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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

15 Nov 1999: Mzizi, Abraham

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POM     Abraham, we have now been talking to each other for ten years. I first met you in 1990 when I visited you in Khumalo Road out in Thokoza and you took me to the hostels out there and that was my introduction to what was going on on the ground in South Africa and now at the conclusion of this phase of my study of all the interviewing, it's ten years later.

     One, for you how have things changed from what they were in Khumalo Road, 55, 57 where you lived, bullet marks in the walls of the house, people tried to burn you out on a number occasions, to the life that you now live? Are you living in truly new SA? Is it the SA that you had hoped would emerge from the ashes of the past? Are there 'wars' between ANC and IFP supporters in Thokoza and surrounding areas despite the opening of the peace monument or are there still tensions? Are the hostel dwellers better off? Have their conditions improved materially? Is IFP support slipping, not increasing, both within Gauteng, nationally and in KwaZulu-Natal itself?

AM     You have touched quite a number of things. Ten years back, the time when we met in 1990, those were the dark ages when things were really upside down. We have moved a long, long way from 1990. Came 1994 when I think there was a slight decline of cold war that we had that nonetheless I discovered that since then, 1990 till today, things haven't actually changed tremendously as one would have hoped or that things have actually changed now that the government, so called government, is a government for the people and for all the people. Yes, you are right when you say have now the hostels improved. Conditions of living have improved. We have embarked now on a new thing which I think might bring changes in the hostels. Since 1990 a lot of our people, that is the IFP supporters, fled the area which was actually predominantly regarded as ANC territory and they moved in a very small area where we all had to condense in small four-roomed houses, some had to find themselves with their families in the hostels. It's no longer now the hostels that used to be a single dweller structure.

POM     Sorry, they are no longer existing or they still exist?

AM     They still exist but families are now living right in the hostels.

POM     The families come from?

AM     From the areas where they fled and running away from those cold wars. They haven't been back to their area where they came from because some of them their houses were destroyed and most of the people had shacks and those shacks were destroyed and it is difficult for them to go back. So we decided that in all of that perhaps we could bring peace to everybody. Some of the hostels as a short term should be converted into family units which we hope to cater for everybody there, those families living there with their wives and children and we know that it will take time before we can have everybody accommodated, but in the long term yes, hostels would be phased out, no longer the dormitory structure that they were. They might be converted into such structures that even if we do have a lot of people in one cubicle you might probably change it to four-roomed houses so that we might have four people, if they so wish to, to live as bachelors because we would have to actually take into account how people want to live but we want to make structures that would be inhabitable.

     There are a number of occasions, as you said, that my life has been attempted. Things have changed in a way that I have never been back to my first house which was destroyed utterly. It has been rebuilt.

POM     That's the one on Khumalo?

AM     No that one is down towards the stadium. It's in Mandisa Street. The house number was 2075 Mandisa Street, Thokoza. Yes, indeed, 52 Khumalo Street it was also my house which was also on a number of occasions attacked though it was not utterly destroyed. I have also had to leave that house as well. I am now living in town, in Alberton itself, but not that I had to move because of the attacks. I had to move to town because in 1994 I had to come down to Cape Town and I would find it very difficult for Gertrude, as she was also busy in the provincial parliament, to take care of children to and fro to school. So we had to move to town closer to a school where children could just walk to the school without any hindrance and come back home without probably being delayed that nobody picked them up. So as far as the family life is concerned we are quite happy and I am sure we have all forgotten what had happened.

POM     Do you still own the house in Khumalo Road?

AM     I still own the house in Khumalo Street, I'm in the process of selling it. I don't think I will bother really having too many structures in my name. I am also in the process of selling that house so I would probably have only one house in town.

     Coming back now to the environment in Thokoza itself, you touched a number of things, among others is the monument, unveiling of the monument. Padraig, to create peace peace is not an event, it is a process, it takes quite a number of things and quite a number of times before you could say now we have now reached a settlement of peace. What is happening, as you have seen the unveiling of that monument, we tried to create an environment where we could find co-operation between ANC and IFP. Once we can clinch that or establish that, that there is co-operation between the two parties, that members on the ground they don't see each other as enemies, then we would say phase one has been completed. Then we can start now talking how we can achieve peace and everlasting peace. That in itself must come within the people themselves by education.

POM     Do you think phase one has been completed?

AM     Phase one is in a process of being completed.

