About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

04 Oct 1996: Luthuli, Albertina

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POM     First of all maybe I should ask you what is it like to be a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature?

AL     It's a challenging job because there are many problems that confront the Republic of South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal has got its own special problems so it's hard work and very challenging.

POM     When you say KwaZulu-Natal has its own special problems, what are the special problems here that distinguish it from the rest of the country?

AL     Well the country is generally experiencing problems which are common to many countries going through a state of transition as we are going through now, but KwaZulu-Natal has its special problems in that we have here violence, for instance, of a different kind. The rest of the country has problems of crime, adjusting to the new order but on top of that in KwaZulu-Natal we have had the problem of a civil conflict.

POM     You were talking about the civil conflict here. Hasn't that toned down a lot after the local elections? Has it got a lot better or is it still just underneath the surface ready to erupt again?

AL     It has toned down a lot, in fact prior to local government elections, and that would be 26th June I think, so I think from about the end of May, June, July we have been experiencing, thank God, promising calm and I think it is calm that's not just on the surface. I think there has been hard work put into stabilising the situation here and I think at last it's beginning to bear fruit.

POM     Has that been hard work put in by both the ANC and the IFP leadership structures?

AL     As you know some initiatives came from outside the province. The President, President Nelson Mandela, has been concerned of course and the Minister of Safety & Security, they initiated projects here and there to try and get on top of the situation, the King also. The King of the Zulus, King Zwelithini, for some time now, certainly over a year, he's been involved in peace making efforts amongst his people in the province. But I think the turning point was when the parties that were involved finally came to the realisation that the time had come to seriously address the problem of violence in this province. I am referring to the ANC and the IFP. The leadership of the ANC and the IFP have been involved now prior to local government elections, as I say, in a serious effort to curb the violence and I think that has had a good effect.

POM     Do you think this was a situation of where the violence had to get really bad before the leadership on both sides began to really put in the effort that was required to bring it under control or to stop it? That there were a lot of verbal commitments made but that they weren't followed up with real grassroots efforts to control things.

AL     No I think for some time people have been serious about trying to bring peace to the province because the high loss of life was unacceptable, it's been horrific. All these people that I've mentioned, all of us, have been concerned. I would say yes, maybe people really had to feel that they are tired of the war and that we are all one people here. This was a war of Zulu on Zulu, black on black. You know that. We all know that there is more to it than that but essentially the people who were dying, it was the one Zulu and another Zulu and I think in the end the realisation that it was a war that nobody would win and that in fact there was a high unacceptable loss of life and people were just tired of the war. So I believe that with many such situations at some point everybody begins to feel that they have to listen to those who seem to come up with solutions to the problems and I think that's what is happening now.

POM     Yet just before the elections there was a survey done in KwaZulu-Natal asking people what were their major concerns and one of the surprising results was that I think 42% of the people said that unemployment was their main concern and 19% of people said violence was. Does that result surprise you or would you have an explanation of why it might be so or is it just surprising to you?

AL     I can't say exactly that it's surprising. You know it depends what the survey was set out to look for. You know surveys are surveys and to a large extent people will answer to what's put to them. But the violence has been of number one concern in this province. Unemployment is high and it is a worrying factor and it contributes to uncertainty, unrest. You can't have a stable community with the terribly high unemployment rate that we have, but that's not only in KwaZulu-Natal, that's in the country as a whole. I am not aware of that survey but I think that really we've been enveloped in a situation where we could hardly think of anything except just the worry about the violence. That has been priority number one. We were concerned about the violence because with the violence we can't attract even investment, we can't attract development, we can't do anything and those are the very things that would contribute to lower the unemployment. So it was just the one thing that I think the government of KwaZulu-Natal felt that it's got to come to an end, it's got to get under control, then we can begin to look into other things.

POM     I'm going to ask you a peculiar kind of a question. If your father was alive and was looking around at the new South Africa what do you think he would think? Would he like what he sees? Would he think too much emphasis is being put on modernity, that traditional beliefs and structures are being sidelined, that there's an uneven balance between the two? Would he like the way the government is working or would he be concerned about what's happening in the country?

