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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
17 Oct 1996: Mzizi, Abraham
POM Abraham, my first question is a question that digs into the past a bit and it's when you look back on your life are there any one or two memories of what you went through during the apartheid years, either things that were done to you, how you were humiliated, checks on passbooks, whatever, that stand out in your mind and are indelibly stamped on your memory?
AM Padraig, if one actually singles out some of these events you may go back, far back, yes you're right in the years of the apartheid era, but in those times there were things that did happen to people which were very torturous. There are things that also were happening but would easily forget thereafter. You spoke, for instance, about the passbook, that is now dompas if you put it in the literal language, dompas which we referred to it as, these reference books. Yes, they had a terrible impact on us, some of us, I cannot single myself out although I must say that I was probably fortunate. When I was still young I went to Heilbron in the Orange Free State, when it was still Orange Free State, I was in town when I obtained a reference book, therefore I obtained it in town so I did not experience quite a lot of difficulties with it seeking work in town. Then when I went to the Transvaal in Alberton in 1967 I was transferred to the Department of Justice in the Magistrate's Court.
POM You were at that time working for the Department of Justice?
AM Yes, in the Magistrate's Court serving as an interpreter. So one has that kind of a status. The police are with you daily, you are known, so in that way I did not feel being intimidated to carrying a passbook. But, however, I was then dealing with the people on the ground, I knew their sufferings. I had started putting up a lot of efforts helping people to obtain reference books which was very difficult, helping people to obtain their birth certificates. As you would know that blacks were not registered during that time, their birth, it started only in the year 1963. Then everybody had to reapply or make new or late registrations to be registered. Now I went through those things and I know the sufferings that people had over and above that in the township where I was staying people when they were actually visiting your place they had to go to the Administration offices and get passes that would actually allow them to stay more than 72 hours. If that person did not have that whether it's your parent biologically, your parent coming probably from the other province, for instance coming from the Free State, you would actually have to allow the police to take her or him to jail for having now stayed with you more than 72 hours, and yourself too. Now that was really humiliating and it didn't only stop there. Even if they were doing the raids at night and you have visited your neighbour or they find you there during the raids you would be arrested. Now you would imagine those are the things that I think when they scrapped that, to me freedom was obtained, long before the freedom that we envisaged to have the country have its democracy. But those are the things that one would always look at.
POM Do you ever wonder why, like when you look at the present crime wave and you look at how the police behaved during the heyday of apartheid when they were arresting people, I think the figures are something like one every three minutes for a violation of the passbooks and doing raids into the townships and checking whether or not you had the status to be in the town and hauling you off to jail if you had overstayed your 72 hours and being able to track down subversives and find out where they were, they appeared to the outside world to be a very ruthless and efficient police. Why has the same police force for all intents and purposes disappeared from the streets, is unable to solve the simplest crime, can't arrest a gangster even when he's well known in the community? There's kind of a paradox. How have they become so inefficient?
AM Well, Padraig, it's very nice of you to make such a reference. In the townships the raids were done by the so-called municipal police which were not actually South African Police Force. These were the people, I don't know whether they were picked up in the street and just told that you do this A, B, C, D, because they did not know anything. All they knew was that go and arrest that person or go and raid that house, and those are the kind of things that they were doing. They were very, very vicious. Coming back to the S A Police, yes, we did have police who did not probably have remorse when probably coming to blacks. They could act very decisively and very ruthless at times. Now lately I think because of the Bill of Rights that we are now having and find in our constitution, whether it is the wrong interpretation, whether it is the police who seem to not interpret the very bill right, but I should think the government, although we are very sceptical, to give the police the necessary powers to act decisively because I don't think we have gone past the stage of impartiality, they are not impartial right now because there are a lot of reservations we have, their own uMkhonto weSizwe in the police, many other elements which were not there which we believe that if you just give them that kind of power to stamp out or to root out whatever is in their way they might probably become another armed wing for the political party that is in power. That is the fear. Not that those police have just disappeared. We have removed the handcuffs from the perpetrators and we have handcuffed the police. A person can commit a crime in the presence of the police, the police have got to think twice; do I have to act now or do I have to get authority to act or do I have to run away? A policeman finds him or herself in that situation that if I will do this who is going to protect me? Is the law on my side or not? I think we need to revisit that issue and make the police become a police person.
POM When we met first and among the people I talked to and still talk to in the IFP the widespread belief at the time was that the ANC was out to crush the IFP, that the ANC was Xhosa dominated, was out to dominate the Zulu people and establish a one-party Xhosa dominated ANC state. Does the IFP still believe that or has it modified it's views in that regard?
