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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
07 Aug 1998: Magoba, Stanley
POM First, as I said, thank you for seeing me. Could you tell me how you think the direction of the PAC has changed since you became its President?
SM I think I need to explain a little bit about how I came to be called to the leadership. I had been the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and that is nearly nine years and then I was urgently called to come and be the leader of the Pan Africanist Congress. The truth of the matter is that I had actually been a member before, I had gone to Robben Island and I was called into the Ministry when I was in solitary confinement on Robben Island. So when a lot of members of the PAC reached out to me to say please come now and I resisted and they kept on persisting and they did not stop, I felt that it was right that I should come. I explain this because it has a bearing on my period of leadership but I wasn't coming cold into the PAC, I had been in the PAC. Secondly, I had had many years as a Minister, nearly 30 years as a Minister in the Methodist Church and therefore naturally the emphasis had to be that of how to help this party become its old self or even better self.
The performance of the PAC in 1994 was very poor, disastrous in fact, and there were a number of reasons why that happened. We were not prepared and we were divided, part of the party did not want to go to vote at the time. It was the end of the armed struggle and many felt they wanted to continue the armed struggle so naturally we could not do well. My mission was a mission of trying to bring unity to the various members of the party and I was faced, of course, with terrible horrors in the country. My party was known to be a very extreme party. The slogan 'one settler one bullet' was thrown at us everywhere we went and so, fortunately for the party, I had to call it back to its original policy and fortunately there is a lot of documentation which starts from the inaugural congress in 1959 and my task was really just to say, let us be the PAC that we are, let's cut off the hostility period, the armed struggle period and let us now become the party that we were in the first place. So I brought the party back to particularly the belief in non-racialism and the PAC is incidentally the first party to talk about non-racialism in this country. When other parties were talking about multi-racialism the PAC said no, not multi-racialism but non-racialism.
POM Yet sometimes you are mistakenly taken to stand for being pro-African and anti-white? Is this one of the perceptions you had to work against to change?
SM That is quite right, you have got your finger right on it. We had to say yes we are Africanists and Africanism actually is non-racial. It's a very broad belief in Africa, in belonging to Africa, in the human race. We actually said we belong to one human race and therefore racism is one thing we did not actually have. When I went back to that I wasn't bringing something new. I really was standing firmly on the teachings of Sobukwe and on the original beliefs and documents of the PAC. So this came as a surprise even to some of the PACs who actually had come to believe that they are racists, they are anti-white or so-called. So the first task was to remind the PACs who they are and then to say this is exactly where we should stand and of course for many of the whites in the country they wouldn't believe that. Some still don't believe it but those who sit down long with us come to understand and to believe what we say that we are in fact very, very serious about being non-racial, being Africanist and trying to help SA build itself on the basis of Africanism because we think that there is a problem in this country because of apartheid.
One of the problems is that even many of the white South Africans don't really regard themselves as Africans, they regard themselves as English, meaning belonging to England, Americans perhaps a little bit, but mostly they regard themselves as Germans and French and so on, anything except being African. Even the Afrikaner who uses the word 'Afrikaner' actually coined that word in contra-distinction to African, that we are not Africans but we are Afrikaner, in other words we come from Holland, Netherlands and France and Germany and just happen to be in Africa. So the challenge we are bringing to the rest of the nation, including ourselves, the black Africans, is to say that primarily Africanism is a unifying factor. It's going to help this nation discover who they are and once they start from there then they can build a nation together but if they start from saying no they're black, Africans are only black, then there are Indians here and there are French and what have you, that is a problem. We are all Africans but not by accident, not because we were born here but because we have got a sense of belonging, that we feel we belong here, we feel we are rooted here, we feel we have got to build this country together. So the message of the PAC was a message to PAC members but even more importantly to the rest of SA that we need to try and discover a new way which can bring the nation together, not apartheid based on race or any other thing but something new based on where we are and how we feel about where we are and the sense of belonging to where we are that could be a new way of uniting the people of this land.
