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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

28 Aug 2000: Seremane, Joe

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

POM     Joe, let me begin in a way at the end. Recently there were amnesty hearings for some of the perpetrators of human rights violations by the ANC in the Quatro camps and other places. Did you attend those hearings?

JS     Well I did attend those hearings because I got it from somebody that there was a likelihood that the person involved, that's Gabriel Mtembu, involved in Timothy's death, had applied for amnesty but when I went they have got information that he had withdrawn his application for amnesty and it was not only him, there were a couple of people that were mentioned when I attended those hearings. I sat for days just to find out what was happening and I listened to the testimony of some of the people who were responsible in Quatro camp. It's quite frightening, quite frightening, and some I found very pathetic because it seems out of maturity, after they have grown now they begin to realise the terrible things that they perpetrated on people and hence they were asking for pardon and I think it is out of remorse that they were doing it and I think they did all those things during their heyday of madness, power drunk and maybe also an amount of young persons, youth, irresponsibility and adventurism. That is how I felt when I heard one or two but this one in particular, Gabriel Mtembu, I learned through his application and the others and I began to think that –

POM     Some others who?

JS     That's right, and I thought this was a strategy from the ANC. The way I reason it is that it is strategic that they took that stand because ten to one chances the people inside the country, the relatives of the victims, don't know a thing about what is happening. The only danger that the ANC is facing is if one of them were to mention in these applications that this was the situation. If all of them kept quiet nothing would ever be known on the side of the ANC, we wouldn't know how much damage they themselves have caused in comparison to the regime itself because the regime is disclosing, they are not disclosing. All when they open their mouths is how they have suffered but they have not said how they have caused other people suffering, including those within their ranks that they just wrote off as spies and agents which is not true. So I regarded it as a mere strategy, a ploy on the part of the ANC because after all if they don't appear and don't say anything so it will literally let sleeping dogs lie. So it's a chance and the chances are that if somebody says something it will be very rare that they implicate each other because even those who were talking, the ones I listened to asking for amnesty, they were really careful, you could hear them, they were very careful not to implicate anybody but took on the blame, everything – you know that collective mentality. I'm not saying I relate to this one and that one. Who tells me what Chris Hani's role was? Nobody. Who tells me what Masondo's role was? Nobody except what we hear from them.

     But the story and my problem is always this, the two people who told me, the young guys who told me, themselves victims of Quatro camp and they escaped, are telling a different story completely from what the ANC is saying, completely different, and I've listened to one person who doesn't want to come forward, my Timothy's fiancée when they were in exile, Timothy's fiancée, I've located her. She doesn't want to speak to the press and I can understand why she feels like that, she's very hurt inside. When she talks she can't believe to this day that it could be her man who could have done that. She doesn't believe a thing. All she knows is what wonderful things to say about Timothy, how much he contributed, how much brilliant a guy he was, how many of the political speeches he wrote for his leaders who now have turned their backs and disagreed.

     Masondo, when Masondo speaks that's nothing I hear. He said that Timothy was wrecking vehicles. So what? So what? I don't say it is right but it is not enough ground to say a person is a spy. If the system is – the regime used that method but that's not the only thing they did. They could have done many other things and wrecking vehicles – some people are just prone to accidents. Prone, he could have wrecked my parents' vehicles. Must we hang him and say he's a spy? So that's the kind of thing, that's nothing substantial that I have heard that merits it that they should have treated him in that fashion.

POM     So nobody connected with Timothy's murder, execution, has come forward and applied for amnesty?

JS     No nobody.

POM     Not even General Masondo?

JS     No he didn't. He just came – when he appeared there it was just to explain. In fact he is supporting the utterances, vilification I will put it, ANC vilification of its victims. They vilify their victims, that's all and that is when it comes to the spurious result that well Timothy, to show that Timothy was a South African agent, he was wrecking vehicles. It doesn't make sense. Is that the only reason that he could qualify as a spy? And of course they say he hurt somebody or killed somebody, I don't know, within the camps and then all of them would have been hanged while others continued murdering other people and they were not regarded as spies. How many deaths took place in Quatro camp? Nobody is really saying. The crucial thing for me is where are the bodies buried? Where are the bodies buried?