POM     The last time I talked to Gertrude, which must be at least 18 months ago, she said that she never crossed the threshold, even as an MP, a member of the legislature, and went into 'ANC territory'.

AM     It is indeed so. If you were in my boots you would realise that when I left my first house the manner in which I left that first house, it wouldn't be easy for me to look back in the near future and go and live there and that's one threshold that probably Gertrude was referring to. We don't imagine at one stage or the other, even if there could be any peace, going back into that house because there would be something that would be haunting us and the past would not be closed. It would be better, that's the reason why we said let's sell the house, let's close the chapter, let there be no history because if we were to go back into that house, even if you change the style

POM     That's the one on Mandisa Street?

AM     Exactly, people would still come and say, "Yes, I remember this house was like this and this. Oh yes, I remember this house." Now if we have completely vacated the house that history or that chapter is closed. Nobody will ever talk of it, neither my children will actually speak of it. That's how we thought of it. And going back also into walking into the streets of Thokoza, it's not easy, I don't find it easy myself, within myself. I do go to places but I make sure that I go to the place and get back as quick as I can. I no longer have that freedom because the past hasn't completely gone by. If I have a fight with you, when the fight is over then I know that I no longer have a fight but if it was free for all and how it started, you don't know the end. It might probably stop, you don't know when it's going to start. We have not sat down and said, yes, what happened, what went wrong, why were we at war? Nobody has ever done that and for that reason it has just stopped and nobody has actually got into the nitty gritty to find out and say never ever shall we go back and do that because it was never discussed. That is the reason.

POM     So it could start again?

AM     Whoever wants to start it can start it again. That is the long and the short of it.

POM     So all the old antagonisms are still there but they're now under the surface and aren't expressing themselves in daily warfare?

AM     Well as I said to you earlier on, I think when we educate people, when we talk to people probably this will prevail in their minds and they would start seeing the light on the other side of the tunnel. We are actually talking to people. We are meeting people. You would be surprised, you find people say, you know war is a funny thing, we used to do this and this and this together, and what a waste of time. A number of years had gone by without sitting down and looking at our problems. Now that alone tells us something that if those people who were there, who had seen what was happening, they are tired of it, they would never wish this thing should come back again. That gives courage that in the near future, it might not be ourselves, but our children might see better lives in the near future.

POM     Do people in Thokoza, do IFP people or supporters still refer to ANC supporters as Xhosa speaking and do they still believe, as they used to believe, that the aim of the ANC was to wipe out the Zulu speaking people and establish a one-party Xhosa speaking democracy or one-party Xhosa speaking state?

AM     Padraig, it's difficult to interpret the feelings of the people. What had happened took everybody by surprise. It was Xhosa versus Zulu to start off with.

POM     That was between - ?

AM     It started in 1990 but in 1991, 1992, 1993 then it became IFP, ANC, Xhosa, Zulus,  but you would find in both parties that you had Xhosas in IFP, you had Zulus in the ANC, you had Sothos in the IFP all these ethnic groupings were members of these two parties and therefore the thought of people that the ANC is a Xhosa party or the IFP is a Zulu party while it was something that was there which was created by people in speculation but I don't think that will be wished away. The people would always think that when you are an IFP you are a Zulu, when you are ANC you're a Xhosa.

POM     They would always think that?

AM     People will always tell you that. It's in the mind and, as I say, if we can succeed in phase one to create that co-operation then we might succeed as well and conquer the everlasting peace at that time then people would probably cease recognising people by their party because during those times people could no longer say this is Mr Mzizi, they would say this is an Inkatha, and if they meet an ANC, this is an ANC. We were no longer called by our names, we were called by our parties, and that has sort of subsided now. People refer to people as Mr X and Y, no longer ANC, no longer IFP. During those times it was rife and I think that's the antagonism that actually would be carried to those who lived during those times for quite a long time.

POM     Do you go back there often still or is that a phase of your life that's over? You live in Alberton and you are either going to Cape Town or you're going to Pretoria or you're on the move?

