This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
A Thokoza Family: Theo's Dream
Padraig O' Malley
Theo Balula didn't have to think about giving his life for his country. He had none. He lived in Thokoza on the East Rand, a township in which some of the worst violence between ANC supporters and hostel residents, all Zulu, was making areas along Khumalo Road, virtual war zones. Like other youths in his community, he was a member of the local street committee that patrolled the neighborhood at night, watching for outsiders to descend and wreak their havoc. Keeping vigil for long parts of the night and going to school for most of the day exerted a toll, but the toll was normal – he and his contemporaries simply regarded it as part of the routine of daily life, nothing special about it.
25 August 1991
Bennett Balula is not especially political. When I met him he was an auto mechanic working in Alberton, with a wife, Rose, and three children. Bennett was a typical blue-collar worker, but one with a skill. Theo, the eldest was 17 years of age, Priscilla 13, and Kenneth six. Golf, he tells me, used to be sport when he was growing up; but even though he still hits the occasional ball, his real interest is horse racing because betting on horses can yield immediate cash benefits if you pick the right horse. We didn't discuss the consequences of not picking the right horse.
He was not anti-de Klerk; in fact, he admired and respected him for having released Mandela. He was pro ANC, a member, but not a particularly active one, but sure, nevertheless, of his political allegiance. I met Bennett in August 1991, a couple of months before CODESA got off the ground.
The previous year had been a turbulent one in the townships. Although the ANC had suspended its armed struggle in August 1990, violence, especially in the townships that surrounded Johannesburg began to escalate, at first with armed encounters between supporters of the ANC and the IFP, and as the violence began to escalate, it spread like wildfire through the townships on the Eastern Rand. In the months leading to the signing of the Pretoria Minute, twelve were killed in clashes between supporters of the IFP and the ANC in Kagiso, a township west of Johannesburg, and in August, even as the final touches were being put to the agreement, twenty two people were killed in Sebokeng, a township south of Johannesburg.
Interestingly, when I asked members of the PAC, AZAPO, and the BCM who was responsible for the instigation of the violence, they unhesitatingly replied that the ANC was responsible. The conventional wisdom among these organizations was that the ANC was intolerant to any form of opposition to it in Black communities, and that whenever opposition threatened the ANC's standing in a community, it immediately took immediate steps to eliminate emerging opposition.1
The ANC had a different explanation. While it would concede that the IFP were the perpetrators of the violence, they argued that cliques in the security forces were acting in concert with elements in the IFP; that the government was doing nothing to rein in the violence although it had the means to do so; indeed, that the violence was an integral part of the government's strategy to destabilize the ANC in the Black community by exposing its incapacity to protect its own people; on the other hand the government continued to pursue negotiations with the ANC, the assumption being that an ANC increasingly seen to be in ineffective in its own strongholds would be negotiating from a position of weakness, not strength, and thus be more amenable to accepting the proposals the government put ion the table. When de Klerk appeared to shrug off the violence as an intra- Black competition for the allegiance of Blacks, the ANC established self defence units (SDUs) in the townships to protect them from government orchestrated attacks from the IFP, especially the Zulu inhabitants of the hostels that punctuated the bleak terrain, blotches on a barren landscape adding to the ugliness that was a permanent feature of township ambience. But while the ANC sanctioned the formation of the SDUs, it did not control them, with results that would only add to the deadliness of life in locations.
The violence is difficult to bring under control because the animosities that fuel it are themselves the legacy of apartheid and the political intolerance inculcated in the townships. In "The Wretched of the Earth," Franz Fanon describes the frightening escalation of violence that occurs when oppressed people, who must find some outlet for their anger, are forced to turn inward, to add further to their profound sense of victimhood. "The settler pits brute force against the weight of numbers" Fanon writes. "His preoccupation with security makes him remind the native out loud that he alone is master."
The settler keeps alive in the native an anger, which he deprives of outlet. The native is trapped in the tight links of the chains of colonialism. The natives' muscular tension finds outlet regularly in bloodthirsty explosions -- in tribal warfare, in feuds between sects, and in quarrels between individuals. Where individuals are concerned, a positive negation of common sense is evident. While the settler or the policeman has the right the livelong day to strike the native, to insult him and make him crawl to them, you will see the native calling for his knife at the slightest hostile or aggressive glance cast on him by another native.2
Fanon could have been talking about Thokoza, Kagiso, Vosloorus, Kelehong, Tembisa, Soweto, and the other townships that were burning throughout the PWV region.3
"Perception runs ahead of facts." says Andrew Mapheto, the ANC's coordinator. "When comrades hear there is going to be an Inkatha meeting, they assume there's going to be violence. People react to rumors." On the other hand, says Van Zyl Slabbert,
If you are a Zulu hostel dweller [in the Transvaal] you are told you are going to be killed. Fear accounts for the ferocity of the violence. Fear and prejudice are exploited to do the most outrageous things. Inkatha says the Xhosa are there to wipe them out. And the Zulus respond. The hostel system accommodates more than 200,000 single males, a huge number of them Zulus, in 50 crude dormitory blocks in the PWV region alone. Seeing themselves as despised by the urban township residents, they remember they are "a warrior nation.
At mortuaries they pile the corpses outside in the hot sun. There is no more room inside only dozens of sickeningly mutilated bodies lying in rooms. Stony-faced attendants, like robots, escort crying relatives down the rows, past piles of abandoned, bloody clothing, stacked coffins and bored hearse drivers waiting for yet another load. About 90 percent of the bodies remain unclaimed forcing tired policemen to take at least four photographs of each body, assist at the postmortems, take fingerprints and then stack the bodies back in their rows to await a pauper's funeral.4
"The violence in the Transvaal has profoundly affected the decision regarding what kind of process there will be," says Dennis Worrall, co-leader of the Democratic Party. "Until then the ANC and the government were working together. All that is changed. Inkatha is back into it. Black politics has become ethnic politics. The ANC has anti-Zulu overtones. They played the ethnic card and Buthelezi responded."
There is, however, reluctance among pro- ANC supporters to acknowledge that there is a tribal dimension to the killings. "The ethnic element has not been acknowledged" says Khehla Shubane. "Every time there has been a conflict, a reason other than ethnicity is advanced as a cause."
The reluctance to do so has much to do with the nature of the problem itself and the manner in which the South African state legitimizes itself.
I still don't know Bennett's address, only how to get to his house. All the way down Khumalo road, with the hostels on the right and the matchbox houses on the left. At the little Methodist church on the left hand side of Khumalo you took a left, followed the paved street that had many well-appointed houses, many with additional add-ons, driveways for cars, neatly trimmed lawns, each house standing on its own little parcel of land, everything fenced in – subscription for the adage that good fences make for good neighbors. Get to the burned out Shell station, turn right, at which point the paved road gives way to an arid stretch of red sand pounded into some semblance of a street by the constant flow of traffic. Follow the formula – 3,2,1; translation: take third left, then second left and finally first left. Maneuver your way past a mountainous stone that straddled what passed for a street and drive right up to the Balula house. Invariably no one was home.
The real difficulty in reaching the Balulas was the fact that they had no telephone: you simply had to go there and hope for the best. Since Thokoza was on the southern (?) perimeter of Johannesburg – about 30 miles out – it often took several trips to the location before you found anyone at home, sometimes it might be Bennett's wife Rose, sometimes one of the children – Theo or Priscilla, and, on occasion, Bennett himself. If Bennett was not home, there was no question of talking to anyone. Talking was Bennett's terrain; he would make the arrangements, set the date, and while he might promise that Rose and the children would be there, too, it soon became clear that they arranged things according to their own calendars.
Compounding problems, especially in the early nineties, was another reality: you could not go into the townships at night if you are white. Not necessarily because you might be in some danger from roving gangs of youth who would be suspicious of the presence of any white person in the location at night, indeed, at any time, but because Africans didn't want to be seen with you when night fell. Questions would be asked. When you lived in a community where the mere asking of a question could lead to ungrounded speculation, then to community-wide rumors and on to "established" fact about why you were consorting with whites, especially after dark, "fact" arrived at in this way could have disastrous consequences.
There were also practical considerations. Once off Khumalo Road there were no streetlights, making navigation virtually impossible. You certainly didn't stop and ask for directions, and it's difficult to get directions to an address you don't have. Besides, in a delicious turn of irony, whites seen in Black areas after dark were presumed to be up to no good.
The Balula house appeared larger from the outside than it actually was. Perhaps because it was so brightly painted, well kept, sitting on its own site, with the grass in the front garden neatly trimmed. It was clear that this was a house that was cared for; that the family who occupied it took pride in its appearance. The overarching V-shaped roof conveyed a sense of spaciousness, but once you walked into the small kitchen at the rear, you could see the difference. To the left there were two small bedrooms; to the right a cramped bathroom, toilet and bath side by side inches apart. At the front was a parlor, not much bigger than the bedrooms but obviously the family's place of pride, furnished with a sofa, two soft chairs, laced curtains on the window, a cabinet displaying glassware, china and other family valuables. On a side board there was a stereo, but it was the TV that grabbed your attention. Given the size of the room, the 21-inch TV screen simply overwhelmed. It towered, like a huge statue of a God to whom homage had to be paid.
But the house had one distinguishing feature -- the garden that abutted the lawn with its cabbages, beets, corn, spinach, and some tomatoes. And along the walkway there was a border of marigolds. Rose's garden.
Bennett is rather reticent about his past; perhaps because this is our first meeting or because he has erased discombobulating parts of it from his memory. Who was I to whom he should confide? Having lived all his life in circumstances where sharing what you knew about anything could land you in trouble, he could be forgiven for not being particularly conducive to answering a host of questions put to him by a stranger about himself, his background, and his family.
This much I could gather: Bennett was born in Alberton, one of the many industrial satellite communities that were part of Greater Johannesburg. Most of the residents were white, Afrikaner, the men who supervised the work of the Black workers, barked orders, and, in general, never allowed the Blacks who served under them to forget who was boss. They were the marginal beneficiaries of apartheid, the ones most threatened by prospects of change, and, therefore, most belligerent in conversations about Blacks. They, after all, stood to lose the most in a post apartheid era, and you would be remiss if you dismissed their characterizations of Blacks as incompetent, lazy, born thieves. The vocabulary of the threatened marginals didn't vary very much from country to country. They did not conceal their racism, the off-putting to the "kaffirs" whom they treated with untroubled distain on the one hand, and an affectionate paternalism on the other. The unions put a stop to their more race-baiting antics. For their part, they didn't know what the fuss was all about. If you were a kaffir, what harm was there in calling you what you were?
His father was murdered in 1954 when he was still a child. His father owned his own cows, but he working for a large company in Alberton. The family thought that they were going to stay in Alberton for some time, "but unfortunately government policy did not allow for that." There was no "forced" removal in the sense of the police arriving to evict them from their home. Everything was done in a very orderly, organized, and thoroughly bureaucratic way.
He was ten years of age when the authorities told Bennett's family it had to move out of the area of Alberton in which it resided with other Blacks because that part of Alberton had been rezoned and Blacks could no longer live there. They were relocated to Thokoza. This happened when Mr. Verwoerd was Prime Minister. (Bennett called everyone "Mr." --even Reword – a hangover from the apartheid era when a Black did not dare address a white man other than as "Mr." Or perhaps it came from his own sense of the order of things; those who held power, whether you despised them or not, were to be addressed with the formalities that accompanied their positions.)
All procedures were proper. The family received letters saying that the Alberton Municipality had bought us land in a place called Thokoza where they would build new houses for Blacks who were residents of Alberton, that families would be compensated for their present homes since the land they had occupied was to be become an airstrip. "At the time," Bennett says, " We were not aware what the government was actually doing. We thought that we were going to be given new homes. Hence we did not oppose the removals. We did not link our removal to apartheid policies." The removals from Alberton took place between the years 1958 and 1962.
Blacks who were being moved were under the impression that they would be moving into houses that had actually been built for them before they were moved, but this was not always the case. The Alberton Municipality built the houses, not the government. They also built the hostels. "The municipality said they had instructions from the government to remove us and build us alternative housing," says Bennett, "and when we got here, we were given a new house, like this house.
When I moved from my home, this house was already standing; I only brought my furniture and personal effect. I did not start by building a shack and then a house. However, some people who have moved here from other locations have had to wait for houses and they have build shacks while they were waiting.
Again, there was no sense of either anger or angst in his recounting. No sense that his family had been evicted from their home and the community that was the focus of their lives, where their friends and neighbors lived, where communal bonding compensated in some way for the wretchedness of the larger world that arbitrarily decided all facets of their lives. His family were simply informed that their homes were being confiscated and that they were being relocated to a new house in the boondocks, away from everything, with no amenities, no stores, in fact, with little of anything that constitute the basic building blocks of a community.
Yet, Bennett expressed no sense of grievance, of having been wronged, no sense of loss. Perhaps too much time had elapsed and the memories of a former home had been dislodged from his consciousness. Perhaps he had been too young, although we know that the younger the age at which one encounters trauma, the more long lasting its impact, since the young have no context in which to place such upheavals and are more likely to be more wary and distrustful of the world around them since anything at any time might simply disappear for no apparent reason. "Any severe loss may represent a disruption in one's relationship to the past, the present, and the future, "Marc Fried writes in Grieving for a Lost Home. "It is a disruption in the sense of continuity which is ordinarily a taken-for-granted framework for functioning in a universe which has temporal, social and spatial dimensions." 5 "The loss of an important place " represents a change in a potentially significant component of the experience of continuity."6
The sense of belonging is severed; the focus of meaningful interpersonal relationships is destroyed; the sense of spatial identity – that sum of experiences that are grounded in spatial memories, spatial imagery, and the spatial framework of social activities that is fundamental to human functioning is traumatized; the sense of group identity, of communality with other people, of shared human qualities, is undermined. In this regard, Bennett's dispassionate, almost apathetic account of his family's removal from Alberton to Took baffled me. What was I missing?
Before Bennett moved to his present home, he lived with his mother in another section of Thokoza, and while he is willing to concede that his present house is lovely, he is nevertheless, dissatisfied. " Yes, this is a lovely house, he admits "but it is built according to a government plan for Blacks. It is what we call a matchbox house.
If I got money I would move to an area like Spruitview, where I can build a house of my liking. If he had some money he would prefer to build a better house in Thokoza rather move into Alberton or to a white suburb.
If I had the money, I would not take the chance of buying a house in a white suburb like Boksburg or Springs because I would not be welcomed by the whites who live in those areas. Remember what happened in Ventersdorp.7 They rioted because they said Mr. de Klerk sold them out to the Black people. They said he was handing over their land to Black people. That is why I would not go and buy a house in any white suburb. However, there are some white areas in Johannesburg where Blacks are accepted. I do not think that I would be safe if I bought a house in a white suburb.
I want to buy a house in an area where I can sleep at night. Free from fears of attack. Mr. de Klerk is trying to make South Africa like America. The NP members knew that apartheid was evil, but they could not do anything about it because of their leader, e.g. Mr. Reword, and Mr. PW Botha, and because it was to their advantage.
How ironic! In Johannesburg crime was beginning to slowly spiral out of control. Every day brought news of more heinous crimes –carjackings with the gratuitous killing of the drivers, burglaries, with the murder and assault homeowners, the levels of rape and murder giving Johannesburg the unwanted distinction of being the world's most dangerous city. If, as had happened, unemployed Blacks descending in unprecedented numbers on the city – and other cities across South Africa – had led to increases in crime rates, Black leaders were quick to point out that the levels of crime now being attributed to Johannesburg were endemic in Soweto, Alexandra, and other townships in the Vaal Triangle.
But crime in the townships never were reported in Johannesburg newspapers or reported to the police by Black victims – where was one to find the police -- since they were inconsequential to whites, but now that whites and their properties were becoming the targets of organized criminals or the mere hungry, the matter had acquired acute concern. For Bennett to say that he would not feel safe in white areas, not because of exponentially exploding crime rates – everyday occurrences in the townships – but because whites might turn on him, say far more about the polarization between Blacks and whites in South Africa and the depths of the fears one held with respect to the other than any number of statistics. We were being inundated at the time with the need to give respectful consideration to "white fears. Yet, who was talking about Black fears that precluded them from ever considering residence in a white area, even if they had the means to?
Bennett and I sat in the parlor and talked for a while about the impact of Mandela's release on the community. Ironically, he handed the bouquet of thanks to de Klerk: Mandela's release was proof- 'certain that de Klerk was serious about change, unlike his predecessors who had refused to do so. De Klerk wanted "South Africans to be equal, Blacks and whites." Was Bennett, member of the oppressed class, thanking his oppressor for giving him access to things that were rightfully his? I didn't know, and would not until I got to 'know him better who Bennett was and how he viewed the narrow world of Thokoza that hemmed him.
But his demeanor toward de Klerk highlighted a matter that was assuming increasing concern in ANC circles. Bennett perceived de Klerk as the person driving the process. And, indeed, for a period of time, de Klerk successfully acted as if the process was his, and his alone. He projected the image of owning the process, and being the energizing force that was moving it forward. And, as if that were not enough, he was acting as both referee of the game and a player on the field. No negotiating process can work unless all parties feel an equal ownership in the process. They must regard the process as theirs, the result of their deliberations and agreements, that governments are parties to the process, not the owners of it. It took some time for the National Party to accept this; it had, after all done things its way and brooked no opposition for the better part of half a century. Now it had to adapt; an about-turn that the old guard found difficult to do. If they were unable to do so, they were marginalized. In the new game, one either learned quickly or watched the proceedings from the sideline.
Bennett's analysis of the state of play in 1991: After he became leader of the National Party in 1989, Mr. De Klerk recognized that it was now time to change and speak to the Liberation Movement leaders. He then spoke to the State President Mr. PW Botha and sought permission to go to Lusaka to meet with the ANC.8 But Mr. PW Botha was not agreeable to that suggestion. When Mr. de Klerk became State President, he and the Foreign Minister, Mr. Pik Botha, went to Lusaka to meet with the ANC.9Mr. In Lusaka they met an ANC delegation that informed them of what the Liberation Movement wanted from the government of South Africa. And when Mr. Mandela was released, "we Black people of South Africa" he says, "saw that we were entering a new South Africa, that Mr. de Klerk was debating with Black people."
We are happy now because Mr. de Klerk has solved this problem. Now we can make a decent living. As I said earlier on in this interview, a lot of people, myself included, would not mind joining the National Party in order to support Mr. de Klerk. Mr. de Klerk must remain as our State President before we have elections. Both Mr. de Klerk and Mr. Mandela are good candidates from the position of President for this country.
The fact that no such series of meetings ever took place did not detract from the merits of Bennett's story. It was not for me to question his sources, but to reflect on how information is passed on, one small distortion leading to another, until the sum of the accumulated distortions becomes "fact," the accepted wisdom.
IN 1991, after almost two years of wrangling over procedure, process, and sequencing of steps, few had much idea what form a new South Africa might take. Much had been written, of course, but when you examined the conclusions of the authors, you found that they were based on a series of assumptions that bordered on the speculative. Truth was, at that point, that no one really was in a position to predict the future, predicting what the following day might bring was tough enough.
In the circumstances, it seemed that what Bennett might have to say about a new South Africa would mean a lot more than polling a group of "experts." Whatever Bennett's answer, I knew that it would be free of the usual plethora of caveats and hypotheses.
"The new South Africa" Bennett assured me, "will bring about economic deliverance."
Black people are starving. Now as we move towards the new South Africa, we know that Black people are going to enjoy the same standard of living as white people. Now when we get to the new South Africa, we Black people will begin to have the same standard of living as white people. That's what most people in my community believe is going to happen."
I think it is not going to be long. If the ANC starts having talks with the government now, it is not going to be long before we get results. We are expecting [that there will be a new government] sooner rather than later.
How long would it take to bring living standards among Blacks up to the level of whites?
Notwithstanding his earlier assertion that Blacks were expecting their standards of living to move quickly to the level of whites, he now adopts a more reasoned position. I would find that it would not be the only occasion on which Bennett would appear to contradict himself, that he was given to speaking in a number of voices. One would reflect ANC political propaganda, which, not knowing any better, he took at face value; another would echo the sentiments of his neighbors and community reached probably after discussions over a couple of Castle; and yet another voice would reflect what he himself thought would happen. In any given conversation, the voices intermingled, but as one year blurred into the next, certain voices and sentiments began to assert themselves with greater emphasis. Like most South Africans, Bennett had to experience his own epiphany.
That [bringing standards of living into line] is going to depend on our leaders. The National Party and the ANC there are the only two organizations [that count] The Conservative Party (CP) oppresses Black people because they say that this land belongs to their forefathers. But the first people who were in Africa were Black. But when you read history, you are told that the people who landed first in the Cape were people like Vasco de Gama, and Jan van Riebeeck. But the Afrikaners were not born in Africa. They come from other countries. But now they claim that this is their forefathers' land. Now that the National Party is under the leadership of Mr. De Klerk, even we Black people support Mr. de Klerk. Most of the people of the ANC would like to join with the NP [in forming a government.] Most of the people in the ANC here would like to join the NP to give Mr. de Klerk support.
What Bennett was saying would be music to Mr. De Klerk's ears. Africans singing his praises. Africans seeing him as one of their own. Africans referring to him as "Comrade" de Klerk. Some seeing him, working with Mr. Mandela, as one who would lead them into the Promised Land. Indeed, opinion polls at the time, revealed a surprising level of approval for Mr. de Klerk; approval, of course, didn't necessarily mean that Africans would vote for him in an election, although a small but significant number certainly would. Approval of Mr. De Klerk's actions in releasing Mr. Mandela and unbanning the ANC engendered a concomitant popularity, but the popularity should not have been seen as electoral support, although in the early days, it could be seen as a base on which to build electoral support. But Bennett's acute observation that only two parties mattered – the National Party and the ANC and that that should share power, and that the IFP were peripheral players was surprisingly close to the terms of the interim settlement, and far more accurate than the pronouncements of the pundits who were forever seeing false obstacles on a rather straight path.
But first, the path had to be straightened.
Even before CODESA began its formal proceedings, it was evident that Mr. De Klerk was in fact seeing himself as a "liberator" of sorts and prone to take at face value the esteem conferred on him by Blacks as his just due, rather than as something more ephemeral. Gratitude should never be confused with loyalty. Mr. De Klerk did not pause to examine the basis for his popularity among Africans, and thus he misunderstood it, allowing it to become a factor in strategic decisions that in the end worked to his disadvantage. Allowing himself to bask in the illusion of a broad-based multi-racial base of support would be his undoing. By the time he came to earth, the damage was irreversible.
The ANC, however, took note of the support Mr. De Klerk elicited among many Blacks, and while they would dismiss it as a passing thing, it became a matter of concern, a matter that demanded a strategy to erase whatever support de Klerk might have among Blacks, irrespective of the reasons for it. In 1991, the campaign to vilify Mr. De Klerk in the African community began. He was held personally responsible for the so-called Black-on- Black violence, accused by the ANC that he was party to a "dual strategy." And, in fact, Mr. De Klerk had no answer to Mr. Mandela's charge that had the situation been reversed and "unknown" assailants were slaughtering whites in their homes and were innocent victims of drive-by gunmen, he would not have tolerated the situation for a moment. Rather, he would have demanded that his Generals get to the bottom of the matter, to leave no leads, no matter how fanciful, without follow-up; in short, to produce results and quickly or risk seeing their heads roll.
When we bring our discussion back to how long it might take a new government, headed by the ANC, to raise the standard of living of Black people to the standard of whites, Bennett' makes no immediate demands, realism surfaces. It is an unrealistic realism, but nevertheless, it disappoints me. After almost fifty years of unfettered power and the merciless oppression of Blacks through legislation that reached into every crevice of Black life to preserve the privileged lives that whites enjoyed and the economic comforts they accrued by the relentless exploitation of others, had he opined that a new government should move swiftly to dismantle the wellsprings of the inequalities between Blacks and whites that were among the highest in the world, I would have applauded him for his sense of outrage, for seeking to eradicate immediately the injustices that he had endured quietly or risk loss of job or even imprisonment for spreading subversive dissent. But, no, he is reasonableness itself.
I think that for us Black people, it will take us quite a long time. Because of apartheid most Black people are on a very low grade. We have little or no education. We only have the training to perform jobs that don't require much skill. White people made sure that when apartheid was at its height, we could not move into anything. We could not get equal with the white people. But now that things are changing -- even the education Black children are receiving is getting a little better. But to come up to the level of white people, it will take us four to five years.
Five tears, I want to tell him, is a blimp on time's spread sheet It is a long way from being 'quite some time." But what if in four or five years things are much the same with nothing very different from what it is now, no change of any discernible consequence, will people be disappointed?
I would be very disappointed. I don't even know how to express how disappointed I would be, even if Mr. Mandela were president. It would mean going right back to the beginning for the Black people. We thank Mr. de Klerk for what he has done. Because he understood what Mandela told him. Mandela said that there is nothing wrong with this man.10 Mr. Mandela puts the facts to the white people. He is not saying that he wants to kick the white people out of this land.
But now Mr. Mandela is not moving very quickly. They are going slowly. The government is slowing things down. As a result Mr. Mandela slows down too. Before we become equal to white people it will take us quite a long time, because Mr. Mandela does not want white people to run away from South Africa. He wants all the business people to remain in South Africa, so that Black people can get economic advancement, so that they can live like white people.
To keep white people happy and their skills in the country, Mr. Mandela will not put the screws on whites; he understands that without the skills whites possess, Blacks can't make great leaps forward. They are, far more than they wish to acknowledge, interdependent. Enact rapid change and whites will desert the country with their skills, know-how and capital, thus reducing the prospects for Black advancement rather than enhancing it. Reducing whites' standards of living will do nothing to raise Blacks'; on the contrary it could hurt them. A delicate balance exists between the two. Given the country's demographics, a white minority of 11 per cent and a Black majority of 89 per cent, even a massive redistribution from whites to Blacks would drastically cut white living standards, but do little to raise Blacks' since the wealth taken from whites would result in miniscule increases in Black per capita incomes, once it was distributed to the huge Black population. At this point, before formal negotiations had even begun, the ANC had not indulged in any "wild" promises; indeed had it done so it would have only been making its negotiating objectives more difficult to achieve, with white stone walling.
The ANC needed to enter negotiations as the apostles of reasonableness, convince the Nats that massive economic dislocation was not part of its agenda, build a sense of confidence that whites could live with, take them by the hand and lead them into a new South Africa in which little would have appeared to change, but in which all had changed. Thus, the expectations of Blacks such as Bennett that had already adopted a cut-off date for achieving equality of living standards was something the ANC should have been working to dampen; but it, too, was caught in its own Catch 22: on the one hand to convince the masses, especially the more restless and militant youth that negotiations would achieve the goals of the struggle and couple that with a message that they shouldn't expect to experience changes that would amount to much in terms of tangible benefits: higher wages, more and better houses, subsidized by their government, opportunities to up grade their skills and open the way to free university education for their children, then what the hell had they been making the country ungovernable for? A souped-up version of more of the same with something called a universal franchise thrown in as a sweetener? The forthcoming negotiations were not only going to be about how governance power should be reallocated; they were also about changing mind sets, not between race groups but within race groups. Unless new mindsets, the paradigm shifts so close to the hearts of social psychologists could be developed and nurtured, new constitutional models providing for freedom and protections for all would have scant impact on the lives of the economically disenfranchised i.e. the Blacks on behalf of whom the struggle was supposedly waged and who served as its frontline fodder.
Perhaps the pyrotechnics of these balancing acts escaped Bennett's mind; but he intuitively caught their substance, save for the fact that his sense of what was a reasonable period of time in which a society could be transformed, once it bound itself with democratic norms, will require a little recalibrating.
Thus, on governance, Bennett was no proponent of radical change. Should the ANC rule on its own or would he like to see the ANC and the NP rule together?
His response is unhesitating: He would like to see the ANC and the NP rule together. Not the ANC ruling alone. "We would like to see the ANC and NP unite." he says, although it is not at all clear who the "we" is or whether the "we" would share his expansive views. Most of his neighbors, he admits, "want Mr. Mandela as the State President. The ANC has a lot of supporters. That is because the ANC is fighting for Black people."
One thing was coming across to me, however. Blacks like Bennett were no "freedom fighters." Above all they wanted apartheid and all its vestiges to be wiped from the face of the earth. They wanted their dignity back. Their self-esteem. They wanted to have the opportunities the white man had, not by depriving the white man of these opportunities , but by having them opened up to Blacks. They wanted the simple things that are universal to the impoverished, the subjected, the victims of dehumanization everywhere: a job, a house, a community, a school, a church, a sense of belonging, freedom to choose those whom they would like to serve them in public office, freedom to express their opinions without having to lower their voices or look over their shoulders, freedom to dissent, the primacy of the rule of law, order and security.
Only the few aspire to the aggrandizements of power; unfortunately the few manipulate the many for their own ends, and the many forget what they really want. In the scheme of things, real revolutions are about the eradication of fear; the fear that one group has that another will destroy it or deprive it of hard - earned positions that carry with them the illusions of being superior in mysterious but indelibly human ways to marginal groups. The fear that one day the marginals will cry, "Enough!" And thus, the Nelson Mandelas, Walter Sisulus, the Mac Maharajs, the Steve Bikos, the working person who stands up to his boss, even at the risk of losing his job, perhaps his livelihood. We need food to fill our bellies; but food can never fill the emptiness that we live with when we are denied the things that constitute our humanness.
Education was among Bennett's priorities for the new South Africa. With the advent of a new dispensation, he wanted more than anything else to see its benefits take tangible form in better schools – and better teachers. But he had his doubts.
The Afrikaners [he says] are a very stubborn people. They resist change. For example, they bombed a school in Pretoria, which had been acquired by the ANC for use by returned ANC students. This school was previously a white school but was now empty. But because the Afrikaners are against ANC, they resisted the decision to hand over the empty school to Black students. They dislike the ANC. They say that Black men will never rule them. They say that they ought to rule these people [Blacks] until they go underground.
But unfortunately, that is not the case. Mr. de Klerk recognized the wrong in this and acknowledges that we are all South Africans, regardless of the color of our skins, that we should all enjoy the same standard of living. Only a few oppose him, but they can talk and they are dangerous. Mr. du Plessis11 himself has said that the AWB and the CP12 may be few in numbers but that they are dangerous. Their numbers are too small to win any election in South Africa.
But as for my children and me, as long as Mr. de Klerk and Mr. Mandela are there our future looks bright. My children will get a good education and get to university. We are pleased that there will now be only one department of education with one minister representing all racial groups in South Africa.
But despite Bennett's yearning for a new order, it does not encompass Blacks and whites attending the same schools. He would like to see schools where Black children go to Black schools and white children go to white schools, but in both school systems the standards of education, the credentials of the teachers, the availability of extra-curricular activities, the condition of the physical plant, the provision of textbooks and class facilities would be the same. IN all regards, education would be separate, but equal.[ this is something Bennett would change his mind on] It would be difficult, he believes, for children to go to multiracial schools. "I think we should maintain segregated education, " he says. "I would like to see a situation, however, where Blacks are given an education which will gain them entrance into universities." Entrance to university is a repeated concern for Bennett.
Earlier in the afternoon, before I began recording our conversation, Bennett told me that he had joined the ANC in 1984. What, I asked him had motivated his decision to embark on such a risky course?
I was persuaded to join the ANC by the story of Mr. Mandela's arrest in 1964. Mr. Mandela was fighting for equal rights for all in South Africa. He was not just fighting for Xhosa but he was fighting for all Blacks in South Africa. He did not believe in tribalism. But when the National Party was elected into government in 1948, the Dutch people were promised that if they voted for the NP, they would have a better standard of living. Jobs would be reserved exclusively for them. Africans would work for them as their servants only. They then dispossessed the African of his land. Mr. Mandela, Mr.Sisulu and Mr. Mbeki spoke out against all this. All of this we were able to read about in the newspapers.
In 1984, [1964?] I made the decision to join the ANC, because the ANC was fighting for the freedom of Black people in South Africa. African people were like slaves in South Africa.
Given that political tensions were so high at the time, Bennett's decision was one huge step into the unknown. Furthermore, the ANC was banned, so how did one go about joining it? The ANC had no structures, other than underground ones, in the country. One could hardly go to the nearest ANC office and simply sign-up. Moreover, since the ANC was illegal with the authorities ceaselessly trying to infiltrate it, it made no sense that it would be actively promoting a recruiting campaign. I wondered whether Bennett was confusing the ANC and the UDF. The United Democratic Front (UDF) was created to coordinate PW Botha's new constitution creating the new tricameral parliament in 1983.13 Soon it became a powerful catalyst, uniting under one organization over 600 anti apartheid organizations – trade unions, community groups, churches, student organizations, professional associations – that became in time the spring board for the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM). Were there many people in Thozoka who were also members of the ANC before its unbanning? Yes, Bennett said, but most people were afraid to join because of the possibility of harassment and arrest. Some people actually ran away from South Africa and went to Zambia. Was he ever arrested? Detained? [QUESTIONS FOR BENNETT]
No, I was never arrested although I constantly lived in fear of arrest. The sentences for being a member of the ANC were harsh. In 1976, with the rise of Black consciousness, white people realized that killing Black people was not going to solve their problems. The answer was to negotiate. Even the Prime Minister of the time, Mr. PW Botha saw this and he scrapped the Pass Laws14 and introduced the Identity Document (ID)15 for all South Africans. [QUESTIONS FOR BENNETT]
Some time later, an ANC field organizer explained the situation to me in this way. He would make his rounds in the townships recruiting new members. On almost every occasion the same salutation would greet him. "Comrade, I've been a member of the ANC for years." In that case, the field organizer would gently suggest, the loyal member would welcome the opportunity to renew his membership, for a mere fee of ten Rand. The response was invariably, one of outrage, accompanied by a mouthful of expletives. How dare the organizer ask for money from a loyal member of the ANC. Membership in the cast had cost nothing, and if he, the organizer, thought that he, long time member of the ANC was going to fork over ten Rand for a card that would verify his membership in the organization, he had another thing coming! End of conversation. Field organizer sent packing like a dog with his tail between his legs. Supporters of the ANC simply extrapolated support to membership.
