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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

16 Nov 1999: Seremane, Joe

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POM     Joe, we've been talking for many a year now and at the beginning of it you were with the SA Council of Churches and it's been a long journey around with many things happening in your life and you end up here as a member of parliament for the Democratic Party. Let me first ask you, from the years you spent on Robben Island and the years of the struggle afterwards, is the South Africa that is emerging out of the struggle, the South Africa that you and others dreamed of or is it something different?

JS     It's a very, very mixed picture. There are aspects that are very true of SA that now we do have the vote which we did not have and there are certain things that are taking place which could not ever have taken place under apartheid. You take simple things like mixed sport, you can go and live wherever you want to live, there is freedom of movement but then those are the basic things. Then there are signals that one gets very worried about. I mean the crime that's taking place is scary, it's not what we fought for. We thought that when we were free, things would be much better than under the oppressive regime. Then you think of the corruption that's taking place then you begin to say that most people who were corrupt, or the corruption takes place within government circles and these are people who should have known, who were involved in the struggle wanting a better society. Now why all of a sudden do they get involved in corruption? Those are the things. And the intolerance, there is so much intolerance that you begin to doubt whether we really understand when we talk of freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of belief. Being in the opposition, I don't know why it is an issue, but people like me being black when you join the DP suddenly you are doing something very wrong as far as people are concerned.

     Why does colour come into the picture? We are saying we are a non-racial state and we struggled for non-racialism and when we begin to change the colour pattern, the racial patterns, then there is that intolerance, that stigmatisation and you do not understand. Obviously when all these negatives take place we didn't struggle for negatives, we hardly struggled for negatives. It is so bad that people are almost organising along racial lines themselves, the very people who were fighting against racism are now becoming racists, everything is according to race and we have to transcend that.

     Yes sacrifices have to be made and I am quite clear in my mind what I am doing. It's not that I woke up one morning and did not know what to do and I saw myself landed in the Democratic Party. No, I made my choices and I thought and I said we're moving forward now and it's very true like I've always said, everybody, we wanted to win the 1994 elections and party did not mean anything, it just meant those of the oppressed people and the ANC had been proven the best at the time and we wanted them to win for ourselves. It was a liberation election. But like I've said, and I've said it on that very day when the queues were so long at the polling stations and I looked at it and I marvelled at it and said we're going to get the vote, people are going to win and everyone was taking ANC. At that time I felt it's good, we're going to win but the sooner we also begin to be and strengthen an opposition party, then we're going to be in trouble because they are going to win overwhelmingly and you know what absolute power does. It corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So I said it must be checked, we cannot give them 100% win, there must be an opposition. And it is for that reason, that's the first one, to make democracy work. Democracy is not going to work without an opposition. That's the first thing.

     The second thing, by trying to look at predominantly white parties the DP was the nearest to what we believed in. It had been for a very long time, people like Mrs Suzman, almost a voice for those who were oppressed. They fought our cause in a different way. They may have been in parliament like people argue, but to be in a place does not necessarily make you wrong.

POM     It's like being in parliament allowed her to say things she couldn't say outside.

JS     Couldn't say anywhere and nobody of us could say them that easily. She stepped out, she fought that political prisoners must be recognised when they said just criminals, the regime said there are not political prisoners in SA, criminals, Mrs Suzman fought and made it a point and they recognised that. These are not just common prisoners, these are political prisoners, and she managed to pay visits. Mandela said it is from this she established that people could receive visits from high people. So all that. Now it's conveniently been forgotten and they are playing the racist card. When you are black joining the DP you are an Uncle Tom, you are a Muzorewa they say. But when a white joins the ANC that's fine, it's not selling out.

     So those are things that we did not fight for and you see even debate, I listen to the debate, I get terribly disappointed in parliament. The debate is low standard, it's just verbal abuse, it's not political banter, it's abuse absolutely. 50% of the things they say they could be sued for libel and I think it's irresponsibility. They abuse the hell at opposition. It's absolute, it's a disgrace. You have young students, people in the gallery, they are trying to show off that they rubbish the opponent, the opposition. But the truth of the matter, they are planting seeds of irresponsibility. People think that this is how politics are done. A person who differs with you must be slaughtered.

POM     Why do you think that the ANC is so vehement to opposition in parliament when it has virtually a two thirds majority? It's not as though the opposition is breathing down its neck and was a threat to it.