AL     It's difficult for me to talk for my father. All I can say is that he was a realistic and pragmatic individual. I think with all of us he would have rejoiced at the attainment of a free vote for all in 1994 and many people didn't know what was going to follow thereafter but we had a lot that was sitting there, that was in the cupboards waiting just for the cupboards to be opened in this country and I think it's all fallen out. Now I think anyone, including my father, looking at the situation as a whole would derive some satisfaction. Who would have thought that we would be having the inter-racial relationships that we have in this country at this point in time? I think a lot of people would have thought that the government of the people would just not take root at all, there would be a counter-revolution by the mighty forces of the past and all that kind of thing, but the politicians of this country have been sensitive and I think they have used their common sense and so would my father. He would have also used his common sense I believe.

     In spite of everything I think he would want to look and say that a lot is going now for South Africa. There are problems but as I said before I think, and I think my father too would feel the same way, that in the transitional period it's difficult and those problems are to be expected but South Africa is handling them rather well. It would worry him certainly the loss of life, as I say. He was a man who believed in negotiations, who believed in peace, who believed in talking, but he was a realist at the same time. He knew that sometimes solutions will come the difficult way and if you know where you are going and that it is for the good of the people in the end it will come right. I think we are getting to that point in this country where it is looking as if it's going to come right. We have a President, President Nelson Mandela, who in my opinion now is very much like my father. I would say so. There was one time, he is a younger man than my father, when my father was President he was a hotter man than he is now, he had all that youth in him but the way he runs the country now, for instance, I just feel that even if my father were alive he would be doing very much the same things that President Nelson Mandela is doing now or the other way round. That's what I would say really.

POM     Your father was a Chief and do you think that he would be concerned that enough was being done to bring the Chiefs, now you have Contralesa expressing it's concerns about the role of the Chiefs in local government and the like, do you think he would be concerned that the Chiefs were being marginalised in some way and that traditional structures were being marginalised and that a better way had to be found to integrate the new structures with the old?

AL     Yes, well my father was a Chief but to a large extent he was, if I can say so, he was a modern Chief, if there is anything like that. He was not a traditional Chief in the mould that I see around now. Even the people over whom he was Chief were called Amokoloni tribe because they were no longer such traditionalists and yet at the same time he respected the traditional ways of the Zulus. He was close to the royal family and he respected the traditional ways of the Zulus, so I think that he would have been happy to find a way of bringing the Chiefs more within the fold. I think that that is probably now happening and I am sure it is going to happen. I think it's something that is bound to happen. In my own way I would think that a lot has been occupying the politicians. There were things that just had to be done. There was the constitution, there was bringing into line departments, government departments, which was a mammoth task, and there was the learning of the job which is not yet complete by those who are newcomers in government.

     Maybe the Chiefs were not talking with one voice, they were not well positioned, I would think, to be in a position perhaps to come in at a particular point. I think what's happening now is a good thing. In my opinion I think what's happening now is a good thing that they are talking and perhaps they will be able to come up with something quite clear, one voice that government can listen to and know that this is what the Chiefs feel, Contralesa as well as the other side. But we haven't been having that and I think that that perhaps was one of the difficulties. I cannot foresee that the Chiefs can really be marginalised. I think to say they can be marginalised, I don't think they can because some kind of accommodation, it's a matter of talking and arriving at just what role they will play. I do know that in fact they are supposed to play a role. I think the main problem has been the way the Chiefs have not been united to talk with a single voice; yes I think that has been really a problem. Remember, again, my father was a Chief, yes he would have therefore been sensitive to the matter of the Chiefs, but remember also that the President of this country comes from a similar background. He is sensitive also to matters of Chiefs. He should and I am sure he is. He grew up within that kind of royal household, the Tembu, yes. He belongs to the Tembu household of Chiefs, Tembu Chiefs, Xhosa Chiefs. We must be moving in the right direction and I think the last meeting of the Chiefs to me it looked as if they are getting their act together.