So by and large this message came to SA in a way which surprised even our own black members, so that there was that awakening inside the PAC to who they are but also the message went out to a lot of Africans who had not even started applying their minds to this. A lot of whites, even Afrikaners, are now beginning to say we are Africans, not Afrikaners, we are Africans. That change of mind-set. So in a way I've given a very long answer but I do want to say that there is a change, a change of heart, a change of orientation. The people of this land, black, white and others, are all beginning to say yes we are Africans and that it is important that we are Africans.
POM Now if you had to compare and contrast the distinctions between the PAC and the ANC what would be the major contrasts and the major comparisons?
SM Let me start with the commonalities. We actually belong together from history, we have a common history, we shared that history from 1912 to 1959 and when we parted ways in 1959 ironically it was on the question of the wider Congress movement which included the SA Communist Party, the Indian Congress and the Coloured People's Organisation. The PAC at the time said no, we don't want to go that way. The reason they gave was that they had a suspicion that these other people would delay the realisation of freedom, that it would cloud the focus which they saw very, very clearly, but the others said no, no, they are racists, they don't want other people who are not Africans. So there was that change. But in effect I would say inside the ANC there are very many people who would sit where I am sitting or stand where I am standing, and say exactly what I'm saying so there are - we call them Africanists inside the ANC who really believe in the same things that I would believe in but there are those inside there who don't. For instance, one of the major policy emphases was the question of Pan Africanism which was a vision of a united Africa, united states of Africa. The PAC came up with this at the very beginning and it was so excited about it that the name of the party came to be Pan African Congress because they saw this as being a critical thing, trying to undo, as it were, the work of the colonialists and imperialists, try and bring Africa back to her original place. So Pan Africanism was actually the cardinal point of difference between us and the ANC.
POM Just to pick up the point because it's relevant, when the Deputy President talks about an African renaissance, what do you think he means by that in the context of just what you said?
SM I was just about to come to that point, which is interesting because of the fact that the ANC rejected Pan Africanism and there was a time when they hated Pan Africanists. So when the Deputy President came up with 'I am an African' and also the African renaissance, we all couldn't believe our ears and we were wondering exactly what had happened, what had made him change. Perhaps let me say that one of the differences explains this, but when the ANC started rubbing shoulders with the SA Communist Party they hated any movement that seemed to remove them from the international perspective because of the world, that we are an international community, our anthem is the Internationale and they didn't like anything that was original and that was parochial in their thinking. In other words to say you're African meant that you wouldn't fit into the workers' republic or the worker's international community. So that really was a critical point and fortunately the fortunes of the Communist Party in Russia have changed that because even inside the ANC the remarkable things which most of the people who are the ANC who are not communist, or were more Africanist than communist, even those who are communists - of course the other complicating factor was that in the PAC we now began to develop a lot of socialists who would actually believe the same thing that the Communist Party believes in to a very large extent. So that was a complicating factor but the communists inside the PAC, or the socialists inside the PAC, were Africanists, they did not lose their Africanness and the communists inside the ANC the same thing.
So the whole question of African renaissance, that is a very interesting study because I think it shows that there is a bit of change of focus by the ANC. We are rather surprised that the Deputy President didn't say that 'I now believe in African renaissance' and to say 'I support the PAC'. We expected him to say that that's the thing that the PAC has been talking about, I believe this is the time and I support it. By that we would have welcomed that remark but he mentioned it as if it was new, as if he was breaking new ground, as if he had discovered something that was new and we had been talking about it for all these years. So we were rather surprised and we thought he is going to try and explain it as something entirely different from Pan Africanism because if he explains it to be like Pan Africanism people will say, ah-ha, now you agree with the PAC. So I think he is trying to come up with a version of African renaissance which will appear to be different from Pan Africanism and I think he's got a great, great task, a mammoth task because it would have been easier if he had said he believes in Pan Africanism and that Pan Africanism has not taken root in many of the states and therefore there must be an African renaissance. Now that would have made things easier for everybody.