JS     It's very surprising. Either intrinsically they lack confidence I don't see, that's exactly what surprises me. If they have such a good win why so intolerant? What is it? So intrinsically it shows there is some kind of insecurity that one cannot pinpoint what it is firstly. The second thing, I think they are power hungry. If they could have all the power in their hands it would be OK, hegemonic. That's what they're looking for. No interplay must be there and I think they have some other things in their minds which they do not express what kind of a society do they really want. Do they want a little politburo taking charge of everybody's lives? You subject yourself to them, disown yourself as an individual and just listen to what the politburo says, where you are shackled and re-deployed and those are our terms. Settled and re-deployed around the country as though you have no roots anywhere. I think that's the kind of thing where only they who believe in the same thing should be the ones to be heard, the only voices.

     I don't think that's true democracy and I don't know why it is that they fear simple, straightforward, political debate, democratic debate and interaction. If you are true democratic you may say, OK I'm content, I'm running for elections five years and after five years I may be changed. You don't grab power and cling to power that way because we know once people are returned for a period of four times, periods of five years four times, there is bound to be trouble. It's been shown.

POM     They think they own the seats.

JS     Yes, it's bound to be trouble, entrenchment. Because even now they use instruments unfairly against their opposition. There have programmes, they mostly are in charge of them. If they change the programme it's all changed.

POM     In the portfolio committees it's virtually all ANC chairmen, they don't give any place to any member of the opposition.

JS     Yes. Even then you're not listened to. I always say, listen to a person even if you differ with that person, hear a person out. When you open your mouth, there's a whole lot of screaming and screaming and if you don't have your wits about you you're going to be responding to all those verbal abuses and at the end of the day the country is that much poorer because you did not apply your mind to the debate, you were responding to the stupid interjections which are rude, vulgar. That is why I say half the things they say, people say in parliament, could get them in serious trouble out of parliament. And if that be the case, where is the self-discipline and responsibility like adults? You don't hurl abuse at people just like that. The leaders of today, first election, first democratic election and second democratic election, perhaps the third and the fifth, have got a special responsibility to this country. They must be statespersons, they must set an example and set the tone for the future, but if we operate like we do now, we operate like rogues, what are we saying? We are saying let our country go down to the dogs. Where there is intolerance the one who has power can do what they want and shut up everybody and we cannot hope and I don't think it's ideal that all of us should think the same way. Then it means that we are a very poor country.

POM     Like Orwell.

JS     We pride ourselves with diversity but in practice we don't want it. We want conformity, Big Brother is watching you, that Orwell stuff. We cannot do that.

POM     Do you think that now with the increasing concentration of power in the presidency, the fact that I think it fairly recently came out from the University of Cape Town showing that ministers are less accountable to parliament, the fact that all the portfolio committee chairpeople are ANC and are unlikely to take on their bosses, particularly in a party list system it's not exactly the way to advancement to dress down your minister in public. Given that most of the transformation legislation was passed in the first parliament, what is the role of parliament now?

JS     That's a good question, that's a very good question. Sometimes you really ask yourself I want to confess, I've sat and agonised over and over that is it correct that people should come here and just sit. Once in a while we do something for the sake of the country and most of the time you don't know what is happening. Those who know are those who are in the majority, in their little caucus meetings they are doing whatever they are doing and when it comes to parliament per se it's just a formality, little resemblance of doing something even in the portfolio committees which, of course, when you are few in number in the opposition they are also just meaningless, it's just a continuation of the background caucus party meeting and then there's a formality, portfolio, you talk as though you are debating issues but you know it's the voice of the ruling party, you are not going to change it. Even if it is reasonable you are at their mercy, they are not big enough to say you've got a point, yes we take it. No, they must hide it and do all sorts of things, exactly like the oppressors did. The oppressors never told you you are right, they will just muddy the pool and when you're thinking oh it's all gone, then they come up with it in a different version. I think that's very peculiar and childish. So that's that.

     About the centralisation of power it's scary, it is very scary. Supposing I had to differ with the President you can just see what will happen. You differ with him, you're gone. The whole chain of authority, there's a ripple, everybody now wants to get you off because one person doesn't agree with you. They must sing the master's voice. And when they say they differ in their caucuses I don't believe it, I don't believe it. It's conformity. There must be a bloc that's subjected to shut up and do nothing else but shut up and the others must carry out the master's voice. I don't think there are even people who are independent. I am sure they just keep quiet if they want to remain or survive.