POM     Now Dr Luthuli, you're a doctor and you have a practice about 50 kms from here, further north and it's in an industrial area where you have your practice?

AL     It's about 20 minutes drive north of here and it's a small town, Stanger. It's a small, business town, not highly industrialised, no, no.

POM     The patients who come to you do they come from the surrounding townships or are they living in the town? How would you identify the patients who come?

AL     Stanger actually, as I say, is a small town. We've got just one small township; unlike Durban there's only one African township to Stanger, otherwise it's surrounded by rural and semi-rural African areas and most of my patients come from those areas. There's a large rural, semi-rural population which uses Stanger as its business town and those are the people who compose my clientele.

POM     Do you have any white people who ever come to your practice?

AL     No actually I don't. I don't have white patients except one policeman. One policeman yes, a young man from Stanger Police Station. Stanger is mainly Indian also, it's mainly an Indian town and there are many Indian doctors even though it's a small town there are many, many doctors in Stanger, so even Indian patients I've got just a sprinkling of Indian patients. I think there is still apartheid there. It will take time.

POM     What are the major health complaints of the people who come to you?

AL     I see mainly patients with infections. There is still an unacceptably high rate of diseases that are preventable. TB is very common. But there is a lot of hypertension, a lot of diabetes amongst the old, a lot of bone diseases, osteo-arthritis, stress related illnesses, that's in the professional groups. Surprisingly we don't see much malnutrition, there is not much malnutrition in Stanger, around Stanger, in my practice. I think even in Stanger Hospital, which is the district hospital here, one doesn't see much malnutrition. So I would say to a large extent we are treating infections of one sort or another and diarrhoea, the gastro-intestinal infections, they tend to be seasonal.

POM     How about AIDS? Is that a major problem? I read some place that 20% of the adult population in KwaZulu-Natal were HIV positive.

AL     Yes I think one sees more and more HIV positive people and we just know that it is there and we are diagnosing more and more every day. It is a problem, it is a problem and I think this is the province where the problem is more than in other provinces. I am not quite sure what the reason for that is. Maybe we're in the corridor from Mozambique and all that, but, yes, we see more and more HIV related problems every day.

POM     Do you routinely test people for HIV or do you wait till somebody comes with symptoms and complaints? Like if I came to you and I wasn't feeling well and I was suffering from fatigue and I was just not feeling well, would you as a matter of course test me for HIV or would you not?

AL     Actually not. I think a lot of us are experienced just to know that this requires a test. There will be pointers, there will be some symptoms which would make doctors suspect that here one may be dealing with an HIV positive patient. But we're not doing testing all the time simply because the test is expensive if it's done privately. Now I'm a private doctor so my patients, the patients who come to a private doctor are people who are reluctant to go to hospital. They like to see the private doctor so if I have to do the test on everyone where I suspect HIV, most of them will say, "I don't want to go to hospital". I tell them the test is expensive and we end up just knowing that this is actually an HIV positive by the signs and symptoms that are there and if necessary and if they are willing they will go to hospital and have that confirmed, but I can tell you if a doctor suspects that this is HIV positive and once you do a test almost 100% the test will be positive. We just know the signs and symptoms. Then it's highly associated with tuberculosis. There is that relationship with TB so most patients that we refer to the hospital for TB, because once we diagnose TB they have got to go to the TB clinic in hospital, and then they will do the testing there. Maternity cases, the mothers anti-natal care, we refer them to hospital and they are tested routinely. But as I say not all HIV cases will be proven by test because of the expense.

POM     Do you get a cross-section of patients from professional people down to unemployed shack dwellers? Does it cover all income groups?

AL     Yes I think that it does. There is really no it doesn't choose. You just see the wide spectrum over the wide population, but within the age groups it's mainly the people who are sexually active, that perhaps.

POM     I just mean about your practice in general.

AL     Oh you mean the practice in general. Yes, yes, it's all sorts. It's the people from the settlements, the unemployed from the shacks, it's the professionals, the teachers, the nurses, the clerks, it's the people who are on their own in business. All sorts, it's a wide spectrum.