POM So the policy differences, say with regard to economics, socio-economic issues, where are the commonalities and divergences there?
SM Let me put it this way, let me start with the question of land, the PAC has always been very strong on the question of land. In other words saying that there has been dispossession of land and the fact that being three quarters of the population we were only promised, not given, but promised 13% - one three - and that in effect is what was the problem. Many of the ANC would agree with this because that's why they went to prison after all, that's why they went into exile and things like that, but somehow the ANC on the question of land does not want to sound like the PAC even if its saying the same thing lest people say, so you are PAC. So they're trying somehow to look different because they too want land for everybody, they too want distribution of land that is fair and that gives everybody the opportunity to have land. Since the ANC took over they have been rather subdued on the question of land to a point where the Land Restitution Bill as well as the commission that looks after this is actually talking about land that was taken away by the apartheid government since 1948.
POM This is the commission that would be headed by Joe Seremane?
SM And Hanekom, that's right. Mr Hanekom, yes. So their task has been to try and bring back the land that was taken from the black communities since apartheid which is 1948, which is fair enough, we have no quarrel with that. We think that is good but we fear that this might just be narrow in the focus either to buy time or perhaps just to say, no the other one is too difficult, let's leave it as it is. And they can't of course leave it as it is but they are not saying much about it and we are the ones who have always been talking about land, even slogans, posters in the last election did talk about land, how we were going to bring the land back to the people. So on the question of are there commonalities in terms of the struggle, that we're struggling for a new SA, but the ANC tends to be too quiet on the question of land and when it speaks it only talks about land since 1948 which we think is a major limitation. So there are differences there on that one.
The other question of the social justice, we believe in the same things. In other words we believe that the wealth of the nation or the country should be shared, people must be given equal opportunities. But what I would call a major policy shift is that I believe that the ANC policy on sharing and economic justice is a top-down structure. Ours is a bottom-up. What we mean by that is that we think the ANC is trapped and might become more trapped in bringing about changes that only result in the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer and our major emphasis there is that because of the ravages of apartheid the bottom is more important than the top and therefore everything that has to be done between now and whenever must start with the poor. In other words instead of supervising wages for the rich and the not so poor, it must always focus on the needs of those who are down there. In other words PAC would ask the question of any economic change, any bill, how is it going to benefit the poor? Not the poor and the rich, we won't even talk about the poor and the rich, just how is it going to benefit the poor? What ways have we got to monitor that benefits the poor? Is it going to increase employment? If more people are unemployed, more people haven't got food, more people haven't got houses, then we would question a system like that and we have basically got a problem with GEAR for that purpose. GEAR was actually introduced as being something that was going to bring wealth and that was going to help the people actually get jobs and houses. The opposite seems to have been the case, or very little in the right direction.
So on this one we seem to sing the same song as the SA Communist Party. Actually there is a joke told that one of the Communist Party members said to one of our members that why did you bring this Magoba in? Now look, he is already stealing our policy. So, yes, in a sense I think that this was an emphasis that needed to be made.
POM So you think that the ANC's policies are in danger of creating what might be called a black elite where a small number of black people will make out very well but where the vast masses of the people will be in the position they were in twenty years ago or ten years ago?