Our conversation turns to the violence on the Rand, especially the intensity of the violence in Thokoza. Who is behind the violence? Bennett is unequivocal:
Chief Gatsha Mangosuthu Buthelezi is the cause of the violence.16 He has caused all the violence here. He knew that if Mr. Mandela was released from prison, that Mandela was going to take over because they were together in the 1960s before Mr. Mandela was arrested.17 He was also a member of the ANC and they were together in school. When the ANC started to mobilize against the government in the 1940s and when the government introduced the apartheid system - Gatsha was an ANC member. When Mr. Mandela was released Gatsha thought that events would turn in his favor. And whether he becomes the ruler in Natal, he was coming in behind ANC; that is why the government was always helping Inkatha.18 That was the cause of the violence.
First, because Mandela is a Xhosa. But if you look at the make up of the ANC, it is not only Xhosas. There are other ethnic groups. You will find Sothos, Coloureds, Indians and others. But Inkatha is only made up of Zulus. Like when the violence broke out, it was said that Xhosas were fighting against the Zulus, but that was not the case. When you look at the townships, you will find that it is only Zulus fighting against the residents, and those residents are not only Xhosas.19 You find all ethnic groups in the community. In the hostels you will only find Zulus.
There were two people fighting and the Xhosa killed the Zulu. After that violence broke out. Now Gatsha, he sent his people, colleagues, to different places and said they must fight and kill all the Xhosas. Let it be a fight between Xhosas and Zulus.20
He sent innocent people from Natal to come and fight against the people in the Transvaal. Do you remember how many people they killed in Thokoza in December.21 They came from Natal in minibuses, and buses. They came into people's homes. Most people around here had to abandon their homes, and go to seek shelter where there was no violence. All this because of Mr. Gatsha. He does not want the ANC and the government to come to the table and sort out their differences, because he thinks that if the ANC takes over then he will lose everything. But what I am saying is that, if the ANC takes over, I would like to see the ANC and the NP unite. All other organizations should come to parliament to discuss this.
One is struck by his attitude that the past is over, that it is time for the new South Africa to start making its presence felt, that Buthelezi is the spoiler, willing to unleash ethnic war or indeed war by any means in order not to be brushed aside by both the ANC and the NP. He expresses himself without passion, no name-calling, and no apparent resentment over the injustices done him in the past. Is it the passive acceptance of the victim to a situation over which he has no control or is his anger still searching for an outlet to manifest itself, or is he merely pragmatic; the past is something over which he had no say; the future may perhaps give him a voice, not perhaps a compelling one but at least better than having no voice at all to raise on one's own behalf?
But none of these explanations adequately captures his seeming unconditional forgiveness of the NP for the oppression it had subjected him to during most of his life: the humiliating pass book; the forced removal, the severe limitation of opportunity, excruciating work conditions without recourse to address; the calculated cultivation of inferior education for his children, assignment to the role of cog to oil the wheels of white privilege and imbued sense of superiority. Yet, in the face of these impoverishments, he could not just contemplate but would forcibly argue for the NP's participation in whatever government negotiations between the ANC and the NP produced.
Bennett's answer was simplicity itself: Reword was the man responsible for the Black man's oppression. He was responsible for the pass laws and influx control, not the present generation of NP leaders. Mr. De Klerk should not be held accountable for the deeds carried out by his predecessors; Mr. De Klerk wanted to open the way for a non-racial democratic South Africa. He trusted Mr. De Klerk. "Last year, " he recalled, " Mr. de Klerk said that he and his cabinet did not have a problem with South Africa being governed by a Black government under Mr. Mandela if it meant there would be peace in South Africa.22 Hence I trust Mr. de Klerk and Mr. Botha [Pik]."
Bennett made a distinction that, oddly enough, I appeared incapable of making. He did not associate Mr. de Klerk with the National Party or with apartheid governments of the past. He did not see de Klerk as having been an agent of past regimes. He did not know that Mr. De Klerk was once regarded as a leading verkramptes.23, that as Minister of Education he had fought tooth and nail to keep Black students out of white universities, and threatened white students who protested his actions with having their military service deferments peremptorily withdrawn.
In retrospect, too much reportage of Mr. De Klerk's verkramptes dispositions obscured the fact that only vergramptes stood any chance of climbing the hierarchies of power within the NP; only verkramptes could establish themselves as legitimate successors to the increasingly strident state president who blindly pursued policies he knew had failed, but was entrapped in the dogmas of an ideology had passionately defended all his life, dogmas he, out of his warped Christian convictions, believed were right, and continued to believe so to the end of his life.24
Besides, de Klerk would hardly have become leader of the NP in the Transvaal, the most heartland of the party's support, had he ever expressed misgivings regarding the orthodoxies of official government, especially with Dr. Andries Treurnicht, the former head of the NP Congress in the Transvaal breathing down his neck, with the true sons of Afrikaner nationalism who had abandoned the heretical NP to join Treurnicht's newly-formed Conservative Party out to establish their electoral dominance in the Transvaal. In fact had de Klerk harbored ideas of reform, he stood a better chance of having them see the light of day by keeping them to himself, as he ascended the ladder of power, the party's party man, while some of his more gregarious colleagues aired opinions, even if timidly put and the usual caveats, that actually spoke of the need for political reform that would provide access to Africans to participate in political decisions, especially in matters relating to African Affairs.
The path to power required the cultivation of a benign silence; those who, out of misguided ambition or conviction, had the temerity to question government policy found themselves political has-beens. Only a genuinely certified verkrampte could, once he had achieved the position of supreme authority, outmaneuver the best the verligtes could offer by simply appropriating all the verligtes stood for.
But for Bennett, de Klerk only existed in the present.
His wife, Rose, was a Zulu. When the violence broke out did he feel that his family could be in danger? Did other non-Zulu members of his community treat her differently? Did she become an "enemy"? Did neighbors treat her differently? Bennett had concerns, but they were not overriding ones, not ones that rushed him into precipitate actions.
We have ANC Street Committees here, but the Comrades do not take the law into their own hands. They get their instructions from the ANC offices, and if there is any tension because of something that has taken place in the township such as electricity cut-offs, we take the matter to the offices of the ANC, and we get advice on what direction we should take in order to resolve the conflict between the Town Council and the residents. The Comrades from around here don't 'lay down the line', order boycotts and work stay-a ways, which they enforce.
In a sense, Bennett was one of the more "privileged" Blacks: he had a job, and like every Black he worked for a white man. White employers had treated him badly: "There was segregation in the work place, they had no respect for us. It was an ordeal to wake up in the morning and go to work. There were no breaks during the working day."
When I started working for white people conditions were very bad. Even now, though things have improved somewhat, there are some white people who treat us badly. The PAC says that white people should be thrown out of this country like they did in Rhodesia (sic). Rhodesians ran to South Africa when that country became independent. When they got here, they felt at home because they could continue to suppress the Black man. They did not realize that things would change here as well.
For the first time, Bennett reacted with emotion. When his white employers treated him badly, he would get angry, but always he had to balance the cost of asserting himself in the face of unjustified criticism, plain racism, or the propensity of whites in positions of authority that were themselves angry at someone or something to vent their anger on their Black underlings. Directing one's anger at Blacks who could not answer back became a safety valve of sorts, a convenience for letting off steam. If your superiors reproved you; you could take out their displeasure with your performance on Blacks who would have to mutely accept your abuse. He readily admits to feeling anger towards white people in general because of the way many of them have mistreated him over the years. Had he the means to set himself up in business, Bennett said, he would not work for whites. But things were otherwise. "I have to take the treatment meted out to me."
It was a refrain he would repeatedly invoke: Had he the means, then he could do this and that. But I never felt he gave serious thought to the idea. Obviously without a financial windfall from some mysterious source, or going into partnership with some local entrepreneur in Thokoza who had access to capital to complement Bennett's skill as an auto-mechanic, or an unstated belief that come the new South Africa the ANC government would give generous start-up capital to small Black businesses, his "had I the means" had a hollow ring to it. He was waiting for the means to fall into his lap while he daydreamed about how he would use it or about the horse that would come galloping home at 100 to one and make all things possible.
I am still working for a white man [he says] although I am still looking for a way out. I would rather be self-employed. Even as we are talking now, apartheid is still in place. There have been no real changes. Apartheid still exists. Parliament may scrap apartheid laws, but the reality of the situation is that in practice apartheid lives on.
But whites are getting afraid that when the tables are turned, when power moves into Black hands, Blacks are going to treat them as badly as they treated Blacks, although Mr. Mandela has told whites that they should not be afraid, that there will be no acts of revenge against whites in this country. However, whites continue to have these fears. The PAC are the ones who want revenge, not the ANC.
The ANC takes the economy of this country into consideration. If Blacks concentrate on revenge against the white people, then the economy will suffer. I would not mind seeing a racially mixed cabinet. Some white people think that if Black people take over power in this country their lives will be in danger. But that is not the case. If we do that there will be no investors coming into this country and those that are already here will disinvest. We want to be a party of the international community. We want to take part in activities such as the Olympic Games. Apartheid South Africa has been isolated.
On the impact of sanctions Bennett spoke with a passion that he rarely disclosed:
No, he had never supported sanctions. They had a severe impact on Blacks.. Nobody wanted sanctions. Desmond Tutu was the one who was pushing for sanctions. Sanctions did not affect white people. They only affected Black people. They caused great unemployment. But Desmond Tutu insisted on sanctions. Most of the people did not support sanctions. Except for Tutu. He was pressurizing the international community to support sanctions against this country in order to force the South African government to listen to the voice of the masses.
I do not think that sanctions are what made Mr. de Klerk embark on the road of negotiation. Mr. de Klerk changed because he realized that if he released Mr. Mandela from prison, then they could negotiate. He wanted to make peace with the international community. He wants South Africa to take part in international events. He wants to open sporting links with other African countries, like Cameroon is coming to play football in South Africa. We are happy about that. Mr. de Klerk made that happen. He does not consider the color of a person's skin. He recognizes that we are all human and we must unite. He wants South Africa to get support from other countries. For example Mr. Mandela has been getting support from other countries for the poor in this country. I have a lot of trust in Mr. De Klerk. As long as he is the State President, I will trust him.
Even Inkathagate25 did not shake his trust in Mr. de Klerk. Of course Mr. De Klerk knew about the money and where it was going. Of course, he lied about it. Things like that could not happen without his knowing about them. Nevertheless, he continued to trust Mr. de Klerk " because is not fighting against the Black people. If he were against them, he would not have released Mr. Mandela."
Most of my neighbors did not support sanctions, because they contributed to unemployment and hence great human suffering. They were the cause of retrenchments. I was retrenched in 1989, because of the economy. Whites were retrenched too during that time. It took me between four and five months before I could find another job. And I was lucky. I am a car mechanic. I was doing private jobs in the location. This money fed my family and paid my children's' school fees. It was very hard. All because of the sanctions. After 1989 sanctions were really making themselves felt. That is when I started finding myself frequently unemployed. Another result of sanctions was that due to unemployment, there was an escalation in the crime rate in South Africa. There were more robberies, especially of big companies. There are a lot of unemployed people in Thokoza. They have nothing to do. So, they resort to crime. They commit robberies; steal cars, just to get some money for food. The level of crime is high, but it is not as high as in many other places.
It is unlikely that the debate about the efficacy in pushing the government in the direction of negotiations or accelerating their actions will ever be truly resolved. [ Barend du Plessis 1990/1]
The liberation movements in exile and the MDM at home enthusiastically supported them, perhaps believing that the masses should be prepared to make sacrifices to "purify" their liberation, that their suffering was a high but necessary price to pay for the rewards of freedom. But it is a little utopian to expect people who were already eking out marginal livings to give up the little they had in the belief that having nothing would hasten their "liberation." Sanctions hurt Blacks. Blacks on the lower end of the economic spectrum often lost their jobs when companies that disinvested left South Africa; other companies closed down; prohibitions on exports and imports further weakened the economy's industrial base. While consumer boycotts also hurt whites, their impact was far less severe. More of an inconvenience to lifestyles that a threat to livelihoods. [data on impact of sanctions]
From the time they were first mooted, sanctions elicited fiery support and fierce criticism. The debate over the role of sanctions in hastening the end of apartheid remains contentious and probably will continue to be for a long time to come. Part of the problem is that the information revolution is that the capacity to access information greatly exceeds our capacity to process information; as a result we can draw on so much data that a conclusion on any issue, supported by volumes of data, is open to rebuttal by volumes of data suggesting that a contrary conclusion was is plausible. Information overload refers not just to the sheer scale of information we can tap into at an instant, but are incapable of absorbing, thus increasing our dependence on the sophisticated techniques we use to short-circuit complexity and to manipulation information in ways that were inconceivable a few years ago. But in our haste to process, we rarely stop to consider exactly what it is that we are processing. Hence the phenomenon of processing without context. Partisans on any side of an issue have little trouble in accessing information and using data-manipulative techniques to their support their contentions, mostly preconceived. The human propensity to reach conclusions first, and begin the search for supporting evidence remains untouched.
Whatever the way the debate flows, no absolute conclusions regarding the impact of sanctions can be adduced. Sanctions served many agendas. In some instances they were relatively successful; in others partially so; and in some others they had unintended impacts that accomplished the opposite of what they were attended to achieve.
If one were to view them through a prism, one would find not a single image, but a series of refractions that sometimes overlapped, sometimes coexisted, and sometimes were in apposition to each other. The images do not reflect realities but our perceptions of the way we wish things to be. We see what we want to see.
Advocates of sanctions and activists argued that the blanket use of sanctions would further weaken an already weakened economy and slowly bring the country to a grinding halt or to a point where the government would throw up its hands in surrender and say "enough is enough! The prevalent conventional wisdom was that sanctions would jolt the business community, to its senses, and impel it to put the squeeze on the government, not because it had undergone some Damascus-like conversion on the way to the financial district and was suddenly awakened to the injustices of apartheid, but, better still, because it would be in their self interest to do so. If one is called upon to make a choice between the purveyor of altruism and the purveyor of self interest, always choose the latter; self interest when the occasion demands brings out the best in us; altruism believes it that it already has.
But of course, what sounds convincing in argument and seems impeccably logical in the abstract often falls apart when reality rears its ugly head. South Africa found ingenious ways around sanctions; in a world that worships avarice, there is literally nothing that money can't buy; wherever a buyer exists a seller, like a radar guided missile, will find him; countries that agreed to the imposition of sanctions worked closely with networks of South African go-betweens to circumvent them.26
Many industries did suffer and laid off workers –invariably Black workers, but some used sanctions as a means to diversify their activities, and in many cases, necessity became the actual mother of invention [du Plessis/Keys]
Trade unionists were caught in a predicament. As part of the vanguard of the revolution, they had no option but to support the call for sanctions. But on occasion, the calls were somewhat muted. "Workerists" as they became known as, argued that the first duty of a trade union was to protect and advance the interests of its members, especially to safeguard their jobs in an economy where the rate of employment exceeded 40 per cent. If the union advocated sanctions and the sanctions resulted in some of its members laid off, what was one to tell them: that their jobs had been sacrificed for the "bigger picture? "
Yes, workers supported sanctions as long as they posed no threats to their jobs. To balance the countervailing demands being made on them, many unions adopted a dual approach: they supported sanctions but would strike if workers in the industry, which employed their members, were laid off as a consequence. In this way, they could be both good trade unionists and at the forefront of the struggle.
But the most damaging impact of sanctions was that it closed off serious discussions regarding the merits of the strategy as a means of attaining the long-run objectives of the struggle. The government, not surprisingly vehemently opposed the impositions of sanctions by the international community, arguing that they were being pushed by a group of commies in the ANC. As part of its propaganda campaign the government highlighted the fact that the first to feel the impact of sanctions would be Black workers, that the communists who dominated the ANC ha d no qualms advocating policies that would send millions of their fellow Blacks into destitution while they plotted to overthrow the government and install a communist regime. This argument was the core of the message they used to stave off the growing international consensus for sanctions; with the slow disintegration of communism in the late eighties, it lost much of its force, not that it had much to begin with. But the government faced with the growing pressure either to release Mandela and negotiate with the ANC had to make the most of the bad hand it had been dealt, hence the recourse to any stratagem that might elicit some degree of sympathy.
But because the government's opposition to sanctions was so vehement, any Black leader who questioned the wisdom of the policy, its repercussions on the economy and the structure of the economy an ANC government would inherit when the day of liberation finally arrived were regarded as puppets of the government, of siding with the government when it was the government itself which felt most threatened by sanctions. A revolutionary movement is non democratic; it is a collective in which the individual subjugates his personal opinions no matter how strongly he might hold them to the decision of the collective, A revolutionary movement that tolerated dissenting opinions within its ranks was putting itself out of business. His political opponents in the UDF used Buthelezi's opposition to sanctions to demonize him. Despite his repeated insistence that he would not negotiate with the government until the government released Mandela and unbanned the ANC, struggle advocates decried his unwavering stand against sanctions to couple him with the government, thus labeling him an enemy of the people and against liberation.27 [first Buthelezi and then de Klerk]
Disinvestments from South Africa allowed local entrepreneurs to purchase businesses at bargain prices, and the workers, previously protected by foreign owners who implemented the Sullivan principles28 found that the new owners – white businessmen-had little regard for the Sullivan principles.
Sanctions distorted the structure of the economy. Competitiveness took a second place to staying in business; hence the high tariffs against foreign imports that would further erode the base of the economy. When the ANC did come to power in 1994, it found an economy that was structurally crippled; largely incompetent, and in no condition to become part of the global economy. In one sense the ANC's campaign to destroy the economic base of the country had dire consequences that is proving difficult to undo. An uncompetitive economy, with low levels of productivity continues to have a difficult time gaining a foothold in the global market place; the largely unskilled labor force due in part to the ANC's decree that the Black man should not acquire a skill that would allow him to be exploited by white employers. Business did not invest in their Black workers, did not join with trade unions in joint endeavors to raise skill levels, and unions did not put the need to upgrade the skill level of its members among its top priorities. The emphasis on the short run made future plans to address the long term impossible to achieve because obstacles that had been erected in the hey days of the fight against apartheid proved difficult and sometimes virtually impossible to overcome. Labor practices that were lauded when they were used to disrupt the economy, became immense liabilities once there was no further need for them. Behaviors that are learned are not easy to unlearn.
In August 1991, the pace of the pre-negotiation talks began to pick up. Despite setbacks, and the bitter acrimony over the continuing violence in the townships no one was abandoning the process. Parties which had committed themselves to a peaceful, negotiated resolution to South Africa's problems were learning that once they had successfully removed one set of obstacles to talks, at least two other sets would appear. Sometimes they were addressing obstacles, few would have characterized as such a year earlier; but such was the nature if the process they were engaged in that there were no established rules of play; hence the rules that would bind the parties in negotiations were often created as fresh obstacles had to be overcome.
The parties were also positioning their pawns, preparing to make opening moves without committing themselves to particular gambits. Constitutional proposals, interim or otherwise, were being advanced by all parties, not for their merits alone but to "suss" out the opposition. Moreover, an initiative led by the Consultative Business Movement (CBM), an organization representing a broad cross section of business interests, and the church leaders would result the following month in the "National Peace Initiative," and subsequent agreement on the National Peace Accord, the first ever accord signed by all parties. 29
Bennett was not immune to the tide of rising spirits:
Next year things will have completely changed here. Now they are going towards the negotiating table. I do not support the interim government.30 I think the ANC should wait for the government to tell them that the ANC should join them in the running of this country. The problem is that the ANC is voiceless in the running of the government of this country. Once this is resolved all will be well here. When you come back next year there will be a new government. Elections should have taken place. Elections could take place as early as December, because things are moving very fast.
When I look at the future, I feel good.. Everything is looking promising. Things are coming together now. Even the shops are fuller. A lot of foreign companies are going to come into South Africa. However, they are afraid what will happen when Blacks take over power. Even if the ANC takes over, they should not be afraid because everything will remain the same.[interesting that Bennett would say "if" and not "when" the ANC takes over. And he was right, nothing changed]
The ANC will not say that white people must leave like the PAC. PAC policy is that whites must be driven to the sea. If whites leave this country, where are we going to be? Where are we going to get our bread? Because whites are trying to save the economy of this country and we must unite with them in this effort.
I do not want the white people to leave this country. I would like to see white people remaining in South Africa so that we may all live together with equal rights for all. The ANC and the NP must come together because they are the two parties who are going to solve all these things. Except for the CP and the AWB. Those parties are destructive.
At the conclusion of our conversation we start speculating on what, if anything, could stop the momentum of change. What the biggest obstacles to change the government and the ANC had to face.
If this violence continues and escalates, and the ANC and the government do not stop it, [Bennett says] most companies will disinvest. The South African economy will go on a downward slide. At the moment Black people do not live on the same standards as white people.
The government and the ANC want to stop the violence but the main problem is Inkatha.
Is the violence primarily ethnic in origin?
At the beginning the violence on the Eastern Rand was what you people call "ethnic" – a tribal war between Xhosas and Zulus. That was so. But now it is against anybody who supports the ANC. The Xhosa- Zulu war took place in Phola Park.31 Then it spread to the whole location. But this is no longer the case. The intentions of those behind this violence are to discredit the ANC. They want the government to point fingers at the ANC and say that since the release of Mr. Mandela violence in the townships has escalated. But the ANC is not involved in this violence. Mr. Mandela told Mr. de Klerk that ANC cadres are unarmed. The only ANC cadres that are armed are Mkhonto we Sizwe soldiers, but they are not in the country at the moment. Inkatha members, on the other hand, arm themselves with knobkerries, spears, pangas, machetes, and they burn other people's houses. Mr. Mandela then suggested to the government that ANC cadres should be armed in order to protect themselves against Inkatha attacks. The people who were left defenseless in the face of the Inkatha assaults were more scared than angry with the ANC for failing to come to their aid. People are looking forward to the day when the ANC takes over in South Africa because they will sort out the question of Zululand. The ANC will forge unity among the people of South Africa once it takes over. [what does Bennett mean when he says that 'the ANC will sort out the Zulus.']
Rereading these interviews what intrigues me is Bennett's peculiar attachment to de Klerk. Even Inkathagate could not persuade him that the government was at the very least lending a helping hand to Inkatha. He had a faith in de Klerk's ability to effect change that he did not appear to have in Mandela. He is confident that the ANC will rule the country, but that it will have to give de Klerk a significant say in government. De Klerk and Mandela are two of a kind. Once they stick together, South Africa's political problems are surmountable; economic prosperity will ensue and within four to five years Blacks will have parity with whites. He never underestimates the need to keep white people in South Africa; they are the ones with the skills; their skills are germane to resuscitating the economy, thus providing opportunity and employment for Blacks. And as importantly, his children will have access to university education. Foreign companies who left to protest apartheid will return once new elections put the final stake in the heart of apartheid. The promise of the future is bright; only Inkatha stands in the way of progress, but although it might wreak havoc here and there, it will not derail the process. " The ANC will sort out the Zulus," was more than a threat; it implicitly suggested that if Inkatha stood in the way of the ANC's march to Pretoria, the ANC would not hesitate to deal with them as ruthlessly as the occasion demanded.32
More interestingly still, he does not accuse the government's security personnel, the SAP or the SADF of conniving with Inkatha to attack ANC areas or eliminate their leaders or of actively orchestrating and participating in these attacks. He fails to mention activities of "the third force," when the ANC was denouncing its activities from every pulpit it could find. He downplayed the effects of the violence that engulfed Thokoza, yet scattered among the streets in XXXX were the skeletons of houses once occupied but whose residents had been forced to flee, leaving all that they had behind them.
He maintained a certain detachment from it all, a belief that in the end all would come right.
Nevertheless, he, too, had a bottom line: he would give the ANC five years at the outside to make good on its promises. Not that he would switch his loyalty to another party, simply that the ANC would no longer be able to count on his blind allegiance.
13 January 1992
Again we sat in the parlor. Bennett, I learned, no longer worked as an auto-mechanic at Super-Rent. I had rang the agency and when I was put through to the extension he had given me the previous year, I was told that he didn't work there anymore. Had he moved to a different job? No, Bennett said, the company had dismissed him.
It was a Friday, at the end of the month. The fleet manager was paying us when some fleet trucks, six of them, had come in for repairs. The manager asked us to come on Saturday to do the repair jobs and the three of us who were mechanics said "OK, that would be fine; we will come in. " But I said that the thing is this, it is the end of the month and I am supposed to go to town to pay my accounts. So if you allow me to use a bakkie, I can go to town, pay my accounts, and then come and work. The fleet manager refused to give me the use of a bakkie. He said 'no I am not going to give you a bakkie, but you must come to work.' I said I am not saying, 'I don't want to come to work, I do want to come to work, but the main thing is that I must go to town and settle my accounts because there is nobody else who can do so. My wife Rose can't do it. She is still in hospital recovering from an operation.
Well, we knocked off and I went home. On Saturday morning, I went to work. At about 12 noon, I was doing the third truck. I was nearly finished, but I saw the time was slipping by and everything would be closed down by the time we would be finished. So I said,[said to whom] 'let me take a bakkie and go quickly to town, pay my bills and I'll come back to work as soon as I'm done.' I took the bakkie; I reported this to the guys whom I work with. I went to town, paid my accounts, and was back at the repair shop by about a quarter to one. I was gone for less than an hour.
We then finished the job and went home. On Monday, only the assistant foreman was present -- the foreman had been out sick for about three weeks. On the Saturday, the assistant foreman came in for a short time. He had already left t before I told the guys I was going to use a bakkie to go to town to pay my accounts, but that I'd be back as soon as possible. On Monday, at about 12 noon, I was called to the office. I cleaned myself up and went. I got to the office, was told to sit. I sat down. The assistant foreman said 'Bennett on Friday you asked for a bakkie and I said you couldn't have one. I told him that I had not taken a bakkie. Then he said that I took the bakkie on Saturday. I said that is correct, because I was here on Saturday and went to town. He said he had told me never to use the bakkie, so I had taken the bakkie without his instruction. So that meant that I had stolen the bakkie. I said no ways, because the bakkie is here and nothing has happened to the bakkie. He said, 'I am going to suspend you, discipline you for not taking my instructions.' It was Monday. He suspended me until Thursday, and he said I should come and hear the outcome of their discussions. I returned on Thursday. He told me that he was busy and I should return on Friday.
I came back on Friday and waited for one of the Directors, Mr. Johnson, until 12.30 pm. We went into a meeting to discuss the matter. I told him everything. He said to me after that I should stand outside while they discussed the matter in private. The other problem here is that my direct boss did not like me. He was a new guy. The one who used to work with me had left the company.
I think the guy did not like me because he had said he was going to make sure that some of the guys were going to be dismissed, because he was going to sweep the place clean with a new broom. I said, 'well there is nothing I can do about that; we are only the workers, you can do what you like.'
They called me back into the room and talked and talked and ended up by dismissing me. They gave me the option to appeal against the decision. I wanted to appeal but it would have been a waste of time appealing to these Afrikaners. I don't have money. If I had money I would just stay at home and do my own business. I said to myself, 'I am not going to waste my time appealing because if I do that it means I still want to go back to these people, so I won't appeal their decision because I don't want to go work for them anymore.' We aren't in a union. That is the main thing about working for that company. They chased people out when they wanted to, because there is no union.
Where I used to work before, at OK Bazaar, we had a union. When anything happens to you, you go to the union to help you solve the matter. Some people told me I should take action against the employers, but I said no.
The guy who I used to work with – the previous manager who had left -- heard the story, so he sent somebody to come and fetch me and said I must come and work with him. At the moment I am still with that man, but not permanently, I am just working part time.
I am working with this guy now, I am just helping them, but not for a long time. Because I am not prepared to work for somebody. Time is getting shorter and shorter while you are working there. I want to work for myself, have my own business.
Bennett's gave the account of the affair with dispassion; his eye occasionally wandering to the TV, which was carrying a soccer match Bennett was intent on following – interview or no interview. Often, when I visited him and he was engrossed in watching a game, I would feel guilty, knowing that I was intruding on his private space, but there was little I could do other than turn around and walk away. Bennett, after all, could always say he had lost interest in continuing, in which case I would have thanked him profusely for the times he had put other things aside in order to accommodate me -- and moved on.
I would not ask him to turn the TV off – such a request would simply have been off-limits, but I couldn't concentrate his attention if the roars of the crowd in the background and the commentator's breath-taking descriptions of the drama being played out on the field continually distracted him. Usually, I left it to his discretion. His judgment was usually accommodating – he would turn the television off, a little reluctantly, but always without comment. Unlike the Breytenbachs who did not hesitate to tell me that I could take a walk in the countryside while they watched their beloved Springboks in action,33 Bennett was the soul of graciousness.
Or was it graciousness? Decades of sensing what the white man wanted, of always being able to address a need before the white man could articulate it was a skill Blacks acquired to make life easier for themselves, but it was a skill they could not easily dispense with.
I pressed Bennett a little more: had his dismissal angered him?
It did make me angry because I was depending on that pay for my family's upkeep. I was also working on Saturdays and Sundays to improve my salary. The money that I was getting was enough to pay for all our needs; we could pay the installment for the house and we could live on that money. That is what I was angry about. I was not expecting to be fired over such a thing.
I'll tell you another thing. There was another guy who did not have a license, and he just took the bakkie and came into the location. When he got here he went boozing and got drunk. Then he had an accident. He went back to the workshop and took a toolbox from his office and came back with it to the location. After that the car was hijacked from him, and on Monday when we got to work, the man was not there and the bakkie was not there. They tried to trace the information. When they heard that the man had taken the bakkie, they went to his place. When we got there he told us that the bakkie had been stolen from him.
So when we came back to the factory, the management called the police and said this man must be arrested because he took the bakkie without permission and had an accident and he hasn't got a driver's license. But that guy was never fired. But I did not want to make a noise about that because he was one of my friends.
He arrested. They locked him up. Then he went to court. But now the company management did not want to go to court, because the police found the bakkie in another area in the location and they brought the bakkie back to the company. The bakkie was found and the two guys who stole it were arrested. Now there were three guys arrested over this matter. This one is arrested for taking the bakkie without the permission of the company, and these other two were arrested for stealing the vehicle.
But what I could not understand is why they fired me. I did not want to take any further action against these people. But these people were supposed to go to court, and say what my friend was arrested for and tell the magistrate the full story. But they never went to court. My friend was discharged; they let him free.
He is still working for the company. But I was fired. There is something wrong there; everybody sees that when I tell them.
Bennett's account of his dismissal left me somewhat less than fully sympathetic. Something was amiss. On the one hand, it was straight out of the apartheid textbook. A Black employee gets on the wrong side of his white boss, an occasion arises that gives the white boss the opportunity to fire him, and the Black man finds himself summarily dismissed, on the street, with little prospect of finding a job, and a hungry family waiting in a bleak township waiting for the food he can no longer put on the plate.
Several questions arouse my curiosity. The fleet manager's refusal to loan him a bakkie on Friday may or may not have been in accordance with company policy, whether the request came from a Black or a white. Why were Bennett's payments so pressing that they absolutely had to be made on the Saturday at latest? So pressing that he would borrow a bakkie without the permission of the white man in charge? If he was a day or two late with either his bond payment or utilities, neither the house would have been repossessed nor the utilities cut off. Was there any white man present working at the time who okayed Bennett's use of the bakkie on Saturday to run a quick errand? Was Bennett's use of the bakkie on Saturday his way of saying "up yours!" to the fleet manager who had cut him down to size on Friday? A reaction to provoked humiliation? Did he consider the possibility of disciplinary action? That his action might lead to his firing? Put the livelihood of his family on the line? Had he ever sought and been given permission to use a bakkie on previous occasions?
Was he subconsciously looking for a showdown with his boss? Unable to quit (he could hardly expect a sympathetic hearing from Rose had he arrived home and told her that he had just quit his job because he was sick and tired of working for whites), he had to conjure up a situation in which management would dismiss him, thus leaving him holding the moral high ground and allowing him to berate the white bosses for their callousness. What better than being able to attribute the carrying out one's familial responsibilities to the loss of one's job, because racist whites couldn't even conceive of a Black man having such responsibilities, to say nothing of his sense of personal obligation to meet them. Rose could hardly excoriate him for trying to live up to his responsibilities. In this way, he could shift the blame for his being fired to the incorrigibility of whites who never let an opportunity pass to knock the Black man and keep him in his place.