POM     How do the unemployed, the people from the shacks, in a way the people most in need of health care and I would assume the people most likely to be victims of infectious diseases, how could they afford to pay you?

AL     Now our costs are low. Doctors have a package where the patient is examined and given the whole treatment for anything between R40 and R50, so it's pretty cheap and that is because in fact it takes into consideration that you are going to get people who simply cannot afford. And at the same time there are a lot of people who simply want to have a family doctor, so the choice is there and you will find that those who are coming to the doctor, to make you a family doctor, it's because they feel that even though their circumstances may be poor but they want to afford a family doctor and they will. Then the professionals and people like that who are in jobs they are mainly on medical aid. I would say that as a private doctor that is where a doctor gets fair remuneration for the work done, so it may perhaps compensate for the losses that we really do take on with the patients that are not in the best position financially.

POM     For the people who would not be in the best position financially or who are in informal housing or whatever, do they pay you when they come to visit you? How does the system work?

AL     They pay per visit. It would be a cash practice. They pay per visit. Occasionally, because I am a family doctor, you will find that the members of the family will stick to me as their doctor and then because I am a family doctor the head of the family, the one who is responsible for payment for instance, may come and say that, "Doctor, I would like you to see my child," or, "I would like you to see my wife but I don't have money right now, I will pay later." So it works out like that. They will come in fact, eventually they will come and pay.

POM     That's nice.

AL     Yes, eventually they will come and pay. Sometimes they forget and a year can pass by, some several months may pass by and then when they come back there is still that record on their cards that they were owing. Yes, and they will pay and maybe they offer that attendance again and so it goes on.

POM     So they are a little bit in arrears all the time.

AL     There are not many like that.

POM     Now the people that you refer to Stanger Hospital, is that a public hospital? Do patients have to pay if they go there or is that free?

AL     Stanger is a government hospital. It's a district hospital and therefore under the new government it's free for certain categories of people like children up to six years, pregnant mothers and, I forget now, but for a time after they have delivered as well I think they still get free treatment and it's free for the TB and those kind of things. And also there is a charge at Out Patients for the others that are not non-payers by the rules. But what has happened now is that even the Out Patients, that fee has been brought down. I think it used to be R13 before, now it's R7, so nobody pays more than that. It is relatively free. Anyone can go there and therefore they see many, many patients.

POM     Since you've come back to practising here has the standard and availability of medical care to the people improved? From a health point of view do you think the government is making headway in providing better medical care for more people or are they providing worse medical care but for more people, a lower standard of medical care but for more people?

AL     I think there is certainly medical care now for more people. As I say the trend is towards free medical care and more people now have medical care accessible to them than before and that's a good thing because that means that the general standard of health of the population as a whole is improving. Now on the question of whether this actual standard of health care has improved or not or has deteriorated, I am afraid I don't think I can comment on that one as yet. I think it's just about the same. I really wouldn't say. My feeling is that it would be just about the same. I don't think that there has been an improvement in the actual standard of care or a lowering of standards. I have a feeling that it's just about the same. I know that there are stresses in the hospital amongst those who are health providers because they have to work harder than before. We have more people coming forward for medical care and perhaps there hasn't been a parallel rise in the number of doctors and nurses that have got to look after those people so there are still problems there. But you know, before coming to South Africa I was in Zimbabwe in the post-independence period, and I saw that kind of similar thing happening at the beginning. There is a great inflow into the service and the thing seems to burst at the seams but the final effect of that is in fact that the health care of that population in that country improves, it gets better.

POM     Again when you look around you, has there been any real improvement in the living conditions of the people that you service in the last three or four years or are things just about as they were beforehand?

AL     I don't think that there is a noticeable change yet in the standard of living. As I say, unemployment is still high and certainly the violence and crime that has been the main problem has not made it possible to open as many opportunities of employment and business opportunities that could improve the standard of living of the people. So I think that things have remained - there may be a little improvement here and there but we are still a long way off. There is still a lot to be done.

