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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

17 Jun 1998: Seremane, Joe

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JS     Who are these important people, that I, being in a way a complainant, that I should not even hear, speak nor see? How do we come to reconciliation like that and also all the selective things about it because the security systems of the past regime are saying these things openly in public and everybody who is a victim knows that this is the perpetrator, this is the person who has caused injury to me or my beloved one. But these are protected. Why is it so? And to say even if the TRC took the initiative by trying to question those blanket amnesties that they gave to the 37 ANC, but it comes as a second thought. To me it exposes the way they approach this very selectively. So I have heard nothing, and the next thing, here are the people in front of me. The next story I get is this letter. Apparently this is a standard letter from Archbishop Tutu, it could be a letter to anybody and everybody, a standard letter, I'm not very sure. If it's a standard letter, well, it shows how impersonal it is, but it is addressed to me, maybe it's a standard letter and they type in my name and if it's standard well it shows how impersonal it is and while I don't expect to be on personal levels with everybody, there are too many people, and if it's not, this name should strike something and if that's the best I can hear from by Bishop, for the first time, about my pain, he's supposed to be the one who heals my pain, my Bishop, Archbishop, my former teacher. That is why I think it's just a standard letter, he's never said anything to me.

POM     Some of the officials that were questioned in connection with Timothy's death are pretty high officials in the NIS?

JS     Yes, high officials, and I think in parliament too, I don't know, I'm not very sure, because these are hearsays, I just read it in the press. So coming back to this, this is what I get. All this is what they call interim, I don't know what they call this, reparation grant. You fill in, this is an application form for that interim reparation grant. Now this is the next communication I get and it's very difficult when you represent people like I am representing the interests of my family, so I don't know exactly what to do. If I was representing myself these papers I would have sent back and regarded them as an insult. They have not answered my questions, not at all, not one, and the next thing they come with a paper where I apply for money, R3000 or whatever it is. Do they think the money is more important than what I'm asking them? Do they think I place more value on the money that I may be getting than on the questions I am asking to get the remains of my brother? I found these papers very insulting. Actually I told the guy who brought them here, a field worker, that if it were not for the fact that I was representing interests of various members of the family, and I don't know how they would look at this, I would send him away with these papers. He brought them here and was saying he will come back in two days, that was last week. They are still here.

POM     He said he'd come back in two days?

JS     Yes, and they are still here.

POM     How long has that been?

JS     It goes on to eight days now. He's never come back. Well he's busy, but I felt it's insensitive. If you hear that your dear one is dead somewhere you expect people to come and say we will bring the remains. You don't expect an insurance guy to say that body is worth one million rand, can you please fill in that. That's insensitivity. Can't they wait until they have addressed my issue. No communication whatsoever and still I find no joy in what I do.

POM     So the situation as it is now is that you have no more than you knew a year ago or two years ago about what actually happened to your brother?

JS     Yes, absolutely.

POM     There has been no substantiation of any of the allegations made against him and that the people in the ANC who were questioned about it were questioned in camera and you have no access to them.

JS     To what they said. And nobody is telling me from the TRC what is happening, what is it that they say, what their aims are with all the exercise. Nobody is telling me anything.

POM     Have you been in contact with the TRC, with anybody there?

JS     No I have not. I expect them to take the initiative. I have given them the matter and if they are working on it they have to contact me but they have not.

POM     How about your own personal situation? You had mentioned before that some members of your family were reluctant that you go to the TRC, that it might put you or members of your family in jeopardy. Do you still have those fears?

JS     Yes, well they are still relevant, I think so. I can't pinpoint exactly - sometimes you do notice hostility and tension against you or people trying to spread around malice about you and you begin to think what the reason all of a sudden could be, but I am not very sure, I can't put my finger on it but it could be - I can see there is some form of low intensity hostility from other people towards me. It's permeating all over, every second you are bound to step on it and say this is it, but you can't say exactly what it is, but you say it wasn't there before I went to the TRC and now it's there, this hostility. So one is watching, one is watching very closely. I am watching very closely. I am expecting to hit the work scene very soon. This is my expectation. That hostility, it will soon come to the workplace. I know. Learning from other people's experiences that is what is happening if you just don't toe the line with the group who is in power or what, you are bound to begin to have problems at your work situation, they orchestrate falsities about you, you suddenly wonder why everybody is angry with you but if you conform well nobody will notice you. I am expecting it. I am seeing signs here and there outside and I am expecting it to happen in the workplace.