His recounting of the episode reeks of a passive Black meekly accepting the white man's authority. "You're suspended!" OK. "Return on Thursday when we've decided what to do with you." OK. " We're busy, return on Friday." OK. "Sit down." OK. " You're fired!" OK. Not a sliver of self-defence. No outrage. No appeal for reconsideration, that he had a family to feed, that the punishment was totally disproportionate to the infringement. No reference to his record of performance at the company. Nothing. Just a further victimizing of himself, at a time when his people were about to embark on the arduous task of de-victimizing themselves..
He would recount in detail how a friend of his had appropriated a bakkie, had no license to drive, got smashed and in turn smashed the car, was responsible the bakkie being hijacked, was charged by management with malfeasance and had the charges dropped when the police found the bakkie and arrested the thieves, and had kept his job despite these multiple and wholly irresponsible violations of every canon of company regulations and civil law, but when he had the chance, he did not even bother to bring that case to the attention of those who sat in judgment of him to jolt their memories and give a little perspective to their actions. No, he had maintained a calculated indifference to the proceedings, foregoing the opportunity to appeal their decision to the courts, not because of the money it might cost, but because if he won he would once again find himself the employee of white people he despised.
And what of the white man who came to his assistance, offering him work when he heard what had happened to him? Were there white men and white men? Of course. Had Bennett ever considered what he and Rose would have to do to patch together a living if that white man hadn't lent a helping hand?
Social psychologists would, no doubt, attribute actions and reactions to this "traumatic" situation to Bennett's reaching the edge of his endurance. Besieged within Thokoza by warring Zulus who made every day a potential nightmare of carnage, and on the outside by old time Black bosses, resentful of the changes that were taking place and exacting their resentment on whatever Black they could pick on.
But I would dissent. He had seen worse trauma; he cared deeply for his family, but he wanted to work for himself. A noble aspiration, but in the fanciful way in which he pursued it, he damaged his family, made life infinitely more difficult for all of them, and was unable to advance his aspiration a single step. When he talked about wanting to establish his own business, he did so with disconnectedness; he did not talk in business terms, of profit and loss, of how many customers he would need to make the business self-supporting, of how to market it, be competitive, find working capital. For a would-be businessman, Bennett did not speak the language of one. He substituted an aspiration for a goal. Day –dreams for what might have been real upliftment. Hope in the place of action.
What, I asked him, did the whole disgraceful matter say to him about white employers? Could they still run roughshod over the workers? Would they continue to treat workers with the same dismissive attitudes when a new government took over? Did he think the man who fired him would just as easily fire Black people when there was a non- racial government in the country?
I cannot say, because people are different. The man who fired me is a Christian, so I am wondering how he can do a thing like this. I put my statement to him and I told him the whole story. I thought that man, because he is a Christian, will understand and feel something for me, but he did not.
I wonder am I being too harsh. I had not to deal with the daily diet of unbridled racism. I did not have to keep my mouth shut when I wanted to scream. I did not have to listen to my reasonable being turned on their head until they were reduced to impudence, to not knowing my place.
At the moment [he says]it is very hard because I am earning very little where I am working. That is why Rose is looking for a job now, to help me, because when I was working for Super-Rent it was better. I didn't mind if she stayed at home, but now I am really pressurized, because I am earning too little to provide for my family. I can never cope up with everything in the house, so Rose has to get piece jobs to help me. At the moment I am also trying to wager on the horses, sometimes I get a little bit. But I don't want to depend on luck, because you don't know when the luck will come. If I win though I will know that I am fine, I will try to open a small business and try to sell something from here in the house.
Shortly after we talked in 1992, Bennett's temporary job came to an end. He did odd jobs around the community, watched soccer on the weekends and probably drank too much beer.
When he lost his temporary job, he no longer could meet his mortgage payments. But the bank didn't foreclose. It had learned from experience that if it evicted a family because it could not meet the monthly bond payment, a house left empty was a house quickly and methodically vandalized, and eventually burned down. On the other hand, if a new would be owner occupied the house, he and his family were the objects of a community "boycott, " harassment intended to let them know they were not welcome, that they were somehow collaborating with the "enemy," and often physically intimidated.
Communities were tight knit and the "outsider" who took advantage of the bad luck of one of their own, especially to occupy a house from which one of them had been evicted for reasons beyond his control, was immediately targeted as an interloper, an intruder. For communities knew better: what happened to one of them today could happen to any of them tomorrow. Protection of self lay in solidarity with others. Often in these circumstances, new occupants would leave: the incipient threat to life and limb outweighed the status of being a property –owner. It made more sense therefore for a bank to leave a delinquent owner in his house with the hope that he would get back on his feet; at least the bank was securing its equity.
The Balulas supplemented the meager income Rose brought home from Alberton by buying beer wholesale – Bennett's uncle owned a shebeen -- and selling it retail to their neighbors. Liquor stores were so scattered throughout sprawling townships and new developments that few would venture to make the journey to and fro after dark. But if one house on the block could cater to their needs, you had a win-win situation. Sales were good on the weekends and at the end of the month, but during the week sales were very poor.
Both Theo and Priscilla were in secondary school; school fees, R40 Rand per month (year?) per child had to be paid; school uniforms bought. Rose bought the uniforms for one child at a time, and when the money became available, for the next. Boys could get away with wearing clothes other than the school uniform, as long as they wore a shirt and a long pants. But girls had to wear the school uniform. It was a livelihood of living hand-to-mouth, but they managed to get by.
But Bennett, perhaps embarrassed at revealing his rapidly deteriorating financial situation or by the pressing obligations it brought to mind about which he could not do much segued his way into politics.
I reminded him that when we had spoken the previous August, he had nothing but high praise for Mr. De Klerk and had been very supportive of him. Was he still as high and supportive of him or had the pace of change slowed down?
No, Mr. De Klerk is not slowing down. The Peace Accord comes first.34 De Klerk, Mr. Buthelezi and Mr. Mandela must speak to each other to end the violence. Mr. De Klerk has not stopped. But since they went to CODESA changes have come faster. The parties who did not attend CODESA now feel left out of things. Even Gatsha [Buthelezi] regrets not being there, although he sent his delegation. Dr. Treunicht35 also did not want to go there. He said as long as the ANC was there, he wouldn't be.
What did he expect to emerge from CODESA? What kind of an agreement would the parties finally come to?
They will finally agree to an interim government. That is the main thing, as Mr. Mandela has said before. Mr. De Klerk is trying to make a new South Africa, he wants all the exiles to come back, and he is releasing all the political prisoners. The ANC wants an interim government, composed of Coloureds, Indians, Africans and whites. He wants to do away with the 'whites only' government. Now, they want an interim government so that they can draw up new legislations for South Africa.
A few days earlier Mr. Mandela had said that within six months there would be an interim government and within twelve months an election for a Constituent Assembly to draw up a new constitution.36 Did he think Mr. Mandela was being realistic, that all of these things would happen in 1992?
Bennett had no doubts. "I am absolutely sure. I am definitely sure. I am not even thinking of that." He says, " I know that man [Mandela] and when he says something he really means it. Mr. Mandela has a lot of support in many countries, because he is not against any one of the other political organizations. He wants them to come together, to share power."
He would bet his life on it – there would be an election for an interim government in 1992. I hoped his betting endeavors in these matters fared a little better than his efforts at the track.
In 1991, Bennett had surprised me, in fact flabbergasted me, when he said that was that there was a lot of support in his community for the National Party (NP), that a lot of people would go out and vote for the NP in an election. Still true?
Yes, that is still true, as long as Mr. De Klerk is leading the NP. Everybody thinks that Mr. De Klerk is the man that will bring peace to Africa, because all the previous NP governments did not do all that he has done for Africans, and there was no peace in South Africa. There was no African who could have voted for the NP whilst there was still apartheid. Mr. De Klerk is trying to kick it out, get rid of it, so everybody must be happy.
But I still did not "get" it. Why would a member of the ANC go out and vote for the NP rather than voting for the ANC?
At the moment it is still an all white government. It is not mixed with all these other nations, [homelands and Independent states]. When elections come, we, the members of the ANC and our organizations, will be included 'in the government. So, this is where we can move from the ANC to support the NP, to say the NP must get more power, must remain as the government, because they are fighting for the rights of every person in South Africa, because they want to make it a new South Africa, not that old South Africa.. Most foreign countries are once again flying into South Africa. The whole world can see that there is a bright light in South Africa; there is a future for the people here, and most of the companies overseas say 'now we can send resources for Africans to help them to build schools, build hospitals, to help them build their houses.'
Who was here last? Businessmen and diplomats from foreign countries came last December to with Mr. Mandela to Phola Park to look at how the people there live. These visitors asked how can the people live like this? What is the government doing with all the money they collect in taxes? These people then offered a donation of about R4 million to upgrade Phola Park.
That shows us now, with the help from the NP, because the NP wants us to be together.
We were talking less than a month after the NP had suffered a severe setback in a by-election in Virginia, a gold mining community in the Orange Free State.37 The swing was of a magnitude that the pundits were saying that unless the NP could halt the drift, the CP would carry a general election among whites; de Klerk, of course, had promised whites during the 1989 general election that there would no change in the Constitution without the terms of the new dispensation being put before the white community for its imprimatur of approval. In other words, that the white community would have a veto power.
It was an easy promise for de Klerk to make in 1989 when the ANC was still unbanned and Mandela still ensconced in Victor Verster. The promise was also made to cut off the drift of support to the Conservative Party, which was hollering from every beam and lamppost and bombarding on radio and television about the approach of Agamemnon; that the NP, if elected, would embark on a course of action that would lead to Black majority rule and the consignment of whites to political bus-boys. The CP argument carried weight if only because whites were forced to face the possibility that Blacks might be predisposed to treating whites with the same kinds of oppressive legislation that whites had cavalierly inflicted on Blacks for 50 years without any consideration of the injustices imposed.
Now the CP was saying in the by-elections late in 1991 and early 1992 that if whites continued to endorse the policies of the NP, they would be paving the way for Black majority rule – in short, they would be committing mass political suicide. And to add to the mix of impending disasters, Blacks might be more than tempted to turn the tables on whites and do unto them what whites had done unto Blacks for decades, if not centuries. The prospect concentrated white minds in ways they had heretofore assiduously avoided, although the thought perhaps stirred their consciousness on occasion, before being put back in its box.
Again, going through the archival material of that period, one is struck by the CP's concentration on this point. No longer did it rail against the evils of communism and how communists really ran the ANC. The change in emphasis was subtle, at least as subtle as the CP was capable of being. Blacks would be intent on taking over everything, whatever whites owned, whatever whites had accumulated – possessions, land, houses, and businesses. They would be intent on revenge. The fact that this message struck such a responsive chord in whites is, I think, the best evidence that whites knew what their government was doing to Blacks was wrong, and that a wrathful God would one day punish them for their wrongs. If they did not know, why would all this propaganda about impending Black takeovers, retribution, revenge for the wrongs they perceived they had been the object oft, evoke such primeval fears in whites? They knew, and they knew they were denying what they knew.
One week after our conversation, the NP faced a further by-election in Potchefstroom, a long time bastion of NP support. In the weeks prior to the by-election, charges and counter charges of betrayal, even treason, poisoned the political debate. What Bennett was suggesting in his earlier remarks was that Blacks should let it be known that they fully endorsed de Klerk's reform program, and that only the implementation of that program would bring peace to a South Africa that was beginning to crack at the seams.
The NP lost that by-election. De Klerk responded by calling for a referendum asking whites to support him or look to the consequences of not doing so. It ran a campaign with the message that a vote for the NP was a vote that would ensure that Black majority rule would never be foisted on whites, robbing the CP of what had, in essence been their longstanding clarion call to the barricades.38 In the event, whites.
The NP won the referendum handsomely, putting to rest the threat of the CP as power player in the upcoming negotiations – negotiations the CP would boycott, thus blithely presiding over its demise as a political party of any consequence. The ANC, which had vowed that there would never be another "whites-only" election, kept a discrete silence during the internal battles among Afrikaners, gallery spectators at the internecine fight to the finish among verligte and verkrampte, it subordinated principle to pragmaticism, vindicating the Machiavellian principle that the Prince, no matter how absolute his positions, never indulges himself in the politics of "never." tacitly urged whites to support de Klerk, and welcomed the result. Which, of course made imminent sense. If it couldn't negotiate with a strong NP that could speak authoritatively for the white community, with whom could it negotiate? Had the CP won the day, the turmoil that was gripping the country would simply tighten the vise.
In a sense, Bennett, with his racing ticket stubble in his pocket was more radical than ANC strategists, more oriented to realpolitik. -- ironic, but not unusual that grass roots members of political parties are often more realistic, especially when they have to bear the consequences of the ill-considered decisions of leaders, sequestered from the impact of their own decisions. Besides, the masses enjoyed one great advantage over many of their most prominent leaders. They knew whites; they dealt with them on a daily basis, and the exchanges between them were not, as conventional wisdom would have it, invariably one-sided.
Many of their leaders, on the other hand, had spent most of their lives in exile, many for as many as 30 years. The South Africa they returned to had no resemblance to the South Africa they had left. They knew no whites, nothing of the ways in which ordinary whites lived, of the ways they thought, worked, and expressed themselves, of the fears that bonded them, and the racism they could not unglue. On their return to South Africa they were strangers, strangers to all South Africans, Black and white, and, frequently being dumped into the negotiating pits, they had little time to learn much about millions of South Africans, Black and white, for whom they were negotiating a fresh beginning.
When tested against Bennett's conclusions, reached before CODESA got under way, that the NP and the ANC were the key brokers who had to stick together no matter whether they wanted to or not, was the key to successful negotiations. That applied, too, to the respective leaders of the two parties, de Klerk and Mandela. If the two espoused common goals and were seen by their communities to act in concert, all things were possible. As for Buthelezi, Bennett, had little time for his posturing, perhaps because his Xhosa credentials exposed his own prejudices, or his proximity to the violence in the East Rand. Buthelezi wanted to be a Big Man, but for all blustering, history had passed him by; he was a sideshow, sometimes on stage, but his appearances were short and of little consequence to the unfolding acts for which the main characters were still rehearsing their lines. The AWB, CP, and other right-wing parties were more props than players, irritants at best, but dangerous ones. They could strike, but they could not hit the targets that counted.
I am, no doubt, being overly generous to Bennett, but he had gotten the essences right. Just as he had gotten it right with whites. While he might despise some whites who had treated him badly, he did not hold all whites accountable for their actions. Whites belonged in South Africa. It was their country, too. Mandela was right to spend time alleviating their fears for if they were to leave in large numbers South Africa would be robbed of the people who were key to economic progress for all South Africans in the new South Africa. Bennett had vision, and often he was better articulating it on the grand scale – the shape of a future South Africa – than on a small scale – a small business that would fix cars in Thokoza.
Apartheid laws had been scrapped between 1988 and 1991. One after another the laws that had been the pillars of white power were repealed, but while Blacks were no longer under the jackboot of an oppressive political system, neither had they achieved a measure of power within the system. In the hiatus, between the one era and the beginning of a new one, both the National Party and the liberation movements, especially the ANC, were already beginning to woo the Black vote that would determine who would hold the reins of power in whatever new dispensation that would emerge from the negotiations set in motion at CODESA.
Could Bennett point to anything specific that had changed for him, his family and community during this period, now that Mandela was a free man and political negotiations under way? Could he point to something specifically and say 'I'm better of because...'
When Mr. De Klerk took over as State President, he saw that something had to be done, and that is why he released Mr. Mandela. But before releasing Mr. Mandela, he first looked at the townships. We were not supposed to live in houses like this, we were living in squatter camps and were squeezed into one place. But now Mr. De Klerk has tried to make a plan and work things out. He said the government must try to help the people. At the time he was thinking of releasing Mr. Mandela.
De Klerk, it appeared was capitalizing in the goodwill he enjoyed in the townships. He was doing his electoral homework, the vision of a grand alliance that would attract a sizeable share of the Black vote never far from the back of his mind. In Black areas delivery of services, once a phantom phenomenon, was becoming a perceptible reality. Housing programs, for long a distant hope had begun to materialize. On the peripheries of townships and squatter locations new housing developments were being hurriedly constructed with assembly-lime efficiency. Roads, once little more than trails of red sand were tarred and paved over. Street lamps began to appear, and to add to the surging wave of sudden attention, telephone lines were being installed, giving residents of townships access to each other and to the outside word, diminishing the sense of isolation and separateness. [What were the budget allocations for housing, social services etc, between 1990 and 1994?]
But the eruption of violence in the latter part of 1990 and its obdurate persistence in the following years despite meetings between the ANC and the government, Mandela and de Klerk had begun to exact a toll on the residents of the Eastern Rand who were most susceptible to its ravages. Again, in retrospect, one must ask why the ANC was not bringing this matter up with Inkatha. Whether there was police involvement, and even if they acted as provocateurs, the police were not the cause of the violence, although they stoked the fear that was its root cause.39
When Mr. Mandela was released in February 1990, we were living under apartheid.40 But since Mr. Mandela was released, things started to get worse, with the violence and all. Before Mr. Mandela was released there was no violence. We African people did not see what was happening on the other side, because the white people were brainwashing us not to think about what was coming up in the future. They were keeping us locked up under apartheid. But now when Mr. Mandela was released, we started to have violence, because Mr. Mandela is a Xhosa. But Mr. Mandela was not fighting for only Xhosas; he is fighting for the whole nation. Now it is only the Zulu people who fight against the Xhosas. They say they don't want to come under a Xhosa government. At the time there was no new government; Mandela was trying to bring all these organizations together to fight the government, because the whites had taken the land belonging to Africans from them. But life is getting worse now.
[The Xhosa/ Zulu divide; ethnicity. Schlemmer/ King Goodwill/ Buthelezi/ the Mzizis, especially Gertrude. Se also Ted Gurr]
Since I had seen him the previous August, there had been another ferocious outbreak of violence after the funeral of Sam Ntuli's funeral.41 About 15,000 people were returning from the funeral of Ntuli who was murdered on 29 September 1991. They were set upon by mobs of Zulus carrying clubs, machetes, spears and rapid-firing machine guns. When the guns finally stopped 18 blood-soaked bodies lay on the streets, and hundreds, badly injured to crawl to places of haven, not knowing what had happened or what would yet happen. It was the worst outbreak of violence since the signing of the National Peace Accord.
The section of the location in which Bennett lived wasn't near the frontline. But had the horror of it, I asked Bennett frightened people? When more broadly, still, when violence erupted in areas of the location adjacent to where they lived, what impact did it have on the community as a whole? Were people more afraid to go out?
Bennett does not address the question, but rather chooses to identify the perpetrators, and what surprises me is that he repeatedly links the SADF with lending a helping hand to Inkatha, not the SAP.
Ntuli was shot. At that time it was Inkatha and the Defence Forces. We used to see the Defence forces helping Inkatha.. But they made a plan not to be seen to be involved, so that the ANC could not say that Inkatha was being helped by the SADF. But we know very well that the Inkatha people from the hostels are being helped by the SADF and also that Inkatha is killing in the nighttime.
So when Mr. Mandela says that the government is responsible for some of the violence, or the government is helping Inkatha, did he believe Mandela when he made these allegations? For Bennett there was no hesitation: He unhesitatingly believed Mandela.
And Mr. Mandela's allegations that de Klerk knew these killings were occurring with the assistance of his security forces, did he believe Mr. Mandela?
Mr. De Klerk knows and he can control the violence.. When Malan was Minister of Defence42 and Vlok the Minister of Police43, Mr. Mandela told them that they should control the violence because they had all the power to do so. He said they should stop all this violence against the Black people. The ANC demanded to speak to Mr. De Klerk and forced him to remove these two people from their positions.44 Mr. de Klerk gave them job somewhere else, and put men who could resolve the violence in this country in those other positions,45 because it is the government which is supposed to solve the problems in the location.46 We cannot solve the problem by ourselves, because the government is there. But Mr. De Klerk refused; he says he is doing his best with his people. He is doing his best but look now at what is happening? Mr. Mandela was appealing to and pushing Mr. De Klerk to remove these two men from these positions. Then Mr. De Klerk saw that he had no choice and he removed them.
Before General Malan moved, Mr. Mandela spoke to him. He said, ' let us try to integrate Mkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and the South African Defence Force (SADF). But General Malan said 'look here, my people are well trained, MK is not well trained.' Mr. Mandela asked him, 'How can you prove that,' General Malan said 'I know very well, MK is not trained.' But today he is out of that position now, and some other person is in that position.47 [where did Bennett get this from?]
Bennett's response bothered me in view of his unwavering admiration for and approval of de Klerk.
If he believed Mandela's allegations, which he did, how could he admire and speak of de Klerk so approvingly? I tried to pin him down regarding his position on de Klerk explaining my difficulty in understanding his continued support for de Klerk, given that he believed, was convinced in fact that de Klerk knows about the violence, that the government has been helping Inkatha to undermine the ANC. How could he continue to support de Klerk if his government is helping to shoot down his people?
Mr. De Klerk knows that some people will never know what's going on. He thinks that people will never see what is happening. Like the money that the government gave to Inkatha, do you remember? Nobody knew about that money. But we people in the ANC would, nevertheless, like to help the NP [beat back the Conservative Party] because we see that the NP will come [into the new government] with the power to change everything in the country. Now, Mr. Mandela is asking de Klerk about what is going on. He is telling de Klerk that the government is helping Inkatha. He asked Mr. De Klerk how government money found its way to helping Inkatha, because everything that is being done by your Ministers you must know about it as the head of the government. It is clear to us that the government knows very well about the violence against the people. They don't want things to settle down so that talks can go on properly. They want to waste time; they want time to go backwards instead of forward so that we can come and discuss the matter and arrive at some solutions. They want things to move backwards, so that no deadlines can be set. People must kill each. How can we sit together and talk whilst people are killing each other. It is only now that Mr. Mandela has found out that the government is helping Inkatha.48
Now Mr. De Klerk is saying, 'now let me pull out from that plan, and defend the people, so the people can see where I stand on this matter. I must not stand this side and stand that side.' I am playing soccer, today I am a player and I am also the referee. If I am a referee, I have got to be the referee, not a player at the same time. It is where Mr. De Klerk is coming to the point.
As far as I could fathom Bennett's reasoning – and my fathoming makes no pretense to understanding – his overriding concern was for de Klerk to hang in as State President. Given the surge in support for the Conservative Party that by elections and opinion polls were revealing, de Klerk's position was becoming more tenuous. Thus, even if he knew about the participation of the SADF (?) in Inkatha's murderous sprees, ( I should make it clear here that ANC supporters were equally culpable in the Vaal Triangle convolutions of violence and counter violence, but I will address that later.), Bennett was prepared to overlook de Klerk's knowledge of and failure to rein in the complicity of elements in the security forces in the violence ravishing the East Rand. Of more importance to him was ensuring that de Klerk maintained his grip on power, and from a position of strength remake South Africa with Mandela as his partner. Of course, his assertion that it was only now -- January 1992 – that Mandela had become aware of the security forces' involvement in unlawful activities is wide of the mark that you wonder how Bennett processed the information he either witnessed, heard from others, read in the newspapers or heard on the radio or television.
Also puzzling is the absence of reference to the violence. It did not seem to concern him. He took no particular precautions to protect his family, even rejecting Rose's assessment that it would be better if she and the children left the area. Yet, Thokoza was one of the most notorious killing areas in the Vaal since 1990. In August that year, more than 190 Blacks were killed in a pitched war between Zulus and Xhosas. The killings continued in cycles for the next four years, effectively partitioning the township into ANC supporting areas, mostly Xhosa, and Inkatha supporting areas, exclusively Zulu. But Bennett seemed removed from it all. Was it because section XXX was so insulated that violence rarely occurred in the area and none of the trauma the massacres in the East Rand induced, not only in Thokoza but the neighboring townships had seeped into XXX? The explanation seemed highly unlikely.
More likely, but more frightening was the possibility that Bennett had become inured to the violence, that over a number of years the relentless constancy of random mayhem and retributive murder had become an accepted part of everyday life to the extent that a day without a violence-provoking incidence of some kind was an exception to one's daily routine? [catalogue the unrest in Thokoza between 1990 and 1992; 1992 to 1994] Whatever the reason, Bennett seemed to regard violent attack as a hazard of life, but since one had no control over what was happening, better to tuck it away in the recesses of one' consciousness and get on with living – while one could. [ what does the literature on violence say about violence and living under the constancy of its impending threat.]
For whatever sins of commission or omission de Klerk was charged with, Bennett had forgiven him.
When everybody went to CODESA, the CP did not want to go there, because they said if you want to talk to ANC, we are going to talk with our guns. The CP is against change; it wants things to remain the way they were. They want to maintain the old system. They are forgetting that time is changing. Look at what the right-wingers are doing now. Just because the government wants to make schools and everything multi-racial, they are bombing the schools and the post offices.49 It is not the ANC. Had it been the ANC the government would have made a lot of noise.
Could one assume therefore that the threat of right wing violence was not to be taken seriously, that at most it would amount to a bomb here and a bomb there? As far as Bennett was concerned, the threat of a violent right-wing backlash directed against the government had become an empty one.
"It will all come to an end with this, " he says. "The same applies to Inkatha and ANC. The violence is tapering off. It is much quieter now than it was last year. Except for those in the PAC who want Azania and continue to kill policemen. Now we feel that we can go wherever we like. We feel safe now."
[what incidents of violence took place in Thokoza following this statement?]
It would be his belief then that the National Peace Accord was working?
Yes, through CODESA. Because when I read the paper last week, Mr. Gatsha50 invited Dr. Treunicht51 to talk about what they have done. They feel guilty now. They are saying that they should be at CODESA too, because that is where you put all your views; all what you have got inside is supposed to be put to CODESA, because there are a lot of other organizations there. But because Gatsha wants to have three parties representing his interests, he is stuck. 52
He was not afraid then that the right wing would use a lot more violence against the government to try to stop the process?
No, not a bit. That does not make me scared because they are still playing, they are trying but they are not making it. When the schools open, most of the white schools are taking Black children. The right wing wants to overthrow the government because they say the government is selling out the white people, and meanwhile things are just moving on. The government is not selling out the white people; the government wants to improve things, because it accepts that the NP has been the government for too long, and other people have been oppressed.
The government, of course, would be the last to accept that it had overstayed its tenure, although circumstances had compelled it to consider alternatives. None of these envisaged the wholesale surrender of power, but some rearrangements that would enable it to participate in some form of consociation guaranteeing its considerable presence in government. But these were matters for the working groups set up under CODESA 1 to hammer out, and nothing, as yet had been etched in stone. Or so the National Party thought.
While CODESA11 sets about its business, with a deadline for the working groups to report to a plenary session in the middle of May, I tried to get Bennett to focus on his own community. What were the worst problems it faced? Unemployment? Lack of housing? Poor roads? Inadequate street lighting? No street lighting? The air that fed off the constant drift of sand from the dust-ridden streets? . Safety, the curbing of criminal activity? How would he compile a list of the main things that he would like to see a new government address in his community?
We have the problem of dumping of rubbish, some streets lights not working and sometimes we don't get water. As I say it is the responsible of the Council.53 The other problems are that we don't get lights; we don't get services, because they say we are not paying the rent. But now, since the houses belong to the Transvaal Provincial Authority (TPA), they have got to solve all these things.
The rent strike is over. We are paying the rent now. But now the Councilors say have not got enough people who can look after the location and services and all those things. They say they have not got enough money to pay people. Some other people have been retrenched because the Council hasn't got money. But we don't even know how they spend the money they have. But what we know is that they have not got money so they had to retrench people.
When a new government comes to power, following the interim government the first thing it must attend to is the people who are not employed; then they should start improving the standard of living of the people in the townships -- the streets and everything, making sure that every person has got a place to live in with his family. The new government has go to do these things. It has got to make sure that the people get the right things, the things they need. It has to build better places. We don't say we want to go and live in the white areas, but we want a government that is going to make our areas the same as white areas; then we will feel better. Like the house that we are living in now is something better than others, but it is a small house. When a new government comes it has got to straighten these things up.
How long would he give that new government to start fixing these problems? "As soon as it takes over. It must start with the unemployed. That will take the government more or less four years."
And if, after four years the level of unemployment were as high then as it is now, how would he feel?
Very disappointed. I don't know what would happen, because if that government does not make better things than this government, then everybody is going to be very angry. With the one man one vote system, I think the ANC will take over the new government., But I don't even wish that the government should be ANC, because I am afraid if the ANC takes over. It should never, never, never become like the other African governments, where people are starving and all those things.
It can happen. I can vote for you, but as soon as you get power, then you start to turn away from your own people; you decide to do other things and not look after your own. But I think Mr. Mandela can keep up the standard of Mr. De Klerk and improve things.
But despite his misgivings, when Bennett gets to cast his first ballot as an enfranchised citizen of South Africa, he will vote the ANC ticket. Up to this point in our conversations, he has had sparse praise for Mr. Mandela while his admiration for Mr. De Klerk is palpable. De Klerk has put South Africa on the right footing; it is up to Mr. Mandela not to screw it up. Nevertheless, when he enters the polling station for the first time, he will cast his vote for the ANC. Admiration is one thing, allegiance another.\
But, he says, there is a lot of support for the NP. He says there is a lot of support for the NP. If the NP keeps on the way it is now, "I can easily vote for the NP, because I see the NP is on the right road now to a new life for everybody, I can vote for it." Under these circumstances, he could support Mr. De Klerk continuing to be the State President.54 Bennett, to put it mildly, is full of contradictions, but there is a consistency to his thinking that overrides his contradictions. An ANC supporter, but not an ideological stalwart, open to overtures from the National Party; the overtures would have to be very convincing, but he is, nonetheless susceptible to being convinced.
I summarize his position: he is saying that if a year from now there is an election, and Mr. De Klerk's government and the NP have become open, if they are making and continuing to make reforms and are building houses and improving education, that he, Bennett Balula, could easily see himself casting a vote for the NP, if he thought that would be best for him, his family and the future of the country.
Bennett doesn't disagree.
We move on to talk about the changes in the behavior of whites towards Blacks and Blacks towards whites since Mandela's release, the unbanning of the ANC, and the abolition of the apartheid laws. Had there been a difference in the behavior of Black people, had they become more assertive, more confident, more demanding, were they more prepared to stand up to white people when white people treated them badly, less prepared to let a white person jump his place in a queue?
Yes, I understand what you mean. I can say that for most of the people now life has changed. Before Mr. Mandela was released things were really, really, really bad for us. For instance, when you went to town to places like the Department of Manpower or the Department or the Department of Internal Affairs, there would be a place for white people and a place for Black people, because of apartheid. But now since Mr. De Klerk took over, he cleaned all this up, and he released Mr. Mandela and generally made life better for people. [had separate queues been abolished before de Klerk took over, or was this part of the Separate Amenities Act that was repealed after de Klerk's February 1990 speech?]
Most of us people are more or less feeling freer now because things are changing. Last year things were bad because of the violence and the changes were slower in coming. But now since CODESA, things are going a little bit faster, because we are moving towards the new South Africa, towards getting a better living.
But again, I have to push him: Were Blacks feeling more confident in themselves; were they less willing to be stepped on? And again a short reply from Bennett: Yes, Black are much more confident in themselves. "They are feeling all right now." Hardly an answer brimming with a newfound sense of self- assertiveness.
I probe a little further: during apartheid Black people were under such oppression that they were always having to bow to the whims of the white man, hear himself referred to as 'kaffir'' and other wise vilified; yet he could not risk answering back because the white man would take umbrage at anything he construed as challenging his status as the Black man's superior, and would exact immediate retribution. Because the Black man was dependent on the white man for his livelihood, he dare not assert himself since the likely consequence would be instant dismissal, unless he belonged to a union, loss of his "privileges" to work in white areas, and a long trek back to the Bantustan he had been arbitrarily assigned to on the basis f his ethnicity, and the poverty to his family that would ensue. Was there much of this kind of "Yes, 'Boss,' of course 'Boss,'" behavior still prevalent, no matter how racist the white man's behavior? Had the Black man begun to assert himself? Or were whites beginning to understand that the balance of power was shifting inexorably in the direction of the Black man, and calibrating their behavior to take account of changing circumstances?
Bennett is more explicit:
That is correct. A Black person will stand up for himself. Since apartheid has been scraped, we Black people feel that we are the same as white people now, because when apartheid was the law,, we couldn't say anything, we couldn't say a word, nothing, because if a white man did anything to you, you were told to shut your mouth – and you did. But today because apartheid s gone, it is different.
But a difference for the good in one direction always seemed to be counterbalanced by developments that did not augur so well in another. The Thokoza Civic Association, once the community's avenue of access to the authorities, had virtually collapsed. The association still existed, but its activities had become severely attenuated.