AM It is not a question of modified views. Probably you have been out of the country for more than three months. If that be the case, yes, you might have lost events. About three months back there was the mine violence which erupted in the three mines, in the Gold Reef mines, Goldfield mines. It's Driefontein Gold Mine, Leodoring(?) Gold Mine and Northam(?) Platinum Mines near Thabazimbi in the North West. There you would see that the old orthodoxy of ANC and its alliance was revived in the sense that the ethnic cleansing was actually kicking off the ground or revived again because the violence was orchestrated in a systematic pattern directed to the Zulu speaking people. All Zulu speaking people, irrespective whether they were - if you take for instance the Northam Platinum Mine, irrespective whether they were NUM members, that is National Union of Mineworkers, they were chased out of the hostel, they were chased out of their working place, they were forced to go back to KwaZulu/Natal. The government had to institute a Commission of Enquiry which was led by Judge Johan Myburg. If you read that verdict you will see exactly that NUM was the common denominator. When we talk of NUM we talk of ANC. And they are given a mandate to sort out their house. We haven't brought back the Zulus in the Northam Platinum Mine. I am making endeavours now to meet with the management and see how we are going to bring those Zulus back to their work and back to their place in the hostel which I believe, myself, I am not trying to politicise this matter but I think constitutionally these people have the right to be in that place, they have the right to work wherever they want to work and also bring up their children, but if they are going to be barred to go and work or to go and be in a place where they want to be by other ethnic groupings or other organisation, to me that is to violate one's rights.
POM So you still believe that the purpose of the ANC is to establish a one-party dominated state and to crush any opposition?
AM It hasn't gone past. The approach they are making it's in various ways. At first they wanted to wipe out all their opponents in the township so that they control all the townships, which they failed. Now probably they thought let's go now in the industrial areas and wipe them out there because if we have obtained jobs for our people then they have the strength in that particular area so that other parties won't exist in various areas. So if you particularly refer to IFP so that we might probably be only known to be the KwaZulu party.
POM So if there's a job going in the township, say a municipal job or something like that, does the fact of your being a paid-up member of the ANC or a card carrying member of the ANC count whether you get that job or you don't get that job?
AM Well I don't know in other townships. That did exist in Thokoza but because we have actually engaged in negotiations for many years now with the ANC there it seems as if in our area we don't have that as such though it is actually seen, there are traces of it but because immediately when we discover the same we get down to a conference and iron it out and we have come through that but you still find traces. In other areas IFP are not even considered in doing the municipality jobs. At one stage I went to Heidelberg in the Transvaal, when speaking to my people there that what happened if there is a job in the RDP function in the township, are you being consulted? They said no, we don't even know what is that. We are not even at conference, we don't even discuss some of these things. We see people working but we don't know how one could obtain - and they started telling me that we went to a factory looking for a job and we were told that if we are from the hostel, no we want people from the township. So you can see that there are still traces of these things. We need to get down into the nitty gritty of it and stamp it out if we can.
POM Who is running the country? Is it the National Executive Committee of the ANC? Is it the government, is it the parliament? Who is really wielding the power?
AM Well I think it's too early to respond to that question because we still grapple with the concept of who is who. We are in the government of national unity. When things go wrong the ANC believe that we are in the government of national unity, when things are running smoothly then it's the ANC that is doing things, become a reality. Now you can see that it is still a struggle of power, who is who. We are running the country, supposedly, jointly, but it seems as if they are in the majority they can dominate what they want. However, we make our voice heard. Where we resist we normally resist and say this is not right, so we are also there, we have our input.
POM But are decisions made by the NEC of the ANC who say this is what we want to do, those decisions are conveyed to the key Cabinet members in the ANC who inform the ANC caucus that this is the way, this is our position on this and this is the way you're going to vote, and that's the chain of command, and while the IFP may object or might get an amendment here or something there, effectively the ANC through it's structures are running things?
AM Well yes, it is something that is existing I think everywhere. The majority party will always dominate and they will always have their caucus. We do also have our caucuses and view our things and have our plan in place, that is how we would like things to be done, and they also have the same thing. And it goes to Cabinet where probably then they would outvote our ministers in the Cabinet and say this is how we want things and it will go to committees and we will discuss the same and debate the same, we will probably oppose where we opposed but we are not opposing just for the sake of opposing because it's initiated by ANC but if a thing is wrong it's wrong, if a thing is right it's right and we normally oppose as well in the committees where things are normally done and it will go then into parliament where it will be debated. If the majority wins they will always win. Those are the kind of things that I think one would not say against the ANC doing this, if we were also in the majority we would influence our majority to take a stance where we say we want the country run this way. I think we would do the same and I am sure the other parties would do the same if they were in the majority. It is a pity that if the ANC could succeed with their unitary state that the country should be run in that fashion and where we think nobody is going to benefit.
