this country, don't do this. They should have done that but they didn't.
POM Do people here feel angry that whites are doing that or that wealthy whites are withholding their rates?
LT People are not feeling angry, it's just that they are surprised that this thing is now spilling to whites where they are starting to boycott services because it started with us blacks and with us it was because we wanted to make this government ungovernable so that they must give over to blacks, they must give over to us what belongs to us. But now what is happening in areas like Sandton, maybe they are right in a way because we will one day have some blacks who will want to go and live in Sandton who may not enjoy paying double amounts before paying your bond.
POM How are the payment rates going in Alex?
LT The payment rate is OK, it's just that people haven't started paying like we expect them to pay because we are still battling to put up some pay points where people are going to be paying these rands, unlike you expect somebody from 20th Avenue to go to pay in Wynberg. I don't think that's fair. They should have some offices, pay points, where they will pay then you will see. With this Masakhane campaign we feel that with Masakhane we can succeed in this battle by educating people there's nothing for nothing, by educating people that they should start paying their services.
POM Do you think that's going to take a long time, that people have got so used to not paying that they think these things come free?
LT I don't think it will take long as long as we address the problem of housing. You know, right now in Alexandra there's this problem, we've got houses that are leaking, houses that need new roofs and they will tell you that we are going to deliver or going to build, put up new roofs and it's a bit difficult for a person to pay when you don't deliver.
POM If you had the time you would take me on a tour of Alex. What things would you point out to as signs that things are improving and what things would you point out as getting worse?
LT I would show you the paving, I would show you our bus rank, I would show you the cemetery, even the services of toilets has been improved because now lately we have these green toilets that are coming into the area whereas before our people never had enough toilets. So we are progressing.
POM How about water?
LT Even water too. There are water taps, yes. And it's only the electricity that is still struggling a bit because it's a bit expensive and people have to pay and everybody wants electricity.
POM And things that are getting worse?
LT Things like?
POM Crime, housing.
LT Well with housing we need more houses. Crime is getting worse but if crime must be ended I think the government will also have to take part because people are now starting to lose confidence in police hence we have requested that we would like the soldiers to come in because even when there are political funerals somebody was shot. You will find them shooting even if the police are there, shooting at random, whereas if the soldiers are there they won't.
POM Do you have any political funerals any longer or is that almost something of the past?
LT It's not political funerals. Let's say somebody was hijacking a car, he's being shot by police, he dies and they politicise that funeral, they make it as if it's a hero's funeral and yet it's not like that.
POM How many police are there in Alex? Have you any idea?
LT We haven't got enough police in Alex and we haven't got enough vehicles but we have started requesting the government. They are now pushing in more vehicles so that the police can be able to patrol the area but the exact numbers I haven't got them now. I only have the numbers of police that have resigned and they are not with me now, and those that have committed suicide, those that have left the job because of frustration.
POM Have a lot left in the last couple of years?
LT Yes they have left because if you look at the money they are being paid it's very, very little, whereas a thug can make, the money that they get a month a thug makes it within a day.
POM How come that the police were so efficient when they had to crack down on apartheid?
POM Can you remember the question that I had asked you? I can't. We had been talking about -
LT You said how come when there was this apartheid they could curb crime but now that there is this government they cannot.
POM Why do you think that was, that they were so efficient then and they were supposed to be one of the most efficient police forces in the world and now it's one of the most inefficient?
LT It's because they are involved in the third force and whilst there is still a third force in this country nothing is going to go right because it will still take some time. You can imagine during those times you wouldn't just get out of the airport with something that is illegal but these days everything is just easy. They are just looking, they are there, they are getting money but they are doing nothing. They know that they are involved. The very high officials that are in parliament now they want to see this government going down the drain.
POM Very high officials?
LT In parliament now.
POM Like who?
LT Like the very ones, Botha who was also in parliament, even this gentleman who has just resigned, De Klerk, and Roelf Meyer and all the others. They have a secret agenda and nobody knows about it because why when they were in power things never used to be like this, why when we are in power things are now like this? It's not to say Mandela likes crime, he likes violence. No. We are all just wondering why with the same police force that they had before.
POM So you think that the National Party is still manipulating things behind the scenes?
LT They are still doing that. For instance, what you have seen on the TV yesterday where you saw Jacob Zuma sitting with Mdlalose of the IFP, I doubt if some Afrikaner guys are happy about that because the day the ANC and the IFP unite that's the day things are going to change in this country. But because they are still having some secret agendas they are still able to manipulate and do all these things that they've been doing in the past. They will be in power one day if we are not careful. Whilst our children are drowning themselves in drugs and liquor and whilst their children are playing with Springboks, you can never stand in front of somebody who plays for a Springbok because he is fit, physically fit, whereas our children - when we grew up in this country if you could be found with a bottle of beer you were arrested, but now lately it's for everybody, even children who are 16 years old, they are drinking and we have inherited all these things from the previous government. When we now want to straighten up things they are making sure that they are blocking, there are stumbling blocks so that you must not succeed in this battle, you must not get right what you want to get right. They know that in 1999 if we are not careful the ANC is going to lose credibility because violence is going to escalate, raping, name it, and there may be no delivery because the very people who could deliver they are trying to hold the fort so that the ANC must not deliver so that in 1999 the ANC must be seen as people that have not been working for the communities. Now that's creating a problem because I am worried, in Alexandra I am definitely sure that if we are still alive, if we stand up, we talk to the community, even if the ANC hasn't delivered everything but people are going to vote. But in 1999 in other areas the National Party and the DP they are going to mess us up because they know where they are hitting us. Yes, they know.