POM     Did the TRC - as I said, I was just going over last night their section on what happened in the ANC camps and it mentioned the figure that 900 people, an extraordinarily high number, had been executed over the period that they were examining. Has it surprised you that in their findings that they didn't even say that there was an obligation on the ANC to disclose to the families of the victims where the bodies were in Angola or Tanzania or wherever the executions took place? They didn't say – they acknowledged there had been, said there had been executions but it didn't say where the bodies are whereas Security Branch police are made to show in detail the exact place where they burned somebody or where they put them, where they put the body or whatever. So it's like a double standard.

JS     It is, it is a double standard. Disclosure, not complete disclosure. It's not only surprising and it is also very, very, I don't know, hurtful for you expect them to be better than the guys, the regime, the Security Police, coming from the same kind of value system as them. We know whatever, no matter what happens, when the crunch comes to the crunch in terms of if somebody's dead, you draw a line and live above your petty pride and own up to the people. Suddenly the dead person in our community, suddenly assumes that respectability where you are compelled to deal with the people on that basis as somebody very – now he's dead and he needs to be respected and this is where it ends so that those people who are our own people, his family, are in a position to let go and letting go facilitates forgiveness, facilitates reconciliation. But if you deny them that, that instrument of saying well it has happened, we are convinced, so it means you are blocking off the process of forgiveness and blocking off the process of reconciliation.

POM     Did General Masondo - he had a hearing in camera with the TRC but because it was in camera, (i) there was no investigation into what he said, or it couldn't be verified in any way because people couldn't go back to Angola and verify what went on there, (ii) since it wasn't aired in public anyone who had been in Angola with him at the time couldn't say that's not what happened, (iii) the TRC had no way of verifying whether or not he even made full disclosure to them?

JS     That's right.

POM     So it couldn't be tested against anything.

JS     Absolutely. That's correct. And I find it very surprising that he should go in camera and they don't call the relatives, I am not called in. Are we persona non grata in the country? He holds a better position in the eyes of the law. He is given all the protection. We are not allowed access to what he is saying even if it was in reported form and marked strictly confidential, then if we broke that confidence they would know whatever. I would expect them to say come and listen, come and listen.

POM     So you don't know what he said?

JS     I don't know what he said.

POM     You never got a copy of what he said?

JS     I was never given a copy of that, never invited to watch.

POM     No relatives of any victims.

JS     No. When I met him it was not through the efforts of the TRC, it was through the efforts of people who were following the story, doing the documentary, that he ultimately agreed to meet me and which I regard as very honourable. I told him it is very honourable. They were not allowed to do that from the collective, the politburo. He was not supposed to do that but he went on the basis of our relationship. We are not very close friends but we had a working, good relationship. I look at him as a senior when we were on Robben Island. He knew people, some people from the area I come from and that brought us almost together. So on that basis –

POM     I remember you saying that you consulted him.

JS     That's right, yes, absolutely.

POM     What had happened was that –

JS     He was given, he was ill-treated very much, they regarded him as responsible, elderly and a teacher, a lecturer. You know what the system was like, anybody who was better informed could be held responsible for other people's decisions, like they are rabble-rousers and the like. He was treated as such so he was given extraordinary punishment, then I used to feel sorry for him, by the guards in prison. They isolated him and it was an offence if they found you speaking to him, he would be punished but I always took the risk of talking to him. I just personally felt that a person cannot be isolated and if I got a chance to speak to him I would do that because I knew that it would make him feel better.

POM     Did he tell you that when he was part of the tribunal that ordered Timothy's execution that he didn't know at the time that he was your brother?

JS     Yes. Well it didn't come out very clear and what he said is he got evidence and then it was the tribunal and he was now, being part of the collective, he didn't say in so many words that he gave the sentence that he must be executed. All he said was that he listened to the evidence and felt that Timothy was in the wrong and he put it in those terms, Timothy was in the wrong. Then the tribunal could be the one that passed the death sentence and he was not there per se, he had gone away. He had got the hearing and what happened later on was that he just gave his opinion, yes this man is in the wrong and further steps I think were taken by the so-called tribunal. It's just a mess that you can hear.

POM     So he's saying?

JS     He's exonerating himself.

POM     He's distinguishing between two things. He was saying I've listened to the evidence, I think this man is in the wrong now I'm leaving, and then somebody else said on the basis of the evidence we've heard we will execute him?

JS     That's right.

POM     But he wasn't part of that decision?

JS     He wasn't part of that. And then the other half he told me was how he suffered, how he lost his daughter-in-law, son-in-law, whichever.