POM     Do you still vary the way you go home, not follow the same route every day?

JS     Absolutely, I can't do it another way. I often just prefer to do that. I am even more to myself than ever because when you move around with people you are easily tracked down, so that as much as possible I travel alone so that I can change course as much as I wish. So I still do that and I no longer keep regular times.

POM     So four years into the new SA, and coming to the end of Mandela's time as President, has the new SA lived up to your expectations or are you generally disappointed at the way the country is being run and especially the steps that are being taken to establish the truth about the past?

JS     Well overall in general I think it's a mixed bag. You have positive things happening, on the other hand you have also negative things, perhaps due to inexperience and owing to over-zealousness of people wanting to transform things overnight and in that spirit running slipshod over people, forgetting that they are dealing with human beings. That's about it. But when you come down to the running of the country, again there are little problems there. The whole question of crime is disheartening. Why so much crime? Why is it impossible for the state to do anything or the police to do anything about it? In that sense people's minds go back like the Children of Israel, it was better in Egypt in terms of that. People talk freely that in the past regime any gang warfare would be stamped out in no time, they will just move in. If you try to hijack, you're dead, you're a dead man. You try holding people hostage, you're a dead man. But suddenly the government seems to be powerless. Why all this many, many serious robberies where people lose their lives just like that and nothing is being done?

POM     Why do you think that is?

JS     Well it's so many things, you can read so many things. These are experts who know how to do it and people are saying there are allegations that these are former guerrilla fighters, MK and APLA maybe predominantly uMkhonto weSizwe, so there could be dissatisfaction about how they are left in the cold when a few, a handful of them, are right there in clover. That could be the reason. The other reason could be exactly stemming from situations like Timothy's. People have been badly treated, people have lost their brothers and now they are teaming up and the only way to hit back is to frustrate those who are in power that they become faders. It could also be those who resist change from the previous regime. It's hard to tell what it is. But what is standing out like a sore thumb is the lack of will of the government to do anything effective. I think they just lack the will. There is no political willpower to get this thing off, to deal with this crime once and for all. It's becoming worse, it's no longer property, material, it's human life. They steal a camera from you, you must die. Everything they take away from you, you must die. Why should you? We don't say stealing is good but the worst you can do if you are really angry is to take away the material, you need food, and spare a person's life. Why do you kill them? So that is my greatest disappointment.

     Other things I am sure they can be overcome but the question of crime, no, no, no, it is getting too serious. You take also the taxi warfare, a promising economic exercise, something good that people could do for a living. It's just now like the government can't handle it, those people are a law unto themselves, the taxi owners killing and they are also now just killing passengers, innocent passengers. I guess if they run away from the taxis and go to the trains and the busses the violence will follow them. So there is no protection, the government seems to be weak. And those are things that you think any rightful government can get it right. So those are my little disappointments. Coming to the truth, as you say, it's very difficult, very, very difficult. Like I said earlier, you get a feeling that this is selective justice. They do so much to unearth from the one side and so little to unearth from the other. I know the argument is that ours was a just war, we were fighting a just cause and the other side was just fighting for an unjust cause, violating human rights. But the truth of the matter is if we who were on the side of justice did horrible things we need also to confess. That does not give us license because we are oppressed therefore we can do anything we like. It doesn't give us license. Human life is human life, this side or that side and I think you owe yourself the responsibility to adhere to that concept that human life cannot just be taken willy-nilly. So you have those difficulties. I really don't know.