SM Yes we think so and we think that the transformation, the real transformation must be a transformation for a better life, not necessarily equal, we're not talking in those terms to start with but we're talking about a situation that will give opportunity to everybody, employment to everybody, training, education to everybody, same education that is, to ensure that people are equipped to help in the transformation of their lives. If I were to illustrate it one of the crises that the government has is that of delivering and I want to say they have delivered well on water, that needs to be said, the question of water delivery has been very encouraging. On electricity they have tried but of course the challenges there are really great. But I think the cardinal problem which the ANC has brought about is that it promised people houses and we think that was really ill-advised of them to do that. They should have said we will give you jobs so that you can build your own houses. Now this is an important difference there because it says first of all we will help you but first of all you can't have a house if you haven't got a job. In other words you can only have a shelter or rented accommodation which is all right but say that the first thing that is required is that people must be employed and try and bring in schemes which are labour intensive and which will enable us to have more people working in order to bring about upliftment in our land. Now that sort of scheme would not have given promises to the people which they haven't got, which cannot be delivered, because if you start building houses the people were expecting very good houses like the whites and they didn't know there was a thing like a bond and that you had to be bonded for a very long time and if you failed to pay the house was gone. Now this thing should have been explained to the people that they are going to be employed and for some time you may have to do with a small house but as long as you're employed and you've got a better chance and the government is prepared to help you then you can work yourself into a better house, because that's how the capitalist system works. So unless you come up with a thing like that which shows the people that you will deliver but with them, they are partners in the delivery but you will help them to get the job and then the two will go side by side.
So it was as I say - perhaps if the government had said we will give you water in the first six months, everybody will get water as we work on the other improvements, the people wouldn't have been despondent because they know water is critical for life and if all the money that was available opened the taps all over the country, that's a major reformation or radical transformation in a land if all the people can say they've got that which they don't have today. Even where I come from there is no water. We still have to draw water from wells and we have a borehole if you are lucky enough to be able to afford one but the bulk of the people don't have water and there are huge communities there that haven't got water. Some are lucky they have been able to get water but if the government had put all the resources to that, come three years, four years, everybody would be having water. Then you could say from here we go on and get electricity and make sure that with the same intensity energy is supplied to everybody and then from there you can start - and those two items are very labour intensive. Most people would have been given jobs in that and then of course agriculture would have been the major thing to bring about transformation in food production and trying to develop black farmers which we don't have in this country, try and develop black farmers and then solve your question of land. The question of land can't be solved in a hurry but it must never be forgotten and people must say that it is part of the programme of delivery.
POM I just got a copy from Patricia of the booklet that the ANC issued yesterday or the day before, a very expensively produced pamphlet. Two questions: (i) why do you think they would go to the expense of pouring so much energy into attacking you when they sit on at least 60% of the vote and you don't pose any kind of immediate electoral threat as it were? What do you think is their strategy behind it?
SM I think side by side with that question is the question of why now, why if they knew of all these years about the PAC why are they only coming now with them? And of course basically why at all? Why is it necessary to be paying attention to us? It's a very long answer to this question. One of them is that ANC of course is scared, it's not because of the PAC, it's because of lack of delivery. When we travel all over the country people are complaining, some are angry. Some are actually saying it was better under the white rule. Now for people to say that after being so excited about the black Messiah, Mandela was actually a hero in the nation who came in the nick of time. All of us, even PAC members were excited about Mandela and everybody that now we have got for the first time a black ruler, black government, a black ruler and that was exciting for this country. But now people are saying, no, it would have been better if we had continued to be under the old government. So it's a crisis of delivery, that the government has not delivered enough and it is particularly in the area of poverty and unemployment. I would say it starts there. The other things are peripheral. The poverty is grinding and unemployment is increasing so that the government is now afraid that come the election they might just lose the election because of a complaint, or rather a feeling of being let down.
SM Disillusionment. So that is one reason why and they know that because of our history naturally, as the title of the book says, we would be the alternative. That's why they at first say that don't look at the PAC as an alternative, it has no chance of being an alternative. What they don't realise is that by even addressing the question they make the people actually think more seriously of us as an alternative.
Then of course the other thing is the method they use there is very rough in this booklet. They try character assassination of all the top six leaders of the PAC and it is an impossible task to try and pretend that we don't exist and that we're nothing. What they don't know is that throughout the last 50 years we have lived in communities, people know us and they know of us, they've seen us at work in other ways, there's nobody who can come and believe today that we're worth nothing and that we come from nowhere. They shouldn't have tried that, it's an impossible undertaking. But of course they've got the money and they might be able to spread the propaganda but I think it's going to -
POM Work against them?