Last year ??? was murdered in her house because she was a member of the ANC, and a second woman got wind that she was next on the hit list, so she left her house and is now in a safe area --we don't know who are behind the shootings. A third member of the ANC was also murdered -- we think it is the SADF. Then they came after Sam Ntuli and killed him. He was also a member of the Thokoza Civic Association. Ntuli died. They also shot my brother; he is also one of the Civic members. He was lucky because the bullet went through him arm. But now since CODESA, Inkatha and ANC are coming together to speak to each other now. They are saying to each other, look now, what we are doing is a real mistake to kill each other, because our leaders are trying to solve the problem for us, and we are fighting each other. Not to say somebody at the back is pushing the ANC, but I think these people from Inkatha are getting some money or guns from those people [ who? SADF? SAP?] to go and kill all these people. So that other people from other countries can say, look at those people, they want freedom but look at what they are doing, they are shooting each other; Black on Black violence. It would make more sense if they were killing white people. This is what the Defence Force wants. They don't want the talks to work. But even before CODESA, when Malan and Vlok were demoted people were starting to see now the ANC was on to them, was questioning why the Defence Force and the SAP can't solve the problem in the locations. But when CODESA started everybody said now it is time, this is the last stage now, because all these organizations have come from exile in different countries to South Africa toe find the way to create a new South Africa, because of what Mr. De Klerk did. He went to the conference and said that I'm making a new South Africa, I'm building a new South Africa now and you people bring all your organizations to South Africa, and let us build a new South Africa together.
Bennett was now articulating an explanation of the violence that was much more in keeping with the ANC"s. In earlier years, Inkatha and Buthelezi were the villains, promoting violence to advance their own political agenda and hence the need to decimate the ANC, not only in ZwaZulu/Natal but in the densely populated areas of the Vaal Triangle where tens of thousands of Zulus were segregated from the communities they lived in and treated as outsiders –unwelcome outsiders in many locations – by the local community.
Buthelezi felt slighted by the blossoming relationship between the "Big Two" – Mandela and de Klerk. He had been ousted from his position as the preeminent spokesman for Blacks in South Africa. He wanted to reclaim his status as being an indispensable part of any settlement. Instead of a "Big Two," there should be a "Big Three," and if required an example of Zulu might in the heart of the Transvaal to bring Mandela and de Klerk to acknowledge this; then he was prepared to provide them with a dress rehearsal of what South Africa might look like were there they to sideline him. The government, which had not yet ruled out the possibility of an alliance with Buthelezi, was not adverse to taking advantage of the situation; anything, by definition that weakened the ANC strengthened the NP, and thus the security forces were predisposed to "encouraging" Inkatha assaults on ANC strongholds, even if on occasion, encouragement was stretched to lending a helping hand. The ANC all along had simply pinned the finger of blame for the violence on the security forces because this, too, was more congruent with its strategic calculations.55
In 1990, we had talked about the role of the comrades. He had said the comrades were still active in Thokoza; that there was a branch of the ANC Youth League. Was Theo (who was about eighteen at the time) a member of the comrades? And if he were, would Bennett prefer that he wasn't?
Some people do not understand the meaning of comrades; other people think that comrades are people who are fighting and that is not the case. These are the people who are trying to forge friendships with other people. I wouldn't mind my son being a comrade; it would mean he is a member of the ANC Youth League. But he must stay at school. When he becomes a comrade, he will teach people to bring their minds to the right position.[Bennett didn't expound on what the 'right' position was.] The people must not be live like wild animals; they must know what the situation in the country is. Normally if he goes there - because he is one of the ANC - he goes there to the Youth League. It is okay because I know they are the only people who are instructing the rest of the community. They are protecting our area. We don't want to see people come in her to burn that house over there and nobody around to help the people who live there. So the comrades are there to protect.
Did his extensions have street committees?
We did have a Street Committee. I was a member. But it broke up when the violence broke out, because the people from the hostel were getting information from other people to say that the members of the street committee are so and so and so and so; they would know whether you are a member of the street committee, whether you were an ANC member, then they come and smash your house.
Now, when the violence broke out, we came together in this area and said, 'look because things are now getting worse, we had better keep quite, everybody must look after himself but we will watch out for each other.' We didn't have any gatherings, because people were getting killed, so we disbanded the street committee. There is no street committee now. We don't go to meetings dealing with these issues. Sometimes we go to a big hall in the main street here to discuss location matters. But at the moment we don't have a street committee. But I think that this year we might have another one.
Was he afraid, because there is so much violence, that Theo or even Priscilla could get caught up in it?
I was, I was. But I used to tell them all the time not to wander too far away from the house; they must look after themselves. They know that we support the ANC. We will never support Inkatha, because Mr. Mandela was arrested to free the people, the Black people.
There is still a lot of hostility between the hostel dwellers and the township residents. But it is not as bad as it was. There is now some kind of relationship between the hostel dwellers and the township residents. It is very quiet now, since December. In December we had said we were going to have a Black Christmas and things like that. But it didn't happen, because people decided to mend their relations with each other. There is no more killing now. Here in Thokoza and Natalspruit it is very quite now, except for Azanians56 who are killing the police.
How about "ordinary crime", like muggings and robberies and rape, is there a lot of that?
I can say not so much. It is happening here and there; people are robbing shops and where there is money, because there is no employment. So many people are out of jobs. Even me. I, too, am still looking for a better job, it is very hard to get it, very hard, but I'm not going to accept any more offers to go back and work. But what I want is to sit down and spend the rest of my time here at home doing a job for myself.
If I work for myself, I will have more time to sort out my things. But if I'm working for somebody, there is not time, because I've got to leave here at twenty past six to go to work, to catch the train at a quarter past seven. I must walk from here to the station. Most of the time is wasted. Now if I work for myself, I know that I can do this now, finish it, and go on to something else.
And, of course, I always conclude with the same question: as he looks to the future, what are his aspirations for himself and his family? What does he want for himself?
I want a better living for my family. Even as I sit here now in the knowledge that a new government going to take over, I look at this house where I live with my wife and my kids, but for the future, if things come right, I would like to have a nice big house, that will have three bedrooms, and a big yard. This one is so small, I can't even build a garage, even some rooms at the back, it is too small.
During the process of change taking place, does he have some fear that something will go wrong or negotiations will breakdown or ...
I don't think that will happen. I don't think they will breakdown. They will keep on going. They will never break; never break, because if it breaks down then there is going to be war, because there are promises between these organizations -- the NP and the ANC. It is only the people who are fighting. Those who are not interested in CODESA are wasting their time because they will never get anywhere, they will never become a government. The CP will never become a government, Inkatha won't become a government, none of these organizations will.
Shortly after Bennett lost his job, Rose was released from hospital. Her operation had cost R4,000. [who paid] Rose became the breadwinner, commuting to and from Alberton where she worked as a domestic servant three days a week. Once home, she has to attend to the household chores -- getting the evening meal ready, and putting the house in order. Her English was poor, but as with everyone else I interviewed she became far more animated when I used a translator to enable her to express herself in her native Zulu.
Rose is a small, very reserved woman, not given much to talk but always very welcoming, but with few political opinions. If she had them she kept them to herself, or in the tradition of African wives who left the politics to the men. Since most men in the area were unemployed, they had ample time for talk, and there was no limit to discussions on "the political situation." She never looks at me when we speak – a hangover of the old deference or just shyness? She looks tired, but as I got to know her better, I learned how to distinguish between her appearance of being perpetually tired and the steely determination that enabled her to confront and overcome problems that were a threat to her family.
Rose's priorities were simple: to keep food on the table; try to ensure that her children went to school, did not get into trouble or "mix" with youngsters their age who had ill-conceived intentions on their minds other than the pursuit of school and work; and pray to God. In God, above all, she trusted, and she diligently attended church services every Sunday at the Old Apostle Methodist Church. Sundays were the centerpiece of her life, providing the spiritual sustenance that enabled her to keep going when things started to fall apart in the family.
After Bennett was fired, income dried up, meaning that bond payments on the house could not be met. Bennett himself become more disillusioned as job prospects became more remote and the odd jobs in the community more scarce. The allure of the local shebeen, owned by his brother, became more tempting, but Rose saw to it that temptation was tempered by prudence. Her meager income was supplemented somewhat by the income they derived from being the local beer supplier.
When we sat down to talk in the parlor, it was obvious that she was apprehensive – almost certainly the first time in her life she was being "interviewed" with all the gadgetry and paraphernalia of the tape recording business surrounding her. I complimented her on the new furnishings. A sign that things were looking up? "It is betterment through efforts," she replied – a response I choose not to pursue.
When I sat down with Rose, she was shy and uncomfortable, and her English was poor. Not only did I have difficulty understanding her whenever she spoke in English, but she also had difficulty in understanding me. We were, for all practical purposes, scaling the tower of Babel at different levels. But I had brought a translator along with me, which put her more at ease. Like many women in South Africa, she was not very forthcoming in expressing her views, part of the ingrained cultural belief that women had nothing to say, part lack of self confidence in what she might say, part the tradition that Black women in particular were prepared to leave the talking to their husbands, part the reluctance to speak their minds especially when they were present. They did not want to put themselves in the position of contradicting something their husbands had said, thus humiliating him.
I asked Bennett would he mind leaving us alone. He was more than willing to do so, retiring to the kitchen to resume listening to a soccer match the radio was carrying. For Africans, soccer is opium to Africans, transporting them from a harsh world into a world of high drama, make-believe, vicarious participation in heroic deeds, and passionate loyalty. Soccer connects South Africa's Africans. Despite the multiplicity of laws restricting their movement, mandating where they could live, what education they would receive, and what meagre opportunities were open to them, soccer was theirs, something the white man could not take from them, where Africans excelled, earned big sums of money, and produced stars whose every move was emulated by children in the dust –ridden, barren playing fields that were scattered across the townships, or on their streets where makeshift "fields" were created and rags sown together played the part of footballs, all dreaming the dream of playing one day for the Orlando Pirates, the Sundowners, the Kaiser Chiefs. Or of reaching the pinnacle – being picked up by a European or British team with contracts beyond their wildest hopes giving them the prestige that no apartheid law could outlaw.
Rose was born in 1952 and grew up in Durban. She attended Lower Primary until Standard Eight in Chesterville location. She finished at secondary school.[did she matriculate??] And then she started working. She met Bennett in Thokoza when she there visiting an aunt. They fell in love. She went back to Durban and made wedding arrangements. Bennett travelled to Durban to talk to her parents and also make wedding arrangements. They were married in 1975. When Theo was born, she stopped working. [get more details re family ; ditto for Bennett ]
When Rose returned went back to work -- because she had to, not because she was ready to -- she became the main breadwinner for the family. She had not been working since 1984, now she was doing "piece work" "I'm a maid, " she says. " I do ironing, and other things." She worked in Allberton three days a week, leaving the house in the morning at 7.10 am and getting back around 2.00 pm. She leaves the house at 7.10 am and returns between 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm. She is looking for a full time job, but one is impossible to get unless you know someone who is leaving a job and recommends you in her place. Besides, it was hard to get a job, unless you knew someone who could drive you around. "If I go by myself," she says, "I will struggle, going up and down, everybody will say 'no job'." Like other women in the area who were also looking for jobs, she and her neighbors would go to the post office; sometimes there would be job listings. A neighbor might come and fetch her and say, "Rose, there is a job there, let us go." But the reality was simple: she had a very hard time finding out where jobs might be available. The two years following Mandela's release had been bad years; fighting and violence in Thokoza. And yes, in an odd way things had gotten worse for her in the two years since Mandela's release rather than better. But now things seemed to be getting a little better. She hoped things would continue to improve.
What things were in need of fixing in Thokoza?
The first things are the roads. The roads in Thokoza are very bad. They don't want to fix them up because we have not been paying the rent; we have been boycotting the rents. So in June last year, they re-opened the light, because they had switched off the lights we stopped paying the rent in December 1990. They switched them back on 15 June last year, when we started to pay the rent. The rent was too high, sometimes it was a hundred and something or two hundred or up to three hundred per month. Yes, that is why the people were boycotting. They didn't reply to our Civic when we said we would pay R50.00 per month.
They saw that the people wouldn't pay the rents so they decided to open the lights sometime last year. They told us to pay R71.00 after two months; this would include the rent, water and lights. After two months they decided that we should pay R55 up until now. Last month they [who is they] shot the head of the Civic Association [Sam Ntuli] at the cemetery and after that they [who is they] they told us that we would have to pay the rent R105. The people are saying that they are not going to pay. They can they cut off the lights again, if they want to.
[It made perfect sense for the TPA to reduce the rents as low a s possible, get people to pay, and restore services. The NP with one eye on an election that was in the offing, though they did not know precisely when, the campaign for Black votes was beginning to unwind. To double the rents in these circumstances made no political sense. Could the TPA, an agent of the NP be so dumb]
The murder of Sam Ntuli led to an orgy of violence. Could she recall that?
Sam was an ANC member. The Zulus of Inkatha don't want to see our people going to Sam's funeral. They watched those who went and tried to kill them. Some of those who attended have had to abandon their homes; they have had to run away to avoid being killed. I knew one person there in Thokoza, he was staying in front of the hostel; they know him so he ran away.
[ insert details re aftermath of Sam's funeral. My memory says that the IFP actually attacked people attending the funeral wake.]
So is there still a great deal of fear, even around here of the men in the hostels? Rose's response wasn't one that entertained options. "It is better now, it is not like before. But we don't need that hostel," she said. "They should break it down, like the people from Phola Park who burnt their's down."57
The streetlights are still working in Thokoza. But if the residents make good on their promise not to pay the R105 per month the TPA is demanding, the lights will go off. Would that mean that they wouldn't have any electricity in the house too? "Yes, we would not have any electricity." The radio wouldn't work? "Not unless you used a battery." And they would have no TV? "No." And if they had a fridge, it, too, wouldn't function? "No."
Nothing but darkness and the occasional sounds of people scurrying from one place to another, not sure of what might come bump in the night.
[ at this point it doesn't seem that people's unwillingness to pay has anything to do with politics or liberation or releasing Mandela or even voting rights. It's purely a matter of people having had "free" services for so long, now see them as an entitlement, something that ought to come free, or service charges/rents being pinned at a level they cannot afford. Is the issue whether to pay or not one that the Civic decides after meeting with the people and a show of hands. If an area is cut off, what about residents who are willing tom pay the respective tariffs? Are they cut off too? What about the pressure to go along with what the Civic suggests and the majority endorse, are you seen as a scab of sorts if you continue to pay, receive services, so that in the evenings your house glows like a single star in a sea of darkness]
Maybe things will improve after the elections. They give us a hope, just like they are going to sit around a table and talk. Maybe at the next meeting they will decide to do things better, and then after these things will be all right. I wish for ANC to take over, because everything is going to be all right then.
I draw her attention to the rubbish heap opposite her house. Look at this rubbish Why hadn't the families living adjacent to it gotten together and drawn up a plan to get rid of it? "We called them twice, says Rose, "to come and collect the rubbish." Who were they? "The government department who runs these things. We called them from my neighbors. If you call them, they are supposed to come and pick it up."
But, she adds: "We are not going to pick it up. Whenever we go there to tell them to come and pick it up, they don't come. We live with all the flies and the bad smells."
[Terrific example of dependence on government to do everything, and that things come cost free. Also of their own apathy and indifference to the way their community looks. No pride of place. No one in the Civic forum say, okay let's organize rubbish clean-up tea. They ring authorities. Authorities ignore them they ignore garbage. They would rather live amid the filth than do something about it, even though they are quite aware that the rubbish is harmful to their children who look for things in it.]
She knows that Theo is a member of the comrades. She disapproves: " I don't want him mixed up with the comrades now. If he does, he will forget about school. He won't go to school. He must finish at school first."
[More on the comrades. They don't go to school or they hangout around the schools but don't attend. Apparently have no regard for school authorities. See Priscilla's account of being ordered from classroom and marched to the principal's office by comrades. Why don't comrades go to school? What do they do all day? How do they instill fear? Are they a law unto themselves? Whom are they speaking for?]
When she looked back on her life, would she say that she had lived a hard life, that things have been hard, that you have had to work and struggle all your life? "It is very hard. Everything is money, if I haven't got money I haven't got nothing that is why I say it is very hard, I must get a job. Even this house is too small, I wish we could get money to make it bigger than this."
Had she hope that that would change too? Yes, she had hope. But things might be slow to change. Some white people still wanted apartheid. The AWB was out there. She couldn't say much about the behavior of white people towards Blacks, even towards her, whether it had become less domineering since the abolition of apartheid. Or of the behavior of Black people towards whites, whether they had become more assertive, more demanding of their own rights, more confident and less willing to put up with white behavior if the white behavior was insulting? She had no opinion on any of these things.
In a real sense, Rose had no contact with whites. Blacks and whites lived in different universes. Hers was circumscribed by the location. When she was not working she was at home. She traveled with Black people on the way to work, had minimal contact with the woman who employed her as a domestic, traveled back to the townships with Black people. For all practical purposes, her world was "white-free." One more legacy of apartheid: not only did it keep people geographically separate; it kept them impervious to the ways in which the other lived.
Other than the fact that whites were far better off, ran everything, wanted to control everything, were intent on never yielding their power to Blacks, especially the power to rule over them, were the Black man's master and had to jump to his bidding, Blacks knew nothing about white people as human beings. Some treated them well, some indifferently, some badly, but most were simply oblivious to their presence. And the white man's dispositions were similar in most respects. As long as the Black man did what he was told, was a good boy not a troublemaker or rabble-rouser or vent political opinions, knew his position and was accepting of it, all was well. But Blacks as human beings? The thought never crossed his mind. If they were white and liberal, they would perhaps be a little more discerning, eager to lend some kind of a helping hand, but the benevolent gestures were made as much made out of guilt as of genuine concern. Live in Black domestics still lived in a single, poorly furnished room at the back of the house, and while well-meaning whites would be more polite towards the "help'" most other than bemoaning at cocktail parties or the country club the miserable plight of Blacks and acknowledging that some way had to be found to ease the restrictions imposed on them and find a way to give them some adequate form of political representation shook their heads in disbelief of the horror of it all and had another drink. Yes, they, as democrats, believed in one man, one vote, but rule by the majority? – well, that was something quite different. There were, after all, other considerations that had to be taken into account. Thus, all that Pose could say was: "I cannot say, because I am always at home because I am not working. If I was working I would be able to say something. But they can see us walking on the road, and some of them don't like the Black people."
But if white behavior toward Blacks was not a concern for Rose, education was.
I am battling for my family, especially my kids. I am battling for them to go to school, because if they don't go to school, there will be nothing for them in the future. Everything you get, you get because you have gone to school, everything. If you have got no certificate and you didn't go to school, you will be nothing. Everything is about getting high marks, and if they are get high mark, they will get the money to do everything you want. That is what I say. Everything is money. If you have no money, you have nothing, and if you have no education, you have nothing. That is why I am struggling to keep my children going to school. I have told them, 'if you don't go to school you will cry one day; maybe at that time I will be dead, and there will be nobody to help you.' If you go to school you will not cry, you will just help yourself. You know that you are educated and then you must go and work and get money.
Theo was in Standard IX. He would be doing his matric exams in 1993. He should have finished in 1991, but he had failed Standard VII and Standard VIII and had to repeat these two classes. He wanted to go to a Technikon. Priscilla was doing well. She was in Standard VII. She wants to do social work. She says she wants to help people. Theo is political. Priscilla doesn't know anything about politics. She is just like herself. She doesn't know anything about politics. She herself just listens to what they say, that is all. Mr. De Klerk is a good man. She has a "good opinion" of him. But she has a good opinion of Mr. Mandela .too. Everyone is looking forward to him being State President. But if Mr. De Klerk became State President, it wouldn't bother her; "there is nothing wrong with De Klerk and there is nothing wrong with Mr. Mandela." But, she is quick to add, she doesn't know how other people would feel about Mr. De Klerk becoming State President after a new election.
The AWB would be a " hard nut to turn. It didn't want an election between Mandela, Buthelezi and De Klerk. One of them had said 'if you want Mandela you can get Mandela; if you want Mandela, you must get him at night and kill him.'
Africans didn't like the AWB, because the AWB are fighting with the Africans. The schools they bombed were schools for Black children and for white children. They don't want that,
[what were the AWB up to in 1992?]
Was she hopeful about the future?
Yes, I think they will be better after there is a new government, if there are changes and Mr. Mandela is the State President. I want to see an end to all this violence. Here in the Transvaal there was nothing but violence. There is not so much violence now, it is now mostly in Natal. But even in the location, sometimes people who are going to work in the morning take the trains and they are shot. It has happened a number of times. I think it is the Zulus that are doing that, the people who are staying in the hostels because the people are in a train are the location people.
Would the Zulus continue to behave like that, even when there was a new South Africa? The non-political Rose has a ready-made solution.. "I think, "she says they should be taken back to the homeland [KwaZulu/Natal]. It would be better. The new government should, as one of its top priorities, close the Khumalo Road hostel. Yes, the government sometimes helps the Zulus:
They are helping, because they know very well that Mandela will be taking over the country; they don't want Mandela, so they are under pressure to do one thing with Mandela. They also know that they can't do anything if the ANC wins the elections. That is what Bennett says; he says that if Mr. Mandela says we should do this, we will do it, as he wants us to.
And then, when the government had closed the hostel, she would like them to fix their rent situation and the bond on their house. The bond was far too much. They paid R500 per month with arrears. They were in arrears. In addition, the rent [for services] was too high. She was far more worried about the future now than you when I'd last visited the family. She was worried for her children, because she didn't have money. Rose had begun to cry, the tape machine recording her periodic sobs, the impartial custodian of other people's grief. "My children must get a good future," she said, " I must try to get work for my children. Maybe next time I won't cry." And then "Things are hard for me, yes, that is what I can say."
Rose and Bennett, like many other Africans at that point, is at this point making a distinction between Mr. De Klerk and the actions of the government. Perhaps they didn't associate the two. But in their minds, Mr. De Klerk is a man who should be admired, because he ended apartheid, released Mandela and unbanned the ANC and was leading the way to new elections in which Blacks would be able to vote. The government, whatever it was represented whiter interests that wanted to maintain the status quo, or at the very least limit change so that whites wouldn't lose their privileged positions and would, behind the scenes continue to manage the levers of power. Surprisingly, it often appeared that Mr. De Klerk himself subscribed to this dichotomy. The State President, as he would point out to Mr. Mandela repeatedly, didn't know everything different elements in a far-flung governmental structure was up to, and therefore should not be accountable for illegal acts carried out without his knowledge during his watch.
But Rose had faith:
I can say things can change in the future. Mr. Mandela and De Klerk are going to sit at the table and if they settle, everything will be all right. Everything will change. People from overseas will come. Like Paul Simon here58 and I heard on the news today, three others singers are coming. They said that they like South Africa now. That is why they are coming here. Even me I wish to go overseas, but I don't think I can go there, because I have got no money for the airplane. The airplane costs too much.
And here, in a sense, was the bittersweet poignancy of it all. Minutes ago she was crying softly at not being able to give her children the things she wanted to, the education that would enable them to escape the township, get decent jobs and money. For Rose, money was not the root of all evil, but the plant that grew and spread its branches and made all things possible. And the minutes she was fantasizing about going overseas, before allowing herself to admit that it would probably never possible.
The obsession with trying to make ends meet, to keep the bill collector from the doorstep translated into a reverence for money that infected Black culture in the townships. The role models were the people who had money, and went to great lengths to let their neighbors know they had money. These were the people the young looked up to and the adults admired. The source of the money was irrelevant; having it was all that counted. In the post-apartheid years, this need for having access to money would breed yet another culture, one that absolved the man with the money, the high flying dude from any crime he might have perpetrated to get it, especially if he did not rob his own community. To rob others was, if not condoned, at least permissible; to gain it at the expense of whites was merely a form of income redistribution. [See Fingers]
The constant preoccupation with getting the bond paid, getting the rent paid, getting enough work, ensuring that the children attended school, did not get into trouble took a heavy toll:
Yes, because I am forced to pay rent, forced to go and buy grocery for these children, except sometimes I haven't got the children, then I worry. Children want everything. They don't know whether I have got money or not. They want what they want. Especially Kenneth. He wants money for sweets, ice cream. If you say you haven't got money they ask you why you haven't got money. "I want money, " he will say. Then what are you going to say, you must give him the money because he is asking his parents. And he wants carry money when he goes to school; he wants a lunch box and money on top of that for lunch.
Globe trotting consumerism had come to the locations.
When we turned to the political situation, Rose's opening words practically ended our conversation. "Bennett," she says, not for a moment raising her eyes to meet mine, " has told you all you all that I have to say." Which I tried to counter with, "Well, not quite. I assume you have opinions of your own." Like Bennett, she was a member of the ANC. Would like to see the ANC and the NP governing the country together or would she just like to see the ANC ruling alone? She did not know much about the NP, she had not taken much notice of them do not know much about the NP; she had not taken much notice of them. She only knew about the ANC.
Did people talk about a new South Africa all the time? Yes, they did. What difference did she think a new South Africa was going to make in her life? Rose became more animated:
I think it will change everything. There will be less suffering. There will be more employment. Most people do not work because they do not want to boost the South African industry and economy. They want companies to disinvest in South Africa. I have been looking for employment since 1984, but I have not found anything yet. In 1984 I was a cashier at the OK Bazaar. And then I went on maternity leave. When I returned they told me that I had been retrenched. Since then I have been unemployed.
Would the new South Africa result in an end to squatting, new houses for everyone in need of a house?
Yes, I do. That is why we support the ANC because they are talking a language we understand. The bond on our house is very high, and it keeps going higher and higher. We are hoping that Mr. Mandela will provide affordable housing for all and consider reducing bond payments. If Mr. Mandela becomes State President, he will work out something so that we will not have to pay as much per month for the house?
And better schools for children?
Yes, and not only that but would have the choice of taking her children to white schools in Johannesburg if I had the money. At the moment secondary schools are closed for some unknown reason, this disturbs their education.59 Our children have been getting a poor education. Bantu Education is a very poor education. Our children cannot express themselves properly in English. They are not taught properly at the schools and we have to do a lot of supplementary teaching at home. My children are doing Standards 4, 7 and 9. The Standard 7 and 9 students speak very poor English for children at their level because of Bantu Education.
If Mr. Mandela becomes State President, would she be able to get money from the government for education? '" When Mr. Mandela becomes State President I hope that I will be able to find work which will give me money to improve my living conditions and send my children to better schools."
And how long would it take a Mandela government to improve the standard of living Black people, to bring it to the level of white people? "That will depend on the outcome of negotiations." Which will be completed by? "Maybe in 1992/93."
If she had a choice, where would want to live? She would not want to live in the white suburbs. She wanted to stay among Black people. Thokoza was good enough for her but she would like to have a larger house. Life for her would be very difficult in town.. [white racism-repeal of apartheid did not repeal the fears Blacks had if they started "intruding" on white turf."] White people lived differently. They did things differently. She didn't think she would be comfortable living among them.
Abolishing the Group Areas Acct might give everyone the right to live in the place of his or her choosing, but you could not legislate racism out of people's minds. While Rose might be told she was free and equal, a lifetime of servitude to the needs of white people did not suddenly evaporate to be replaced with feelings of equal stature to the whites. While you might know that it was true in some abstract way, the practical realities of your life said otherwise.
Rose's dream was for her children to a university education. "If they wish to go to university, I will try my best to make it possible for them to do so." [the sacrificial mother] Of most immediate concern to her, however, was the pervasiveness of the dust that we could see through the window, whirling about outside. When the winds blew, as they did every day, a locust of dust swept across the location due to its exposure to the surrounding openness. "There is too much dust in this place." Rose says, shaking her head. "One cannot do washing. You just have to stay indoors with your doors and windows shut." Worse still, the children breathed in the dust on their way to and from school. Had people raised the matter with the local authorities? "Yes, some people have complained about this to the relevant authorities. They say we do not pay enough service fees for them to be able to upgrade the roads. Like in Thokoza Gardens, they pay more so they get better services -- street lamps and tarred roads. Our streets are dark. [a non-service of fees explanation]
One is bombarded from every nook and cranny in the townships by constant references to the new South Africa, as if it were going to be like something like manna falling from heaven, a deliverance that would in one magnificent bound transform their lives in ways they had not even dreamt of. And yet, the dreams were translucent in their modesty.
I want to see everything changing. I am poor. I hope my lot will improve. I am however better off than some people. I still have food in the house; some other people have got nothing. In some cases, whole families are unemployed and have been like that for years. I am better because at least Bennett works. Bennett at least has some motor mechanic skills. Some people are totally unskilled.
When the violence broke out, she had been terrified. Her neighbours did not treat her differently because she was a Zulu, although from time to time, "the Xhosas sometimes harass Zulus."
If you are a Zulu and they know that they sometimes come and ask you 'what nationality are you?', so that they can hear whether you come from the homelands or the township by the different dialects. People in the homelands speak what is called Zulu A and from the townships they speak Zulu B. The difference is that Zulu A is more pure than Zulu B. [what is the significance of this]
Why did the residents of Thokoza have such animosity towards the hostel dwellers? Would they like to seek the hostels closed down? Were residents afraid of the hostel dwellers? "Yes, most people are afraid of them. But if you are a Zulu, you are not afraid because they will not attack you. If they come here, I tell them I am a Zulu and they will not do anything to me. [the strength of the tribal relationship].
And how does she think of herself? Would she say she is Zulu or South African? "I would say that I am a Zulu but I am from South Africa. You must be proud of who you are. If you are Zulu, you are a Zulu and you must be proud of that." She did not honour King Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulus [why??] She did, nevertheless, consider him king of the Zulu nation.
Her children are her raison d'etr'e . Bennett and she had two boys and one girl. Theo was eighteen, Priscilla fourteen, and Kenneth _ Both Theo and Priscilla were in secondary school.[ is this correct or had Theo already matriculated. See Rose "Theo was hoping to get a bursary to go to a Technikon." Her hope of hopes was that Priscilla would be able to attend a white school either in 1991 or 1992. Priscilla wanted to be a social worker, a decision Rose endorsed because it was Priscilla's decision. Rose prayed to God that "I can have money to be able to give her the education she wants."
Priscilla was learning karate and had won some awards. The trophies were proudly displayed on the china cabinet. Priscilla was not a problem. She liked school: Priscilla didn't give her headaches – the insinuation being that Theo was cause for more than the occasional headache. If she could, she would send Priscilla to a school in Alberton with white children.
I want to do that. If she can get a space there, I would like that. I will try to find them the space. Because she will get everything right there. There will be better language [instruction], and she will get a better education, not like the children in Thokoza. Sometimes they had stayaways; if there are stayaways, even the children won't go to school. In Alberton there are no stayaways; they go to school. There were a lot of stayaways.. But most of the people now they don't like stayaways. Because they know that if they stay at home, there will be no pay. No work no pay. That is why they don't like to go on stayaways; they try to go to work, unless there is no public transport. If there is public transport, most of the people go to work.
The church played a major role in Rose's life. She was a member of the Church of the Apostle. The church is very strict and God played an important role in her life. Going to church helped her, put things in perspective. Members of the congregation were not allowed to discuss politics in church. "They say we should do that outside the church." [did that mean that if there were an incident of political violence in the community, the pastor would neither mention nor condemn it?]. The community in which they lived was a very religious community. Everybody went to church every week. And luckily for them, the church was close by.
Like Bennett, she was very happy when Mandela' release was announced. And like Bennett, she, too, was also a big supporter of Mr. de Klerk. "I am proud of Mr. de Klerk. He is doing good things."
If he were to remain as the State President, would she mind? Not in the least. "I do not mind any of them. It can be Mr. Mandela or Mr. de Klerk. It is fine with me." And if there were two state presidents? She couldn't care less.
Another if. If Theo got involved with the Comrades, would she mind? "Yes, I would. I do not want my son to join the Comrades. I want him to concentrate on his schooling. After that he can do as he pleases. Even his father feels the same way."
She knew most of the comrades. And what had Theo have to say in the matter? He would prefer school to joining the comrades. Or at least that is what he told her.
But the schools were another matter of concern. There was a lot of disruption in his school, stayaways, and periods when the school simply closed down. In 1990 school closures were the problem; in 1991 teachers going on strike were. [not exactly an atmosphere conducive to good learning]
Her fantasy: to be able to take her children to better schools, build a new house that would be bigger than the one they lived in. She worried about Bennett not being able to make enough money to pay monthly bills. " We do not have much by way of savings."
After I had talked with Bennett and Bruce separately, I asked them whether they would be prepared to sit together, and always obliging, they consented. For reasons I cannot remember, probably because of the constancy of threat, physical and economic, they lived under and the always nagging fear of what their children might run into or become random victims of in a location that was permeated by the omnipresence of incipient violence, Bennett began to talk about prayer, about how he would pray for de Klerk's safety.
I always pray 'God please bless that man, keep that man alive, keep him safe'. Whenever they want to attack him, please let them turn their guns somewhere else, because that man is going to the point for the whole Africans, that is why I am praying for him to stay alive.
I asked him to elaborate a little on the earlier statements he had made concerning how Blacks and whites, even with the same qualifications were paid differently for doing the same job. Even though he was a qualified auto mechanic whites mechanics got paid at a higher rate.