     Perhaps if I was very top profile I would have TRC people coming to me and finding out what's really eating you or bugging you. Nobody says that. Well I don't want special favours in any case. Many people ask me, but you should be knowing the Deputy President, you should be knowing so-and-so. I say, yes I know them and some of them I think my relationships with them are very cordial. Then they say, why don't you go to them? I say why should I go to them? Why must I get preferential treatment? In any case I was told that when I wanted to have this thing done quietly by going to the President, thinking of the safety of these two young people, I was bluntly told that I want to be treated preferentially. So I have taken the message, I have heard and I am not going to go to any other person that I know and start saying that. In any case what will they do? They will also say go to the TRC and at the TRC they must give me what I want. They have to be honourable. If they know me and they know the facts they have to come to me and say, Joe look, yes it's true, the body is buried at such and such a place, we are going to exhume it and bring it here so that you bury it properly. These are things I am asking for. Yes we do have records of his trial, here are the records, you can have access to them. Yes, the Colonel that tried him is so-and-so. I want those things. And if they can't give to the TRC, how can the TRC give me that information. That's one thing I'm sympathising with the TRC, if they don't get the information from ANC, TRC won't give me information. They were not there. They are like me, they were not at Quatro camp. So it's the ANC that has to furnish that and they have to be honourable. All those who know me and know this story have to say we are sorry. Why is it all of a sudden nobody thinks my younger brother is not my younger brother? Nobody thinks he is my younger brother. They don't know me or they don't know him, or they know him, they know me but separately, there is no connection between me and him. I don't believe that story. There is somebody who knows us, somebody who knows this story and I expect that somebody at least, I think there are more than one, could be telling me and I call the story off and get what I want.

POM     Have they exhumed any bodies from the Quatro camps?

JS     Nobody, nobody. The bodies that have been exhumed are here, of our fellows, the cadres. Those that they destroyed have not been exhumed and that's a big, big thing. I don't know how many people have lost dear ones out in Quatro camp but I don't think they are happy. They may be in the game of number games, votes, perhaps they are a small minority, that is why maybe the ANC doesn't think that it is serious. Maybe. If it were big numbers they would sit up and say there are lots of people there dissatisfied but then they will have to learn that even small numbers can change the face of things. If they are dissatisfied what can stop them from organising themselves? What can stop them, let's say there are plus/minus 3000 dissatisfied for these reasons, what stops them from getting into all sorts of other elements, sub-cultures that are destructive? They may be involved in taxi killings, they may be involved in crime, they may be trying to take vengeance, they may be involved in third forces and all the like. But any serious government, you know with the kind of picture or image that we projected to the world, very sensible, very reconciliatory, very democratic, I don't see why this, if it's a minority group, us who suffer this pain, the government seems to be closing its eyes. It's very annoying, it's very, very annoying.

     Something just holds me. I am sure 20 years back I wouldn't be sitting and moaning and crying like this. Really I would be getting us a lot of guns and organising, looking for them, no, taking pot shots at them because they are insensitive. Who do they think they are? And we are open and say no we can't do that, they can't do that. And why don't they understand that we don't want revenge? We are hurting like they would hurt too. We just want the remains of our people and understand exactly what happened and who did what. This is what we want. Are they acting self-righteously, they are disciples of justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, but this ugly thing in the cupboard they are not attending to. To me it makes it difficult so that when I look at them it's also with mixed feelings. I don't know whether to love or hate them really. I don't know whether to respect them or not. When my leaders get all sorts of accolades, honours and what, but something says for goodness sake, you can't do this little thing, stop parading yourself like an angel, you know there are some things you haven't done, stop telling the world lies, what peacemaker are you? You're leaving me here seething with anger and we can resolve that anger by us talking but you're not doing it but you go around the world getting all these honours, and the remains of my brother I don't know where they are. What kind of honourable leader are you? And you know me, your people know me. Why can't we address this thing and get done with it? I find it very strange and that makes me a little disrespectful. With all the honours they get personally inside I just feel it's nonsense they haven't done this. I think simple thing that they know, simple thing that you know - what's the point of worrying about Abacha when you can't worry about little Timothy?

POM     Do you think that the TRC has been instrumental in bringing about reconciliation or do you think that it has largely failed to achieve that?