POM But at the moment other than the IFP in the government of national unity, and it's got a small presence rather than a large presence, it's really the ANC are running things?
AM Yes I think you are correct when saying that, we are a small package in the government of national unity. They are likely to determine whatever they want.
POM If the IFP wants to develop itself as an alternative to the ANC, as an alternative party that could be in government, why does it remain in a government of national unity where it's very difficult to attack a government of which you are a part? So come 1999 you can start pointing at the ANC this and the ANC that and they will say, "Well you were part of the government too so when you're pointing at our record you're also pointing at your own record." Does it not make it difficult for you to establish a separate political identity that's very clearly an alternative to the ANC?
AM Padraig, I don't think really one should say that you should get out of the GNU in order that you can make your point effectively heard in the smooth running of the country. You can do that exactly while you are within and that's what the IFP is doing. You would have seen or probably become aware of the times where we reach a stage where we feel that we can no longer be part and parcel of what is happening, then we say, "Gentlemen we will have to recuse ourselves, let's stay out of the platform then probably you can drive the car all by yourself, we don't want to be part and parcel". It's not that we do that because we are cowards but we do it purely on the same ground that we don't want to be labelled as such that, "You were there." We would put our points and say this is it, if you are not going that way or a compromise then it comes to a cul-de-sac, we don't see our way through it, the line becomes very thin, we will have to now get a mandate from the electorate that should we pursue this way or not. That's how we operate.
POM Now in the local elections the IFP outside of KwaZulu/Natal did really quite poorly in terms of the proportion of the overall vote it secured and in KwaZulu/Natal itself it lost all the major industrial centres, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Richards Bay, by large amounts, won the rural areas but has become tagged as a regional party that represents the traditional way of life. How do you break out of that perception that you're a party who has marginal influence or not a lot of influence in terms of urban politics and that you really represent traditional rural politics, the chiefs, and that you're also increasingly a regional party with a power base in KwaZulu/Natal but not much real presence in the rest of the country?
AM Padraig, if you were very attentive in our early discussion when we touched on the violence, the ANC will not survive if it can desist from the acts of violence. They will probably win in the large town areas where there is a huge amount of industries because of the very same systemic pattern of marginalising those who are their opponents by resorting into violence, chasing them out of employ, use all the tactics and that is exactly what they are trying to do. With that kind of intimidation people are not free. If you go to the townships there are still boundaries where members of IFP cannot go beyond this and those kinds of things because we are not actually encouraging people or it is in our practice that people should intimidate people. We would probably, it will take time for us, and you cannot convince people who have been intimidated and who have that kind of fear, you cannot exercise a good mind out of fear. People are actually being intimidated and out of that sheer frustration they feel that, look, the best way if I want to keep my property, if I want to be at work, if I want to do this, the best thing I must be seen moving with the flock rather than move with those who are being marginalised. Those are the only things that if we can get down into the nitty gritty, have the police, the right police at the right place, root out all these unruly elements, things will shape in another direction. But as long as the ANC is embarked on the violence, when I talk of ANC it should not be construed as if I'm now referring as ANC policy, I'm referring to their supporters on the ground whom ANC can no longer control because by denouncing what they are doing you will be denouncing their support. If we deviate a little you can see what is happening to Holomisa now. It's exactly because he has actually revealed the truth of what ANC is and I don't think that man will be ever accepted in the kraal of ANC.
POM In the which?
AM In the kraal, that is now in the camp of ANC. He will be ostracised for ever.
POM Just talking about the ANC's handling of the Holomisa affair, if an IFP member had behaved in the way that he behaved, accusing say Chief Buthelezi or saying that Chief Buthelezi had taken money from Sol Kerzner and made other accusations?
AM I wish we could. Two million is a lot of money.
POM He seems to have spread it around. He didn't just back one horse. And made accusations against other senior elements in the leadership, how would the IFP have dealt with the matter in terms of party structures and party discipline and whatever?