That must come to an end. If a white guy is a driver and a Black guy is a driver, they must get equal pay. This Afrikaner is worried that we are going to take away white rule. We are not in a hurry for that; we are in a hurry to share in the wealth. Because when you have got enough money you can go wherever you like, including living in the white areas. If whites want to come to the stadium in a Black area, it is okay. What we need is the money and a better standard of living so that whenever I want to go somewhere, nothing can stop me.
It is easier now; I can go to overseas, without anybody asking me questions. Before when you said you wanted to go to Botswana or anywhere else, you were questioned for hours. They would want to know if you have ever been arrested for anything; they would look for criminal records, etc. But things are coming all right now; if you want a passport you just go there and apply for it. If I get money next time, I will be visiting your place!!
You must make a plan to get money from somewhere, but not to go and rob. I don't want to take a gun and kill for money. If I want money I must make a plan to get money; my family must live better. If I go and rob I could be arrested and my family is going to suffer. I must use my brains to get money and get a better living. If I want to go overseas or anywhere I must know that I have got the money. If I want to go to Sun City now, I can't go because I haven't got money. I must get money to go to the Casino, get it from the Casino and then go to England to see how the people there are living, not to see them on TV only.
The TV will never take me overseas. I want to go personally, to go and see how white people are living there. Because what I see about most of the people living overseas, like China, it is not easy to find an African or like Germany, it is not easy to find an African there. But these people are trying to fight for Blacks, that Black must be together with white people here, that apartheid must end, because South Africa is a country that is mixed. Whites must share with other people. Now overseas, Greeks have got their own country, the Italians theirs, it is not mixed. But these people they have not got minds like these Afrikaners here, because the Afrikaners say this is their forefathers land, and we are also saying that it is our forefathers land. Now who must run away? Mr. Mandela says nobody must run away, everybody must stay here.
Priscilla was eager to talk, very passionate, opinionated, and although her English was not yet fluent, it did not deter her from expressing herself. She is bright, open, no shyness talking to strangers. Like most teenagers, she is prone to expressing herself in multiple tongues; some not always congruent with each other, and her belief in her own infallible powers of persuasion are paraded with the certainty of the young. Priscilla is refreshing, even if a little inchoate at times.
My age is 15 years old. My school is Thokoza High; I am in Standard VIII. In South Africa people are afraid of fighting for freedom. The only thing I can say, because I see many people who are killing other people, Blacks are fighting each other, on my side I want the people of the whole world to be free and to make up a family of one person. It is the thing I want. I want to be a social worker because I want to help people, what can you do now and things like that to put the standard of living up.
I see many people are dying now for freedom, since Mr. Mandela was released from jail. Now I see the Inkatha Freedom Party fighting the ANC because they see the ANC lead us to freedom. Mr. Mandela has shown us what they do.
Last week they shot five people and we buried them. One of them was in my class.
Again I'm driven back to the violence. Who do she think is to blame for all the violence that has happened in Thokoza in the last two years?
Mr. de Klerk tried to stop violence and make peace, but people did not listen. Inkatha wants to fight and kill the ANC. The hostel dwellers go to each and every house and ask the people 'what are you?' When you say you are ANC they kill you.
They came here last year, during February or March. They said 'We are Inkatha'. Then they said, 'Xhosas come here, you are ANC', and then the trouble started. My family is ANC. The ANC was the first Congress here; the IFP was only formed early last year.
Was she afraid when the trouble started?
I am afraid about what is happening now. I don't know what can I do. I wish my mother had given birth to me earlier, I would have stopped this thing. I would phone Mr. De Klerk and talk to him. If they put me on TV, I would tell the people, 'stop this violence. Make peace. We are people from one man, and there is nothing we can do about that.
When you were growing up, all these apartheid laws were in place. In the last two years since Mandela has been released and this whole process of political change has gotten underway things have changed. What has she noticed? Have things in Thokoza gotten better or worse in the last two years?
Things are going to be better than last year. I think the fighting can stop now because we are free. Mr. Mandela is trying to stop the war. I don't know what I can say, I wish I could phone Mr. Gatsha Buthelezi and tell him that what happened was wrong. Now, people are suffering; they have lost their homes; they have lost their parents; other people have lost their children. Last year there was much violence in this country. I had two friends who were killed in the violence in Katlehong They were girls my age. One was sixteen years old and the other was thirteen years old. It happened early last year.
There was violence last year.[where] They [who] were fighting for peace. I don't know why, I think it is because they [who] don't know Mr. De Klerk. They [who] marched to Alberton. In Alberton they [who] killed us, [who is 'us'] the soldiers, [did the soldiers do the killing] and they [who] came back. Others [who] were killed and we went to the graveyard.
Did she have fears that one day she would be killed? She didn't know, but, yes, she worried about it.
"I want to leave this country. People are suffering about nothing, people are killing other people, I don't know what I can say."
What about school? Would she prefer to remain in the school that she is in now, or to go to a school where there are white children?
Now I am in a Black school. I don't want to go to a white school because I won't finish up. [why?] If I pass my matric, I don't want to pass with a poor score. I want to do well enough to go to university. Here I can tell the people to stop the violence and make peace. That would be good.
She must have heard all this talk about a new South Africa.. What did it mean to her?
The new South Africa is not here now. The old South Africa still is. Only when the people stop fighting and killing each other will we have a new South Africa. If they say in South Africa, 'we want to see freedom and an end to the fighting, stop the war, I will say there is a new South Africa. If they still kill other people and fight each other, it is the old South Africa.
What kind of things did she think a new South Africa would bring to people? "Assume there will be peace. "When I look out your window I see that huge garbage dump opposite your house." I tell her. "There are no street names posted, so that if I got lost coming here, I wouldn't even be able to people how to get to your house. From the road we have to look for a set of signs. If we miss one we could be going around in circles all day."
Did she want or even care whether the boulder at the entrance to her street made it difficult to get in and out, or was that the purpose of the boulder. Did she want it removed, now that she believed peace is on the way? Did she want lighting on the streets, the removal of the huge overhead Apollo lights, which were put in place in the first place for security reasons? Did she want paved roads? What kind of things did she want for her community?
If a new South Africa is coming, I will see white people and Black people making friends and there will be peace around us, and in all the world. I will see boys and girls of white people playing and going places together with boys and girls of Black people.
Things keep getting worse. There are a lot of things that I want but my father has no money to buy them for me – like my school uniform I would like to go to UCT to do social work. I've been to Cape Town and I like it. But my mother and father have no money, so have to get a bursary.
Did she look forward to the day in the near future when Nelson Mandela would be State President? Priscilla seemed less than overwhelmed at the prospect.
Sometimes [she says] he makes gestures to the to IFP. Mr. Buthelezi is happy when he does that. But we don't know where Mr. Mandela is standing. Sometimes he talks to Mr. De Klerk and sometimes he shouts at Mr. de Klerk about nothing. Yet, Mr. De Klerk wants to give ANC freedom, because he would not have released Mr. Mandela if he did not know what he was doing.
He released Mr. Mandela because he saw that people were crying for Mandela, they wanted to see Mr. Mandela. Even me, when he was not released I did not know him. I heard people talking about him, but I did not know him. But since Mr. De Klerk released Mr. Mandela, I know now 'oh, he is a grandfather, he is for us.' Oliver Tambo, I also did not know him. People did not want PW Botha; they said he was a dog, and now I see Mr. Mandela he is on a point, but not a real point.
Mr. Mandela did not impress her? No, she said, "I am not proud of Mr. Mandela." It was surreal to sit in the small, over furnished parlour – only over furnished in the sense that so many of the family's store of valuables, whether a cushioned sofa, a shining glass cabinet with its display of a lifetime's accumulation of the things of remembrance, of there just being too many things in too little space, and listen to a fifteen year old whose friends had been murdered in the mayhem that had engulfed her community for two years, say, that having evaluated Mr. Mandela's performance she was neither impressed by or even proud of him.
And yet she regarded herself as a member of the ANC, and presumably all that it stood for. Furthermore, she says she was proud of Mr. De Klerk because he sees that freedom is coming. "Mr. De Klerk sees everything that is happening." Mr. De Klerk was a far more impressive person than Mr. Mandela. If she were eligible to vote, she would cast her vote for Mr. Dr Klerk. Mr. Mandela was not making his point. Whatever his message was. It wasn't coming across to Priscilla, whereas Mr. De Klerk's was. Democracy? She has forgotten what the word means.
I am, once again, non-plussed. She seems unable to understand why Mr. Mandela is not more grateful to Mr. De Klerk for giving him his freedom. To her it does not appear that it was something Mr. De Klerk was compelled to do, regardless of the circumstances, and that if he had ever conveyed to Mr. Mandela that he was "giving" him his freedom. Mandela would probably have refused to budge from Victor Verster until de Klerk underwent a 180 degree reconsideration of who was giving what to whom.
But Priscilla was a child. But more than any other member of the Balula family, she was consumed by the violence. References to it resonated in her language. No matter what we talked about, she always found a way to bring the discussion back to the violence that enveloped her community that was a reality she had to confront every day.
Whatever images of Mandela she stored in the recesses of her mind were images of the mythical Mandela, the stories of lore and daring, the "Black Pimpernel" who had outwitted the government at every turn, stood in the dock at Rivonia and dared the government to hang him rather than plea for his life, the faded pictures of the robust, handsome, derring-do rebel whose exploits inspired generations of Black people, a Black every bit a white man's equal, which the white man subconsciously recognized as such and treated with a deference that was a reflexive response to Mandela's presence.
Yet, when he was released all she saw was an old man who walked stiffly, a grandfather, her response was not unlike the response of the youths who packed the stadium in Kingston to hear him.60 When he told them to throw their pangas into the sea, they walked out in disgust: this was not the Mandela who was the symbol of militant resistance to the apartheid regime; rather than leading them upon his release in the struggle to overthrow the regime, inspiring them to acts that would cripple the country; they came face-to-face with an old man who, instead of moving them with fiery rhetoric, counselled them, like a school master, to stop committing violent acts and seek brotherhood with their enemies.
Moreover, according to the way in which Priscilla had been brought up, you did not reward someone who had given something you cherished but was beyond your own abilities to acquire with heaps of distain, lectures on his misrule of power, and threats of what lie in store for him if he didn't start acting seriously. In Priscilla's perceptions, de Klerk was acting seriously; Mandela was not.
You did not rant at a man who had given you your freedom. You should display respect, appreciation. In her mind, de Klerk was the benevolent, authoritarian figure. He had yielded to the cries of the masses for Mandela's release because it would please them, not because he had no option. The emperor exercising his right to heed the crowds in the Coliseum to save the life of the gallant gladiator in the arena beneath his royal box with a gesture of his tongue, not an emperor hearing the war cries of the Barbarians at the Gates. De Klerk continued to maintain his aura of control after Mandela's release; Mandela was being subsumed by the violence. You could hear mutterings of it other places: With Mandela came violence. Translation: Mandela was the cause of the violence. It would be but one of the many problems Mandela would have to contend with as he made the transition from Man of Myth to ordinary human being, a gifted leader, but also a man who had foibles like the rest of us. When he was in jail and the masses clamoured for his release, he commanded an aura of invincibility; with his release the aura evanesced.
Priscilla had witnessed violence; seen the bloodied remains of mutilated corpses scattered across the streets; her friends had died in the violence, and while her cry for an end to the violence was a cry for help; it was a cry that had no context. Thus, a cry for peace among the people of Thokoza became a more generalized cry for peace among the peoples of the world.
At school students talked about politics.
Yes, we talk about politics in school. We listen to the Comrades and talk about what they say. The teachers help us to understand politics. Yesterday Mr. Mandela held a press conference. We watched it and afterwards we had a meeting of all students and comrades to discuss what he had said. We said Mr. Mandela was wrong [who is the 'we' and why was Mr. Mandela 'wrong'] We also talked about whether the Zulu king should be involved in CODESA. I was against it. The Zulus want the country to belong to them.
With her off beat views, for which there would be little tolerance in a community as polarized as Thokoza, I am curious how her peers treat her. Does she tell her classmates that she would prefer Mr. De Klerk to be State President than Nelson Mandela, how do the Comrades react?
I can say Mr. De Klerk is the strongest President and that he is a stronger man than Mr. Mandela. They shout. I have enemies in school because they don't understand me and what I say. They favour Mr. Mandela and therefore I am supposed to say Mr. Mandela is this and Mr. De Klerk is that; but I won't. They chase me out of the school, but I return the next day. I will never stop saying this. I will always tell them what I think. But I also have friends in school who agree with me.
When school is in and we are in the middle of lessons, they [the comrades] come to my class and ask the teacher that they want me, and I come out with them and go to the office and talk to the principal. They tell the principal that I don't want to listen to them, if they talk about Mr. Mandela or Mr. Oliver Tambo, I said to the principal, this thing is wrong, [why is this thing wrong] I tell them because I know this thing is wrong. They will [what's missing here] IFP.
In the new South Africa, does she think that Black people are still going to live in townships like Thokoza? She is unable to respond beyond a shrug: "What can I say?"
I try to approach the question in a different way: If Mr. Mandela becomes state president, would I be sit in their parlour, look out the window and see that all the trash had been picked up? Priscilla completely ignored the question, and began to ramble:
I don't know. Next to my school is a camp of soldiers,??? they try to make peace[among whom?] but [they] make them [who] drunk. There is nothing they [the soldiers?] can do. People [who?] kill these soldiers and there is nothing they [the soldiers?] can do.[why] They [who] speak Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, and English. You will see them [who] in the night at about 9.30pm.They will walk down the streets and beat people who are walking around. There is nothing else that they do.
[who is she talking about here]
When the IFP came here and killed people, they [who] did not do anything; they just sat there and said, "we can't catch them." We had a concern in Roma church, [what happened] and they [who] told us that they would shoot us when we go back to our homes. This is not the new South Africa; it is the old South Africa. I cannot force them [who] to favour Mr. De Klerk. People are suffering here. One of my friends in school said to me 'Priscilla don't do this because they will kill you, these comrades.' I said, 'No, they could kill me but I don't care because I know what they are doing is wrong.'
I know the IFP. I was walking by the hostel, [which hostel] they said to me, 'come here,' I said 'no, my mother said I must hurry back.' They said to me, 'we will shoot you.' I then went in his [whose] house and they [who] said they would shoot me, [that] I should get out of the house. God help me, my mother was coming here [where] and why], and this person went there [where] and did not come back, that is another girl. I didn't see her, there were two [two who] they went into that hostel and I came home. I was crying. I was doing karate last year; I had to stop because of this. [why] My coach said there is nothing going on [what did he mean by this] and I said I would go back once I felt safe again. [explain]
After this man, [which man] it was about 6.30pm or later, he stood her [who] and he caught?? another boy outside [outside where] and told him to call me [on what]. I told the boy I did not want to go there. [where] The man said he would shoot me. He said he would catch me on the road, when he saw me. I have never seen him again since then. I don't know, maybe he will come back and catch me or shoot me.
The man belonged to the IFP.
Did his threat leave her anxious all the time? Did it interfere with her studies? No, nothing interfered with her studies.
DID SHE TELL HER PARENTS
When she looks forward at 1992, what does she think is going to happen?
Maybe freedom will come in 1992, maybe later. The government is trying to stop the war. Yet people are see Mr. De Klerk like a stupid man who does not know what he is doing. Now, try to shut my mouth and see what is going to happen. If the things I want happen, I will say, look now, this thing is happening. I will see what they will do. I have enemies in this street. In Beirut,61 I have enemies. Other comrades don't want me; if we meet in the streets I look the other way.
She liked white people but had never met any. She thought she was getting a good education. In 1990 she had passed her exams with good grades, but this year, for some reason she failed even though her grades were the same. After matriculation, she wanted to go to the University of Natal in Durban, if her mother and father were still alive. She would study to become a social worker. In Durban, she would have a place to stay because her mother's sister lived there.
One of my uncles is in jail. He is a member of the ANC. He shot other people and they caught him and put him in jail. I want to get away, as far away as possible from the comrades in Thokoza, to a place where they cannot see me. Or, if they do, it will only be during the holidays. I don't want to see them because I know I have enemies. They will kill me during a visit. Therefore I want to be far away where they cannot touch me.
Once again, as had happened throughout our conversation, Priscilla slipped between bravura and fear of the harm she felt exposed to, not only from the comrades, but also from the IFP. Obviously, she had never discussed matters relating to the comrades to her father. Otherwise, one assumes he would have taken some action. But, in Bennett's eyes, the comrades could do no harm, and perhaps, he felt that his daughter would be better off, indeed, that the whole family would be better off if she kept her unorthodox opinions to herself. [DID BENNETT KNOW]
Did she discuss these things with her parents? Priscilla:
They know a lot about me. I tell them, especially my mother. During the holidays, like in December, I sit here with my mother and I tell her what I want to be when I finish school and what I want to happen in the world. She tells me 'No Priscilla, this thing is going to kill you,' and I tell her, "I don't care if they kill me. I know that if they kill me they will see that this thing is wrong. They will have killed me for nothing." [what did Bennett say]
I try and take her in another direction. Let's assume she is a social worker and there is peace. What would she tell President De Klerk to do to improve life here for people in Thokoza? What would the people want to happen?
Some children have no parents, no homes and they are hungry. They are streetwalkers in town. I want to help all those children and I will adopt two or three and support them. If I am educated I don't want to marry.
Does you have a boyfriend? No. She is, she says, still too young for boyfriends. "My mother says if I can see you with a boyfriend, I will beat you. There is nothing I can do." Theo and she go to different schools. Theo is a comrade; she is not. Her friends are at school; in her neighbourhood, she doesn't have friends.
And her relationship with Theo?
Theo and I are supposed to fight for freedom only. Theo is a Comrade and I am not a Comrade. I am fighting for everyone, Inkatha Freedom Party, ANC and everybody. Theo is fighting for the ANC. Now we fight everyday. If we meet in the house and we talk about the ANC, I will tell my parents Theo is going want to fight me.
And her uncle Sidney – her father's brother who is a member of the Civic Association? He doesn't spend much time in the location because the IFP wants to kill him. They chased him once and shot him in the hand and he had to go to the hospital.
The IFP came to the hospital and asked the nurses how hurt he was and the nurses told them that he was badly hurt, so they left. They wanted to kill him in the hospital. They want him; they say he is a bad Xhosa. They don't want Xhosas here, so they say he is a bad Xhosa so they want to kill him.
I keep reminding myself that Priscilla is just 14 years of age; but being fourteen in South Africa more likely than not gave you the status of being a veteran of the struggle. Priscilla's stories and her propensity to shift gears suddenly in the middle of a conversation are understandable. We were speaking without the aid of an interpreter. Her mind didn't focus on a single question. Her responses were a jumble of emotions, her stories sometimes conflicting. -- she opposed both the ANC and the IFP – a not inconsiderable feat of political tight rope walking in an area where if you were not perceived to be for the one, you were marked as being for the other.
But there is a thread of consistency running through her narrative. In God she, too, trusts. She is an ardent supporter of de Klerk, affording him a heroic status. At the same time she can't articulate with any great precision her dislike of Mandela. Her opinions in her neighborhood certainly run against the grain. Is she treated as a young girl, given to running off at the mouth, a neighborhood nuisance rather than a neighborhood threat? Is her outspokenness tolerated in her neighborhood as being childish outbursts against a world she does not understand? Would the comrades have gone after her, had Theo not been one of them? Is she representative of other young people who have been traumatized by the violence around them, although they live "normal" lives in most other respects? The two are intertwined. The youths playing soccer with rag-balls on the streets, dreaming, with their deft moves of being the next Dr. Khumalo,62 are throwing Molotov cocktails at Casspirs patrolling the same streets, We hear a lot about "the youth," i.e. young boys, but what about the young girls, of the scenes of violence they have borne witness to, of the losses of parents, siblings, and friends they have internalized, of the lack of outlets for them to express their anger?
Yet, for all her bravado, her fear of the comrades seeps through. The frequent references to their being ready to kill her. Their intrusion into the classroom, ordering her out, and hauling her before the principle to be disciplined for expressing 'politically incorrect' views. Chasing her from school. Her wanting to get as far as possible away from them. Here she provides us with the snapshot of a snapshot of the influence the Comrades exercised in ANC strongholds; an influence that would become more threatening to the members of the communities they were supposed to protect when they became SDUs, and slowly became a problem the ANC had to confront – and deal with, not always with the niceties associated with those who stand for just causes.
[Who are these roving gangs she is talking about?] Her mother is obviously the big influence in her life. Her hopes for the future are in a sense predictable for a youngster who has been used to little but violence or impending violence: she looks for a better future only in the context of the absence of war. The violence has made an indelible impact on her, it insinuates itself into every aspect of the conversation. Her need to somehow mitigate its wanton destruction of all things human led her perhaps to wanting to become a social worker, expressing her desire to help others where before she had been helpless in the face of havoc; her wanting to adopt children left homeless and parentless a poignant gesture a 14 year old could console herself with in a world gone mad with a lust for killing that contaminated everything in its path. But it is not the violence of the State that she speaks out against.
Her condemnation of the violence has no association with its causes. She never mentions injustice, oppression, abuse of human rights, domination by white people. She never mentions apartheid. She has no particular wish to go to a white school in Alberton that would provide her with a superior education –certainly no boycotts, stayayways, comrades commanding the classroom and putting teachers in their place. She wants little for her own community, other than to escape from it. She comes from a family with a history of being staunchly pro-ANC, and when we talked she gave no indication of being even slightly conversant with the struggle for liberation generations of her people had never deviated from, never surrendered the dream of achieving, even during apartheid's darkest moments.
Theo is in a hurry and is eager to get on his way before we even start. Yet, I am struck by the thoughtfulness of his answers; again, a young adult, the product of a township school, is giving me a more well-considered analysis than many of the those in authority and those waiting to inherit their positions.
He expects to take his matric exams this year. His future plans?
I would like to get into journalism – television. I will see where my money will take me. I would like to go to Technikon in Johannesburg. If the situation goes right, I will be able to live in Thokoza.
But he, too, is drawn to the violence of the early nineties.
After Nelson Mandela was released, the ANC began to engage in mass action. The people who were living in the hostels had come from Natal looking for jobs. They didn't want to strike. The police are working with these guys. In 1991 I didn't go to school because some Inkatha guys were terrorizing our neighborhood. As a result, I failed my exams. I like school. To help the family, I have a part time job on Saturdays and Sundays. They pay R4 an hour in a supermarket in Alberton.
The violence between the residents and the hostels was bad three years ago. Now Mr. Khumalo and his gang are terrorizing the location.
The reform process is going slowly. We will achieve our freedom, but when I don't know. Some white people want a non-racial South Africa. They say they voted for the referendum. It makes me angry that everything is going so slowly. People are starving; the price of food keeps going up. Some boys, but not all, in my class are politically minded.
I am just a little bit hopeful about the future. The IFP and the PAC are not the same as us. The IFP was formed to stop the liberation movement among Black people. De Klerk told Buthelezi, 'this is your job.'"
When I met Theo in 1991, he told me that he wrote poetry. "Are you still writing poetry," I ask him. "Not as much as I used to," he said. " I have no one to help me with my poetry, to tell me where I make mistakes, so I only write it for myself." That's what poets are supposed to do, I tell him, and ask whether he would be willing to show me some poems that he had written, that I would look them over and tell him what I thought. He was only too glad to do so, disappearing into his room and returning moments later with a double spaced page on which he had written some poems on both sides of the single strip of paper. I thanked him.
I blame all the political parties for what is going on in South Africa [he says]. I think negotiations are the best way for the country to go. I don't think military action will work in this country. I am a member of the ANC, but I don't think that just because it is the ANC that it is necessarily right. De Klerk has done a good job – he has given us this opportunity. The white people must not be surprised because we will go free. No country should live under apartheid. I am not angry because the people who did this the forefathers of these white men. Our forefathers who were Black were ignorant. They didn't think the white man would take over.
His own future?
I would like to live in Durban, but if nothing goes right I will leave the country. When I started working, I made some friends with white men – I like them all. They don't support the apartheid regime. My friend John, who is in Standard 8, is a cashier, but we are not allowed to ring the cash registers, so we talk about education.
I would like to bring my friend John home to the location. I am not afraid because people know me. I play soccer and people think I'm a good guy. I would not bring him …
What South Africa had Mandela stepped into? Among Blacks, there were at least six.
First, there was the South Africa in which large numbers of Africans had organized themselves to find a way to force the seemingly immovable white elite to give them a meaningful role in governing themselves. This was the South Africa of the UDF, COSATU, the MDM, the endless marches of toi-toiing Blacks chanting the slogans of liberation, rallying in huge numbers despite the edicts of the authorities, a South Africa that was growing in numbers, a tumultuous swelling of voices working its way to a crescendo of protest that could not be either quelled or ignored.
Second, there was the South Africa of the townships, the militant youth, the "Comrades" had made ungovernable, a South Africa the government could no longer claim jurisdiction without resorting to a measure of force that would be its own undoing; a South Africa where the young had claimed the streets, patrolled the neighborhoods, administered "People's Courts," presided over "necklacings" of informants, those accused of being informants on the flimsiest of evidence, had pronounced that liberation came before education, who called for boycotts, enforced work stayaways, and punished residents who broke ranks, including pupils who tried to attend school, a South Africa of no law, but also a South Africa of abstract legitimacy. Occasionally, ANC cadres smuggled into the country would turn up in some of these townships, take control, put a stop to abuses, bring the Comrades into line, and administer a form of local government and policing. But the cadres who made it through the obstacles facing them at every turn were few in comparison to the numbers that were needed to launch a successful "People's War."
Third, there was the South Africa of the millions of Blacks who went along with the proponents of struggle, but who were for the most part disengaged from political activity, apathetic, uninterested in pursuing their own freedom, content to leave it to others to achieve it for them; a South Africa that had adjusted itself to apartheid and were content, or at least not openly discontented with the status quo, acquiescent to the white man because acquiescence had become ingrained, a normal part of day –to-day living to an extent that it was not even particularly resented. The South Africa in which Blacks accepted the order of things, fearful of the Comrades, fearful that the activities of the comrades would bring the wrath of the security forces down on their unprotected heads.
Fourth, was the South Africa of the Homelands and Independent states, governed by home-produced despots who ruled over their fiefdoms with a ruthlessness that matched the ruthlessness of the South African state when matters had to be kept in hand. Here, corrupt traditional chiefs held tenaciously onto their powers, and their "subjects" accepted their rule. Illiteracy was widespread; respect for authority instilled from birth, traditional rites and the rituals that accompanied them were the principles that guided the actions of the living and respect for the dead. The "ancestors" gave counsel when counsel was needed. There was no talk of a new South Africa.
Fifth, was the South Africa of KwaZulu/Natal. This South Africa, the most populous province in the country with some 23 million inhabitants was the home of the Zulus, South Africa's largest ethnic group. KwaZulu/Natal was a self-ruling Homeland under the government of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Chief Minister to His Royal Highness Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulus, the direct descendant of Shaka, who had forged the Zulu nation between 1820 and 1840 by conquering every tribe that stood in his path and united them under military rule. The Zulu nation brought the might of the Imperial British Army to its knees at the battle of ??? before succumbing to its superior ??? and weaponry at the battle of ???.
After the UDF was formed in 1983, it began to make inroads into Buthelezi's heretofore-untouchable political domain. The war that ensued between Zulus who supported the ANC and Zulus who supported Inkatha, Buthelezi's political arm resulted in the deaths of more people than all the altercations between anti-apartheid forces and the South African government from 1948 through apartheid's abolition. Best estimates put the number of casualties between 15,000 and 20,00.63 For sheer ferociousness and the hideous massacres it provoked, there is no comparison in South African history, with the exception, perhaps, of the casualties of the Boer War.64 Rural Zulus had migrated for decades to the Johannesburg area to work the gold mines and later the heavy industries the gold boom brought in its wake. They were housed in specially built single-sex hostels, an enclave unto themselves, adjacent to townships that at once accepted them as part of the community, but at the same time saw them as aliens in their midst. The Zulus who occupied the hostels that were spread across the Vaal Triangle were ultra-Inkatha loyalists, and with the release of Mandela the feuding that had simmered between the Zulus and residents of the townships – mostly Xhosa, South Africa's most populous ethnic group and the support base of the ANC, was ready to boil over into carnage that would rival and on many occasions outdo the carnage in KwaZulu/ Natal.
And finally, there was the South Africa of the youth.
The young are at the heart of the problem. At least one generation of the youth have come to adulthood since the Soweto uprising of 1976 when the government tried to make Afrikaans the medium of instruction in African schools. "Liberation before education" became the rallying cry in 1984. Uneducated, unemployed, and perhaps unemployable, the young have known only a culture of protest, confrontation, mobilization and resistance, where a different point of view was a wrong point of view, when every action, no matter how heinous, could be justified in terms of the liberation movement.
"Young people are a total unknown, they are going to be disenchanted, says Ahmeen Akhalawaya, editor of the Indicator. "There is no commitment to hard work. They expect things by right. The only thing they have is protest." 65
Rapid Black urbanization and influx control had devastating consequences on Black family life. By 1976, 70% of Black families were single-parent families, where the mother more often than not left the home for work at 6:00 a.m. and returned at 7:00 p.m. Nursery school age children had little or no parental supervision. "By I 1:00 a.m. the streets were in control of children four years of age and older" says de Lange, former head of the Broederbond 66 "Then the ANC began to criticize the low quality of teachers in the classroom. Consequently, there was no authority at home or at school, only the new peer group authority. In the mid-1980s, the ANC used the youth to destabilize the townships, allowing them to rape, murder and bum. Huge numbers of youngsters were brutalized by the attacks and as a consequence there is a continuing destabilizing factor."67 De Lange, of course, speaks from a white perspective. The ANC would see matters differently. The youth were making the townships ungovernable.
"To a certain extent" says Tertius Delport, who was Deputy Minister for Provincial Affairs in 1990 and would later emerge as one of the government's key negotiators, "the youth are a product of apartheid -- their parents were not there because they worked far away."
They grew up like wild dogs on the street fending for themselves. The opportunities of the extended family weren't there because of the way in which townships were built with Western style homes and the way in which people were assigned where to live. One of the most troubling aspects is the notion among Black pupils that knowledge is something that is given to you rather than acquired. We have a lot of young Napoleons -- no discipline, no value structure, expectations that things will be given to them. They like to destroy. They are anarchists.68
If they are anarchists, however, they are the state's own creation. They were born into a world that was unpredictable, treacherous and violent. They lived in match-box houses, with on average, sixteen other people, or "if [they were] unfortunate they lived in shanties or a squatter camp, in makeshift structures of cardboard and corrugated iron and bits of old boxes, the roof held down by heavy shoes, and which provided a single space, maybe twelve feet square, in which a dozen people lived." 69
At an early age they learned they were on their own. They were the frontline troops, "the comrades" during the worst days of the unrest during the 1980s. They spearheaded the drive to make the townships ungovernable; they felt their power and made it felt. They organized street and area committees, meted out their own brand of justice, where people accused of aiding the regime were brought before them in peoples' courts; they collected dues, conscripted supporters for their campaigns, decided when strikes and boycotts should be called, organized the funerals of victims of the turmoil. They were at once both the vanguard and the enforcers of resistance.
"They roll a tire past your house, or stand on the comer and shake a box of matches," says Major Louis Botha, a senior member of the security forces. "Say there is a boycott at the OK Bazaar, people get off the buses to walk into the townships. Their packages are taken from them: If a woman has purchased, say, cooking oil, she is forced to drink it, or if she bought washing soap she is forced to eat it. When they [the youth] want a boycott, they simply walk around shaking matches and people go back to their houses."70
(Which is why, Ben Alexander, Secretary General of the PAC, says the ANC does not have strong support in the townships. "We are getting older people [to support the PAC] because in 1985 and 1986 these old people were forced to drink fish oil and were beaten up by children [if they tried to evade a boycott]. Now these same people come back as the ANC leadership. They personify intimidation. We [PAC] are breaking the spirit of fear and the people are happy about that.")71
In August 1990 the endemic disorder at Leaca schools prompted the Transvaal African Teachers' Association (TUATA) to launch a countrywide "Save Our Children" media campaign. TUATA advertisements in Johannesburg papers read:
Are their children? You can't teach someone who is armed and may even kill you. Indifference runs deep and pupils say it makes no difference whether or not they write exams or even come to school.
Students this is a dangerous time. A new South Africa is going to need educated people. You must stop sloganizing and toi-toiing around the streets -- without education. How can you be leaders of tomorrow if you are ignorant?
The young men you see hanging out on the street comer are kids who never finished school. No education means no job! No job means no future.