POM     If I were to ask you 2½ years, going into the third year of the post-apartheid era how are people better off or are they better off, what would you point to as showing that they are better off?

AL     I think they are better off in many ways. They have got their self-respect back by having voted, having gone through free and fair elections and recently the local government elections. That has been a tremendous boost to the people who were down and out. I think that in terms of a feeling that 'I am a person' they are certainly much, much better off and that goes a long way to making one's life a better life. It does. There is that feeling that I am able to go out there and start something, and as I sit with you here people are going out and starting their small businesses. If you go to Stanger or Durban you will see that now the streets are littered with people who are trying to make a living. They are not yet in a position to do better than selling on the street but they are getting on and making some few pence which they couldn't make before. The schools, children are going to school and so that is an improvement also. As I say in health, health has opened and more people can reach the health services and in welfare, the welfare services of the people, they are improving. We had a lot of problems before and now you find that it's working better. People are serviced better and they are happier than they were. What area haven't I covered? On the whole I think that in spite of the tremendous problems that are facing us, the infrastructure is being laid. Departments have been changed so that now you can begin to say that we're looking to delivery. Houses are beginning to be built. Even here in my own area on Tuesday we had a road show here, we went to a settlement and the last time I was there I was campaigning and asking people to vote for the ANC, but they were living a hopeless life and we went there on Tuesday ... (break in recording) ... work was going on, the roads were being built, sites for the dam. You know this is going on. The soil was turned where a multi-purpose centre is going to be put up and the plans are there and the money has been obtained. So this is what is happening now. There is that rebuilding. It has begun. We've just gone over the phase where we were laying the government infrastructure for making it possible to deliver and I think delivery now has started and nobody is going to look back.

POM     So do you think the government of KwaZulu-Natal is doing a pretty good job? On a scale of one to ten where would you rate it? If one was doing an awful job and ten was doing a terrific job where would you place it?

AL     I am part of that government and I want to stay part of it.

POM     I'm talking about the Executive.

AL     I don't think I can answer that one. But I think we are doing a lot. Like I've said now things are beginning to happen. Perhaps some ministries are doing better than others but the fact of the matter is that things are beginning to happen, including in KwaZulu-Natal. I think that now that peace seems to be coming at last the government of KwaZulu-Natal is going to focus more and more on to reconstruction and development.

POM     Do the members in parliament, IFP members of parliament and ANC members of parliament, treat each other with respect and have good working relationships between them or is there still a lot of antagonism?

AL     We treat each other with respect and we are friends. There is a lot of rapport, positive rapport between the ANC the IFP members of parliament. People have often remarked that why is it that we see members of parliament there, relating well, working well together and laughing and talking well to each other, and yet their followers - you know that has always been the complaint that their followers are killing one another. That's what's been happening. But to answer you, the members of parliament handle one another with respect and we have come to a point now where in fact that has been improving all the time. I don't think there are problems.

POM     Why, you asked the question but you didn't give me the answer, I thought you were going to give me this great truth, why is it that the MPs and members of parliament from both the IFP and the ANC can get on so well together yet there has been such violence among their followers, why haven't they been able to more effectively control their followers? What happens between up here and down there that makes down here so violent and up there so friendly?

AL     I think it's because the causes of the violence were complex. It hasn't been the violence that was just between the IFP and the ANC. There were other factors and there continue to be those other factors. Well there has been talk of a third force and in my opinion that's a reality and therefore between the parliamentarians there and their followers there have been other factors at play which were perhaps not yet controlled, which even at this point are not yet well controlled by the parliamentarians and I think that has been the difficulty.

POM     I was talking to Dr Ngubane today and I asked him, now that he has served at both the national level and is back at the provincial level, and the question I asked him was why is it that a police force that was known all over the world for its brutal efficiency and effectiveness and its ability to track people down and nail them and jail them, why has that same police force now turned out to be so disorganised, ineffective, sloppy, they barely can catch a thief never mind a murderer. His answer was that he thought there were still elements of a third force operating, that the police to a certain extent around the country weren't making much of an effort to catch thieves or murderers or rapists or whatever and that it was still kind of a third force operation. I thought that was surprising coming from a member of the IFP.