POM     If you start making yourself ornery you'll find that you're not on the list the next time around.

JS     Yes.

POM     Do you think in that context that some kind of electoral reform may be moving more to something like the German system where half would be elected by proportional representation and half by direct constituency, would get you away from that your first loyalty is to the party because they are the people who choose you to be in parliament, whereas your first loyalty should be to the people who elected you and can unelect you if they so wish?

JS     Well that arrangement depends on the mettle of the people. They always say people always get the government they deserve, so that if South Africans are going to sit back and watch things happen, they will continue this way for the worst. But if South Africans are conscious of their rights as voters, all and sundry, they will begin to see that their system does not work. It can't only be party and maybe we should go on those federal grounds where people have got more responsibilities and loyalty to something else and they are also protected by those constituencies against centralised power by the party because if they object they also check the party to say you cannot run affairs this way. I can't see any constituency querying anybody or sending anybody here with our current system. It's dominated by the party and it's worse at provincial level and local level. There is absolutely no reason why the party should dominate there at local level where issues are just common issues for everybody. Why must it be there? Let people elect people according to performance.

     Now and again you are reminded of the Kremlin. When you look at it you think, are we veering towards that set up of the Soviet Union? Are we little Soviets here, euphemistically called provinces? For goodness sake, I say, no matter what system it is, a political system has to be human and it must be an instrument of the people, not the people its instrument. Whichever way we want to get to democracy, socialism, what have you, common person, prince or pauper is a human being and human beings must have all these other tools at his or her disposal. But if they are subjected and made cogs of a machinery, a system, a social system or political system, then we are in serious trouble, we are really in serious trouble.

POM     Do you ever raise these issues with people you know in the ANC, from the old days who are here now?

JS     Things have changed. I don't think you can have such a debate with a person of the ANC when you don't belong to the ANC. You cannot. They think in a certain mould, they are intolerant no matter at what level, one to one basis or what, they are just intolerant and they think in one mode. They can't think out of that mode so you hardly talk. It is their way, their way, it's a very funny way. I don't understand to be like that. Sometimes I would play the role of somebody else, not necessarily that I believe in that, just to test out thinking, how do we go about it. They just think that if you had a debate with them, if you don't put them as a member of the ANC then they can't talk. I have found them very funny. Crowds do that to me. It's almost like they are taking something away from you, collectives that do not want to recognise individuals do that to you. Even your thinking must be the same and I think it's impoverishment more than anything. If you listen to one speak you're sure you're going to have that kind of thing right through until somebody else who is regarded as influential changes the tune, otherwise everybody is going to say it and you will be unpacking, unpacking, unpacking, consolidation, consolidation, you know the kind of rhetoric that goes on. So it goes on and I don't think it's very fertile to live in such a society where when the master says 'Ping', everybody says 'Ping' for everything. No, no, no.

POM     Do you feel you're making a useful contribution here or that there's room to make a useful contribution?

JS     Well I think it is firstly that to show the signal to insist that there be an opposition. I think that's a big contribution towards democracy, that to be in opposition does not necessarily mean that you are an enemy. That has to be impressed on the minds of our people because the great impression that's been done is that when you're in opposition you're anti-transformation, you're racist and you're an enemy which is not true and I think all those labels that are hurled are from irresponsible minds and mouths who are harming democracy more than they are helping themselves. That's the contribution insisting on democracy, dissension and free speech and I think it is good, the little that we say as opposition is good because it's again a second voice. There can't be one voice in a democracy and more so in a multiparty society such as ours. I think that's a contribution. Coming to personally, I think one could do more outside this parliament like being closer to the people and doing things that you can do for them rather than being boxed up here where you're told when to do things and when not to do things. That's the difference and it should have been the other way around. Parliament should have been an instrument of the realisation of people's needs but now it seems to be you are in a straitjacket, almost in the clouds, cut off from the people.