JS     I want to be very honest and fair, I think to a great extent they have managed to bring about reconciliation for those who have had a fair deal, they have forgiven the bad, they have said we forgive you, those who have had a fair deal, meaning perhaps that's how they should do it. Those who have reconciled are those who have been victims of the regime. But the question of victims of the movement, what has happened? Zilch. I don't think there's anything. It's just anger and pain. Anger and pain. I was looking at these special pensions, I looked at the leaflet, those who have been in exile, in prison, may apply for some kind of pension, money. So I look at the leaflet and they say who qualifies and they say those who have been spies don't qualify. And you see again here, who is a spy? Who tells who is a spy? These are the kind of things where you are just tarnished, your image is just tarnished, you are painted with a black brush because you didn't want to conform to some kind of movement or the lynch mob and suddenly you are a spy and what is due to you is taken away. And that's exactly what they are doing. They said those young people, Timothy and the like, are spies and they killed them. Now they are denying them this little thing of being buried properly by their own relatives. They are just denying them that. How can they do that?

POM     Sometimes when I talk to white people, when they hear about the revelations at the TRC they say, oh we never knew that was going on. In fact it's very hard to find a white person who was in favour of apartheid.

JS     These days.

POM     Do you think that by and large white people are still denying the past or distancing themselves from it, that they are not saying we are all responsible, of course we knew what was going on, we just closed our eyes to it.

JS     The majority are telling lies of course, the majority are telling lies. If there are genuine cases they must be in the minority, but most of them knew. When you see people being kicked, many people were kicked in the streets here. Whites saw policemen manhandling blacks, male and female, kicking them around. They saw all that. They should have said something. And there are whites who saw it and would object. Now the problem, it was almost like split into two groups, those who do nothing and see nothing when these things happened were largely Afrikaans speaking, and those who would object, feeling somebody is being abused, would be English speaking. So, as I say, many know and are telling lies. Very few can say we didn't know but then it was also to what degree was it happening, the extent. Some of the things that are being said in the TRC today are even a surprise to us. We had never imagined that they were actually doing these things. It is mind-boggling, it is really mind-boggling that with all the disclosures that have been made by the De Kocks and the like, we didn't expect that. We thought that what these guys would do to you is just to kill you, shoot you. It's almost like mercifully shoot you, that's all, but no, the things they did! They would have a party going around your body when they are roasting it, roasting your body and blasting a dead body to smithereens with hand grenades. They seemed to enjoy it. They things they did, I am very sorry, that we didn't expect, I don't know that such things were happening, that they were burying people all around the country.  So we are also shocked by the degree of things, the chemical warfare they were preparing.

POM     Yet not one minister from any government of the last forty years has come forward and said, yes I take responsibility.

JS     No, they all deny it. They take responsibility in that shallow way, maybe also taking the cue from the ANC who are collectively responsible. What does that mean? It's a stunt. It's rhetoric. So these are saying, oh well, in a way they are singing the collective responsibility song in different versions but none comes up, like our people, nobody in the government stood up to say I did this. They are hiding behind collectivity.

POM     You mentioned crime and how it had gotten out of hand. What about corruption? The story one heard all the time was that the corruption that exists today is a legacy of apartheid, but there seems to be a fair amount of new corruption going on.

JS     Yes, those are politicians trying to exonerate themselves. Yes, the apartheid regime was corrupt but what you are having here is home-grown corruption. It is this whole concept to think that other people are devils and your people are angels, or the devils are out there, the angels are always here. There is no such thing. Power corrupts and it doesn't matter in which hands, white or black. That's why I say 'home-grown'. We will have our own version of corruption. We have also amongst us devils and angels and we will have corrupt people and it's like that. There is no point in saying well the people were denied this and that, all nonsense. Even if you were denied that does it give you license to take away that which is not yours? And I'm talking about myself too. There may be corrupt things I'm doing but it doesn't give me license. I should have the good sense and honesty to know that they are of my making. It's not because like apartheid in fact led me to be corrupt. No, that's nonsense. You can control yourself.

POM     Do you think there's a sufficient acknowledgement on the part of the government that corruption is in fact becoming a real problem?