POM     My question would be again, wouldn't he, even in camera, be required to disclose the names of the people on the tribunal, who composed the tribunal that made the decisions as to who should be executed and who should not be?

JS     Perhaps. Logically they should ask him that. Full disclosure means all that but I don't know what has happened and if he did disclose then it is wrong for that TRC to keep that information secret because whatever I believe the TRC is a body that's meant to represent all South Africans on both sides that are aggrieved and the perpetrators and whatever information they have they have to disclose it to the public. This is a national process working towards reconciliation. Not so? And why should some of the information be kept by the TRC? The TRC is an instrument so it cannot have privy to information when the rest of the country do not have access to that information.

POM     Did the TRC call the two men who had provided affidavits?

JS     No. That's what infuriates me. Never, never.

POM     They didn't?

JS     Never called my two informants and one is dead now.

POM     Which one is dead?

JS     Gordon Moshewe, he's passed away now.

POM     He was the one - ?

JS     The key person who told me all this.

POM     His brother was the - ?

JS     His brother was Gabriel Moshewe, and he died with all that information. He never went to the TRC and was yearning and wanting to go there.

POM     Who stopped him from going? Was he in the army? Was he the one who was in the army?

JS     No, no, this one was with the Security Police in the North West Province.

POM     So they prevented him?

JS     No he was not prevented as such. The one who was really prevented was the one who was in the army, Mashatone(?), because he went and asked, he's still a disciplined soldier in the army so he went to ask for clearance that he should participate in the documentary, just documentary, and he was told no he shouldn't do that, he's forbidden and kept aside. And of course I'm also, I didn't want to press too much on him because I didn't want to and then his position, his life, his situation – if they kicked him out of the army what would he lose? He's got a family to look after, a young family to look after.

POM     I suppose the main point I'm trying to establish is that both of these men were alive at the time of the TRC hearings and that at that hearing about Timothy neither of them was called by the TRC to say you made these statements and elaborate on them. No-one was called from the Motsuenyane Commission. What happens to the original affidavits that had been sent to the commission?

JS     I remember, Motsuenyane hardly acknowledge receipt of that.

POM     They barely acknowledge receipt? And then they disappeared?

JS     Yes, yes, and then their time was up.

POM     Are those original affidavits, signed affidavits, somewhere?

JS     Somewhere yes in their hands and photocopies. Maybe I have misplaced the photocopies, I don't know where they are.

POM     Now who would have them?

JS     Maybe, I really don't know. Remember I just posted them away. When I sent to Motsuenyane, that is one thing, at one stage I was not really prepared.

POM     I just want to go back on Masondo for a bit, these are almost yes or no questions. When you met him he said he had gone before the TRC without a lawyer but he had an in camera hearing under Section 29 or 209 or whatever. Now, did he tell you that Timothy was arrested for damaging vehicles and arrested in 1981?

JS     Yes he did so.

POM     Did he tell you that Timothy had ordered the beating of a fellow comrade who later died?

JS     Yes he said so.

POM     Did he tell you that all this evidence came to light while Timothy had been in fact imprisoned?

JS     Yes.

POM     So Timothy was imprisoned first and then the evidence came later?

JS     Yes. He doesn't mention that he was tortured.

POM     He doesn't mention that.

JS     That he was tortured.

POM     He didn't say that he – he said that the evidence presented to him was enough to convince him that Timothy was in fact guilty?

JS     Yes.

POM     He doesn't say that he ordered his execution?

JS     No he doesn't say that.

POM     He doesn't say, he didn't tell you at all who was on that tribunal?

JS     He doesn't.

POM     He doesn't say even that he remembered how Timothy was executed?

JS     Yes, that's right.

POM     He didn't know, he kind of walked away after assessing the case and after that he knew nothing?

JS     It was all over.

POM     He didn't say that he knew at any time that Timothy was in fact your brother?

JS     Yes, he didn't say that. If I remember well he didn't say that. I think the connection, if he made a connection, is now that I have complained.

POM     It's only now that he's made the connection. Did he give any suggestion that if he had known that he was your brother that he might have said - ?

JS     No he didn't make any suggestion.

POM     Did he say what was the nature of the evidence brought against Timothy and who supplied it?

JS     No it was just in general form that he wrecked vehicles and he beat up or was involved in beating up one of the people.