POM     I was just reading, I didn't know there had been talks going on among the parties about forming coalitions or maybe amalgamating or something along those lines, there were no details worked out, but I noted in yesterday afternoon's Argus which said that if parties were to do that, if they were to merge that they would all lose their seats because of the way the law works at the time, it would be like crossing the floor, you'd be joining a different party therefore you wouldn't belong to parliament any longer. But it also said that parliament could pass a law that would abnegate that provision and allow parties to do that. Do you think that could prove to be a test case? If some parties decided to amalgamate or whatever or form an alliance under a new identity and they went to the ANC and said this is what we propose to do, and the ANC said, well you need to pass a law to do that and we're not going to pass the law, that that would be a clear indication that they were anti multiparty democracy? Do you know the point I'm getting at? They could provide the opportunity for the merger of parties for a stronger, united opposition to emerge or they can say tough luck, the constitution says

JS     No I understand. In a true democracy anybody who has got sound advice or sound proposals they've got to be taken into consideration. It doesn't matter whether they're in the majority or the minority and if parties feel that way that has to be taken and it must be debated, not just shut up, it must be debated, proposed, moved and debated and then it will depend which way the scale goes firstly. But I say if people want to do that, parties want to do that, I think it's their democratic right to do that even if there are prices to pay they can do that. If they are really serious they can abandon those seats if they want to and just say we are who we are and lose all those seats and then it will mean then that there is something wrong with parliament. There must be some kind of election if all the opposition parties are no longer there then something's wrong, it's negating the outcome of the elections therefore we must have a referendum of some kind to endorse that they will go on alone or not, what do the citizens say. Do they want one government party or what? So that is what will happen.

     The other thing, I think also the media, maybe the media people are a little premature. What I know is happening is that parties are looking, opposition parties are looking at areas of co-operation. They are not saying we are going to shed our identity. They say, given this, with all that is stacked against us being small in number, what are the issues that we can co-operate on to carry through some issues. If we want A to be done can we be together and lend each other support on all those particular issues and then a complete merging I think that will come later on if it must come, it will come at a later stage because I think the most sensible thing is to try it out on issues. See on how many issues can you co-operate. If there are various and you have tried it out then maybe there can emerge something that lets us merge under a total different character. Maybe you even re-look at all your principles, all of you and see what is it, what outcome can be there that satisfies you all and you don't feel you have lost anything.

POM     I want to talk to you, Joe, for a minute about the past. Have you come to terms with it now, terms with what happened to Timothy, terms with the TRC? Is that behind you, terms with how you were treated at the Land Commission?

JS     Firstly with the TRC I don't think there's much that's changed. I am still waiting, I have not been told anything. That's the first thing. The second, I will get you a letter which I wrote to the TRC pleading for further information.

POM     No more now than - ?

JS     No, no better since the last time you saw me because I am still unanswered. I don't know, the last time we went as far as me meeting with the when we did the documentary with General Masondo. That's a little gain we made. We met and he explained and I understood the problems they were in, not necessarily that I believed him, he was like a propagandist. I listened to him, he sees it his way, they were suffering but that's no justification that you should violate other people's rights. Still it did not satisfy me but I was happy on a human basis that he had the big-heartedness of ignoring the political role and coming to say, "Joe, I know you, we were together on the Island, I think I need to be with you to explain." I did not pass judgement, we just spoke of a process and given the circumstances that was about the best thing. "I saw your brother" according to him he was a problem, he did this and that and that. But being a problem and wrecking vehicles does not merit you to be killed.

POM     He was tortured too.

JS     He was tortured. But we are not arguing that. I really wanted to give him a fair chance. It annoyed me but I gave him a fair chance and I respected him for having come to that point where we were together and he said, "Let me see what we can do." But those are empty promises. What will he do alone when the entire collective is not wanting to do any particular thing. There's nothing he can do about it.

POM     He must know where, if he was like the overseer in charge of the process or whatever, then he must know where these people are buried.

JS     Yes but he doesn't come up with that. He may be betraying the collective. You see that is the problem, trapped in the collective. The collective, the politburo!

POM     Could you say to him or were you did you say please tell me?