AM I think there you need to distinguish two things. If you are honest right from the onset you don't expect that kind of a situation but if you are dishonest then you must know that sooner or later you would encounter such problems. I don't think we would have had the same because we always, even in our constitution we say the person has a right to argue within the structure if there is anything that goes against his or her will so as to be ironed out right there, let's find out exactly where a person differs with us. So people are being given that kind of an opportunity and if it need be that it gets to a disciplinary committee a person is given a fair chance to present his or her case and when it gets now to the National Council a person has the right to present even the case there. So I don't think we would ever encounter such a kind of a thing. There was a very dishonest element in it because if you have listened to the State President saying, "Yes, nobody knew about the money that Sol Kerzner has donated to us", nobody knew, even the Treasurer General did not know. Now one asks himself the question now, here comes a small fry, Bantu Holomisa, how did he know? You can only come to one conclusion. Yes he knew because he was probably involved and probably the State President decided to say, "Hey, because you're directly involved." We don't know whether did he get a share or he did not or is it because that's why he is now grumbling because he did not get the share because he has actually instituted a commission at the time when he did not get the share to Matanzima, probably that's the same thing, that he did not get a share. The President had told him but he thought, "OK I should have also probably have got a share", and that's why probably he's now made mention of these things.
POM In parliament what's been the reaction to his expulsion? Is there, even among ANC members that you talk to - or I don't know whether you talk to ANC members?
AM Yes, well in passing we do talk and when you say, they say, "Has he joined you, what is he doing, what is he up to?" Those are the things just to remove the blush from the face.
POM But do they feel that expelling him, do you get a general feeling that expelling him was too harsh a measure, that they could have dealt with it in another way?
AM I don't know. You can see the division among themselves and we decided that if you see two dogs fighting and your dog is not there, why worry? You just watch and if you want to watch you just watch it, if you want to go, go. It's none of your business because your dog is not involved. So we really are not interested in knowing in detail what is happening, what is going to become of the man. We are really not interested in the fracas.
POM What message do you think the ANC were trying to send out when they expelled him so ruthlessly?
AM Well try to scare those who probably would have liked to go to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, that if you go that route without coming to us and we school you, you are out. Probably that would have been the message because I don't see Holomisa could have been expelled from the party if he had not gone to the TRC. There is no way where he would have been expelled. He has helped them during the time of the 1990s with the weapons. He was directly involved in Thokoza, sending weapons as far as we have heard from the people on the ground, and he has said openly that, yes, I did help them with weapons.
POM The weapons came from the Transkei to Thokoza?
AM That's what we heard from the ground because at the time, there were times when people were actually fighting with AKs but at times there were arms which were the military weapons which Transkei also had, they were actually found in the ANC camp. So those are some of the things because he has said openly that, "If my people die this way I will have to help them, I will have to send reinforcements." And he was actually helping ANC openly, training their MK cadres in the Transkei. So he has been a very helpful man. Now why would they kick the back of such a person who has been very helpful to them?
POM What about, there was one time immediately after the local elections in KwaZulu/Natal about there being some alliance between the ANC and the IFP? Was that all just loose talk and speculation?
AM I think it was just hot air. How could we make alliance with the ANC when we are diametrically opposed to one another? Yes we are largely composed of black society, both of us, but our policies differ from one angle to the other. I think that was just hot air, or a misinterpretation. Yes, we would be engaged in bilateral talks and find a common platform with ANC but we cannot envisage seeing ourselves merging or becoming an alliance with them.
POM If you're looking towards 1999 and the elections in 1999, you've a huge job in front of you as a party. You have to re-establish yourself in urban areas, you have to attract more black votes. You're not going to get a lot more white votes. It seems to me, from what I can judge and the surveys I look at, that voting is becoming more racial again, the whites vote for whites, black Africans vote for Africans and the coloureds throw their lot in with the whites.
AM Ethnic line would not go away, that we can forget, and I think that's the reason why it will make other parties survive. Whites will always be there, there would be a white party existing in this parliament. We cannot just wish them all out and say there will be no white party. Ethnic lines will remain right through. Yes we will have to make inroads. We are actually busy with that. As I say, we need to quell down completely violence in the township then people have that free choice of mind and they can probably start thinking who they want and who they don't want, but till then I don't see a way through. The moment we approach elections the ANC will resort to those very tactics of violence.
POM When it comes to raising funds, obviously a party like the ANC being the party in power is the obvious party to which companies and wealthy individuals and whatever will give money. Do you think there should be any form of public financing of political parties to try to equalise the playing field, that the government should subsidise political parties?