But Black education is a farce. Schools are in dilapidated buildings with filthy and inadequate toilet facilities, broken windows, too few desks, not enough books and a hundred or more children to a class. The teacher, likely or not, will have no more than an elementary school education. Schools often have police or soldiers on the premises, some youths who are informers and some who are comrades out to get the informers, and political factions who clash among themselves.72
The statistics reflect the conditions: There are three million Black children out of school and poverty forces nearly 660,000 to quit each year. A quarter of the dropouts are in the first grade; a quarter of Black adults have no schooling at all; a third over the age of 15 are illiterate and almost one-third have less than a fourth grade education. 73
Forty-six percent of pupils believe that children who sacrificed their education to work for freedom will be rewarded financially in the 'new South Africa.' So why go back to school?74 Moreover, the existing number of Black teachers and schools can accommodate only 20 percent of Black pupils to graduation. The number of teachers would have to more than double from 180,000 to 457,000 by the year 2000. [what were the numbers in 2000] About one-third of teachers at Black schools do not have a matriculation certificate.75
For the young, militancy is part of the culture of resistance. The young were nonplussed by the suspension of the armed struggle, at what appeared to many of them to be a capitulation to the government. "The youth in the ANC are not following their leaders. They say that since the ANC has been unbanned, they don't see anything happening says General Bantu Holomisa, Head of Government in the Transkei. Indeed, so ingrained have the habits of protest become that the impulse to confront all authority asserts itself in all kinds of contexts. "Students know their strength", says Franklin Sonn, Rector of Technikon "I must accommodate all the time. If I set a date for the completion of an assignment, like say a Wednesday, they won't hand in their work until Thursday."76
They are told to be tolerant, a concept that has little meaning to a generation brought up on the intolerance of the state and all who would question its tactics and methods. "We have created a country where people are intolerant of each other's viewpoints," says Colin Jones, Dean of St. George's Cathedral." 77
"The ANC, like Inkatha, has elements within it that are not controllable. Some of the disenchantment, especially among young people comes from the youth who be believe that in negotiations too much has been given away too soon," says Khehla Shubane, a researcher at the Centre for Policy Studies at Wits. "Compromise is going to be difficult for people to follow. They hear Mandela saying that de Klerk is a honest man, but what they see in the townships is violence that gets fanned by the state."78
Children do not learn the difference between right and wrong. There is nothing in their lives to suggest "right has anything to do with human goodness or obeying the law of the land, or that "wrong" had to do with breaking laws. Allister Sparks, one of the most respected observers of the unraveling of South African writes:
Their whole experience demonstrates that justice is what serves the interests of the white authorities, that the courts enforce a justice that conforms to these norms, that the law is oppressive, that the police are their most dreaded enemies, and that Blacks who do not share their views are stooges, collaborationists and informers."79
In the knowledge that their cause bums with a pristine righteousness that only the most noble causes inspire, that their condition of victimization was so complete that any measure could be justifiably used to erase it, they demanded absolute allegiance from township residents and absolute approval for their actions -anything less left you open to charges of collaboration. In a world of absolutes, there could be no compromises. [Sparks pp. 226-27]???.
"There is no sense of political tolerance in Black politics. Violence gets sustained over a period of time," says Dr. Oscar Dhlomo, Secretary General of Inkatha before he resigned in early 1990. "You have the examples of the violence in the Cape between UDF and AZAPO, and in KwaZulu between UDF and Inkatha. "The ANC/COSATU/UDF Alliance is very attractive to young people who have no parental authority," says Col. Reggie Reynolds of the SAP. "The youth were put in charge of operations on the ground. They are in charge. They hold people's courts and sentence people to death." 80
During the apartheid years, the SAP were invariably depicted in terms of the cruel enforcers of the state's barbaric policies, vengeful racists who went about their business with a particular pleasure in inflicting as much pain as possible on Blacks who were just trying not to get into harms way. Like much that was written about South Africa during that era, stereotyping took precedence over reality – reality was too complex, raised questions the answers to which did not fit neatly fit into their assigned boxes.
Many officers of the SAP were decent men, victims, too, of the system that subsumed them. They asked questions, more often than not directed to themselves than to fellow officers, and in the course of carrying out their duties they rarely if ever resorted to the use of force. They were on the frontline in the battle for the townships, and learned much about the behavior of young people – it was their job to collect intelligence on the ferocious competition among gangs of youths, each claiming to have the imprimatur of the ANC that embroiled the townships.
The characterization, often propagated, of a disciplined group of young people, acting under some self-imposed restraint, having been given the go ahead to make their townships ungovernable, is far from the truth, and the brutality of the police in their struggle to keep the townships under their control had its counterpoint in the struggle among competing groups of young people trying to establish their own hegemony as the legitimate representatives of the ANC. In a conflict, such as that which devoured South Africa, there are no clean hands; the oppressed quickly learn from their oppressors how to impose their will on their own in order to establish the boundaries of their territorial domain, and like their oppressors they had few qualms when the use of raw power furthered their own ends.
When de Klerk released Mandela he assumed that Mandela would be able to restore order to the townships. But Mandela has not been able to do so. "De Klerk assumed that Mandela could command the allegiance of the uneducated, unemployable young Blacks", says Alex Borraine, Director of IDASA. " Mandela himself thought that he could stand up and issue a command and they would respond."81 But they did not. South Africa had changed enormously since he had been imprisoned in 1963. He emerged to a South Africa that was new to him in innumerable ways that no amount of reading or debriefings could prepare him for.82 Most Blacks now lived in urban areas and the traditional bonds of family and authority had been severely eroded.
"Throw your pangas into the sea" Mandela exhorted young people in Durban.83 Instead, they left the soccer stadium where the rally was being held. "Go back to school" he told the young in Soweto." But they paid no attention.84 "The youth don't know how to get off center stage" says Bishop George Irvine.85
The young came to center stage in 1983 when the government, in response to mounting domestic discontent and international pressure, unveiled its program of reform. A new tricameral parliament was the centerpiece of the State's reform. It provided for three houses of parliament, -- for Whites, Indians and Coloureds -- each to be elected by its own register of voters. The Indian and Coloured houses would have authority over Indian and Coloured affairs only. Power, however, remained firmly in the hands of the White parliament and the State President. Africans, who comprise 80 percent of the population and who were, according to the law, citizens of their respective Homelands and visitors in, rather than residents of South Africa, were excluded from any participation in central government.
Reform, however, only precipitated resistance. The promise of reform created expectations. The actual reforms, which were thought of a major concession by the state, did not meet the expectation of Blacks in general, but especially of Africans. They were regarded as trivial, insulting, irrelevant, or, once granted, simply as the springboard for more sweeping demands, since it became increasingly clear to the majority of Africans that while the government was prepared to do away with the trappings of apartheid and separate development, it was not prepared to concede on the question of domination.
The opposition to the tricameral Parliament led to the creation of the anti-apartheid United Democratic Front (UDF), a broad, non-racial grouping of about 605 affiliates with a total membership of more than two and a half million who collectively put the emphasis on mass mobilization and protest politics. (It also was the catalyst for the formation of the Conservative Party, the party of disaffected National Party members of parliament who wanted a return to full, unfettered apartheid).86
And thus the dual backlash: Among Africans, dissatisfaction with reform they clearly rejected as inadequate increased their demands for real reform; among Whites the belief that concessions were an admission that the government was of defeat increased their demands for maintaining the status quo. The result: Increasing violence on the one hand, and increasing electoral support for the right.
The elections to the newly created House of Representatives for Coloureds and to the House of Delegates for Indians were widely boycotted by both Coloureds and Indians -- only 18 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.87 The government also introduced a new Black Authorities Act (BLA) whereby Black [or African] elected town councils replaced community councils, giving the appearance of Africans having some power in local township government. When the first elections to the town councils were held in late 1983, political groups opposed to the new constitution -- like the UDF -- encouraged Africans to boycott the elections. As a result, turnout averaged 20 percent in most townships. In Soweto, the largest township, it was less than 11 per cent.88
Outspoken. Not afraid to express her views or to seem to care about being killed, by either comrades or IFP. Is this bravado? Has more fear of comrades than IFP. Makes sense. Her area of the location (what is it called) is obviously an ANC stronghold. Very idealistic. Her wanting to care of children, alleviate suffering etc. Also her wanting to get away –as far as possible from the comrades. Family has a history of ANC involvement. Yet all support de Klerk strongly. Get at the contradiction here. Role of the church. Her focus: education, education, education, and education. Her mother is the strong one, The mother pushes, keeps watch over her movement, makes sure she doesn't hang out with the wrong types. What is the story behind her Karate classes? And why she so abruptly stopped. Did her mother cut them off because she had to pass through an IFP enclave/hostel to get to where her coach was?
Reaction in Durban to Mandela's injunction for young people "to throw their pangas into the sea." They simply walked out of the stadium thinking the OLD Man had lost it. Two/ three wars: a) in the Vaal Triangle, b) in KwaZulu. C) right-wingers were never really an organized threat. Where does Eastern Cape – Port Elizabeth -- fit. Homeland/ independent state not so much against ANC as against their privileged power and positions. Were (check) far more brutal than the SAG in smashing opposition – in fact they didn't allow any. Priscilla as metaphor. Whole family were very politically informed – and independent thinkers. No part of the mob here. They didn't want much in a new SA, Never mentioned crime, even repressive security as an issue. Of course no mention of human rights abuses– didn't know what they were. Or of individual rights. See Zweli and how police in Soweto simply go door-to-door and search houses when someone reports a robbery]
22 May 1994
The first opportunity I had to visit Bennett again was in May 1994 – almost a month to the day following the election that finally enfranchised Africans. Between 1991 and early 1994, it proved increasingly difficult to get into Thokoza. Getting to Khumalo Road was easy enough, although we were shot at on one occasion and stopped at a roadblock, manned by youths cradling AK47s on another. A veteran reporter of wars in the sub-continent told me that if I was ever stopped by young people touting weapons, never to lose contact with their eyes. Lock their eyes in. Act with an almost insouciant assuredness, but never take your eyes off theirs. For the same reason, I carried with me multiple ID cards that I received when I acted as an election monitor under the auspices of either the United Nations or the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs.89 Since some of these were handsomely made and encoded with Spanish and French expressions of certification as a legitimate observer, flicking them at potential interrogators always resulted in a gesture allowing one to proceed.
But once off Khumalo Road, the going got more difficult. Residents had rolled huge rocks onto the street leading to Khumalo. Sometimes the street was simply barricaded making progress impossible. The residents had rolled the boulders onto the street to make it impassible, thus reducing the vulnerability of families in the vicinity to attack from hostel dwellers. And even if one maneuvered your way past one set of boulders, under the suspicious stares of residents, you would encounter another set of boulders a few hundred yards on, thus trapping yourself without a route of escape. Amy Biehl had been a friend of ours. Her murder in Guguletu in August 1993 taught us a lesson: never get trapped in a situation in which you cannot make an instantaneous U turn. In Thokoza, Zulu forays into the community increased in frequency and intensity as the elections approached; the communities adjacent to the hostels were prepared.
Again we sit in the parlor. The conversation turns to the violence of the preceding years that had prevented me from getting to see him and his family. Perhaps, because the extension in which he lived was a good distance from the hostels, Bennett did not feel that the violence had any particular impact on his family or on the surrounding community. He encountered no problems getting a taxi in the morning to go to work, no intimidation whatsoever.
The concentration of violence on the areas outside our residential areas is because the hostels are much closer to the residents on that side where violence was most rampant. On our side the hostels are a distance away. That is why violence did not penetrate into the residential part of our area of the township. The SADF patrols also patrolled the area on a regular basis.
In fact, the presence of the SADF contributed a great deal towards peace and calm. But when the SADF moved out and they were replaced by the National Peace Keeping Force violence erupted, the hostel inmates started shooting at the National Peace Keeping Force and they also shot back so the community felt that the SADF must be brought back. Since the SADF has been brought back there hasn't been shooting from the hostel side any longer. The SADF has managed to keep peace.
The people who mainly contributed to violence were the members of the Instability Unit (ISU) because when they left peace started to prevail, even their caravan that used to collect dead corpses no longer comes into the township partly because there's no more killing and partly because the residents didn't want any sign of the ISU in the area.
I did vote at a school called Landulwazi School. There was a big crowd of people in attendance. There were quite a lot of people who were going to vote and a delay was caused because ballot papers were missing when people had come to start voting. I was there from eight o'clock in the morning until about half past eleven.
The official told us that the ballot papers had not been delivered. There had been a delay with the trucks delivering the ballot papers; hence the ballot papers were going to be delivered to our area by helicopter. They were delivered by helicopter but the helicopter didn't deliver directly to the polling stations. They were delivered to the Police Station and the Police had to retransfer them to the Polling Stations where we were waiting. The police were quite helpful on the day of the elections because they were making sure that there wouldn't be any mess up caused by anybody during the period of the voting.
When it came to his turn to pick up his ballot, mark it, and deposit it in one of the ballot boxes, he felt like a different man, proud of his people for having persisted for so long against such great odds.
I felt great joy and I felt a big difference at that moment when I had to cast my vote because our fathers and our grandfathers and great-grandfathers never had the opportunity of voting. This was the first time for us to start voting and I felt that the land was now going to come back to its rightful owners, the Black people. I watched the inauguration at Union Buildings on television, and felt as urge of great joy when Mandela was sworn in as State President.
But I am still not employed. The temporary job that I had is finished.
I was born in 1948 when the National Party took over. When the inauguration took place at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, I felt very, very thrilled and excited because for all the years after I was born I can only remember white Prime Ministers being inaugurated at the Union Buildings, never a Black man. It was a very great occasion for us to watch Mr. Mandela being inaugurated as the State President of South Africa and above all enemies of the former South African regime like Fidel Castro whom I didn't know and many, many other leaders of the world were present. They didn't want to read from the newspapers about the inauguration or watch TV and see the inauguration, they wanted to see human proof that at last a Black President, Mr. Mandela has been inaugurated as President of the Republic of South Africa. That was the greatest moment of my life.
A great deal of effort had gone into ensuring that the elections would be free and fair. Election observers from around the world converged on South Africa to scrutinize what went on inside and outside polling booths, to follow the trucks transporting ballot boxes to the central counting center at NASREC, to oversee the vote counting process. Ten days before the elections it looked as though the country was slowly drifting into anarchy: There was more violence in Thokoza; lots of violence in KwaZulu/Natal; the IFP said it wouldn't contest the elections, and the international mediators, Lord Carrington and Henry Kissinger packed there bags and headed home after concluding that there was nothing for them to do.
And suddenly it all changed. Buthelezi underwent a conversion that will surely rank along with St. Paul's. The IFP said they would contest the elections, the violence practically stopped overnight, and elections were held in accordance with the agreed procedures. Then came the hiccups that could easily have escalated into ??? The vote count got bogged down, millions of votes went missing, the process ground to a halt, then spluttered into action again.
Then a miracle, a result was announced in which everybody was a winner. The ANC got 63% of the vote, not the two-thirds that would have allowed it to write a final constitution to its own liking. The NP got the Cape Province and Buthelezi got Natal. It all seemed too got to be true.
To Bennett's way of thinking, after the failure to locate the missing votes or whatever, an informal arrangement was made among all the parties that they would collectively agree to a result that would allow everyone to emerge as a winner, that would ensure that everyone was seen to be a winner so that they could all put their differences aside and form a government of national unity. In short, he believed "the fix" was in, and it didn't bother him in the least.
While foreign observers, the media, political pundits went to extraordinary lengths to stress that the election was both free and fair, in the townships they couldn't have given a damn. The results were good enough and quibbling would alter nothing. For Blacks, the elections were less about exercising for the first time the right to vote, it signaled the end of white domination and the birth of freedom, even if few fully understood the subtleties of the democratic dispensation their constitution-makers had crafted.
Before the elections there was a lot of havoc and violence. After the elections the ANC won, the IFP won, the National Party won. I think it is possible that the old man, Mr. Mandela, did speak to the other two parties and say 'Gentlemen, you've got seats there, you've got a seat there, you've got a seat there, let us now form a government of national unity, let us forget about the lost ballot boxes and build the country and form a government of national unity and go forward.'
He was probably speaking for the majority of Blacks. The possibility that the election might have been rigged a little, albeit to avoid violence, court challenges, and the legitimacy of the process itself didn't cost Bennett the blink of an eyelid. If that's what had to be done to bring an end to a conflict that had disfigured the face of South Africa and halt once and for all the suffering of Blacks, a little rigging here and there was a piddling price to pay.
Judge Kriegler, Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) recoils at the suggestion that the results might have been the handiwork of a deal among the parties themselves:
On the night of the 5th, 6th May, that's the night before we announced the result, I had a threat from lawyers on behalf of the ANC, the IFP, the DP and the NP that they would bring urgent court proceedings to stay the announcement of the result. And my response to all of them was, produce evidence and we will look at it, absent evidence we're announcing the result as soon as we're finished. The record speaks for itself. Nobody proceeded with the applications. I don't think they could produce evidence. We certainly couldn't produce evidence of irregularities of a scale likely to have had any effect.
The concept that was put out by the Weekly Mail that there was a deal struck is a total canard,90 it is out of reality with the facts entirely and in fact a compliment to the IEC in one sense to our competence. Of course it is an insult to our integrity. But to think that we could have juggled the figures countrywide in a couple of hours at the last so as to get just the mix that the parties had agreed upon is ludicrous beyond any description. The results are the results as they came in. We called the game exactly as we saw it.
But he recalls a harrowing visit to the counting centre at NASREC:
I was arriving at NAZREC on Saturday night, voting having ended in Johannesburg on Thursday and I got to NAZREC and not one vote had been counted yet. This is 37 counting stations, this is far and away the largest concentration of voters in the whole of the country, this is about 20% of all of the votes cast, and they hadn't started counting 48 hours after the ballots had closed. And I got there because I had been jumping up and down and screaming at head office and they said, well come and have a look what you can do. And I got there and there was a mountain, literally a mountain of ballot boxes that had come in from 400+ voting stations at about five or six ballot boxes per voting station, that had all originally been dumped on the sidewalks by Presiding Officers who had had enough because they weren't receiving them fast enough and checking them in and signing them in and getting receipts. And we then ended up with a couple of thousand ballot boxes, some had burst open, some had been dumped on the top of others, some had had their labels pulled off, some had had their locks broken. In terms of the rules if a ballot box is open, if it's seal is broken, if it's not properly identified you chuck it out, you throw it out, you reject it because you can't verify it. In terms of the Electoral Act and the regulations you have to do a verification process of each and every ballot box with the whole audit trail before you start counting. You had to get the proper forms inside, identify them with the returns from the voting officers -
I said reconcile if you can and if you can't, count. Otherwise we would never have counted. But that scene of the mountain of ballot boxes and a couple of disconsolate voting station officials hanging around in the background - I actually still get cold shivers. Anyway, the parties squealed like stuck pigs [about not doing a reconciliation before you started counting] and eventually they accepted it.
After reviewing the election, the IEC issued a report.91 Among its conclusions: There were no comprehensive formal documented strategic and business plan for the conduct of the entire electoral process setting out all the steps required to enable a properly managed and controlled election to take place; "that while a structured training programme was instituted it has proved to be inadequate partly due to last minute changes to voting stations and personnel," that "the planning of and control over the supply, use and return of voting material after their distribution from the central warehouses was virtually non-existent;" that "the planning and control measures instituted for the counting and controlling of ballot papers at voting and counting stations were inadequate."
There are further statements in the report that "The IEC was under enormous political pressure to announce the results;" that "If the letter of the law had been adhered to there would have been no count in respect of many voting stations, the political implications of such a turn of events would have been disastrous." The Auditor General's report auditor's report would conclude that, "Given a different course of events the country might have been plunged into civil war given the mismanagement and array that they felt." 92
You had a situation of enormous political pressure bearing down on the back of the IEC. The alternative to there not being a result, a count, an announcement might have been a situation that would have plunged the country into civil war, at least into chaos or to result in a declaration of a state of emergency. "We were desperate to produce the result not a result.
You know what we did, we went and we debated what we must do with technically irregular but not ostensibly dishonest ballot papers and we took a decision in principle, as a full Commission, unanimously after considerable debate and having heard our monitoring division in particular, we took a decision which essentially boiled down to this, that absent an indication of fraud an irregularity would not invalidate a particular ballot paper or ballot box containing ballot papers, and we adhered to that. That I think was morally and politically the correct decision. It was legally not the correct decision.
Had the IEC not started to make decisions of this nature, says Kriegler, decisions that were morally correct, that the result would be either the annulment of the election, no election result and possibly a civil war. The over-riding context to the way in which the IEC made decisions was that the alternative was too horrible to contemplate. Hence the need for compromise.93
But Kriegler is adamant on one thing:
I will insist and persist that there was nothing materially lacking in the freeness or the fairness of the election. It was technically flawed, yes. If I can take the NAREC example, we had some several thousand ballot boxes, many of them, hundreds of them we could not tie to a particular voting station because the labels had come off, because the seals had come off. Not one ballot paper was counted that did not have the Presiding Officer's secret mark on it. Not one ballot paper was delivered at NAZREC that wasn't counted, a properly stamped one that wasn't considered for counting. In the result, although we had some 400 voting stations confused with one another in terms of ballot papers, because we were on a proportional representation system and we counted all kosher ballot papers and rejected all non-kosher ballot papers, I am satisfied that the result for instance for the greater Johannesburg area was not only free and fair but very, very substantially correct down to a couple of thousand votes maybe in three million.
I'm telling you that we had basic stability built into our society, we just didn't realise it. That's why people were prepared to stand for hours and days in sun and rain to vote. That's why IFP and ANC and DP and NP stood next to one another and offered one another drinks from their thermos flasks. That's why the white terrorists eventually gave up and went away. And it's because just over 60% of the people support the ANC, just over 20% support the National Party and they control one province precariously, the ANC controls another precariously, they have all got to play the decent game. I don't think it's the election result that gave us the stability. I think it's the stability that gave us the election result. It was because the people basically were tired of war and they wanted peace and Mandela has been a miraculous leader.
Were you here for the inauguration? I think that you had to be a really very dedicated ideologue not to have been moved that day by some sense of solidarity. You know that the hospitals in Pretoria had all been vacated, all of the hospitals in downtown Pretoria. I went to go and visit a friend there on the Thursday before with a very badly fractured leg; he had to move on the Saturday. I went to go and help carry him down because they were clearing all of the hospitals because they were anticipating massive disturbances. It was the quietest day ever recorded in any casualty department in any hospital in Pretoria in the result. We came of age.
As Bennett considered the new GNU, he waxed more enthusiastically:
With the new government of national unity there is hope that opportunities are going to be available for employment. Also, since the government has promised that it is not going to isolate the white people of this country, but it is going to work together with them. There is hope therefore that things will change for the better.
We are confident, too, that the houses promised will be built during this term of office of the government especially because Mr. Tokyo Sexwale94 has promised that the houses will be built. We think that the houses will be built because we think they have the money. They wouldn't have been promising a million houses in five years if they did not have money to build those houses.
Perhaps because Blacks had been excluded from the political process, and thus were not familiar with the manner in which political parties operated during contested elections – each promising a new beginning and an abundance of services the public craved for –they, out of naivety, believed that the ANC would deliver on every promise it made, that the election opened the gates to the Promised Land in which the Black man would reclaim his inheritance and restore his dignity and sense of worth.
And perhaps the ANC, being the new boys on the block, untested in uncharted political waters genuinely believed that once it had its hands on the levers of state power, the hardest part of the struggle was behind them, and that it would only be a matter of time before it could mould promises into concrete actions. Despite the numerous visits of the leadership to democracies in the west, the fact remained that the ANC in exile was nurtured by authoritarian one party states, where public policy was declared by decree rather than emerging from a conflict of competing interests in a freely elected parliamentary setting, that the objective of elections was not to coerce consensus, but to provide a platform for different interests, especially minority interests, to have a say in policy making. Majority rule was best practiced when it was never practiced.
Bennett expected the Alliance parties95 to translate their promises into action; otherwise the Alliance, which envisaged itself as the liberator of the people would have lied to the people it had supposedly liberated -- a position not too far removed from the NP's perpetual refrain that a new political dispensation that would include Blacks was on the drawing board. Over time the drawing board simply collapsed under the weight of the mountain of reforms piled on its tenuous frame in unopened reports, unexamined proposals, and the blunt expression of unconceivable realities.
Before the elections the different parties and organizations in the Alliance made promises to the voters that if they put them in power they would fulfill their promises, unlike the former government. Now they are in office and they have also promised that they are going to reduce taxes, so we also believe that the houses that are going to be built are not going to be high cost houses, they are going to be houses that will be affordable for the ordinary man.
Even within a month of the election, before the new government had yet accustomed itself to the vast instruments of state power, the contradictions that would become open chasms were becoming apparent; new houses, yes, but more spacious than the small four room houses that were built by the NP; new houses, yes, but at a price the ordinary man could afford. Although Bennett could not afford to meet his bond payments on his current house, he could, nevertheless, advocate more spacious houses that necessarily would come with a higher price tag when the smaller houses with their existing price tags were already beyond his means.
These issues would confound the ANC"s housing policy for several years before it came to the realization even match box houses, inadequate though they might be, were preferable to having no housing at all; that a government with limited resources at its disposal had an obligation to the millions living in the squalor of informal settlements, the lingua franca for squatter camps that were proliferating in urban areas at exponential rates, since the rate of population migration to cities and towns far outpaced the government's ability to provide the services needed to meet the explosion in demands. Hence, the provision of accessible clean water, an uncontaminated sewer system, and four brick walls with a solidly attached roof took precedence over the construction of larger, and hence more expensive houses for people either already housed or with no houses.
The former was the responsibility of the private sector responding to conditions of supply and demand and the availability of credit; the latter was an essential function of government. Thus the policy that emerged – the slab and the pivot96 --and the provision of clean water to whole communities, eliminating the need for people spending their days making back- breaking journeys to distant water holes probably did more to alleviate hardship and elevate the standard of life for hundreds of communities comprising millions of individuals than any single measure the government implemented during its first years at the helm.
[data on houses under construction, the resistance of the banking sector to provide subsidies when its continuing experience indicated that after a few repayments, significant numbers of people stopped paying, thus jeopardizing the program for all; the coming to grips with the realization that the grand designs for a million houses built in five tears was a pipe-dream; that quality of housing being built was as much an issue as quantity; that grand plans for the building of larger houses at a lower cost was an illusion; that keeping pace with trying to house the squatters in any form of housing was preferable to the tin shacks they lived in; that the provision of ancillary services, especially relating to clean water and adequate sewage for the existing housing stock was a greater priority than simply building more houses for the sake of meeting the ill set and unrealistic goals laid out in the RDP. See Joe Slovo and developments thereafter.]
For the upcoming year Bennett fell back on the only thing he could still hang on to – hope, a hope that had begun to lose its luster, but a hope that nevertheless, continued to inspire, for without that absolute belief that things would soon get better the unsteady edifice of the new South Africa would topple.
I have hopes that there is going to be a great difference between the former government and the new government because of the policies the new government has made and while I take into account that maybe not all the promises will be fulfilled in the specified period, they give us hope; what we have is hope of change. Hope in education circles - they promise us free education. I feel very, very happy that my children will be able to get free and good education from the new government as compared to the education during the period of the old government, and the struggle that was waged for education was not a struggle that was waged in vain.
[The travails of educational reforms, the retrenchment of the best teachers; the absurd condition that teachers could be transferred from areas of teacher surplus to areas of teacher shortage, irrespective of their family circumstances, the experiments with Model C schools, the reneging on the promise of free primary school education and the absolute refusal of white teachers to relocate to township schools. See work that Palmer Berry did in western Cape].
Bennett wanted the opportunity of being able to send his children to mixed schools i.e., schools with white pupils, all of which were, of course, located outside the boundaries of the locations. Transporting Black children to and from white schools was an option, but bringing white pupils into township schools was simply not on the cards. In this sense integration was a one-way street. Nor were you ever going to get white teachers who taught in white schools to forego the comfortable circumstances in which they were able to teach to relocate to Black schools with little or no facilities, no tradition of schools being a place of learning, no modicum of discipline.
Was one to conjure up a dream-like fantasy in which Black, militant pupils who regarded themselves as masters of their schools and had little or no respect for their teachers to roll over and behave like trained puppies for "imported" white teachers experiencing for the first time what township schools were like, and more importantly what were the value systems that made sense of the senseless, and at the same time expect them to be sensitive to the nuances of Black culture in township settings.
Yes, [says Bennett], I am very hopeful and happy that my children will to be able to go to a mixed school because I think in a mixed school the education is conducted in a much better way than it is in a purely African school. Each child will be getting a different education, but the education will be equal for all the children in that school.
Bennett continued to adhere to the doctrine of separate but equal education, but he was beginning to see that there might be some benefits to Black students attending white schools. He wasn't quite yet convinced, but was more willing to be.
Meanwhile, while great minds deliberated on questions of outcome- based curricula 97and the like, African students, with the odd exception of the odd few, continued to attend African schools, and the problems of the past continued to plague these schools where no institutional capacity to effect change was in place, where the culture of the past that relegated teachers to the subordinates of militant students still ruled, where school discipline, both among teachers and students was non-existent. But Bennett still clung to the possible. "Whilst the children are attending purely African schools now, I am waiting for them to complete this semester and I am also waiting for the government meeting next Tuesday when it will announce the educational policies it intends to pursue.98
But African parents were wising up quickly. They were no longer in thrall of the grandiose visions the ANC had dangled before their eyes -- free education and access to white schools. In their own way they had come to the bottom-line conclusions that education in Black schools might have a lot more to do with the behavior of students and teachers than with the more fancy accoutrements white schools were cluttered with and the plethora of extra-curricular that were available.99 And until and unless these behaviors change, little else is of much consequence.
Increasingly, in matters relating to education, Africans were concerned with discipline, facilities, and teacher qualifications. On the question of discipline there is still an ambivalence of sorts. Although most Blacks recognize that students made an important contribution to the struggle against apartheid, they also believe that students are too polarized and out of control. Even participants in yesterday's struggles think it is time for the schools to calm down.
Teachers are often seen as contributing to the indiscipline by their own behavior. Some teachers sleep with students and are drunk at school. The quality of instruction was being universally criticized. Teachers have little competence in English, poor training, and the class sizes were far too large, especially in African schools.100
Now you might ask why any Black parent wouldn't see the benefits that would accrue to their children going to well-endowed white schools. The answer, I believe is that apartheid not only separated Blacks and whites from each other to an extent that they both lived in self-contained enclaves, it ensured that they ere ignorant of each other's culture, were unaware of the "codes of self regulating conduct" that were the roadmaps to the paths their communities followed on a day- to- day basis to ensure that they were functional, hadn't the slightest idea of the imperative that underlined each other's value systems, and that as a result a result the racism that whites treated Blacks with was sometimes reciprocated, that the racism was mutual, cemented in the ignorance each harbored of the other.
If whites had carefully cultivated their imagining of Blacks in stereotypical terms, Blacks had done likewise. Thus, every white was an oppressor, looked down on the Black man, was ignorant or dismissive of his culture, considered him an inferior specimen of humanity, one step up from the Neanderthals, lived in luxury at the expense of Blacks, and would never under any circumstances reconcile himself to being ruled by Blacks. Who would want their children to mix with the children of white people fixated beyond redemption with their own sense of superiority? Blacks, as least those who were members of the PAC, provided whites with grounds for believing that their worst fears were real with their slogan "One settler, one bullet" [Insert from Benny Alexander], the massacre of twelve civilians by APLA (the armed wing of the PAC) taking part in a church service in Cape Town in July 1993 and the murder of the white American student Amy Biehl in Guguletu In August 1993.
The Biehl murder is particularly illustrative. Biehl, the beneficiary of a Fulbright fellowship, choose to student at the University of the Western Cape, because she had been working for a number of years with an NGO that was organizing Black voter registration drives and educating Blacks on the procedures they would have to go through and the documentation they would have to provide in order to cast their ballots. On 23 August 1993, just days before she was due to return to the United States, Biehl was murdered in Guguletu. Biehl was driving three Black friends home, as she often did, when her car was forced to stop at a roadblock mounted by Black youths who were members of the PAC. As she and her friends tried to escape, Biehl was attacked and stabbed. Her friends pleaded with her assailants to stop stabbing her, saying over and over again, "But she is one of us." They were not listened to. Biehl was murdered because she was white, one more victim of the horrific legacy of apartheid. She would have been the first to forgive her assailants, the first to understand the terrible rage that consumed many young Blacks, trapped in impoverished townships with little hope of getting out.
The youths who were convicted of her murder applied for and were granted amnesty in 1998. Biehl's parents supported the applications and forgave their daughter's murderers. In their application for amnesty, Biehl's murderers sought amnesty on the grounds that [insert from amnesty applications and subsequent hearings]. Many whites who successfully applied for amnesty were racists, and had to admit as much. So, too, did Biehl's murderers. [Insert from racism conference, October 2000]
Bennett dismissed the possibility of any kind of resurgence of the right wing. The right wing had imploded, among the scattered remains was the odd ball bellowing their prognostications of Armageddon to the few disciples who bothered to take tem seriously.
The right wing tried very hard to see that the elections don't take place, and probably succeeded had not the police apprehended them. I don't think they will make any further attempt to try and derail the future because they did all these acts knowing that Black people were going to win the election and the government was going to come into the hands of the Black people. Now the government is in the hands of the Black people the right wingers will not make any further attempt to derail things.