JS     I did say please tell me where. I asked to see the document of it if it's documented. He said, "I don't know, there are many people, I don't know where they are buried and what have you. Even our dear ones, we don't know where they are buried." That's not giving you an answer. Certainly there must be a dumping area where they dump people and do that. It seems it's a mighty task to unearth those people, you don't even know who's who, the remains. He said, "Well I have a big problem", but still it does not answer me but we left it there. That's the first thing. And three weeks ago late at night just around the corner there was a meeting here at Idasa and when I left that meeting at Idasa it was something past ten and I went to the automatic banking machine, ATM there to try and check my account, whether I've got money, and as I stood there somebody just came and I thought, "Oh this is a mugger he's going to rob me", but when I looked at him he stopped dead in his tracks and he looked at me and after some time he called me by name and this is a guy, I don't know this person, and normally when you hear somebody knowing you get happy and excited and I was happy, "Hey, tell me who are you?" This person wouldn't tell me who he is and I said "Who are you?" He wouldn't tell me and then he said, "No, if I told you, you will be uncomfortable, you'll be upset." I said, "No I won't be upset. I really don't remember who you are. You know me, it's quite clear you know me but if I've offended you you must forgive me and if you have offended me don't be afraid, I've got a big heart I will forgive you but I'm truly interested in knowing who you are because you know me." And I actually said, "Don't deny me that thing of ours called ubuntu. You have shown me that you recognise me as a person. I always want to recognise you as a person, the complete thing will be when I have got your name then we will be happy we are meeting, we have not met for many years." Then he says, "No." Then he says another thing that didn't fall into place quite well with me, he said, "No if I tell you then you are going to run to the press." And I said, "What has the press got to do with somebody who knows and I've forgotten him? What has that got to do? It doesn't make sense to me. Why must I go to the press when I really want to know your name because you know me. I don't know, I can't remember where I saw you. I want to place you in my mind." Then he says the most surprising thing, he said, "I am the one who is said to have killed your brother." That was a thing but instinctively and genuinely, because I said this guy I was excited that he knows me, I don't know him, I really wanted to meet him, and when he said this now I still went and stretched my hand out to him and shook him and said, "Is that so? Oh, how I would have loved to have more time with you. I've been searching. I want just to be told. Look, let me tell you here and now I don't bear you a grudge. I just want to know and I can tell you all my people feel like me, I represent them. The way I react to you that's the way they will react to you, we will bear you no grudge. We don't know what has happened here but we want to get the answers we are looking for. That's it. Can't we meet?" And he said, "No, I must first meet my principals." Then I said, "You know, you're just the same. The General could not meet me full way because he had to meet his principals. You can't meet me, you have to meet your principals. What are you subjected to? I am not in a straitjacket, I am reacting just like this and that is I am sure my people will not disagree with me because this is what we mean. You can't do it. You can't interact with me like a human being, you must first go and ask for some permission. I don't understand you. You've abandoned your individuality, your freedom. I have to be acting like a human being and nobody is going to tell me to act otherwise. When my human instincts tell me act human I am going to do that, I don't need anybody to give me permission to be a human being. That's now subjecting my whole life to an individual and when it comes to faith I am now worshipping a human being, I'm no longer worshipping God as such. You must listen to your dictates of what your conscience tells you what humanity is all about."

     So this is as far as we can go and with the Commission on Restitution I am still waiting. I don't know what the problem is, we can't conclude it.

POM     But you got a letter three weeks ago from them?

JS     Well I wrote to the TRC. I will look for it here. I wrote to them and it was about a week or two before I met this guy. I wrote to them. I said if anybody were to ask for amnesty on the basis of my brother's death then I want to be involved and not only him also the other chappie, one of us, little boys. Then they wrote back to me and you will see the letter. Coming back to this other guy that I met, I just looked around. I'm in Cape Town and somebody just comes out of the dark in the night and calls me. Am I safe or not safe? That's what I thought but I still maintain, I'm not a brave person but if I must lose my life for wanting to know those questions or answers, well so be it. To me it damns them more than anything. If anybody is going to do anything to me simply because I ask the questions then so be it and like them be confirmed murders!

POM     But what would the point be of coming out of the dark and saying, "I am the person who is said to have killed your brother. I'm not going to tell you anything else, it's ten o'clock at night, goodbye now", and disappear into the darkness. Why did he bother to do it unless you were being sent a message?

JS     Yes it's funny. That's right, I was about to say either the guy realised that it was a moment of truth for him but he found it very difficult because of certain rules of theirs, he had to observe certain things, rules, secrecy, discipline. He found it difficult. Or he is trying to send a signal to me that we're watching you, there is no move you're going to take, we know you. You are right in Cape Town, we are already here too. And he came from around and how many are watching me every day. So I walk in faith and I say if anything happens that's nasty it will merely confirm I have great, great confidence in humanity and time. If they will just reinforce one thing that they are bad people, they are murderers and over a period of time these are the things that make a government collapse completely. It's all classical, Nebuchadnezzar he will walk on fours, both on his hands and feet, when you are a dictator. So to me it will just be reinforcing the fact that something is wrong with these people. If that's a sacrifice I have to pay, well too bad. We engaged in the struggle knowing full well that they will kill us and we didn't want to be killed. We were tortured, we didn't want to be tortured and if you want answers for fairness and justice and your own do that and they do then it means they are of the same class with the regime. They don't have to be asked questions, what they say is the 'truth', whatever the other person says is not true.