JS     I think they are beginning to distance what is happening, they are beginning to distance themselves from those officials found to be or proved to be corrupt. I heard the President over the past three, four weeks saying he has suddenly found that the very people that we relied on who fought for this country are beginning to put their fingers in things that they shouldn't, they are corrupt, they are stealing, they are doing that. He is beginning to distance himself, but who knows if it's because it's election time? It's election time, who knows? But even if it's true, they are beginning to recognise that there is something wrong with that because it is a bad mark on the government, a bad mark on the party. Remember it's the majority party in the government, the ANC, and all over through the provinces it would mean it's the ANC guys who are stealing, who are throwing books away, school books that are needed by the kids are dumped in the veldt, dumped in places where they ought not to be, actually dumped them. So that's serious. If people can do that, medicines are disappearing in the clinics and those are people who hold office, those are ANC members. I am sure the government doesn't like that. That's why there's a trend now that they are beginning to distance themselves but real action, what action has been taken? Not to my knowledge, no serious action has been taken to stop it. I can't remember instances. I may have missed them.

POM     What about land claims? How many claims have you received since the commission came into being and how many have been processed?

JS     To date there are plus/minus, close to 25,000.

POM     25,000?

JS     Yes, quite a lot. We haven't managed to - I have submitted 17 claims to the Land Claims Court which are being processed.

POM     17?

JS     17 yes. Of course that involves, when you say 17 claims it could involve thousands of people because some of the claims we talk of are of a community that consists of several thousands of people. Here is a batch that has just come from the Cape, I was in the Northern Cape this weekend. There are about eight claims there involving quite a number of people. So it's a very slow process and of course that's causing also tension because the claimants are impatient and the process seems to be legalistic, more legalistic than anything. But then you ask a question, how else can it be done? How else can it be done because if you try to do it in any way you run the risk of violating people's rights, it's exactly like forced removals where you just blindly and randomly expropriate people. There needs to be a just process. We need to observe justice and equity. So it's a very slow process. Of course for us it frustrates us quite a lot, opens us up to quite a lot of criticism but we know for a fact there is nothing we can do unless the legislation is drastically changed.

POM     So a group can make a claim either regarding a forced removal in the past or land that was just taken from them and then they apply to you. What kind of information do they have to give you in order for you to move the process forward?

JS     In general they have to prove that they were dispossessed from within the period 1913 to date and they were dispossessed because of a racially motivated piece of legislation and there quite a number of them, the 1936 Land Act, Group Areas Act and other related things. They have also recently just amended the Act to not only legislation, if even racial practices, they may have been removed for racial practices, we don't like them to be next to us, just for that reason. Sometimes people are removed without any law making such a move. So people may claim it if they can prove that and also say where their land was and if they have documents to prove, they furnish the documents and we do the investigation.

POM     What kind of documentation?

JS     Such as their title deeds and any other document that could prove that they were owners of the land or were resident there. Some people would say they were paying levies and they bring those little pieces of paper to show yes indeed, because when you piece them together you begin to see a picture emerging and through those documents you are able to follow other documents in the archives where you get the true story. So then the commission, if they think it's a valid claim, then they investigate it with researchers who will do all the research work.

POM     And then after you have dealt with a claim it then goes before the Land Claims Court?

JS     Before it goes there, then once you see validity initially, you see it's a valid claim, that we begin to investigate it with the initial information that you have. You have to publicise the fact that there is a claim on that particular piece of land by gazetting it in the Gazette, giving notice so that interested parties either for or against the claim should be on board and if there are negotiations taking place they should take place and thereafter you try to arrive at a settlement where conclusions are through discussion between people working it out, negotiated settlements, that's what you try for. Sometimes there are also problems, you make provision for mediation when parties do not see eye to eye, you get a facilitator to facilitate the process even up to the point of mediation and beyond that point whether there is an agreement or not amongst the parties concerned. Then the next step is to submit it to the Land Claims Court for ratification, making your own pronouncements, proposals, this is how you see it, this is how you don't see it, and the court has to judge everybody's position.

POM     Again, looking back at the last four years, what are you most proud of the country achieving?