POM     Did he have any answer to the revelation in the Issues of Faith documentary that former top Security Branch officers all denied that Timothy was a spy?

JS     No he didn't.

POM     Did you ask him?

JS     No I didn't ask him.

POM     Did he say how the allegations against Timothy and the others were evaluated?

JS     Well he didn't.

POM     And how the decision to execute him was arrived at?

JS     No he didn't.

POM     Did he say whether Timothy was given an opportunity to rebut any of the charges against him?

JS     No he didn't.

POM     Do you know whether Timothy ever had an opportunity to deny?

JS     No, what I all know is that from the two stories he was interrogated, yes he was interrogated, and things like propositions were made, this is the thing, or allegations and he had to respond to them. Once he agreed they wouldn't touch him. Once he disagreed they would kill him. That is why when they tortured him –

POM     They tortured him to extract a confession?

JS     In fact to make him endorse what they alleged.

POM     So in that way they acted in a way that was no different from the way the Security Branch people operated against people in this country?

JS     Yes, absolutely. And I think they have (committed) much excesses even more than the Security Police. They were a law unto themselves. At least here whilst the police did all sorts of horrible things, people died in detention, but to a great extent they were quite aware that they were liable to be charged by the laws existing in the country. With the Quatro camp people I get the impression that they were a law unto themselves, nothing could ever make them account for their actions and they were not afraid of doing anything whereas the Security Police guys would say the media would expose them, one would go to court and sue the Minister of Justice. At least those were safety mechanisms or checks and balances even though they didn't respect them, but to an extent. Most of us, or some of us, were saying that by the mere existence of such laws even though they were not carried out to the letter but in Quatro camp it seems that there was no law, the law was a security law, nothing else and that's that and the leadership was quite lame, it couldn't do anything too much because they were afraid of mutiny and they were afraid of losing – in fact they seemed like they were held at ransom by their own forces who could go haywire. They were accusing Timothy of stockpiling ammunition, arms and ammunition. To do what with them? To do what? When 60% - 80% of the camp was loyal what would he do with that? And if they are all behind him he doesn't have to go and take arms from any other way, he would use the very arms that they have there. So these are all fabrications and that's how they bring them up.

POM     So he never mentioned that Timothy had in fact been tortured?

JS     No he didn't. He says he saw him just OK, he was normal when he was there. I don't know but information by these two, they said Timothy was disfigured, he was maimed and disfigured, even Gabriel didn't recognise him until he spoke. He could recognise him with the voice and Timothy was saying to Gordon, because Gordon was a captive himself, he said, "Gordon, please, just agree to everything that these guys say otherwise they will deal with you like they have dealt with me and I don't want you to go through this." So he was coerced and was trying to save his other friend that he rather agree to what they are saying, alleging, endorsing and save yourself - look I have been disfigured.

POM     So when Gordon was taken to see Timothy there were two purposes. One was for the torturers to convey to Gordon, listen if you don't talk –

JS     Corroborate what we're saying.

POM     - you're going to end up like that so it's much simpler just to save yourself going through that and agree, and in fact Timothy said, "Listen, that's what they will do to you."

JS     Yes, just agree to what they are saying.

POM     Did he say that Timothy had confessed to anything?

JS     No, because he doesn't agree with any bit of the allegations.

POM     Made in the two affidavits?

JS     Yes, he doesn't believe in what they are saying about Timothy. He knows Timothy was being got rid of. It was like a Stalinist purge. Brilliant, promising, intelligent and I have spoken to guys who were being purged, just got rid of, eliminated because they were a threat to these lawless hunks within the movement.

POM     Did you know maybe before, in the mid sixties or early sixties, that Chris Hani had written this memorandum to the leadership complaining about (i) the lack of leadership, (ii) that the leadership were leading all kinds of luxurious lifestyles, (iii) that the soldiers were living in poor and miserable conditions, (iv) that he had been taken before a tribunal?

JS     I didn't know that.

POM     And that the man who saved him from execution, they had decided to execute him and the man who saved him was  … ?

JS     I don't know that.

POM     That's a fact.

JS     Also this guy Pallo Jordan who is a minister, he was a Minister of the Environment, but he's still a member of parliament, I learnt also he went that way because he was critical of what was happening in the leadership and the kind of things you have just said. Then he went to Quatro, also he was saved by somebody.

POM     So he spent time in Quatro?