AM     Thokoza is my place. What I say to you is I'm no longer frequenting the streets of Thokoza but there are places where I go. I still have property as I said. In Khumalo Street is still my house. I know I'm in the process of getting rid of it but my branch, I belong to a branch there in Thokoza, I have to attend meetings in Thokoza very often, not now and again, very often because that's where my branch is, that's where my constituency is and the constituency office is in Thokoza so we are compelled by virtue of our work to be there because the constituency office is there and Gertrude has to be there if there is any meeting or any business, if she's not seen in parliament that she should be in Thokoza. So we are actually going to Thokoza. We have never stopped being in Thokoza, not that now we are living in Alberton and we've now sort of said goodbye, we don't want to go back.

     But to touch quickly on your inquisitive question that why is IFP not growing, not going down. Yes we did not work as the way we would have expected us to do in the 1999 elections in June. This was eminent in that we had to embark on a new thing which was not done in 1994. In 1994 people were given IDs irrespective whether these IDs were bar-coded or not but in 1999 then people would only be allowed to cast their vote if they had the bar-coded IDs. That alone you would know that we are coming from an era that has actually changed the life of a black man. People could not obtain their reference books then, it was difficult then now as person to say as old as I am I never had a reference book, now I want an ID. Now it was a process that would take longer time, people must now establish themselves, they should be witnesses that yes we know this person is South African born, I know the parents, and the person who was supposed to bear the testimony must be ten years older than you.

POM     To get a bar-coded ID?

AM     Yes, because some of the people had never ever had anything to identify themselves.

POM     Would they not have had pass books?

AM     No, because people, as you would know, if I may share that sentiment with you, people who were from outside the urban area could not come in the urban area, work in the urban area. Now people would then go in the urban area before they could obtain the reference book there. Now it was difficult to obtain this. People would then live without and they would grow older and older and older and when 1986, when the pass laws were scrapped, then it was easy for everybody now to come but people did bother then to apply for reference books. And it is 1986 when these bar-coded IDs started but it was not enforced but when they printed the ID books then, then they started with these bar-coded IDs. So people did not have, everybody did not have it. Up until now there are people who don't have IDs, who don't even have reference books. We are still applying for those people to have the same, so we would probably still have the same problem in November if this process is not quickly unfolding.

POM     Why does that hurt the IFP more than the ANC?

AM     Well I wouldn't say actually it I would say mostly, yes, it actually worked in the favour of the ANC because you will find that most of the people who voted for us, some of them were not the urban people and as such most of them did not have IDs. One other aspect also that became an obstacle to us, people did not understand the process. There were those who went to KZN and registered themselves there as voters. At the time of elections they did not have time to go back and go and cast their vote there. They wanted to vote here but because they did not have the declaration which they were supposed to have had they did not apply that on time. They thought well, it's like 1994 they can cast their vote wherever they are and they were told at the police station you can't vote, finish and klaar. Also who registered them here in Gauteng or in the urban area and went back to KZN due to unforeseen circumstances, if a person was now unemployed and there was no reason that the person stays here, this person leaves now the urban area and goes back to KZN but they did not apply for a declaration, the same thing applied to that person there. They wanted to cast their vote, they said no you can't cast your vote here, you must go back to the urban area and it was only one day. You get there on a particular day, you are told a particular day, you can't take an aeroplane or anything that will get you on time to go and cast a vote. These were some of the things that hampered the progress but which we hope now in 1999, in the year 2000 that we would have overcome that. We are actually gearing ourselves up. That's how we have geared ourselves that come the local elections people would have handled that.

POM     Does that bell mean you've got to go?

AM     That's the bell. We are schoolboys here, we have to rush to the classroom.

POM     Can I have another half hour with you between now and when I leave?

AM     I don't know, I really would not know how long you're going to be here. This week is fairly tight scheduled.

POM     Next week sometime?

AM     Next week I will be here until the 19th.

POM     Well I will be here till then.

AM     Then I will be going to Gauteng for constituency work.

POM     OK, well I will be back in Gauteng after that too.

AM     OK, then you can give me a call when you're in Gauteng.

POM     I could actually go out to your constituency and meet you there. I'd like to see it, I'd like to go back to Khumalo Road and go to the hostels again.

AM     I'll give you a bicycle when you get there, you can cycle.

POM     I'll have Judy check with you and when you go to your constituency office I will go there. I'd like to talk to some of the people. Is Gertrude still abroad?

AM     No, no, she's now back. They have started the parliament.

POM     Oh she is back. I thought she was away for three months.

AM     She was abroad but she is now back because she had to work as well.

POM     You could tell her I will give her a call and see her in Gauteng too.

AM     OK.

POM     OK. I will get you too. 

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.