AM Well that would have been a good thing. As I say, other parties were so unfortunate that they did not have the kind of people like Sol Kerzner and it seems as if it's not only Sol Kerzner according to the State President's statement that other wealthy people, South African citizens, did also actually put something in the coffers which is something that other parties did not have. Now I don't know whether the ANC as part of the government will willingly share the same bread with other parties. I am sure they would cling to that so as to make sure that they will always have their hand out to people and keep people as the party that can actually have their hand out to people. I am sure they would cling to that. They would not easily have their funds accessible to other parties. But it cannot be avoided, I think parties should start now going out, make canvass, make foreign desks so that they are actually well presented outside South Africa so that any parties interested outside the country should come in and also make a contribution towards them and probably we would find ourselves off the ground.
POM Do you see, as you look forward to 1999, what do you see happening to the IFP? Will it do as well as it did in 1994 or is the tide moving against it in terms of the way it's constituency is being defined and the way it is perceived as becoming a regional party? Will the ANC do better than it has done or did in 1994 despite the fact that it hasn't delivered on many of its promises? Again surveys seem to indicate that even though the ANC hasn't delivered on its promises that it's not going to affect very much the way people are going to vote. How does the party see things? How is it positioning itself?
AM Things are beginning to unfold now. You would probably have seen the trend and approach the ANC is doing. The kind of Malan trial, ANC it will continue to go around and build up a castle in the air by getting probably their opponents, political figures, put them on trial which will go hours on end, so as to send a wrong signal to people on the ground that these are the perpetrators, we are angels. Those are the kinds of things that they will probably continue till 1999. When I say things begin to unfold, when the Malan trial failed against their wishes, then people probably started realising that ANC is using now our judicial system as a tool to hammer on their political opponents. Those are the kinds of things that become very negative because I think the world perceives us that we are collaborators of the former apartheid regime government whereas we were not. A lot of our people died in their hands and now ANC is not actually interested in investigating those cases, they are busy investigating cases that they believe have actually only harmed their supporters on the ground. You may wonder why do I say that, is it not that they should investigate these cases? Now I can quote two instances. There was a Thokoza massacre where 23 people died, one ANC person was arrested.
POM When was that now?
AM 1992, that was a Thokoza massacre, and during, I think also during 1991 we had Crossroads in Katlehong in the East Rand where 24 people died. Both cases were in the Goldstone Commission. Cyrus Vance, from United States, you would know him, he even visited the Crossroads in Katlehong together with Gertrude and myself and Goldstone himself, Judge Goldstone. So there was evidence that some of the Xhosas who remained with the IFP there said the people who came here are Xhosa speaking people, ANC members, and are staying in Mandela squatter camp. We know them, we can point them out to the police, we have reported the incident, nothing has been done, no arrest has been made. And Cyrus Vance turned around and said to Judge Goldstone, "What are you doing with those cases?" He said, "I have referred the case to the Attorney General", and those references haven't seen light to date. We don't know what is happening. Now if the government is prepared to be equal before the law the Shell House case should have seen light. It has not seen light despite the admittance made by the State President that, "I have ordered people to shoot to kill, to defend the structure", that is the walls of Shell House, not the people.
POM Would you say that the distrust between the ANC and the IFP is as great now as it was prior to elections in 1994, prior to parliament?
AM Padraig, I don't think we need to have measurements here. We are grappling with the issues that we are human beings, we must find one another and I don't want to exaggerate and say that there is great animosity between ourselves and ANC. Events do occur now and again on the ground but I don't think it is like 1990 when there was a full scale war.
POM Things have improved?
AM Yes, yes, because we can at least come to a round table and discuss our differences.
POM Just looking ahead, and I know this is a difficult thing to do, an impossible thing, but just something I can ask you every six months, will the ANC do better nationally in 1999 than it did in 1994 or will the IFP do better nationally in 1999 than it did in 1994?
AM If we can bring down violence you would see a different thing altogether. I don't want to pre-empt that, that's the only stumbling block.
POM If you get way down political violence?
AM Yes political violence. I am not free right now, myself, right in Thokoza I cannot go anywhere.
POM You still can't?
AM I cannot. So where do I have the freedom and how do I expect my people on the ground to have that kind of freedom when I cannot? So those are the kind of things that if that can come down completely, I don't know whether we will succeed. We are busy with the six bills that I spoke to you that we are busy with it, which is crime related. If they can be put into place and we have the kind of policemen who would deal effectively with those I think we will be running very smooth and 1999 when it comes, if ANC is not going to somersault and resort back to those tactics of violence, we will be on equal par.
POM Equal par?
AM With it. We will be there if not ahead. I am a golfer myself, I always believe playing to the last hole. I don't say I will beat my opponent. I say when the last putt drops into the hole I will win.
POM OK. Thanks.