POM     So after that did he just disappear into the night?

JS     He disappeared. I can't even identify him because it took me by surprise, real surprise. I didn't even have time to scrutinise how he looks like. But I'm happy I reacted that way. I reacted truly like myself. Well it's for him, I take the upper moral ground. If they are unhappy about me with all the machinery they have then it's really funny that they don't realise that I have nothing, nothing. The DP is not a bunch of thugs, they are principled people and they will never support you when you're doing untoward things. Even now they respect me, they never come and placate me, "Well let's use your TRC experience." They never do that, they respect my feelings, they respect my family's feelings. They are not using it as a political anything to get at the ANC. It's my domain. If I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to talk about it. I'm trying to show you the kind of people I associate with but I am sure they would have used me like a tool every time to say those people did this to me, those people did that to me.

     There are people that I've heard that they say I like raising this issue and my question to them of the ANC, I like raising this question about my brother. What do they expect me to do? What do they expect? Do they expect me to keep quiet and say all is well when they are suppressing the truth? They are not telling how good he was and that kind of charge of being a spy has not been tested. I have a different story that I heard. It's not my story, it's a different story and why don't they want SA to hear that version? That's my problem with the TRC too. Why is this version not given a chance to emerge and be heard by South Africa? Because they know those guys and one of them just passed away now. The memories are gone, buried. It's only one left who cannot speak, the one who is a soldier I mean my informants. Remember those two young chappies?

POM     Yes, yes. One died.

JS     One died, yes, a couple of months ago he died and there is only one left and that one can't speak freely because he's in the army and I understand. The other one who passed away was very brave, he didn't mind apparently because he lost his brother too. This one was just the only one arrested, detained. That one was detained and lost his brother, that's why maybe he too was prepared to pay any price for his own brother.

POM     He lost his brother?

JS     In Quatro Camp. He himself was captured, he ran away, escaped from Quatro Camp so he had all that memory and he carried that sad pain to his grave.

POM     The ANC, it seems to me, or the MK, whoever, their commanders could at least take people to the areas and maybe say we don't know exactly where your brother or your uncle or your father is but this is the general area in which we buried people.

JS     Yes, and they could put up a sign there.

POM     We may not be able to identify somebody one by one but at least we can show you

JS     That's what reconciliation means.

POM     And that would be the gesture.

JS     A good gesture, let's bury this past. Many things went wrong but together we know these are our remains, they belong to us wrong or right. A person doesn't cease to be a family member because they've done this or that so they should be big enough to do that.

POM     Do you still, when you go home, take detours on the way, vary your routes to your home?

JS     Yes I do, I do. Just three weeks ago I just took a quick turn to my parents' grave and sometimes I go quickly via my daughter's grave and I've been planning to put up tombstones if I can next month, I want to dash to Zimbabwe too, my grandparents there and just also tell the family this is as far as I've gone with this because I've not officially told them.

POM     So where is this long journey taking you to, from Robben Island, the twists and turns, the disappointments and the agonies and the tears and the triumphs? What is Joe Seremane now that he wasn't before as a result of all these experiences?

JS     Well I take, I don't know, maybe me, the part of me that is me has come up very clearly and I want to reflect back, seriously think as far as maybe as the age of five, I used to think along these lines, searching, wondering and wandering in spirit or soul.

POM     From the age of five?

JS     Five yes, I used to think things should not be done this way, things should be done this way. I had wonderful wishes for myself, for people. It would be nice if people met always, I like laughter, enjoying themselves, they must laugh, help each other, play together, work together, elevate each other. Those wishes have not died. They are there and I think where I can, everything that I do is trying to manifest that. I was trying to live that and of course the inconveniences are as a result of me wanting to do that. Maybe it's idealistic, the world does not operate that way hence I step on people's toes. But also I have always like a child never wanted to be abused. I always said I don't like bullying somebody, neither do I want to be bullied, so that when I find injustice I stand up and say it and I always say, well I throw myself to you, eat me up if you want to eat me up, I'm not going to accept that kind of thing. So maybe that's a pattern and of course when I take a look at myself and hear what people say many people think I am mad. They have said, the mad Joe, mad, others think I am bitter and I know they are not telling the truth. I know myself. There is no better authority about Joe than Joe himself so that I feel I am not pushed by hatred, by bitterness. I love people. Even now among the ANC there are people that when I look at them I just love them as persons, I just love them. And some even those who abuse, there are one, two or three they hurl abuse at me but I know that that's so artificial, that's not their nature, beneath that there's a wonderful person and I recognise them for that and if they can reciprocate I am responsive and I smile and enjoy to see them.