POM Has the NP come into Alex and tried to start organising here?
LT Well they came and they were unsuccessful because we stood forward and they said to our people if they bring food, if they bring meat like they have been bringing some meat for our people, just go and eat but sign nothing. That's what we said. And the people did that. They were invited, they were told nice things about the NP and about the DP, they ate, at the end of the day they came back and told us that we were eating but we are not going to vote for them.
POM Do you think that could change if things get worse between now and 1999?
LT Yes definitely that can change and that can break the image of the ANC because whilst they are also at loggerheads in parliament there my biggest worry is that most of our children, in fact most of the people that are in parliament they are old people and they are supposed to be fighting to get bursaries, to get scholarships for all the youth in South Africa and especially the ones that dropped out in 1976 and 1986, I see very little is being done. It seems to be people have forgotten that the very changes that we are seeing today, they came about because of our youth. They died in big numbers. We as parents we failed but the children got the freedom that we have because of their lives. When they are being looked upon like people who did nothing it breaks my heart because that's going to diminish or that's going to make them discouraged and they will eventually land in shebeens, they will eventually land in drugs because nobody is encouraging them. If you send a child to a shop and when he comes back, if a child does good, if you say, "Well done my son", you are encouraging that child to do better, but who is doing that now?
POM Do you think that that might be in part due to the fact that so many of the people who were in exile are now in positions of power and that they didn't know really what was going on, what the youth were doing, so they're not as sensitive to the needs of townships as people like yourself who were here all the time?
LT I think they know. It's just that if they would say they don't know they would be pretending. It breaks my heart at times because I sometimes feel if I was educated I should have been making it a point that I tell these people where they have gone wrong because right now as I'm talking to you if you are looking for a job they will demand that you must produce how much are you educated, forgetting that from 1976 up until now there has been no education and most of our children are frustrated because of that. Now who is going to take over? Some of those children who were in exile or some of the children who have been in multi-racial schools? Because the time when we were boycotting schools, when we were trying to make this government ungovernable, most of these children, some of the children who belong to these top guys, their children were in multi-racial schools and our children were not schooling. When I talk about that at times I become emotional because they seem to have forgotten where we come from and yet they would have been correcting what went wrong by just making sure that every youth is at school and every youth is catered for, is cared for.
POM Just to finish up, Linda, when you look at the future do you look at it with a lot of confidence or with some confidence? Are you uncertain where things could go?
LT I look at it with confidence because, for instance, I am a garbage man in this township, I remove garbage, but ever since things have started changing I feel that I can be involved in opening up factories. Like, for instance, now I want to open up a factory, it's just that I haven't got the muscle. I want to start a factory of coffin manufacturing, I want to start making coffins, the reason being the Indians that are in this business they are ripping us apart and they are charging us exorbitant moneys, moneys that we cannot afford, not that I don't want to be in business but I think what I intend doing it will be affordable if only I can be given a good start by whoever who would come from somewhere. I tell you we will create jobs, we will teach our people, like the brickworks we have started. We started a big brickwork factory here in Putatishaba and the people that saw us on TV they gave us a piece of land. The people that saw people making bricks on TV they bought us machines. You know, something like that. I intend doing things that will benefit the community, things that will curb crime, things that will empower people with knowledge and skills. Those are the things that I intend doing but I don't know which door to knock until I succeed in this battle because the little knowledge that I have I feel it can still take me far because we have people who are graduates in our country, people who are educated but they are educated for their personal gain, not for the communities at large.
POM Is that cause for concern that too many of the elite have forgotten where they came from?
POM And what their obligations to the people at the grassroots are? Is that a cause of concern?
LT To me it's a concern because, for instance, if I were to be in power now the first thing I would do I would make sure that all our youth are at school, all our youth are getting the best education that they can get. I would make sure that those that died in 1976, in 1986, I would put up tombstones to ease that feeling from their parents because they lost their beloved ones for our struggle. To show families that you care for them you need to do something that will meet them half way. I would go up to an extent of making sure that in those families, who is the breadwinner? For instance, we are going to have a Truth Commission in Alexandra. We don't know how far is it going to take us because when people came with different statements that the child who was killed in 1976 was my breadwinner. Though he was still at school at weekends he was doing some piece jobs maintaining, the mother was saying that, and today I have nothing, nobody knows whether my children have once been involved in the struggle. I think this is the time where we need to address such problems.
If I could I could even write a letter up to parliament requesting Mandela and the parliamentarians to take a look at what I am seeing at grassroots level because they are in power, they are in those positions, they don't see what we see here. What we see here, we see children going down the drain eating drugs, going down the drain drinking in shebeens and some are rapists and some are thirsty for education but nobody comes forward to say, no let's try and take this direction. We have to divert these children from what is happening now, and speedily because if we don't this country very soon, sooner or later is going to be uncontrollable. They will never be able to control them. If the police are unable now, the soldiers are going to end up not controlling this country. But we still have hope that if we bring in the soldiers there will be some control.
POM How often do national MPs or national ministers or even provincial MPs or provincial ministers come to Alex?
LT You mean people like parliamentarians of the ANC?
LT Well they do come because Mandela was here and we invited Tokyo Sexwale's wife. As you see on this board here she was here a month back. Most of them don't of course. I don't know whether it's because they haven't got time or whether it's because they're too busy but I am trying to invite them.