AL     I think he was merely stating a fact irrespective of being IFP or whatever, he was just stating a fact of the situation in the country. We have a police force here that was not trained for the times we are living in now. They were trained to do all the things that you just mentioned now. They were not trained in civilian policing and they are going to have to go through great transformation to be able really to cope with what is required of a police force in the new South Africa. At the moment they are still the old police force to a large extent and the Minister of Police, Sydney Mufamadi, is working hard to change that and it's going to take time, it's really going to take time because they just need a complete re-do, a complete change over. As I say they were not the kind of police that were trained to deal with normal civilian policing. It looks as if now, difficult as transformation is difficult for the police force, but I think gradually the bad element in the police force is being weeded out and coming out and we are perhaps going to reach that stage where those who are remaining were those who were good in the first place and therefore they are amenable to change and perhaps, my own wish really is that we ought to see an injection, a greater injection of newer people in the police force, new people altogether in the police force who are going to come in with a new attitude and method of policing which is completely different, which is more in line with what we expect in the new South Africa but then the main problem I dare say is budget, money.

POM     Money?

AL     I think so. I think these things go slowly because there just isn't enough money to do things as quickly as we would like to see them happen. Because all that police training and injecting new people is a major financial project in my mind.

POM     I want to turn away from that for a moment and go back to one of your many previous lives when you were in exile. When you were in exile did you get to know Oliver Tambo fairly well or did you have much doings with him?

AL     I had been close to the leadership of the ANC in South Africa, my father was leader of the movement, so I knew all of them pretty well and even when I was in exile, when Oliver Tambo was in London I still was close to him. But also I wasn't in Zambia and working in the actual structure in Zambia where he was most of the time. I was also involved in political work in London so that I came in contact with him and also because he set up the ANC leadership, set up an organisation which they called the Luthuli Memorial Foundation which was under their umbrella and I was an active member of that Foundation, so again there we had a working relationship. Then again after we came into the country I did go to a few meetings where I met him, so I would say that I knew him pretty well.

POM     Do you think, like when people think of South Africa and the liberation of South Africa the name that always comes to the immediate fore is Nelson Mandela, do you think Oliver Tambo has been given, I won't say enough credit, that his contribution, the contribution that he made over all the years that Mr Mandela was in prison, that that has not yet been sufficiently acknowledged or appreciated and that history will point to him as being the man who kept the show on the road so to speak while Mr Mandela was in prison?

AL     I think you have said it really. I think you have put it the way it is. The contributions of Oliver Tambo have not yet been acknowledged and put in perspective but I think history just can't be written all at once and I am sure it's coming, I'm sure it's coming. I think there are people who are working to put things in perspective and give the correct perspective as it is in which, of course, without doubt Oliver Tambo played a very, very significant and major role bridging that period when people were in jail and others were banned, really spanning between 1961 and to the time of his demise. There is no way that that will not be put in the proper perspective and acknowledged and I think it's just a matter of when it's going to happen.

POM     Now you would have known Nelson Mandela when he was a younger man and then you would have met him when he was out of jail and went on to become President of the country. How would you compare the two Mandelas, the Mandela that you knew as a relatively young person, or a young person, he was younger than I was when you knew him, and the Mandela of today?

AL     Well I think you are talking really about two people there. The young Mandela was a firebrand. He was a firebrand. What will I say? He had his ideas and he was a man who just felt that he has got to go for it and impatient, yes impatient and ready to take on the enemy in whichever way at that time.

POM     But as a person, what kind of person was he?

AL     He was a firebrand but as a person he was a gentleman. He was a gentleman and I think it's not easy to be a gentleman. I think what has changed is the way he sees and does things. He was a firebrand, he was a young firebrand. Now he is a mature, mellowed down man. As I said earlier on, to me he is very much like my father now, perhaps the very man he became impatient with too at some point. I think at some point he felt that people like my father were just rather slow, they were not getting there quick enough. I think really that's what has happened. Now he is a man who seeks to consider and discuss and look at consensus, reconciliation and all that kind of thing. He is a mellowed down, he is a mature individual now. So I've seen changes in him and I admire him very much.