JS     So I learnt, I don't know how true it is.

POM     Do you know whether or not he was tortured? No you don't.

JS     No I don't know.

POM     You just know that - because I've been talking to Pallo for years.

JS     And then Chris Hani, Gordon told me that when Chris Hani went to the camp after Timothy had died he was up in arms, he was very sad and he actually said it publicly that they made a terrible mistake of destroying such a good and promising leader like Timothy.

POM     That was somebody like himself who made the very same allegations against the leadership and they said get rid of him.

JS     So he knew the story and now that he was in charge had they told him, from the story, had they told him before Timothy was destroyed Timothy perhaps could have been alive. But my little problem was that Chris Hani met me, we spoke and he never, ever said anything. That was my gripe. And not only him, many of them, why couldn't they?

POM     Maybe they were ashamed.

JS     Yes, well, I said you know my brother's shame has left a heavy burden on my heart. It would have been better if you told me and we would have shared the burden together.

POM     Did you ask Hani did he know anything about what had happened?

JS     No I didn't. In fact I didn't have even the chance to listen. I got to know of Timothy's death only two weeks before Hani was assassinated, if you remember, about two weeks before Chris Hani was assassinated did I know of Timothy's death. That is why when there was a protest march to John Vorster Square I felt for Chris and I wanted to be part of the protest but I could not participate fully. I walked on the sidewalk, on the pavement, when the entire thing was moving because I had that conflict. There goes a friend, a person who was very dear to me but he did not tell me what has happened to my younger brother who sees a similar thing so how do I go about it? So it was like fifty/fifty in protest to him, I was walking on the sideline but in solidarity with him, I also was in that otherwise I would have kept off completely. But I said I need to do half of my heart, also it wants to be in solidarity but another half is in protest that he did not want to disclose to me or didn't disclose to me when I supposed he knew.

POM     The TRC or even with the ANC, in your own pursuit of what happened at Quatro, did you ever ask the ANC why they had labelled Timothy as a spy in the submissions they made to the TRC? What evidence did they have to back up that allegation or statement at the time?

JS     I haven't done that because I really said I had confidence that everything will be facilitated by the TRC itself. It will give me an opportunity of asking. When I appeared there I asked several questions and that's about it and a few things that I said, perhaps in response in the press, because when they made these utterances then I would say, "I wrote a letter. What kind of people are you?" But I didn't really go into detail. When I read their allegations there's much more that can still be asked. When they say he was responsible for blasting installations that's why he got hooked up to the system, I wonder which installations, which year? Nobody, it's just empty. Where did he blast? What installations? Nobody is coming up.

POM     So this document in front of me, it's says, "Kenneth Mahamba was sentenced to death by an ANC tribunal and executed in 1982 together with other fellow enemy agents." A summary of ANC information. What's the origin of this document?

JS     It's their evidence, that's the origin. I think this is what they gave to the TRC.

POM     Confession statements from Angola late in 1981 and 1982.

JS     This is the kind of stuff they date. I think I got it from the TRC.

POM     OK, so this would have been - ?

JS     Yes, I got it from one of the investigators, I think, in the TRC. That's the only information they say they got from the ANC.

POM     But the TRC never said how did you get this confession?

JS     No, well, they don't know that I've got this one.

POM     I know but the TRC when they were supplied with this never said to the ANC, tell us how did you get this confession? Did you just sit down over a cup of tea and say, listen, that's what I've really been up to for the last year?

JS     Remember amongst the things I said I wanted them to give me access to the records on how he was tried and that means how did you get information? Did he get a fair trial, did he get anything, an opportunity to defend himself, call witnesses or what? And where are the records? They said there were no records but in the last hearings where one of the guys was asking for amnesty he spoke of records, so it's a contradiction. In Timothy's case there are no records. One of the people who asked for amnesty was saying there were records.

POM     Would the security forces in the ANC have destroyed all their records or would they have destroyed them by now?

JS     Maybe they destroyed them but why should they destroy them if they have done nothing wrong?

POM     The same question has been asked of the security forces of the apartheid government.

JS     Well the apartheid government destroyed them because their reign had come to an end. And these are ascending into power, why do they destroy evidence?