POM On the question of money, again the ANC has considerable resources available to it, but when you fight a countrywide election next year what kind of resource base in terms of money will you have to build organisational capacity, to run election centres, to do voter education, help in voter registration and to spread your message?
SM That is actually the major task facing us at the moment. We haven't got money. We haven't got money because our predecessors squandered all the money that was even available at the time. It was little but they just squandered it. So I came into a set-up where there was hardly anything in the treasury and we have tried fund raising efforts which have not borne fruit. We are not discouraged, we will still continue, we are still doing fund raising dinners and we have got a scheme called Operation 1000 where we are trying to get 1000 members of the PAC who are working to give us R1000 each which we can invest as a foundation for administration so that at least we can administer the party. We will go of course to business to ask for more funds, I mean for funds. I don't think we are going to get it but there may be a few sympathetic ones who are going to help us. Then of course there is money from the government that is coming but also the problem is they are saying that we can only get in proportion to the vote we got in 1994 which means very little. This is possibly the one major problem that we are facing.
POM Do you think the ANC is interested in creating a viable multi-party democracy or that while it pays lip service to the idea in reality it wants a one-party dominated state, if not a one-party state?
SM This is a critical question yes, because on the surface you would think that the ANC ought to promote a democracy, a multi-party democratic state because they have a lot of people from all race groups within the ANC which really should make them be encouraged to be democratic but they are not. I think that they are going to run into trouble. At the moment they are already talking about wanting two thirds majority which obviously they want to use for possibly changing the constitution and making the country less democratic, but of course I know they will not get the two thirds majority, they will not. I think they ought to be concentrating on other things instead of frightening people to give us two thirds majority. To do what? I mean this government has got a majority, it's got a very big majority at the moment and what has it done with it for four years? And to say give us more, people will say you don't know what do to with it. I think the ANC will frighten the people unintentionally and I think they ought to be concentrating on assuring the people that they should not worry. I am referring, for instance, to this expensive pamphlet that they have against the PAC. One would have thought that with that money they could have produced less expensive documents, nearly a million of them, and they could go and distribute them in Natal where there is fighting and that would be a better message of peace to Richmond and places like that because that's where the destabilisation is happening and unless they attend to the destabilisation they've got problems.
POM Do you think their attitude with regard to the UDM in Richmond is correct or incorrect? Their refusal to sit down and talk with them? I mean they sat down and they talked with the apartheid government, they sat down ultimately and had to talk with the IFP. Mandela always says negotiate, you negotiate with your enemy not with your friend, and it seems kind of counter-intuitive for an organisation that paid so much attention to the necessity of talking would turn around and say well we're not going to talk to the UDM because it will only enhance their political stature. So what? From 5% to 6%?
SM You have hit the nail on the head. That's precisely that, yes. I have lived in Natal for a long time myself and I have worked in the area of mediation and reconciliation and trying to bring peace in Natal and I know it's a very, very tough thing. But it was made tough because of this obstinacy of the ANC and the IFP, even where they could do things together they just didn't do it together. For instance, the Premier of Natal who was an IFP Premier, Frank Mdlalose, and Jacob Zuma they got on very well together and once or twice they even went to some communities together to be seen together and to say to the people, please don't fight because you can see we are your leaders but we're getting on well together, why don't you do the same? Which I thought was marvellous but they were not allowed to do that for long and rumblings within their parties made them not continue that sort of peace initiative. So, yes, the government should have agreed to talk to the UDM and, as you say, we can't really say that the UDM can harm the ANC. It can't really. It can only harm it if more people die.
POM In the next election what will you be looking for, what objective - or have you set objectives for yourself like saying well if we increase our percentage of the vote from 4% to 10% or 15% that we will consider to be substantial victory, if we fall back and we get 2% we may consider liquidation or whatever? Do you have a strategy as to what you must achieve to remain a viable political influence on the political life of the country?