POM     If you had to just compare and contrast himself and Oliver Tambo, in what respects were they alike and in what respects were they different, how did they complement each other? What were the differences in their style of leadership and the way they went about doing things?

AL     Well this is my opinion. I think that Oliver Tambo was a man who just was very good at sitting down thinking and working out things that way from the chair of office and that kind of thing. I think he was very good at that. And on the other hand Nelson Mandela was a man of action. He was a man of action. So this I think essentially I would see as the difference there between them.

POM     I've forgotten the next question. You knew Buthelezi too when he was a younger man, where did he fit between Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela? What kind of character was he? Or again, what's the difference between the younger Buthelezi you knew and the older Buthelezi that you know, or at least hear about?

AL     Well for me the younger Buthelezi was a very shy and quiet peace-loving individual, but I think the politics has brought out in him the aggression. He is now a hardened and - I don't know what to say. He is a different man now in his mature age to what he was when he was a young man from Fort Hare. I think also he was not too much in politics then, he was not leader of a political party when I knew him. He was a young man listening to people like my father, seeking advice from people like my father and looking for a woman to marry and finally finding one and then there's been a girl friend. He is now a hardened and pretty aggressive politician so he's gone through the challenges that were posed by South Africa to him and he has changed accordingly and he has led a party also which faced some tremendous difficulties because that party was born inside the country and did not leave the country. It stayed within the country, it stayed under apartheid and it was inside so he has had his difficulties.

POM     I've interviewed him I think every year since about 1990 and the complexity of him and the shifting humours and moods come across and he's a different person on every occasion. Every year I find a new person. But he always describes himself as being the very first phrase that you used, as a peace-loving person who does not condone violence. That was his big difference with the ANC, that he would not condone armed struggle and yet there is this association of his party with a lot of violence. One, do you believe him when he says, "I personally never was involved in planning violence or ordering the killings of other people"? And two, what also comes across is a kind of bitterness that he doesn't feel that his contribution to ending apartheid and getting Mandela freed is sufficiently appreciated. One of the things he will say year after year, and it comes out like a mantra, that he said he would not talk to the government until Nelson Mandela was released, that for any negotiations that was his starting point, but that has not been appreciated. I know you love these tough questions.

AL     I really think that it's very tough, it's very difficult. I think the story of Chief Buthelezi is a complex one. History will unravel the man I think. At the present moment it's difficult to put him in perspective. I think that as time moves on and history is being put in proper perspective, and that is happening now, I think that his role and the kind of contributions which he may even feel have not been acknowledged will come to better perspective.

POM     Do you think that he did make a contribution, a positive contribution, or do you think that in the liberation struggle overall that his contribution was negative? Just in terms of what you know of him has he contributed more to further the cause of a liberated South Africa than he has to impede it?

AL     As I say, I think as one sits here now we are finding that, particularly a person like myself who was out of the country for a long time, we are finding that there is a lot that I don't know and since 1970 to 1991 when I returned to the country I didn't have much contact with Chief Buthelezi and, as I say, to put his contribution and what role he played it's difficult at the moment. I think particularly for some of us who were not in the country it's really extremely difficult, so again I just have to say that I think in time his role and exactly what he feels has not been appreciated, or what people feel that he has done or hasn't done and what he feels has not been recognised, I think it's all going to come into proper perspective, as I say, because we are only just beginning to really get down to the history of the country, particularly what was happening in the country. Some of us were not here and I think that it's only now that now we are going to say OK that is what we had but in fact what seems to be the real truth, what actually happened? And then I think we will be able to, and I think that goes for most of the leadership who were embroiled in the turmoil and struggle within the country, I don't think I am in a position to really say much about that.

POM     Just to clarify relationships. His political commissar, or whatever he was called, Khumalo Luthuli? Is he a relation?