POM     You told the TRC the two signed affidavits regarding Timothy's torture and death were submitted to the Motsuenyane Commission set up in 1993, that the commission had claimed receipt of no such affidavits, that it never investigated any of the circumstances surrounding Timothy's murder despite your bringing constant attention to the matter. At that point you were trying to find out what had happened. And that in its conclusions of that report it simply listed him as a spy without offering any iota of evidence whatsoever. Were you stunned when you read that report?

JS     Yes I was stunned and very angry about it because I'm not a liar but you could see through all the allegations, the loopholes in what they are saying. Nonsense. Some of the things, this profile, some of the things they talk about him have not been surprising. They were said against me in the country and some –

POM     They were said against you?

JS     Right in the country that he's a spy simply because I was challenging, I was almost like a non-conformist and I got those attacks. To this day I still have those attacks. Many think I am a spy, I am a stupid black man, that kind of thing, and that was what's happening. I am not surprised, Timothy is my brother, we were raised by the same people. My parents raised us to be on our feet and challenge what we don't believe in, fearlessly. I guess he was outspoken.

POM     Do you know whether the two men who gave the affidavits, whether the TRC investigators even ever got in touch with them? Did anyone from the TRC ever come to them?

JS     None of them told me that. The other one has passed away, he has never told me that the TRC approached him. Never. The other one that is still alive has never come to me to say I've been approached by the TRC. He hasn't come my way and he reads about all these things. I am sure he would really say these people have approached me. He hasn't said that and we are on good friendly terms.

POM     Did the TRC castigator in any way chastise the ANC in its findings for failure to disclose where the victims of MK murderers were buried?

JS     I don't know that.

POM     The fact that the MK people like Masondo could go out and say I don't know exactly where but if you look in this region, this is where executions used to be carried out.

JS     That could be.

POM     That could be done.

JS     Yes. All he said was how impossible it would be to get all the buried people outside the country, all around the world, and to an extent we understand but identifying the areas and declaring them some kind of … it may be good enough. Why don't they do that? That's the question. If they run around the whole world hoping to bring about peace when there is no peace, those are the things we take unkindly to. My President and the former President running around the whole continent of Africa making peace when they can't make peace with us right here to just say, Joe, you are nuisance, this area is where your brother lay, that kind of scum. They must say what they like but he remains my brother. The scum lies here, is buried here, and all of us remember relatives or families of those people. We go there on a pilgrimage to say well here you are, it's impossible, we don't know exactly where you are but we are here. There's that connection that we are being deprived.

POM     Is there any committee of people who are in similar situations like yours, who had sons?

JS     I've had a committee like that but I'm a little dubious, a little doubtful to get too much into it. I'm still observing, it's a new committee so I learn. And they were abused, when was it, on June 16th, if you read the press reports, at the Orlando Stadium or somewhere in Soweto where there was commemoration of June 16th this very year and that group of people, relatives and families of the victims when they were in placards I learned they were roughed up by ANC activists. They were beaten, their placards were torn off. They were saying, "Why do you leave us in the lurch? We have not completed." Something like that. It's that kind of a body that I learn and I still want to have more information about it and I don't want to just jump into it when I really don't know what it is.

POM     I'm sure I can find out.

JS     I will be happy if you find that out.

POM     Do you know what it's called?

JS     No, no, I've just forgotten.

POM     But it will be mentioned in the press.

JS     I just forget what it is. Something like Committee for the Victims of – I don't know.

POM     Did you ever receive a communication from the TRC that listed Timothy as being a victim of a gross violation of human rights?

JS     I think they did. When they did the report they told me that they have listened to my story and Timothy will appear as one of the people whose rights were violated but they didn't say in so many words declaring that he was not this or that. The told me about that but I don't know where I put that letter.

POM     Was it a form letter?

JS     Yes it's a formal letter that they wrote to me.

POM     When I say form letter –

JS     No, no, it was just a straightforward letter.

POM     No, but was it like the same kind of letter that they would send to people with - ?

JS     No, it was in very nice prose just saying we will be releasing the TRC report where people such as your brother will be mentioned. Also I got invited to when Tutu was presenting the report to the government. I got there late and of course even if I was on time still I had no role to play. I was one of the crowd.

POM     Now you had listed, it says here in the TRC's application forms, you said you grant permission  to the Investigation Unit of the TRC to obtain copies of all medico-legal records of Timothy for the purpose of ongoing investigations being conducted by the TRC. Of course there were no records to supply.