The other reason for confidence is that President Mandela is prepared to meet the leaders of the right-wingers and talk to them. He is not prepared to let them make noise alone but he wants them to come and sit at the round table and sort out the problems together. That gives us confidence that the spirit aired by President Mandela is going to cut off the bad air that the right-wingers are exhaling.
Nor would the violence in Thokoza re-ignite. There had been a dramatic decrease in the level of violence in the months following the election. After the elections two young boys were shot not far from his residential township and a member of the Peace Secretariat was shot and then an SAP member was also shot. According to Bennett:
After these shootings, government officials in Gauteng called a meeting with the hostel inmates and put the issue squarely to them: this violence must come to an end. Although the ANC was the enemy of the hostel inmates the ANC had since won the elections, it was now in government, the IFP was part of that government. What the hostel inmates are looking for is that the new government must now come and repair the hostels that were destroyed or badly damaged during the violence. It is now the new government that must do that. So I don't think that violence is likely to flare up again.
My aspirations are for a better life not only for my family but also for everybody because the government that was in power before the government of national unity was a government that opposed the ANC. Now that the ANC is in power we would like to see everybody being free, everybody having everything that they want to have and being what they want to be.
Freedom - we have been working under oppressive laws. Like I am a qualified mechanic, if I get to a job I get a white qualified mechanic who when he has a problem in his work he approaches the foreman who tells him what to do. Likewise if I have a problem I go to the foreman and approach him for advice and I carry on. Then comes the difference when we get paid. The white can get more pay than I get although we have similar qualifications just because of the color of his skin, him being white and me being Black, I get a lower wage. That must come to an end. There's got to be fairness in the payment of people that do the same job. Like a driver, a Black driver gets less pay than a white driver. Now that is not fair. We've got to be free now to get the correct wage, the same wage for the kind of work that we are doing. When the white mechanic goes to buy something he doesn't get charged a different price because he's white, and if I go and buy I'm not charged a lesser price than he has paid because I am Black. I'm charged the price of the goods. So there has not been freedom. We want freedom.
What struck me, again and again, when talking with the Balulas was the incredible absence of even a morsel of bitterness about the past, no anger at whites, no assignment of blame, finger pointing, no implied threats to even the score. On the contrary, there was empathy for de Klerk, for the decisions he had taken, for the risks he faced, for his courage in confronting right wing opposition and cracking down when it got out of hand.
The events of Ventersdorp101 when the government faced down the AWB and left three of their members dead – white men shooting dead white men -- had left a lasting impression and confirmed to Blacks de Klerk was serious, not one more Nat leader trying to pull the wool over their eyes while the government continued to buy time to figure a way out of the mounting predicament it faced.
I had asked Bennett this question in 1991, but thought perhaps that he might have changed his mind in the intervening years.. If he had an opportunity to move out of Thokoza and move to a white suburb -- Alberton or somewhere like that -- would he prefer to live in a mixed area in which there were Blacks and whites or was his home here in Thokoza?
Now that we have attained freedom and should I get an opportunity to move from Thokoza to a mixed area I will not accept that opportunity. I feel quite happy in Thokoza. One of the reasons is that as a Black person I believe in certain customs and traditions of the Black people which I may not be able to carry out in a mixed residential area like for instance if there is a night vigil, put up the tents and we will see. Now the whites will not accept this if I perform that activity in a mixed area. I think because we are now free I am quite all right living in Thokoza. I look forward with great optimism to the future for my children, for my community, for the people of South Africa and South Africa itself.
I reminded him that when we first met he talked about de Klerk in very good terms. At one point he had even said that he could see some circumstances in which he could vote for the National Party rather than the ANC. Had he since become disillusioned had with Mr. de Klerk, and National Party? Not really, says Bennett, but the ANC's time had come. Blacks were in the majority in South Africa, and it was only right that they should have a Black President. As for Mr. De Klerk, he still held him in great esteem:
I still take off my hat to Mr. de Klerk because he is a man of vision. He thought very carefully about what Mr. Mandela was saying to him and he did exactly that and no other Prime Minister had done that. Now for that I still take off my hat to Mr. de Klerk because he realized that what Mandela was saying was going to get the whole world to return to South Africa and work with South Africa instead of isolating it. That is one thing that I salute Mr. de Klerk for. Besides, it was Mr. De Klerk who unbanned the political parties and released all political prisoners.
When the National Party was in power it was very difficult for a Black person to get a passport to leave South Africa. A number of difficult questions would be posed before your application would get processed but now that a new government is in power I have confidence that if I could have money or get help I would like to go to the United States and go and see your country because I have never had the opportunity of ever leaving this country. The first country I would like to go to is the United States of America. The unfortunate thing is only that I don't have the means but I can apply for a passport just in case I get money and go to the United States.
More unfortunate still: Bennett didn't have a job.
In Thokoza, there is still a lingering sense of the euphoria the election engendered; Africans were what might best be described as being in a state of "waiting," – although the sense of anticipation was slowly being eroded by a sense of impatience as to why it was taking so long for "their" government to deliver on the promises the ANC had so effusively made during the election campaign. . But the ANC itself had planted the seeds of disappointment, and now it was beginning to reap the harvest of unmet expectations. You heard more people talking about the "distance" of the national government, the lack of having a voice.
I had been having some trouble understanding Bennett. He speaks in a low voice, more to himself than to you, and he was accordingly difficult to transcribe. I felt that if I used a translator, Henry Tshabalala, whom I was also interviewing1 that we might make better progress. I do not like to use translators. You lose the immediacy with the person you are talking to that makes for good interviews. You lose the vital eye contact that seals interviewer and interviewee into a dialogue that is meant only for them both. The lack of intrusion slowly allows the interviewee to open up, it allows empathy to develop, and unless the interviewee can read that empathy in your eyes, he withdraws. The interview is as good as over.
The parlor and the furniture are arranged exactly as they were four years earlier. The TV, a new and slightly larger one, still occupies the place of honor, as it should, opening through its electronic messages visions of the possible, smoothing the sharp edges of the hard life.
It has been almost a year since the "miracle" elections." What miracles, I ask Bennett have come his way. No miracles had materialized. No changes of any consequences. He still had a temporary job in Alberton. The talk of his opening his own business no longer peppered his conversation. "I had confidence on voting day," he says, "that as I make my cross on that ballot paper there was going to be a change in the country. The power was now going to be in the hands of the Black people."
And, yes, he did feel disappointed:
I do feel disappointed that my life hasn't changed but it's not only I, many people d feel disappointed because there were great expectations. But the gist of the matter is that the government led by Mr. Mandela cannot be expected to make a change overnight. The difference will come but at the moment the government of national unity has got to change certain things together and they are promising that they will bring about a visible change.
Nine months after election he was broke, dependent on rolling over loans from friends to make ends meet, in no position to help Theo and Priscilla advance their studies:
With the job I've got now I haven't got any money left for the rest of the week. I must go and borrow money from my friends. As of now, I have no money, so I must go to some friends of mine who have got money and borrow enough to get through until next week Friday when I get paid. What I earn is so little, so little, only enough to buy food. When you leave, I must go by five o'clock, to one of my friends so I can get a loan for Rose and me to be able to get this young one (Kenneth) to school. We have give them some money to eat at school because they don't come back during the day. They leave here at half past seven and they come back by this time. So there has to be some money for each of them. I am trying everything I can to make money but it doesn't come through. With so little -- you can't cope with nothing.
Listening to him, I realized how saddened I was by his litany of woes, of the deprivations that had not been alleviated, by the paltriness of his life. Not sad in a disconsolate kind of way, but disheartened.
Bennett's frustration with the pace of change is typical, but most people still believe that the government should be given more time, and they were slowly beginning to see change, limited but change nevertheless, emanate from the new structures. They were still positive about transformation –and satisfied with about the government, although in the latter case it was a qualified satisfaction. People want to make the system work for them, not bring it down.
But other dissatisfactions were emerging. And although they believed that little or no change had taken place since the elections in April, they also believed that what changes had occurred was benefiting other groups, not Africans.
Thokoza was not alone.
Focus Group Research, confined to non-whites, conducted at the time indicated the ambivalence of Blacks. Indeed, once Black responses were disaggregated and considered on the basis of group affiliation, a darker landscape emerged -- one of ambivalence and a selfish competitiveness for the resources that were there to distribute among them. Overall, most groups believed that little or no change had taken place since the election in April, and that what change had occurred was benefiting other groups, not theirs. This was a recurring gripe, with little evocation of the need to either share or sacrifice in order to build the new nation. Coloured and Indian respondents felt that Africans were benefiting from the new order; rural Africans felt that urban Africans were benefiting at their expense. All assessments were made on a zero-sum calculus. Those who had seen change were optimistic about the future; those who hadn't were pessimistic. Government was spending too much time alleviating the fears of whites at the expense of the needs of the African majority who had voted them into power. Indian and Coloureds were worried about their financial and physical security under a government mostly run by Africans. They were pessimistic about the future. Some felt insecure and scared. The "fear of the unknown" coupled with a rising fear of crime."
With all the emphasis on voter education and getting people out to vote, no one had, of course, paid any attention to educating people with regard to the realities of democracy and the conditions in which they lived, and how difficult it would be not only to master the sprawling bureaucracies with their 14 departments for everything, but to consolidate them, integrate the former TVBC states and the homelands, to rationale line functions, implement the golden handshakes that had been part of the WTC agreement, bring in the new talent to run departments whose previous experience with running anything was solely confined to running from the authorities. With the unrelenting emphasis on teaching people to walk into a polling booth and do something they had never done before ---cast a vote for one of the parties listed on the ballot sheet, no one had ever addressed them regarding the limits to the changes they might expect. And in this regard, no party was more irresponsible than the ANC. In setting its sights on total power at every level of government, it willfully misled the electorate, and the leadership who were well acquainted with the true state of things acquiesced in the lie, and in the act of asking the masses for their trust, they betrayed the masses from the very beginning making the primary task of the new government – the building of one nation out of its divided fragments-so much more difficult. And all for what?
If voting meant getting the things they were denied under apartheid, then clearly they were not getting those things; therefore, voting made no difference. One reason for the rather quick onset of some, or in cases a great deal of disillusionment, was the ANC's own fault: they had made the promises, they had raised expectations to an extraordinary level, and the stories that circulated around the time of the election -- how some Blacks were already picking out the houses in white urban areas they would move into after the ANC took over -- were often more than merely apocryphal; thus if one and one made two, voting didn't, contrary to what they had been led to believe, bring jobs and houses).
Because their leaders had not trusted them to understand that undoing centuries of oppression and its effects on every trajectory of their lives would take some undoing before "the new order" might begin to produce what was within their own restricted capacities to produce, the ANC leadership sold its people "a bill of goods."
Other under-the surface resentments also emerged. Government was spending too much time alleviating the fears of whites at the expense of the needs of the African majority who had voted them into power. Indian and Coloureds were worried about their financial and physical security under a government mostly run by Africans.
But even if Blacks were disappointed, they thought things would get better in the future when the government got more experience and got a better grip on the reins of power. Experience would count.
Also, they were more realistic than they are often given credit for: They were more than prepared to agree that the six month period since the election was to short a period to make assessments of change, that the government had inherited formidable challenges it could not be expected to change overnight, that elements of the "old order" would frustrate innovations to get thins going, and that unlike many of the elites that presumed to speak on their behalf, they drew careful distinctions between what they wanted and what they thought they might reasonably hope to get.
The reaction of Africans, in particular, is an indication how high expectations had been. A mere six months into the new dispensation, and already "anger and dissatisfaction. Was this because the ANC had been so successful in driving the message home to their constituencies that the act of voting itself would be a sufficient guarantee of their receiving all the things that they had been denied under apartheid? That the zeal with which votes were pursued superseded any sense of reality; that voters' anticipation of the changes that would materialize on the morning following the election had been honed to such an excess that when the thrill of victory retreated and they were faced with the same barren landscapes that had always been their lot in life, they felt not just let down, but somehow taken in? And to what extent must the ANC itself accept the responsibility for playing on the hopes of an electorate, deprived of hope for centuries, of creating expectations of change and transformation that would have required a degree of social engineering that would have been the envy of apartheid's architects? Objective analysts will be forced to the conclusion that the ANC itself must bear the largest share of the problems it created for itself in terms of people's disappointment, disillusionment, and resentment since the ANC had been warned well before it assumed the reins of government that the coffers were bare, and that only austerity of the most severe kind would ward off economic collapse. Had not Derek Keys told Mandela in 1993 that the deficit, which then accounted for 9.3 per cent of GDP, was at its highest level ever –and was unsustainable?
Keys' figures indicated that the government's finances had gone haywire. Salaries, pensions and interest on the debt consumed almost everything – leaving an empty till for discretionary spending. His message: any additional government spending would lead to soaring inflation and spiraling debt.
The leadership of the ANC could have learned that President Nelson Mandela, the nation's most treasured asset, was himself part of the problem. Because he was admired so much the world over. Because he was held in such universal awe. Because he was regarded as the embodiment of all that is noble in the human condition. Because he exuded a moral stature in a world much in need of a moral compass. Because he never raised himself above ordinary people, the prisoner in him making impossible the pretense of the poseur. Because he spoke a language of compassion, of forgiveness for wrongs done, losses endured. Because he had an uncompromising and unyielding commitment to justice and human rights for all, irrespective of the causes they championed or the self-righteousness of their sometimes dubious causes. Because in a world that wrapped itself in hypocritical gestures, he spoke from the heart, never deviating from the truth no matter how bitter to swallow, and was he testimony to the heartache speaking from the heart can leave in its wake. Because he did not drench himself in the adulation poured on him by a world thirsting for heroes. Because the incarceration of 27 years he lived through in order to secure the freedom of his people, thought him to forgive his enemies. Because he harbored no bitterness for those who had robbed him of his life and freedom. Because he cherished freedom as the wellspring of all tat ennobles our humanity, worth sacrificing life for, but more important worth preserving life for. Because he enriched our humanity with, and in his ordinariness became extraordinary.
But the tumultuous reception he received no matter where he went in the world, the honors, awards, acknowledgments, acclaim, approbation heaped on him, became associated in South Africa's mind not just with Mandela but with South Africa itself. It felt that his special standing in the world gave South Africa a special standing, that the encomiums lavished on him were encomiums being lavished on South Africa, that the captains of commerce and industry and heads of state who rushed to embrace him were embracing South Africa, that to bask in the reflection of his glory was to bask in the glory of the new South Africa. Thus the belief that the governments who came to South Africa or invited him to their capitals to pay homage and offer friendship were also paying homage and friendship to the nation he was forging; that they would out of the friendship so profligately offered provide the investment capital South Africa needed to rid itself of the legacies of apartheid, redress the injustices of the past, and jump-start the economic miracle that would surely follow the political miracle.
Mistaken judgments all. A colossal failure on the part of South Africa officials to distinguish between admiration for the man and a willingness to make the kinds of investment in South Africa that would generate jobs, create the infrastructure, or lay the foundations for the structural transformations that would help the country make the difficult transition from authoritarianism to full democracy.2
The promises that were made in the 1994 election under the banner of the RDP were to " meet the basic needs of people – jobs, land, housing, water, electricity, telecommunications, transport, a clean and healthy environment, nutrition, health and social welfare…" Its "achievable program" for the first five years would include programs to "redistribute a substantial amount of land to landless people, build over one million houses, provide clean water and sanitation to all, electrify 2.5 million new homes, and provide access to all to affordable health care and telecommunications." In the ANC's campaign manifesto and political advertising that created the illusion among people that 'instant' change was going to happen. "Instant gratification" – who 'sold' the ANC on this idea that the people could be sold anything? Why did the ANC make such extravagant promises when it was not necessary to do so? Did the medium become the message – an electorate never having had to deal with election promises, since neither elections or promises existed in the past mistook the promise for the deed, in the belief that promises would not be made by "their party" unless they were going to be kept. Promises and delivery became synonymous for an electorate that had never heard those kinds of promises made before. It would appear that "freedom," "democracy," were seen almost exclusively in material terms of the delivery of goods and services – not the adoption of a code of values or a belief system. A free lunch in the offering. What happened between 1992 and the elections? Were we seeing the aftermath of an election campaign structured on the basis of polling, and the polling messages were drummed in, so that people's conception of what the process was all about changed? They were told time and again what their needs were and that they would be fulfilled, once the ANC was in power. They were told by the ANC that if they voted for the party brand new houses and jobs were what they could expect. False expectations were created. But who was behind the creation of the false expectations? Who said to the ANC 'this is the way to do it. This is the way to get the largest possible slice of the vote, and if it took a little dissembling, and flew in the face of every reality so what? Derek Keys had briefed the ANC, on the direction in which the economy was moving and the imminence of collapse. Who in the ANC said 'let's deal with reality after we win'? Given what ANC knew about the parlous state of the economy, where did it think the resources were coming from to fund these massive expenditures?
The ANC had spent the better part of the year since it assumed power promulgating the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), the plan that was the core of its election manifesto to restructure and transform the country. Indeed, the words "RDP" had become a mantra; when all else failed, you could count on government officials to invoke the RDP; the plan that would create the new order that would rectify the wrongs of the past.
The RDP was the brainchild of Jay Naidoo, the former head of COSATU who had become Minister without Portfolio in the GNU, with specific responsibilities for implementing the RDP, for bringing it to the people so that it would become the people's program, theirs to adopt and implement, rather than the government's, albeit the government had consulted the leading stakeholders. The government could at this point be faulted for many things, even allowing for the learning curve to reach its apex, but it could not be faulted for its lack of consultation with stakeholders on whom a particular policy might have an impact. Committees were set up to examine the ramifications the policy might have on any role player who raised his voice. The desire to achieve consensus on the way forward on the most simple of issues was becoming an obstacle to getting things done.
The goals of the RDP were both laudable, progressive, and in many ways visionary. [details of RDP and why it collapsed].
In the end, which occurred quite early on in the administration, the RDP was abandoned for the more pragmatic GEAR, which canonized fiscal prudence as the key to economic growth. The theory promulgated was that if the government could on an annual basis lower the ratio of the budget deficit to GDP, the foreign investors would take note of South Africa's fiscal responsibility and reward it with dollops of fixed capital investment (FDI), the elixir to economic growth and income redistribution. In the meanwhile, the government would slash domestic expenditure, if necessary in order to meet pre-agreed deficit/GDP ratios.
The RDP was finally explained to us at the meeting where the Gauteng Premier3 was present and he called upon people who had had their houses demolished to register, give their house numbers, because their houses will have to be reconstructed and the roads will have to be constructed, and people who haven't got houses will have houses built for them. That has started in Tokoza.
But the issue of visible change is not very clear to me because whilst the RDP is busy reconstructing the demolished houses there is another element, criminal element, which comes in and removes the doors and things like that. Now there was a meeting on the 1st February where all this was announced and the people were also told that even the taxi rank and the taxi people would have now to use a particular spot and use certain routes. Now that hasn't come through yet because it looks like there is another element -- a criminal element --that is trying to stop the RDP; hence the RDP cannot make move forward because these criminal groups come in and stop it from making progress.
Nevertheless, the level of crime had subsided in the location, "because we are now able to walk where we feared to walk before and even the sounds of guns shooting, those sounds are not heard any more now. There is quiet." He no longer avoided Khumalo Street. There are no more violent incidences. No harm to vehicles around the notorious Buthelezi/ Khumalo Street axis.
Bennett was falling into a perceptual trap that often is a variation of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). The absence of the factors that induced the stress, in this case the upheavals of political violence that had transfixed Tokoza in the early nineties, induced a calm that made oblivious to the changing nature of the violence itself, that violence takes on many forms, mutates from one strain to another to accommodate itself to changing circumstances.
For example, a survey of the history urbanization in South Africa provides more insights into how violence germinates, how "the almost unlivable urban environments" of the late apartheid mutated into internecine conflict in which the poor [found] themselves pitted against each other."4
In the new urban regimes [Mabin writes] struggles within informal settlements and, increasingly, formal townships as well, often involve no direct confrontation with the state. Material circumstances in the urban sphere – themselves the product of massive upward movement, forty years of apartheid and a century of low wages –provide an adequate environment for considerable struggle along other cleavages.5
While Bennett could say that yes crime had diminished, he was referring to the level of political violence that had become an everyday feature of their lives, violence that had an immediacy to it that one lived in the constancy of its pervasive presence. But now crime had assumed a different form, a form that was remote and less threatening. Thus, the RDP was being strangled by criminal elements, impersonal forces that served the purpose of diverting attention from the fact that the ANC led government hadn't yet gotten its act together, that the process of transition and reconstruction was far more difficult to execute than to articulate, that promises made were in the cold light of reality rather than the red hot heat of campaigning were often impossible to keep; that what had been so indiscriminately guaranteed should have been formulated in terms of aspirations , not pledges that would somehow materialize the day the ANC took hold of the reins of power.
Now, the people were being inundated with the need for new elections – local elections, which were scheduled for October. Most didn't understand why another election should be held since they had barely recovered from the excitement of the last. One old man in some confusion asked an election official whether having voted Mandela into office they now had to have an election to vote him out of office!6
"Yes, " says Bennett, "we have been hearing about the forthcoming local elections, but other than that we have no information as to why they were being held, and what one had to do." No one seemed to have any knowledge that you would have to have an official ID card before you could vote – something that smacked of the old Pass Laws to many. Confusion was having a field day, and the government seemed incapable of confronting the confusion, maintaining complacently that everything was running according to schedule.
The ANC 's style of management was resistant to change. In some ways the country had seduced itself into believing that it had witnessed a real miracle the previous April when peaceful elections hung in the balance until the very last moment. Hence the official attitude; once again a miracle would pull them out of the hole they were busily digging.
But even if these elections were to take place, Bennett was certain of one thing: there would be no resurgence of political violence. The hostel dwellers and the location's residents had resolved their differences. He wouldn't say the same of Natal; new elections could rekindle unresolved antagonisms as the ANC and the IFP engaged in a "grudge" rematch for territorial control.7
If the hostel dwellers and the residents had resolved their differences, couldn't that be construed as a major step forward? " Yes," says Bennett, "that is proof of change. The people from the Khumalo Hostel had said 'let us stop all this thing; let us talk to one another. And from that I am inclined to think there is no likelihood of resurgence of violence."
I raised with him what had become a recurring criticism at grass roots level in a number of parts of the country. Africans were saying that that the government had spent too much time in the last nine months reassuring whites and that it hadn't done enough for their own people. Did he think that was a fair criticism of the government?
Be that as it may, I do not go along with the comments that the government has wasted time appeasing the white people. I think the government had to do so because the wealth is still in the hands of the whites. The government had to reassure the white people of this country that as the Black government running South Africa they could rest assured that their fears would be attended to and after having that assurance, the government would then be in a position to be able to govern properly with the help of the whites and then come back and deal with the promises that it had made prior to the April elections.
Lately, too, the government had also come under criticism for jumping aboard "the gravy train" – the phrase coined by Archbishop Tutu8 to describe what he regarded as an unseemly predilection of the new elite to flaunt the luxuries they had excoriated the former NP regime for routinely taking as their due. Indeed, had whites made a similar allegation, they would have been accused of being racist, of trying to act for the public good when they had conspicuously failed to do so for fifty years in power. It would have sounded like sour grapes, and highly hypocritical. But the fact that the accusation came from Tutu, a model of moral probity, muted such criticisms. Only Blacks could get away with castigating Blacks for sins of omission or commission. Such were the rules of the new order. Bennett:
Yes, there is a gravy train. It would be better if, as the President had suggested some of the people on the gravy train donated whatever monies were coming their ways to funds for education. Now there are people like Allan Boesak9 who, we have read in the newspapers, have squandered lots of monies and these monies did not do what they were donated for. I feel that the salaries that they are getting are too much. It is a gravy train.
[insert re the Boesak case]
The Boesak rocked the ANC. Boesak was one of the UDF's charismatic leaders, a shining light in the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) and an enormously gifted orator. His liberation credentials were beyond dispute, impeccable in the face of the most severe scrutiny, yet he stood accused, not by opponents of the ANC, but by DanAid, a highly respected and internationally influential Danish NGO, which had contributed heavily to his anti-apartheid foundations, of having siphoned off large chunks of the aid for his personal use, including a down payment on a house in Constantia, an affluent community on the foothills of Table Mountain and for meeting the costs of the reception he had held when he remarried after divorcing his wife of 20 years for a younger woman, the more troublesome because he was an ordained minister and at one time chairperson of the World Council of Churches. He was also leader of the ANC in the Western Cape.
At the time his lawyers had come up with a novel concept to explain any irregularities that an audit might turn up that caught the public fancy. At worst, they argued he might have been a victim of "struggle accounting," i.e. that a man deeply engaged in the struggle for the liberation of his people who was being hounded by the government and whose means of support were under government surveillance, could hardly be expected to balance the financial ledgers with due diligence to the normal rules of accounting.
The Boesak case put the ANC in a quandary. It could not abandon Boesak and allow the white vultures hovering overhead to devour his political carcass, but neither could it be seen as condoning wrongdoing, if indeed wrongdoing had occurred. Either way, the demand of DanAid for a full accounting took some of the sheen off the ANC, which had marketed itself as being the guardian of fiscal rectitude in contrast to the well-documented corrupt practices that had characterized previous NP governments.10
The financial shenanigans of Mrs. Mandela and Peter Mokaba, leader of the ANC's Youth League at the tender age of 37, whose abuses of travel allowances were notorious, were putting the ANC on the moral defensive. Having promised clean and transparent government, it found itself almost immediately embroiled in the highly questionable, perhaps even illegal financial derring-do of high profile members, who were supposed to be models of ethical prudence, not practitioners of borderline legal maneuverings. Bennett held no brief for the accused: If found guilty of improprieties, they should be shown the door: "I agree with the President," he says that if people are found to have misbehaved that action should not be tolerated; they should be ousted. I agree with the President that should any persons is caught mismanaging public funds or causing scandals they must be ousted from Parliament.'
No room here for the mercies of a second chance, no matter what the contribution of the person in the fight against apartheid. But Bennett was in the minority among Africans on this issue. Most were prepared to dismiss financial irregularities as being no worse than what the apartheid government had practiced with impunity. Corruption might be holding out its greasy palm or illicit practices creeping into the system, but in scale and scope they were infinitesimal in contrast to the manner in which the apartheid governments has plundered the public coffers for personal gain. Moreover, in the short term, the ANC would angrily dismiss allegations of corruption in their ranks, labeling them as the usual stereotyping by embittered whites that Blacks were generically corrupt simply on the basis of the kleptomaniacs north of their borders who had bankrupted their countries, once free of colonial oppression.
Bennett hewed to the same principle regarding the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Should the commission unearth the truth, even if the evidence led to de Klerk himself or even ANC ministers in the government of national unity, no matter what the consequences or would it be better for the future of the country to let bygones be bygones and to focus the energies of people on building a new South Africa incorporating the checks and balances that would ensure that the crimes of the past would never be repeated. On this issue Bennett was adamant:
I personally feel [he said] that the Truth Commission must go ahead. It must not he hindered even if de Klerk is mentioned and is involved, the people must know. Even if Mandela's name is involved, he, too, must come forward and explain why it is said that he gave instructions to do so-and-so. Only then can there be real reconciliation and forgiveness. Like van Rensburg11 in Natal who admitted that he was employed by the IFP to train a force to go and kill ANC people. The IFP promised him a certain sum of money as a salary per month, and when they didn't give him that money, he came out and he spoke. So let everybody involved in the atrocities of the past go before the Truth Commission and speak; then there will be forgiveness.
Furthermore, Bennett opined in what in the circumstances was a non-sequitor, whites had to begin to address themselves with more diligence to the new realities: Democracy was the will of the people – the majority of the people.
His faith in the ANC was unshakeable. Even though he had failed to find a permanent job within the next twelve months, he would not begin to lose confidence in the ability of the government to deliver He would not be disappointed:
I will not blame the government for not having delivered the goods because God gave me hands, gave me everything, feet and the brain to think. It is also dependent on me to decide what I should do in order to be living. I don't necessarily have to go and work at a firm, I have got to plan on my own that if I can't get a job at a firm what alternative means can I make in order to earn a living.
And yet, he was caught in the conundrum of his own contradictions: on the one hand continuing to talk about plans to start his own business in the township; on the other, bewailing the fact that although he had tried everything, nothing had come through.
When I begin to talk with Rose, I realize that Henry is giving her words a resonance they lack, that the language of translation is a lot more sophisticated than the dialect he is translating. On occasion, I'm not quite sure I am hearing what Prose has to say or what Henry thinks she should be saying. Note to self: dispense with translators.
Rose describes her election day:
On my side things went well. On the first voting day we had to wait because the ballot papers had not been delivered, they were only delivered the following day and then we started voting. On voting day things went smooth and the queue was moving faster than anticipated. I had a hope that things were going to go according to the promises that were made before elections that after voting things would come right. I had that hope.
That hope had not yet become a reality, but she was stoical about it, perhaps because she had led a live where stoicism was a prerequisite for survival, where waiting was an ineluctable part of daily routine. She did not see the government as having failed to deliver. Her hopes were still strong. "The government is still busy attending to more immediate things, " she said. " It cannot just do things overnight quickly and satisfy everybody."
But she could not say that there had been any improvement in her life since 1991, absent the violence. Otherwise things were much as they had been. Nevertheless, her vote had helped to make a difference in the way things were being done in the country. That she was sure of.
What had she hoped for?
The first thing that I had hoped would happen was the removal of apartheid; that apartheid would be done away with completely. Two, the betterment of the housing situation, that people would now be able to live in better houses and I can see especially in the squatter camps that efforts are being made, houses are being built for people who are living in squatter camps here in Thokoza.
How about the violence? Was the violence over? Did she personally feel safer now than she had a year ago?
The violence has subsided but has not stopped. Although the Civic Association leaders have made efforts to bring peace between the hostel dwellers and the residents, people are still afraid, they don't feel very free. Some do walk past the Thokoza hostel on Khumalo Road Hostel, but they are still fearful. And then the people who are using taxis still feel scared because peace has not been completely accepted, but efforts have been made to make peace. Personally, I haven't found any betterment in the last year, because my life is still the same. There has not been a personal improvement in my house. We are not secure. My husband doesn't even have a temporary job -- he only gets piece jobs. I also am not permanent where I am working; it is still a temporary job. From that angle we have not seen any betterment.
Leaving the hostel situation aside, did people feel safer going out at night or did they still not go out at night? Was there much crime? Were houses burgled or broken into or was it relatively quiet and more peaceful?
Ever since the ANC has taken over there has been a change in the respect that even the people that walk about at night say that they feel safe, they are not being marked any more, and the burglaries have subsided as well. So, it is a safer place except for fear, fear of what used to happen, that it might recur, otherwise it is now a safer place to live in.
There is betterment in safety. Before, during the past four years, when we go to bed we were never sure that we would wake up alive. When we go to work we were never sure that the whole day things would remain normal in the township. We would sometimes have our children coming to tell us that things have gone wrong, violence has erupted, but now all that is in the past.
And there is betterment too, she says in schooling, at least for people who can afford it. People with the means can send their children to schools like multi-racial schools unlike before. Even with their money they couldn't send their children to white schools because it was prohibited. But that change didn't make much difference to her family; they didn't have the money and couldn't afford to send their children to such schools because they didn't have the means.
This was a problem the government had yet to develop a policy, one that is viable and can be implemented. Meanwhile, you had a dual school system developing among Blacks. Blacks living in the vicinity of white urban areas now had a chance to send their children to racially mixed schools, if they could afford to do so. Blacks who lived in the locations had no alternative to the schools in their areas, schools that were woefully understaffed, teaching poor, attendance low, and discipline absent.
One of the first fruits of freedom was to endow Black elites – and Black workers living adjacent in heretofore white cities and towns -- with the privileges they had previously railed against, while the Black masses commuting in their millions to the same cities and towns from distant locations continued to live the lives they had always lived. Opportunity, it appeared, depended on proximity to the right places.
Legally and legislatively [these words, I know are not Rose's words, but Henry's. The intent may be the same, but the words…] apartheid has been abolished but there are people who are still practicing it. For example, my employer when we talk does not like the ANC led government, which says to me that apartheid is still within her. They [whites] don't accept change; they cling to the old order. Personally my employer treats me well. It's only when my employer talks about Mandela. The remarks are that Mandela thought that being the head of a state was going to be an easy thing; it's not an easy thing. Now that shows me that my employer is not in favor of the present ruler.
However, if her employer treats her well, she has a funny way of showing it. Rose has worked for her for twenty-two years, and in that period she has received two pay-raises – hardly the stuff of which munificence is made.
As to improvements in her community since 1990:
Unemployment has increased. People were promised equal pay for equal work, that has not happened and people continue to toi-toi and people continue to lose jobs. From the side of the schools, as I have said before, there has been an improvement, but only for the children of Black families who can afford to pay the fees white schools charge and have the means of getting their children to these schools. For the people who cannot afford to send their children to better schools who are still keeping their children in the 'Black only' schools, nothing has gotten better. As far as the roads are concerned, roads have not been made but there are people who are employed to clean up the roads and keep them clear of garbage.