AL     I think you are referring to the man that was called Dhlakola Luthuli.

POM     That's right.

AL     Quite honestly I heard the name for the first time too when his name came up in the newspapers so I don't know. I don't know the man, I've never met him, I don't know anything about him except what I read in the newspapers and I don't know what he was to Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. I read in the newspapers that he was once in the ANC and then he ended up there so I have no knowledge of the man.

POM     Is he related to the Luthuli family, your family, or is he related to a separate family?

AL     As I say, I know my relations so I think he is a Luthuli, yes, but another family. Maybe there is a relationship but I don't know. You know how it is with us Africans. If you look far back you will find somewhere that there is ...

POM     There are O'Malleys all around Ireland and they're not related at all.

AL     But I don't know his family background at all. I know nothing about him. So to say he's related to Chief Albert Luthuli, as the newspapers were saying, I think is quite erroneous. I think they were just saying that. You certainly know the people who are related to your father.

POM     So just quickly before I let you go, and thank you for all the time you've given after a hard day, with your own family if you just could run through what's happened to each since they have come back to the country, like where they are and how they are doing?

AL     Maybe they don't want me to do that. It's quite possible. You know how it is, people want to talk for themselves. I think they have all settled in one job or another in the country. Fortunately they are all absorbed into something. Some are here in this province and the two others are in Johannesburg, and that's all. But they are all making headway somewhere.

POM     They are all doing well?

AL     Yes they are trying to make a life for themselves, I would say so.

POM     Well maybe I will leave it there for this evening. Patricia do you have anything?

PAT     ... (inaudible) ...

AL     No I don't think it's harsh.

POM     This is on Bantu Holomisa's expulsion from the party.

AL     I think he has brought the party into disrepute. In fact I feel that the ANC ought to tighten its disciplinary measures. No party in the world would allow a single member to go on in the reckless path that he chose. He has really been reckless. There are party structures. There is a difference between a party and government. You owe your party loyalty. All over the world, and there are certain rules within which parties operate, I have travelled the world myself, I have never seen any party allow a senior member to go on the rampage the way Holomisa did. They would have dismissed him long ago and I think the ANC is very patient. How do you keep a senior member like that within the party? I can't see how. I think if he had been in other parties he would have been dismissed long ago.

POM     Just on that, you mentioned the word loyalty and I remember ...

AL     You know this would really be outside - we wonder from a distance at which I am, I am at a distance here from things happening up there, but we look at them and say, "What did Holomisa take to the Truth Commission?" The Truth Commission was about human rights abuses. He started this thing by taking a matter to the TRC which had nothing whatsoever to do with human rights abuses. It was something that was sitting in the cupboard somewhere from his Bantustan government, between him and the other Minister Sigcau and Sol Kerzner and all that. It had nothing to do with what the TRC is about, and really that was the beginning of the deterioration of the cycle. If I had been him maybe I would have stopped to look and said, "Where did I start, where am I going?" He didn't seem to do that.

POM     I remember when President Mandela came out of prison, almost the first thing he said was, "I am a loyal member of the ANC, I will do what the ANC tells me to do, that's my function". Is loyalty to the ANC about the most highly prized quality that one can bring to the ANC?

AL     Talking from my position I can't say yes or no to that but I think generally speaking people are loyal, have to be loyal to their political party. It is a part of what is expected of an individual functioning within such a huge number of people. In the end you are guided by the party's constitution, you are guided by the rules and other things that govern how that party is to function in a society. Yes loyalty is a part of this and the important thing is to respect what the ANC constitution brings down for its members. When you say President Mandela said he is loyal to the organisation, I think you will say that because you feel that perhaps, you believed all your life for this thing. What else is that if it's not loyalty?

POM     If you're not loyal you're crazy.

AL     I think he probably says it in that context.

POM     OK. Thank you every so much and it's nice to see you in your new home.

AL     At least I can keep a dog here. I like animals, I like pets and that was a restriction there. The rules are there in flats, but it's an easier life, you've no responsibility. It's tough to have responsibility.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.