JS     In terms of human relations I would say we have moved quite a bit. The oppressed people or black people have been knowing it all along, the achievement that I marvel at is to see white people now suddenly opening up and caring, some are making real sincere efforts to throw away that mentality of regarding other people as maybe lesser people, they are going out there. We may move together in the streets today. Very few are going to raise eyebrows like they would have done four, five years down the line before. Worse still if it's a female, if I moved around with her holding hands, nobody would raise an eyebrow but four or five years back I would even be assaulted, she would be abused, physically they must touch me. But I am happy these things are seeming to vanish and it seems to be opening slowly but for sure almost like floodgates within the younger children they are already, if you look around the streets, they are eager, they see each other, there is no hostility. Children are children, they want always to go to other children and this is beautiful and where I live, my neighbour is an Afrikaner family and they only have one daughter about nine years or so and they don't speak English so the wife tries a little bit of English, the man outrightly speaks Afrikaans. The child speaks English and Afrikaans, already at her age she is speaking any of the two languages and it used not to be like that.

     But what I want to say, I call the child, I told the parents, you know what, I told them in Afrikaans, meaning 'your child is a child of the future'. She goes out of her way to make friends with every group. One time I saw her with a black, the other time she was with a Chinese of her age and she always wants to take them home. She's very aggressive, she doesn't want to be stopped by anybody. And the parents fortunately are knowing that they are moving to the future, they have got no problem. They look at it and say, "Oh if we stop her we are in serious trouble, leave her alone." And even her elders, "When are you going to pay me a visit?" I said, "I will pay you a visit." You know, I call her a child of the future. Trying to make the parents understand, I just thought maybe these are Afrikaans speaking people there thinking the child is abnormal. They said, "No, no, we've got a lovely child, she is not going to have problems in the future, she is a child of the future." And suddenly they understand and the husband would shout at me, "Hello neighbour", in the street. Those are the positive sides. Maybe to me, that has always been my area of concern, why can't people relate to each other properly?

     The other thing is economic, material, oh well they are necessary but they are not very important. As far as I am concerned when you're rich, humanity if very rich, they've got everything, but if they can't interact, to me their riches are worthless. The best wealth is to have good relationships with people. This is my friend, oh, I've got a friend. You know it's lovely. And I don't know this person but this person is so pleasant towards me. For me that's my ideal world. We can be poor, naked but if we have got that we are rich. So that is the area that really impresses me with this period and of course also open up the eyes of our people that there are things that they felt they couldn't do that now they begin to realise they are also capable. They have been made all the years to say, oh you'll never drive a plane, you're black. Blacks can't do anything, that your job is the menial one. But more and more people are beginning to wake up and of course many still within our people are not very sure, they don't believe and of course I often say when I address crowds, the way we operate sometimes, we are still products of apartheid because apartheid has left imprints on our minds. We like discriminating, we like marginalising other people and that's the result of apartheid. It has left an imprint. It's like when you treat a child or raise a child very violently you can be sure that child is also going to be violent. So maybe we're suffering like they say the imprints are the product, the aftermath of apartheid leaves us like that.

POM     One thing that has struck me rather forcibly especially in the last couple of years has been the huge increase in rape and sexual abuse and molestation of children. Why do you think this is? Do you think it was always there but it was simply not uncovered or do you think it's a violent expression among people that there is less respect for life in many regards than there was in the past?

JS     It's difficult to say, I don't claim to be a psychologist or whatever, but some of these things perhaps they were suppressed and it's as a result of our violent society. Then people sometimes, when people hear that we are free they think it's all systems go, you can do as you please and that's not true, that's not true. So there are a lot of things one can attribute that to, various things.  I don't discount the fact that this also could be vindictive actions of people in the form of violence towards others.

POM     Do you think apartheid led to a situation of where black people devalued their own lives and the lives of other black people?