JS     No records. I wonder if they ever made even an effort to look for those. The impression one gets is that the TRC to a great extent was protecting the ANC, one gets that feeling. I do respect the integrity of people involved but I think it's the instrument itself, the way it's couched, that it's an instrument that did not have complete independence because it's got an inclination towards government.

POM     At the end of this form it says under Number 7 Expectations, it says, "An important part of the TRC proposal to the President will be about symbolic acts which will help us remember the past, honour the dead, acknowledge the victims and the families and further the cause of reconciliation. Please give us your opinion on what should be done. (i) for individuals and you have, for example, medals, street names, memorials, gravestones, etc." And you wrote down: "(i) return the mortal remains to families for proper burial and funeral rights." It never has happened?

JS     Never has happened.

POM     "(ii) Provide a written record of Quatro trials.  It never has happened. Written apology and memorial certificates." Never has happened. "Reparation, contribute to St Barnabus for the needy."

JS     St Barnabus, that's a school fund for the needy.

POM     To study music and religious studies. Never happened.

JS     This is a fund that I started. My daughter was in St Barnabus College, it's an Anglican institution and that's the Anglican Church defying apartheid.

POM     Sorry, you were saying about St Barnabus.

JS     St Barnabus is an Anglican School where it was defying apartheid, the segregation in education where the Anglican Church was inviting all its adherents, black, white, coloured and Indian and other non-Anglican students to come and study and learn at this institution. They built it in a so-called coloured area and my daughter attended this school and when she was killed I had saved money for her education, university studies and the like and we decided with my wife to take all that money and give it to the school to start a trust fund to help those needy children who would want to study music or religion and that's interfaith because my daughter loved faith, religion and also loved music very much and in honour of her memory this is what I did. I invited people to add on to that. The teachers contributed very generously and many people who knew me overseas and within the country continued contributing.

POM     What happened to your daughter?

JS     She was knocked down by a bus at the age of 13 and killed. A very loveable child. Now I was just asking everything, for instance, if they made a contribution to that. But sad to say I think it has been eclipsed by the Mandela Children's Fund and it makes me wonder is that how the world operates? No matter what good cause you have you must be somebody before they support you. We are long way from being really civilised, for instance, with that fund. Funny enough one of my Bishops of the Anglican Church wrote to me and said, "Joe, a noble idea but the church has no money to contribute." And I said, "But they have money to buy incense, candles, can't they sacrifice just for one month?" If all the churches just for one month just sacrificed not to buy those candles, not to buy the incense and contribute to this kind of fund. It's not coming to me. There's a committee that has been set up.

POM     They could tell the congregation that there would be no candles because they were making a contribution and then people would understand and give twice as much.

JS     Then they say, no, the Anglican Church has no money. Then I get a letter from Durban, a Muslim, he writes to me and says what a noble idea, here is my contribution. The contradictions of faith. A Muslim supports what a Christian initiates, the Christians don't support what their own adherent initiates because basically, who is Joe Seremane? He's a nonentity so why do you support a nonentity? It's not the truth that matters, it is who, and it saddens my heart. I don't think Christ's mercy and glory operates that way. Christ goes for the unknowns. The unknown leper, filthy as he is, Christ's heart goes out to him. The lady who was regarded as not so clean, Christ's heart goes out to her. But here the norm, how big are you in stature nationally and internationally, then we will give you more than what you need. But I don't begrudge them. That's OK, it's not surprising me. The stories of people who really suffered, nonentities, to this day we have not been told who suffered, the nonentities who suffered in police cells, who suffered on Robben Island, they are not told, they are not known. It is the big names and when you compare they did not suffer like those nonentities.

POM     Because they were big names.

JS     That is it. Many mothers, unknown mothers, unsung mothers who went through hell, who have lost two kids, three kids, four kids in the struggle, some don't know where the kids are. Well who knows? Nobody knows them because their names are not big. The young guy who has had … on his hands like that, the mother is known by who?

POM     Sorry, who's got what on his hands?

JS     Hector Petersen, the first victim of June 16th, that young boy and then that other fellow, oldish fellow who has him, who knows that boy? Who knows who he is? Nobody knows. Who knows his mother? Nobody cares. Those who know keep it mum and I learned that boy, the mother does not know where he ended. But it's no big deal. We commemorate Hector Petersen, we know where he is. The one who held him we don't know where he is and it's no big deal. We don't care, we don't know who his mother is, how his mother feels. It's no big deal because they are from nonentity, nondescript. When I say that they say I am bitter but I am questioning the sense of justice. What kind of justice is this? So these are the problems that we are facing and I say, well that's OK. And when they come back to you and say you are envious, you are bitter, I don't understand, what are you expected to do? Because you are nobody you shouldn't say anything?