POM     Do you think, again, using parliamentary privilege that you can say things in parliament that you could never say outside parliament?

JS     Yes.

POM     Do you think that in any way the ANC have targeted you because in their lexicon by raising these issues you would have been disloyal to the struggle, bring the struggle into ill repute therefore in a sense being a traitor to your own people, therefore you become a particular object of just a stream of venom or whatever?

JS     Yes. Well I would say the ANC has targeted anybody in the opposition where they get an opportunity of destroying you, assassinating your character, they do it gladly. But I also think it has some credence that maybe I am also in that special category, they are just holding their fire, waiting. I know they can do that. I don't see what is it that they can't do. I have seen how they operate, I have seen their venom and bitterness against Tony Leon. You see others don't even know why they have to do it against Tony so that I don't think I am exempt from that and with me it will be more vicious in how they operate. You know the ones who are said to be leaders make utterances and they can tune the people, the foot soldiers, by saying some telegraphic word and those are physical guys there so that they can say something and the way they say it exposes your safety at a lower ground. That's where people get injured.

POM     And the future?

JS     Well the future, I have this hope that things will turn out well for South Africa. We're going to pay, it's going to be painful, we're going to pay a price but I think things in this country, things will sort themselves out. We're going to grapple with these problems and in the process people will be refined and I think they will develop and become mature people and say this is how we should conduct our affairs. But how long it will take is anybody's guess. If things are not done now and are put off to be done later it will be all the more difficult and all the longer. Action has to be taken now and people in parliament, in the leadership positions, have to act like statesmen or states-people quickly. They must stop concentrating too much on their party affairs. Their outlook must be to transform a country for the good of all and it must not be cheap, empty rhetoric like it is. All here means all who belong to this ruling party and that's not it. You must be big enough, go step out and go and embrace and uplift a person who hardly belongs to you or your party and you will be sending good signals.

     We're not just talking, when we were struggling, Robben Island changed my outlook from being too much party politically inclined. When I was released from Robben Island the struggle was continuing and people had a need to go into exile and I was assisting people who wanted to get into exile to further the struggle, irrespective of their party political affiliations because I said the liberation embraces all of us and we have to give assistance, I will give assistance because a person says I'm going into exile for liberation, was not saying I want to oppress you, and it's the same mindset today that we should say we have to transform, get away from our fragmented past so that we've got to lift out now, here are people, they must move to the future. The party differences are small things that shouldn't be predominant but we should weld the nation together. But now what it seems is that the ANC says, I will weld you into a nation if you believe in the things that I believe in, nothing else! Anybody outside it does not belong to the nation, which is not true and I wouldn't accept that.

POM     There is this implicit accusation that if you're against them you're still somehow for apartheid.

JS     That's right but it is a lie. In fact it's dishonesty because they know. I'm not bothered if they keep on saying that. They say it every day, you can go to the next session and listen. Everybody who is in the opposition is supporting apartheid, is racist, is stupid, doesn't want progress and I say, oh for goodness sake! Who is lecturing to me now about that? And some of them are just newcomers for goodness sake who are lecturing to me and some of them have been coming from a privileged group, the ruling class, they have now crossed over to the ANC and they are lecturing to me what transformation is all about, how I'm refusing transformation. It makes nonsense. If I were the leader I would say stop talking nonsense. If I were the leader I would say people don't appear stupid, you can't be accusing people who have fought for liberation and say they are anti-liberation. Let's talk sense, don't waste your energy talking nonsense. Like I say, I have hope that things will go on and I tell you I am sure there is one thing people are going to see through this big lie and they will make their choices. Whichever way they will go I don't know, or a new party will emerge. Within a space of ten years time a new party will emerge if things don't change and this new party will be across the spectrum, party, petty ideology et al.

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.