JS     Yes, well, I think that's what it does. A system such as apartheid did it to everybody. I don't think they were left clean, even the whites. If you killed people, policemen, whites in general just go around killing blacks, it means they also devalue their own lives. Now there is no apartheid wall so what do you do? You move, that vampire will just cross the lines and do it anywhere even amongst itself, amongst your own people because you have been treated to believe that life has no value and therefore how can you uphold life. You don't care. So you do that. Now you do it anywhere and everywhere. At first maybe apartheid would say, well I'm a rapist, I must go and rape in the white suburbs, fix them up. But there's no more a (distinction) in terms of that, so you do it right here in the township and the whites likewise. They used to kill the niggers but now that wall of niggers is no more so I might as well do it here. I am a vampire, I've got to suck blood and it doesn't matter whose blood. So more or less we have been a very, very violent system for a very, very long time. It should have changed to a number of people who have values, giving them wrong values. Nobody cared for you, why should you care for another person? Nobody cares for your life, why should you care for another life? So it goes on, it's a whole process of dog eats dog. One could think that's the reason. And of course also change brings about lots of trauma too. Some people they can't just handle it and something snaps in their minds, because the things that people do you really don't understand. Can any normal person do that? You say something must have gone wrong in the mind of a person doing such an atrocious act. It's very difficult. I sometimes reflect alone that is it an illness or does it come where something snaps in your mind and you do the things that you normally would not want to do, because some of these crimes are so serious that you don't know. Do people sit to plan such crimes or something snaps and then they just operate like that? I don't know, I really don't know.

POM     So I will leave you optimistic or semi-optimistic.

JS     Maybe semi is the right way, or optimistic but cautious.

POM     You don't at this point really expect to learn any more about your brother or are you still hopeful?

JS     Well I'm hopeful, hopeful and sometimes determined to go beyond the TRC. How on earth will I do it but I think I am not just going to leave it. A job started has to be completed. If I can't and I die having not completed that I will be dissatisfied, I will be really sad. I don't think I will go down into my grave happy. I will be sad. And I don't want to go away in this world holding anything against anybody. I just want to go and say enjoy yourself guys, I've had my time, and pass on. I don't want to say, you, you, you, unfinished business. I may be a very vicious ghost if I go away that way. I don't want to go in that way, I want to be a friendly ghost, Caspar the friendly ghost.

POM     OK. Thanks very much. Are there any papers that you can give me that I should have copies of?

JS     I don't think so. This is just an application, it's not necessary. Maybe what you could use is the standard letter. I don't take very kindly to this kind of thing. You know, it's a pity, I've got so many papers. When I was with the SA Council of Churches, during those hard years, 1985, 1986, 1987, the police were really shooting at these kids, terrible, terrible. I couldn't take it. And then I said, no, no, let us write to PW Botha, the President. In the SACC I passed the name around, nobody wanted to do it because it was tough. They said, you want us just to sign our own death warrants, we can't do that. And they thought I was crazy. I said, OK if nobody wants to do it I will do it and I took pen and paper and I wrote to the State President, Botha. I said in this country you, Mr Botha, and your people claim that you're Christians. We also in the struggle claim that we are Christians and if we are Christians let's just have one common ground between you and me. I said our faith is our common ground and if you agree both of us claiming to be Christians, therefore here are the texts I think - I extracted some texts from the Bible, I can't remember which  but something to the effect that you must know that one day I will want the plant of my children, I will blame the ... of my children in your hands. And I said, the police are killing, don't you think one day God will want us to account for those lives, you and me? And when you're confronted by God what is it that you are going to say? Are you going to say you were encouraging them or you were stopping the police? What am I going to say? I was encouraging anybody, the police or who? Just destroying young lives like that. Let's think about that. And I got a reply and I looked at it, I was in a good mood. I said, oh, the President, Mr Botha, has written to me. And I was just in a quiet mood, I said that's fine, at least he has responded and I put it on the table. And I said to one of my sons, you know who wrote to me? He said no. I said, PW Botha wrote to me. Then he went and looked at it. Beautiful letterhead in gold. "Daddy you must be old. That's a standard letter. He has written millions of such letters." That son brought the truth home to me. I looked at him and said, "You could be right boy." He hardly saw the letter, he put it there, but at least they had the decency of writing back. I said OK that's fine.

     When he was going on here with this TRC thing I said where have I placed that letter. This was a time that I would just say, do you remember this? Here's my letter, here's your reply. Or give it to the TRC and say ask him about this. If he says he knows nothing and if he doesn't know anything where is the secretary who denied him all this information? But then I begin to say Archbishop, is it a standard letter and I - like Botha.

POM     Thanks Joe.

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.