POM     Just to switch and then I know you have to run, but I have been trying for two weeks to get on the HRC's website to find out about the Racism Conference.

JS     It's the day after tomorrow.

POM     I get on it but I get no information. Is the conference going to be, the Racism Conference, a useful conference or to have allegations of racism there? I pick up allegations of it now much more than four years ago, than eight years ago, than in 1990. Is it becoming the scapegoat for the failure of government to solve problems, that it's an easy way to attract attention?

JS     It is a fact, we cannot deny the fact that racism is a problem not only in our country but throughout the world and we cannot go past the problem of racism, it's true. But now what is happening, they are using that reality as a scapegoat, as a whip to beat up their opponents and also to scare their followers. It's like the whole witch-hunt thing. If you're white you must be a racist, if you're black you cannot be a racist. It is nonsense. I don't believe in that. So it's a whole smokescreen whipping up – and it's the brainchild, I believe, of the President. I don't know, that he's trying to get as much support for his own vision and cause that he uses these easy things. It's like the regime that used the swart gevaar the black danger, the black onslaught, on communism, it's the same thing. Leaders are inclined to use the simplest form of whipping up prejudice, capitalising on prejudice and hatred, mass or group stereotypes and I think it's the same thing. I'm going there, that is if they allow me because I have not confirmed by attendance, I'm only going to do it today. I hope they are not going to tell me that sorry, you can't come.

POM     They've given your place away to some guy called O'Malley!

JS     Maybe. Well I am going there but I know that I am going in for a session of abuse. Well I've listen to people self-righteously pontificating how clean they are but I maintain if I can put in my voice to say racism has a twin brother, twin sister called tribalism, euphemistically called 'ethnicity'. They go together. You cannot want to tell me that racism can be detached from it. The two come, the one is the elder brother of the other, that's what I believe and within the ranks of the ruling party I say I detect intense, subtle, tribalism, ethnicity. You can look at all the structures and the parastatals of the government. It is a certain kind of black who speaks a certain language who is holding the top position, Xhosa, yes. And I want to spell it out and I know I will be given the rap that I am a tribalist, I am raising up these things. But it's true because in trying to show racism, they are trying to project what is eating them inside. They are guilty of it and they are deviating from non-racialism. It does not mean that because we are striving for a non-racial society we close our eyes to racism. No we don't but we don't play that game, we shouldn't play that game. You can't have it in reverse. Once you have it in reverse you are not rectifying anything. You have your apartheid in reverse, we couldn't go anywhere. So it's a vicious circle. One day we're going to fall down and apartheid will rise if that's the game we are playing and the only way to obliterate this is not to play the game, is to discard it that it's not part of society, it shouldn't be, but now they're playing everybody walking in the streets there is this and they feel very militant to talk of racism. Any little thing is racism, any little thing racism. When you are a black and you challenge the things that are wrong you are puppet of the racists, you are an Uncle Tom, you are all sorts of things.

POM     It's a way of keeping people silent.

JS     Mass intimidation, yes, it's mass intimidation so that they will rubbish you when you don't agree.

POM     Before she left the country Dr Ramphele, before she went to the World Bank, she gave a speech when she was Vice Chancellor of Cape Town, I've been looking for the speech because the title of it was 'What's wrong with democracy in this country is that the silence is deafening'.

JS     Keep your fingers crossed because I read it last night.

POM     You did? I've been looking for that.

JS     Keep your fingers crossed that I have it, but I should because I'm going to prepare my paper.

POM     I hope you will be able to give me a copy of the paper.

JS     The Race Relations have asked me to do a short thing. You can ask these people to make a photocopy.

POM     I will and I will give it to you – well I'll do it right here.  "White academics do not speak out on issues of national concern any more because they are afraid they will be labelled racist. Black academics do not criticise the government because of misplaced loyalty born out of the comradeship with its roots in the struggle against apartheid. They can't be seen to be criticising their own. This misguided reality is putting SA's democracy at a risk."That's Mamphele Ramphele and I agree, very true.

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.