SM Yes we have and actually our target first of all is higher than that, we are expecting to win 50 seats in parliament minimum with a possible 100 seats. That is achievable, it's actually within our present support level and we think that if ANC does something silly between now and the election we might even get in as an alternative government. It's not impossible but it will require hard work and facilities and things like that. But definitely we would like to correct the impressions of 1994 as far as our party is concerned. Our party should have got at least 10% of the votes last time, at least. We didn't get that. Now we want to get that 10% back. We also want to double the 10% and we are looking at 20%.
POM At 20%?
SM Of support, yes.
POM If you were in a position would you consider going into a voluntary coalition with other parties?
SM Yes, if there were no major divergences on policy. Our difficulty at the moment is that because we were a small party, we came up as a small party in the election of 1994, when you want to make a measure, an alliance, the other party treats you as a small party and therefore you can't make any substantial compromises because people think you are only bringing in that little bit of support. Our view is that I think we are bringing in more than that and so we would like the election to prove that first and then depending on the line-up we would like immediately to consider whether we cannot expand on that in terms of coalition. The other problem which we have is the problem of being exclusively or mostly black. SA cannot be ruled by an exclusively black party or exclusively white party any more, so we are looking into that possibility of looking at a white party that can work with us. I think the Freedom Front and the DP are possibilities.
POM But you conspicuously leave out the NP?
SM Yes. The NP has got - is getting baggage.
POM Have they also lost their identity? I mean once apartheid was over they lost whatever identity they had.
SM I think if there was a way of joining - and of course UDM we cannot join at the moment. I think Mr Holomisa should have joined the PAC. He would have done the best thing for himself and for the party. The UDM, the white part of the coalition, the Roelf Meyer thing, could have come as a stage two rather than a stage one.
POM You could consider the UDM or you couldn't?
SM Not at the moment.
SM Because of the fact that they are also bringing in the baggage of apartheid which at the moment we can't afford. We will need a bit of strength in stature and then we can carry that, although we are not against - we are talking about a possible relationship with the Freedom Front. Those are also apartheid parties. The other alternative is that they have not left under some sort of shadow. Roelf Meyer was, not a shadow, I think Roelf Meyer left the party because of the failure of the NP to throw away apartheid. So it is an honourable reason but I doubt if he will bring in a lot of voters from his area.
POM So that leaves the Freedom Front and the DP?
SM With the possibility of IFP and of course UDM, in that order.
POM When I talk to members of the ANC, again this is something that worries me, it is that they always belittle the opposition parties saying they have nothing to contribute, never say anything constructive, they're all out to destroy the ANC. There's an unhealthy degree of paranoia for a party that has such a big majority. What do you think makes them so insecure and so intolerant or apparently intolerant of criticism?
SM I think it is mostly because of the baggage that they are carrying themselves and a clumsy alliance which is difficult to bring together, to contain, the COSATU/ANC/SACP alliance. It's a very difficult alliance to - in fact the ANC has done very well to have kept it up to now. But the most logical thing should have been for the ANC to dissolve their alliances and form just one party though with the same people, the same history, the whole inclination but not to persist that there are three different entities which remain separate and yet one. It's a very, very difficult concept to carry through. So all the time they are not sure whether they can carry this through and they are afraid that the other people are looking at that alliance they are carrying. The other thing is that they regard, of course, the apartheid government as a major opponent from history although they were in the same government of national unity together. The fact that they went out shows that the NP did not think they were well accepted inside the ANC so that might be some of the reason why they are feeling like that.
POM Well thank you very much, it's been most enlightening and I hope we have the opportunity to have another couple of conversations over the next year until I wrap up. I have always felt I had a lack of PAC people in the study for one reason or another. I began with I think !Khoisan X and then I saw Makwetu once but he didn't follow up and then Patricia has been the centre piece and Barney Desai when he came back from exile. So it's good to meet you and get it from the top.
SM A pleasure. From the new top. Thank you.