Some people I say to her -- and the ANC took a lot of criticism from the grass roots where people were becoming discontented about the delivery of services – say that the government spends more time trying to appease the fears or the needs of white people than they were delivering services and improving the conditions of their own people. Yes, she says, many people have been complaining that the government is more concerned about the fears of whites than with taking care of their own.
We did complain about the government being much more concerned about the fears of the whites. But it is understandable why the government did that because it was new to governing; it needed the whites to be with the government of national unity so that things could run smoothly within the government, although much more attention should have been paid to the plight of the masses. But it's understandable that the government has to address the fears of the whites.
Did she expect that within the following year the government would start delivering jobs, houses, and better education at a much quicker rate than it has done since it assumed office? "I have confidence" she says "that the government will deliver."
But her obsession is with education. Whether her children will have an opportunity to get good jobs, further their education, buy nice houses, raise their families in peace, will she says depend on her.
I have that hope but that hope depends on me having to push them forward through their education so that they can be able after education to achieve their objectives. I have got to push them through education. Priscilla has passed her matric but because we don't have the means to send her to University she has been compelled to go back and do matric again, instead of loitering in the township. If she fails the next time she uses the certificate that she has passed. It's only to keep her out of loitering and molestation. If Priscilla can get financial aid she can stop repeating matric and go ahead and work because the type of future that she wants is in the field of sociology; the only drawback is that there are no funds to push her forward. Theo has also passed his matric, too.
He only has a subject to supplement. His marks in History and Biology were not very good. But he will not be able to do so because the school has decided that since the other children who have to supplement are not very keen to do so, it's not prepared to allow one student only to supplement and have to bother with getting papers for one student only from here to Pretoria. The school has discouraged him from supplementing. He is now looking for a temporary job so that for this year he can be earning something and then go forward with his education.
Here in a nutshell is the problem that bedevils schools in the locations. On the one hand, it appears that Theo has passed his matric – an achievement for any student who attend school in a township, especially one that has been drowning in the violence that permeates the location -- but his marks in Biology and History are below par, (Did he actually fail these two subjects?) Other students need to repeat subjects as well. But they couldn't be bothered. The school, rather than taking them to task and insisting they repeat the subjects they have failed to do well in, simply bows to their wishes. Since that leaves Theo as the only student who is interested in repeating his exams, the school rather than encouraging him to do so, actively discourages him since it would involve some extra administrative work for the school.
The students, it would appear, run the school, and the teachers, rather than assert their authority, are happy to let them do so. Perhaps, and given the exigencies facing school administrators and teachers in many schools where fear of the physical harm their pupils might threaten them with is very real and always present, the teachers are only acting to protect themselves. Nevertheless, their actively making it impossible for Theo to do what he wants to do, and therefore increase the choices, limited though they might be, in the unforgiving world he is about to enterer smacks of negligence, laziness, and scant interest in the welfare of the student.
Theo relies on information for job prospects on one school teacher, and Rose herself when she is in Alberton thumbs through the papers in the house of her employer, makes note of what's available and takes down the addresses. Theo applies for jobs using whatever information he gathers in these ways. He has yet to receive a response. Rose:
At present, Theo is living at the house that used to be the home of Bennett's mother. He is looking after the house so that they won't come and burgle the house again. All the items in the house have been stolen. Even the doors had to be replaced by Bennett's brother. Now Theo is just staying there acting as security. Besides there is no chance of them burgling the houses any more because there is now a watch, a local security in that area.
And he whiles away the time, hanging out along with the hundreds of other young people who wander the streets of the community, with nothing to do, and lots to think about. Where is their new South Africa?
Every year over 500,000 school students write their matric exams, most with little hope of getting a job, even if they do well. The chances of a job in the formal sector seem to shrink each year as unemployment rates continue to rise; greater numbers throng to the informal sector. With the installation of the GNU and the certification of the Constitution, whites can no longer themselves with the belief that the possession of a slip of paper will guarantee them a job. In fact there are no guarantees for anyone. Historically, about one in ten matriculants found mainstream employment.12 And in apartheid days, the ones who got the scarce jobs were invariably white.
As in every other location, the unemployed young, with no money and no prospects, will inevitably be approached by one of the area's gangs, which either freelance or work for one of the crime syndicates that have mushroomed since South Africa began the transition to a post apartheid era. You can make a quick couple of hundred rand, if you are prepared to hijack a car of specific make – the make is important since not any old car has a market in the made-over cars that are the final product of the carjacking industry – and deliver it to a designated drop-off point. Given the options the youth have, many succumb to the offer, and all of a sudden find themselves awash in cash, and all that comes with it – status among peers, young girls preening for their attention.
We talked a little about the RDP. She knew very little about it. If the local branch of the ANC was supposed to be telling the people in the community what it entailed and what they could expect it to deliver, it hadn't come knocking on her door. She knew a little more about the local elections scheduled to take place in October, but only to the extent that she had heard about them on radio and TV. She had not registered to vote, and didn't know whether she would. She had no idea what the elections were about. Neither had her neighbors. "There's no talk about them in the trains or buses, people just don't know anything about them."
But if Rose displayed little interest in either the RDP or the forthcoming local elections, there was one question on which she had very definite opinions – on the question of a commission being set up to look into what had happened in the past, how people were murdered, who murdered them, who gave the orders, even if it reached into the highest echelons of the National Party.
Might it not be better, I suggested, that in the interests of peace and reconciliation the past should be left alone and everybody make a fresh start? No way, says Rose. This commission should go ahead:
Those who perpetrated wrong deeds must come out and confess so that there can be forgiveness then people will know that so-and-so has confessed to doing so-and-so against so-and-so. But if there are no confession then the evildoers of the past will continue again to commit the crimes or worse crimes than the ones committed before. There has got to be openness for peace sake.
Conversations with Rose were conversations about family. Keeping hers together in the midst of violence, whether ethnic or political, without the flow of steady income, with street gangs masquerading as freedom fighters flaunting their hardware, eager to be seen as heroes, but more likely to end up as pawns in political and social games they barely understood, having to rely on inadequate schools and incompetent teachers, was not just a duty but a passion that consumed her, allowing her to take in stride the economic blows that struck indiscriminately, the endless hours of work, her one release her garden, a thing of beauty in a wilderness of ugliness. Next to her God, she had her garden.
Priscilla is just about to turn eighteen. She is a young woman now who had outgrown the giddy precociousness of her earlier teens. She no longer prattles on exuberantly about her own capacity to change things. In the XXX years since I had last spoken to her, Priscilla has changed, become more self-absorbed, more centered on what she wanted to do; matters that did not advance her own career opportunities were of little concern to her. Certainly, the evangelical fervor that had characterized her behavior in XXX when she believed that she alone could stop the violence had metamorphosed into the narcissism that is perhaps the defining characteristic of young people in their later teens.
She wants to be a sociologist because she wants "to deal with people, I want to deal with people's social problems. It is a thing that is in me, I like to deal with people, socialize with people, solve their social problems with them and not leave them away because of social problems. That is why I chose sociology."
Her one preoccupation is her education – getting to university. After she passed her matric in 1994, she applied for a bursary.
I have made four to five efforts in obtaining bursaries and they have all drawn negatively, but if there is a means for me to get a bursary I will highly appreciate it. I am very, very disappointed that I couldn't get through to University because although my passing symbol was letter F, the point description is 26 points. My results gave me 32 points and a number of universities, Westville, Durban University, and the Natal University had agreed to accept me provided I got a bursary. But the only bursaries being offered are to students who have matriculated in subjects such as mathematics and physics. I am not doing either of those; I do general science. Perhaps that is the reason why they declined my application.
As regards changes in Tokoza or in the country since the ANC led government took over, she hasn't seen any change. She and her friends don't discuss politics. When political issues come up on TV, they pay no attention.
The friends with whom I associate are all interested in education. For example, we have all passed our matric, but we have all gone back to repeat matric. We are looking forward to education. Of the students I know who passed matric, there are only two who are employed. The others are either at Technikons or at Universities –or repeating.
Given her difficulty in securing a bursary, what would she say to people who say that the government spent too much time in the past year reassuring whites and taking care of their concerns and they haven't paid enough attention to the delivery of services to their own people?
I think the government was right in addressing the fears of the white people because the white people felt that because there is a Black government there is going to be disorder countrywide, people will start getting into white people's property, looting shops, doing things like that. It was right to address the fears of the whites. The government can now come back and address our problems and our promises. I have a hope that there is going to be a change, like last year we had to pay examination fees, we had to pay school fees and this year we don't have to pay these things. That is a change.
Did she feel safe when she was out, particularly in the evenings? Would you now walk down Khumalo Road or would you not? Priscilla: "The level of violence has subsided. People feel safe in walking about in the evening or at night, but I personally have never walked on Khumalo Road and I don't wish to walk on Khumalo Road."
And the RDP? She knows that it means Reconstruction and Development Programme, but other than that she has no idea what it involves. Local government elections: " Yes, I have heard that there are going to be elections in October for local government but I'm not concerned. Because I haven't had an explanation about why I've got to vote for the local government." Has anyone approached her asking her to register to vote? No. Will she register? Maybe she would. But the question is peripheral and of little interest to her. The one thing she is looking forward to is going to university.
How about her sense of freedom in post apartheid South Africa? Now that there was a government that is run by Africans, did she feel free in any way that you didn't feel free before? No.
I personally have not found a difference because the people who can answer this question honestly are those people who suffered severely under the past government, people who needed jobs and couldn't get jobs -- they can talk about a difference of government.
But what about the fact that her human rights are protected by the Constitution, that people can't be arbitrarily detained, that freedom of speech is guaranteed, that the police can't just smash down doors and search houses? She pauses for a minute. Yes, she feels free in the sense that the police can no longer act in the way they used to. But she adds, "They also have the right to arrest me if I have committed a crime."
What did democracy mean? "Majority rule." -- at least her memory had improved. The April '94 elections: " I was quite happy that people had to vote although I was under age." Again, I felt that she had missed the significance of the occasion, that in her scheme of things, it really didn't matter much. Certainly no "comrade" here.
The proposed Truth Commission? She had never heard of it. However, when I ask her whether there should be investigation into members of the past regime, members of the security forces, civil servants who were responsible for hit squads, who gave orders for the murder of people, or whether the past should be left alone and people should get on with the future, Priscilla is very definite.
The Truth Commission should go ahead. The perpetrators must come out and talk and give reasons why they did it." And it shouldn't only be confined to members of the security forces or former National Party ministers. If members of the PAC and the ANC had committed offences, they, too, should have to account for themselves. Everyone should be required to tell the truth.
Theo is a quite boy, not quite because he is shy, but because he is enigmatic, ever so softly spoken, a beguiling softness. When I first met him, his spoken English not too good, but good enough to enable him to express himself. Theo was rarely around when I visited the Balula home, usually on a weekend, and more usually still on a Sunday. Sunday afternoons were boy –time when they took the measure of the location and the young women who strolled the main streets, outfitted in Sunday regalia, feigning an indifference to the young males themselves feigning nonchalance while their eyes were making their own assessments.
During 1994, I had read Theo's poems, not once but on many occasions, trying to decipher what he was trying to say, how he had tried to reconcile the contradictions that were all around him, how he had tried to find his own sense of identity. If I was reading them correctly, the poems expressed more articulately, and more accurately, his own struggle to make sense of the world in which he had grown up, a child-man, at once playful and exuberant in his school pursuits and calculating with the dead eyes of a boy-man who has seen too much, seen his dreams become a casualty of extraneous forces he could not identify, suffocated in a liberation that was supposed to free him.
The poems were written in longhand on school paper, each one signed by Csandile Theophilus Balula. They were addressed to Peoples Paper with the note: " I would like my poems to be published because I buy Peoples Paper week after. Thank you." He never posted them, and so they fell into my hands. I have reproduced them exactly as they were written. In many ways the mistakes and misspellings are as revealing as the correct usage of language and spelling.
Theo wrote these poems when he was 18 years of age, a boy with a township education, a boy who had yet to pass his matric exams. Yet, against all the odds, the missed year and occasional setbacks when the imperative to protect his family took precedence over schooling, he had persevered and met the requirements for university education. But like Priscilla, he, too, couldn't find the financial assistance to go to the Technikon he had hoped to study in. he had tried to get a job and couldn't. He worked occasionally at his uncle's shebeen, but was more likely to hang out with other employed kids in the area; would come home late at night, sleep all day, sullenly dismissed whatever Rose and Bennett might say. I interviewed Theo several times; understanding him was difficult. He did not reveal a lot, was always more anxious to get away and be with his friends or to watch soccer on TV. I was struck by a number of things about Theo. Here was a boy who lived in one of the less violent areas of Tokoza – though that might be a misnomer, given the level of violence in Thokoza. His father was a workingman – a garage mechanic -- who supported his family until he was fired for talking back to his white boss. He had bought a small house -- kitchen, two small bedrooms, toilet, and the "front room," where visitors were taken. Small, but crowded with possessions; indeed you got the impression that it was furnished with all that they owned: the cheap but serviceable sofa with two matching, upholstered chairs; the china and other valuables in a small cabinet, a stereo system, and a joint TV that dominated the room, its size disproportionate to everything around it. The house was enclosed; fenced in by a small, well-kept lawn.
In many respects, Theo's story is classic: Black parents who want something better for their children. Although his parents were brought up under the worst excesses of apartheid, they had leveraged themselves into becoming small property owners. Yes, the houses might be small, but they were an almost unimaginable vault from the world of the match box houses in which they had been brought up, sometimes with as many as ten people crowded into one or two bedrooms, so small and confining that an adult couldn't even stretch full without bumping into a wall or ceiling. When their children were growing up they tried to make sure they attended school – if they didn't there was no school superintendent knocking on the door demanding where the children were. More often than not the child was more likely to turn up for classes than their parents.[insert from 1990].??
Most school age children dropped out by the 8th grade; few struggled on without adequate supply of text books, indifferent and often drunken and indifferent teachers who, if male, thought nothing of having sexual relations with their female pupils, with few if anyone who cared, to complete their matriculation examinations. Fewer than 50 percent would pass. For those who didn't, the prospects of finding a job bordered on the impossible; for those who had made it against all the odds, the prospects were improbable, and for a select few the odds of receiving a university bursary were the stuff of which dreams were made.
Consider what a young person who has passed matric has to go through to even to get a response to an advertisement for a job. First you had to find the money to buy a newspaper. Because your resources are so limited, you probably can't buy more than one newspaper and it has to be one that would cover the citywide area of a Johannesburg or Cape Town. If you come across an ad that might seem promising, you will have to find a public telephone that is in working order so that you can ask for an application form, or at a minimum arrange for an interview. If the company which has placed the ad requires that you fill out an application form, it will send it to you by post –which, given the state of postal services in townships will probably take weeks. Better for you to go to wherever the company's office is and pick up the form and fill it out on the spot. That takes the money for transport to the company's office and back to where you live. Some questions on the application may require information that you do not have, in which case you will have to make a second trip to the company's office.
The company will probably require references – a teacher, church minister or whomever. You will have to track these individuals down, go to their place of work or home, and unless you have made an appointment to see them you may not find them at your first attempt. More money, more getting from one place to another. More time passes. Assume all comes together, for the sake of moving as quickly as possible, you will have to hand deliver the completed application form to the company's office. When it you arrive with the completed application form, you may be told that the job has been filled, that the company will inform you with regard to an interview date – that information may arrive at your home days after the date specified, or in the best case but most unlikely scenario, the company's personnel division or officer may provide you with an interview date on the spot.
You will have to follow the same routine every day, repeat these procedures, raise the resources, and wait for a letter summoning you to an interview. Since opportunities are few, the competition fierce, and resources or optimism quickly run out, you simply abandon the search and join the gangs of other unemployed youths at the township's various hangouts with little to do and much to be bitter about. Little wonder that a little crime here and there is alluring; little wonder that you begin the slow, and almost always irreversible journey into the dark, insidious underbelly of township life, where life is valueless and the money easy. If government cannot provide jobs and redistribute income, then fuck the government and make yourself one of the agents of redistribution.
The more you steal from the better off, the more you are contributing to the redistribution of resources. And once you prey on the more privileged, it only becomes a matter of time until you prey on anyone, even your own. When you have little value for your own life, you have none for the lives of others. The role model for young people to follow is not set by Mandela or Tutu, or other earnest people haranguing you with the need to make sacrifices for the betterment of the new South Africa when you haven't a sod in your pocket, but by the gangster, whose outrageous and blatant flaunting of the system exposes its corruption and emptiness. The new South Africa is a mirage – an imagining in the mind of high-flying government ministers and the new bureaucratic elite with their BMWs, their bodyguards, and glamorous women in tow.
The more notorious the gangster, the more outrageous his crimes, the more he makes the police look foolish and incompetent – not a difficult task, the more you emulate his actions. [FINGERS]
Bennett and Rose kept a tight leash on Theo when he was growing up –none of this "comrade" stuff: the wanton violence that engulfed Tokoza had come to their door steps and in the worst nights they would crouch beneath their beds listening to the screams of the dying, the war cries of the blood-crazed Zulus and the eerie silence that would descend when the carnage had been done with and the blood –appetites of the hostel dwellers sated.
Theo's poems are extraordinarily moving, more memorable still because he wrote them when he was so young. Taken together, they come across as expressions of yearning, of remembering, of pride – and of paradox. For an 18 year old, raised in an environment that collapsed in chaos and unbelievable savagery that seemed to gain a self-generating momentum, they are a peculiar mixture of wisdom and innocence, of an adult clawing his way out of the mind of a searching child.
The images collide, sometimes clumsily but no less heartfelt: jungle / civilization / learning; predatory / survival / love; fear / truth / destruction / new life. Admonitions and warnings sound like they come from the lips of a wise man; shriller cries remind us that he is an adolescent, subject to teen angst like so many of his global peers.
Young adolescents have an absorption with "self." But there is no narcissism in Theo's ruminations, perhaps the violence permeating the township he grew up in precluded the indulgence of narcissism. His angst is political and cultural. It reveals the collision between realism and his need for poetic expression. Hope and idealism clash with rebellion; resignation looms but is ephemeral.
He takes on the Big Questions, the rage against the wilderness: Who is the African man? What kind of world does he want to create and live in? How can he resist his darker impulses? On the one hand, hid vision verges on the apocalyptic; on the other, he ingests his beliefs with faith in man's capacity for decency and love. The crucible of revolutionary zeal, later replaced by violence rooted in more immediate passions of the heart, clearly fed turmoil in his soul, which was tempered, perhaps, by the love in his family.
He was not a street kid. He was not an ANC revolutionary. He was able to navigate through the difficult waters of school (when it was in session!), his youth a war zone of ethnic conflict.
One is struck, too, by the imminence of tragedy. These are the words of a young man whose education could not find a place outside the school yard walls, who would not live to find the answers to the questions he thoughtfully posed, who would die senselessly, a victim of the "toothless" violence he condemned.
The handwriting is so carefully and perfectly scripted that you can imagine him hunched over a table, in bad light, pen pushing against the paper, embossing it with his words. Reflection under control, against a seething backdrop of bloodshed. Theo grasps the essence of the large-scale themes and issues, albeit simplistically, but without falling victim to polemics and sloganeering. The struggle he describes is multi-layered, not just over land and heritage, but from within: the struggle from jungle ignorance to knowledge and truth. But whose knowledge and truth? Freedom, lost in the struggle to obtain it "is getting rusty."
In "The Land of Which I Feel Sorry", we see a young boy trying to find his identity. The Black man, perhaps ignorant (whose ignorance?) embracing the culture of the jungle. The Black man hunts the animal for food; the animal preys on other creatures for his survival. There is symmetry to things, a harmony between the disparate elements of nature. A pastoral jungle, like a Garden of Eden, where life is good before the Fall. The Black man conquers the barren soil, makes it fertile, only to find the land usurped by the uninvited European, whose avarice is beyond reason, who demeans the Black man, relegates his culture to backwardness, ingratiates himself with the mission to save the Black man from himself and bring him, even against his understanding, into the modern world. Does Theo equate rural with jungle? Or is this where reality (rural life) conflicts with recalled image?
But the white man competes with the white man as they extend the boundaries of their possessions, dispossessing the Black man, making me servile to the whims of a capricious "civilization" that deconstructs everything that is African. The Europeans begin to dismantle the African culture (a violent image), and "started to share our land of birth" (a healing image of reconciliation).
The Black man is confused, bewildered that any "uninvited" outsider would so ruthlessly destroy everything that brought meaning to his life, belittle his customs and rituals, rob him of his ancestry, the epitome of his identity. The European turns Africa into "a modern land", yet it is a land that has "a philosophy of fear and destruction".
The allure of the city reduces village life to the detritus of a wasteland. Urban life is "the motto of success" (Is he talking about the huge immigration of Blacks into the cities that glitter with the accoutrements of success – job, money, clothes; Blacks who are dudes about town rather than dupes from the back-breaking poverty of the rural areas? Is it an expression of the view that motivated the African to leave the simple life of the village in droves for the cosmopolitan metropolis in the belief that he would strike it rich, even though the ways in which he can find success is circumscribed by apartheid? Or with the withering of apartheid, who could say?)
He yearns to be "emacidated" from ignorance (whose ignorance?), to chase knowledge and truth (whose knowledge and truth?).
And then epiphany: knowledge for freedom, the imperative to fight the regime that oppresses the African; that wants to rob the Black man of his identity, other than consigning him to the Neanderthal world. His realization that love and hatred are kin emotions; that those who love each other turn on each other;("each man kills the thing he loves"?),13 that in happiness lies danger; that what the African often sees as happiness is, in reality, complacency – a passive acceptance of the status quo -- a position he must reject.
Paradoxes abound in the love and hate themes of the final stanza. Like the Christ / Antichrist, there's a sense that good and evil are supposed to coexist, otherwise they wouldn't exist at all.
Yet there is a romantic streak in the poem. "We shall fight upon taking over power/ we shall abolishe all the regime machinery" reads like a polemic you'd see on a poster tacked to a lamppost. "We shall fight on two fronts": What two fronts? The negotiating front and the struggle front? Who is Theo listening to?
In "Violence Deeply Affects the Minds and Hearts," we see the beginning of his inner struggle. Yes, he is sick and tired of violence (whose violence?); indeed if he were not he would be abnormal, given the cauldron of violence that enmeshed Thokoza and boiled over into the streets and into the homes of its terrified residents. The hostel dwellers could, at least, hide in the fortress-like hostels, but they, too, were not immune from attack, as the burned out hostels on the periphery of Phola Park gave ample evidence of.
People who lived in communities that were not in immediate proximity to the hostels regarded the hostel dwellers as unwelcome outsiders who at the best of times disrupted their communities, were always a threat to the brittle peace that allowed Zulus and Xhosas to live in uneasy coexistence, outsiders to be feared, to be fought, and to be killed, if necessary.
Khumalo Road – now in the spirit of reconciliation and nation building renamed Buthelezi Road14 – established the territorial boundaries: on one side Xhosas, supporters of the ANC; on the other Zulus, supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party and its leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Each would rather die than submit to the dominance of the other. When the media visited the strongholds of both the ANC and the IFP, they came away not with the war statements of the resident warlords but with stories that conjured up images of the lack of control ordinary people had over their lives, of their helplessness in the face of the havoc around them.
By late 1990, the violence had become endemic. The Mandelas, Makwetus and Nehvoldhvondwes might call for restraint, but they were not listened to. They did not inhabit the world of Phola Park or the Qua??? Hostels. "Let us not be used as toothless lions of violence,"(used by whom?) Theo wrote, leaving open to question whether the lions should bare their teeth. And yet he is not persuaded: "let us not be used as perpetrators of death and destruction." (used by whom?).
Thus Theo's ambivalence: the cry for peace, made tragic by the suspicion that some of the violence and destruction he sees is simply for the sake of destruction, for the illusory feeling of power it conveys, a display of macho, no longer part of the revolution but a perverse expression solely for the narcissistic benefit of the "perpetrators of death and destruction"-or worse, for the cynical benefit of the puppeteers, those who hold the strings. The most striking phrase here is "Let us not be used as toothless lions of violence". One recalls the "young lions" of a more heroic kind -- revolutionaries with a cause, not hoodlums for whom violence "deeply penetrates the hearts and the minds of the many".
In "Fight and Resist," he tries to find the middle ground. It is the first time he uses the word "I", reflecting a growing confidence in his own dialogue with himself. He is surer of himself, unafraid to attach his persona to his opinions. But once again we see the contradictory impulses pulling him in different directions On the one hand, there is the call for reconciliation, not only among all races, but also among all ethnic groups – the first time he refers to ethnicity as a factor in the violence. Cooperation and collaboration are the harbingers of justice for all. He offers his hand in friendship to his enemies: "…They must too learn to celebrate freedom not oppression, life not death." Our common humanity will deliver us from each other. But the call for reconciliation comes with an unequivocal qualifier: "Nothing will change as long as Apartheid remains vicious and alive/ Nothing will change as long as destruction of family life continues" -- -a not so oblique to the devastation apartheid has wrought on the structures of African family life in South Africa, and with it the erosion of family values and the moral imperatives that guided one through the vicissitudes of a difficult life.
But despite the cruel hand that fate has handed Africans, he harbors no doubts about the eventual, indeed, the inevitable outcome. The struggle will triumph, "No force on earth can deny us the victory of our just and united struggle. " He emphasizes the necessity for unity – Mandela would be proud of him.15 And if that unity of common purpose is not compromised, the people will be delivered from "the long night of apartheid" into the celestial dawn of a new South Africa, having broken the yoke of apartheid.
But he reminds us "Nothing will change without enduring sacrifice on our part." – a message his elders might have taken to heart, a warning the ANC overlooked when it wooed the African vote, and pointed to "easy street" as the way forward once the incumbent corrupt and oppressive regime was eviscerated at the polls. Would that they had been listening to young Theo, alone with his biro pencil and his thoughts.
When he wrote "Africa for the Africans," he has come full circle. For the first time he identifies the "white minority settlers" as the perpetrators of racism, discrimination, and South Africa as Azania. His language resonates with the rhetoric of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). Whites owe Africans a "special" apology for exploitation not just for the 50 years of apartheid, but for the 300 years of racial exploitation and oppression. Even in face of this, the Africans are the ones who are calling for racial tolerance in a land that has no culture of tolerance, and while he calls on God to forgive "all settler Boers", he ends on a strident note "Land to the Africans/graves to the enemies/Africa for Africans."
Theo has hardened. It was written later than the other three, as it bears the imprint of revolutionary rhetoric and holds a lot more anger and resentment toward European settlers ("Yes! They owe Africans a special apology" as opposed to "they turn our land into a modern land…which have a philosophy of fear and destruction").
His reference to "All true Blacks have the scars and the pain of apartheid." is intriguing. Is this Theo's way of distinguishing between "Uncle Tom" Blacks, the councilors who are members of the BLAs, and other "better" Blacks who will not drink from the cup of state largesse, no matter how great their thirst? How did he see differences among Blacks, beyond those of education, class, and achievement? Were Inkatha Blacks "true" Blacks, or other kinds? If so, the phrase "Africa for Africans" takes on special meaning: Which Africans is he writing about?
I have spent hours pouring over Theo's poems, trying to determine who is the "us" and the "we" and the "our." For a while after he finished school, he helped his father in Alberton, but the world of Alberton is a circumscribed one; a middle class satellite town, gravitating more to the Conservative Party than to the National Party, more parochial than other better endowed middle class enclaves, as remote from the towering heights of the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg as it is from Thokoza; more racial because of its close proximity to the Black township it draws its labor from; at the cusp of the Vaal Triangle, Alberton is a white minority niche enshrouded in a sea of Blackness. Bennett usually brought a newspaper home, but when he lost his job, and for a period his confidence and self-respect, there were no newspapers at all. TV was for sports, not for the discussion of pressing public issues.
Moreover, even in the early nineties after Mandela was released, the ANC unbanned, and the country opened up to new ideas and heard ones that had been suppressed for years as ideological heresy or treasonous, where was Theo. No schooling prepared him for what he wrote; the words spelled out laboriously, the thoughts the result of inner deliberations between Theo and his competing selves. So, after his death I returned to the only source that could have inspired him to define a world outside of himself, to reconcile the chaos that surrounded him with a framework for understanding it – the high school he attended until he matriculated. [INSERT]
I tell Theo how much I had enjoyed reading his poems that I thought they wee quite extraordinary for a boy his age. He shrugged, the shrug of indifference. Was he still writing? No. He hadn't had time during the previous year to write poems.
How was he spending the rest of his time? He spent most of his time in the Penduga Section (?), at his grandparents' place and he sold some sorghum beer in the cartons. Sorghum beer was a home brew that had been taken over by "white" companies. So much for Black empowerment.
For Theo nothing had changed; things were much as they were in previous years. But he was not disappointed with the ANC's performance in office. In fact he was quite happy " because the ANC has been promising a better life for all. We are looking forward to that."
How long did he you think it would take the government to give people that better life? He was the ultimate realist, more pragmatic in his assessment of things than most of the political honchos I interviewed. The government's immediate problem, he said, was first to scrap all apartheid legislatures, structures and symbols. That would take time to do. "We can only look forward to a visible better life after eight years."
He had passed his matric in 1995 and hoped to find a job. His goal: "I want to be a broadcaster." He would prefer to go to a Technikon rather than a university, since a Technikon would allow him to acquire the skills he would need to become a broadcaster.
As regards violence, "At the grass-roots level, the violence has subsided except for the Natal province. In Gauteng and other places, the violence has subsided completely. That is the difference, the change that has come about." But he still had fear of being around the hostels. "I cannot just live here and go straight into the hostel or walk around the hostel. That fear about the hostel I still have." The hostels on Khumalo Street were still off limits. He wouldn't walk from one end of Khumalo Road to the other. Some things were hard to forget, and rather than being caught off-guard, it was better to eschew places that still reeked of danger.
We talked a little about the RDP. What did he understand the RDP to mean?
My understanding of the RDP is that it is a taking place of reconstructing all that needs to be reconstructed and developing what is needed by the people in the whole of South Africa including the rural areas, like in the rural areas where the water will be brought closer to the people and all the other facilities will be brought closer to them. In the urban areas construction will be started for things that the people in the area need.
And where did he think the money to finance all the projects on the RDP's drawing board would come from? From the government of South Africa, they would have to provide the money. "The government will get the money because we pay taxes to the government and before the government of national unity there was a government and these things were being done for other people. Where did that government get the money from to do for other people?"
As to who had benefited the most from the government's first ten months in office? Theo:
My opinion is that we, the Black people, are happy that the government led by the ANC has come into office. The mere fact that a Black government is in power is a pleasure to us. There are those people who say the government has not delivered the goods. The point of the matter is this government of national unity led by the ANC still needs time, it's got to be given time to sort out its priorities and then the goods will be delivered.
I tell him that I have run into a number of ANC supporters at the grass roots who say that the government has spent too much of the last nine months appeasing and taking care of the concerns and fears of white people and not doing enough for Black people. A fair criticism?
I agree with the right of those people who say the government has not delivered the goods, that it has been busy nursing the fears of the whites. They should understand that the government needs to be given time. A one-year period is not enough for the government to be able to have delivered the goods as promised before the election. I, as Theo, have not been aware that the government has been busy nursing the fears of the whites for nine months.
The gravy train? Yes, he'd heard about it. But he didn't think that the politicians should live the normal life that he and I did. They are in power. They are looking after the interests of the people and the whole country. They need to be paid good salaries but not salaries that will make South Africa bankrupt.
I want to ask him about Election Day: what did he feel that day? Did he feel that a revolution was taking place; that a momentous change was in the offing? Did he feel excited or was he rather indifferent? Theo's response took me by surprise .He was, he said, happy that the people were going to vote for a government of their choice, although he wasn't sure of which way the result was going to go. He admitted to having "a little fear that there was going to be a revolution, a flow of blood."
Nothing more. No elaboration.
His hopes and expectations a year from now? "My hopes are to go to a Technikon and learn reporting, broadcasting."
Had any of the youth who matriculated with him gotten jobs or if not what were they doing? A few were employed, he said, some were at the Technikon, and the rest " were "just loitering around like me."
Back to the violence: did he think that when the local elections were held in October that they would re-ignite the conflict between the IFP and the ANC and they would start fighting for territory again?
There is likely to be a battle over territory because right now there are people, residents that were thrown out of their houses. People who ought not to be occupying them are occupying these houses. That issue has not been resolved. The residents would like to be given back their houses and the people that occupy them who are hostel dwellers must move out and go back to the hostel. There is still some resolution to be made in that field because we need enough security to be able to man those areas and make sure that the hostel people don't come back and occupy the houses they don't own.
Could violence erupt in the way it did in 1993 and 1994? Yes, he replied with reserved detachment, and perhaps there would be more violence than there was in 1993 and 1994.
And that was Theo's assessment of his life and times since the April '94 elections. In his own life not a lot had changed in the last year and not a lot had changed in Tokoza either, except for the lower levels of violence. He's proud that there is a government that represents the will of the majority of the people. He and other people were prepared to give the government time before they started to demand delivery of services promised during the election campaign, because the government in the last nine months had been preoccupied with getting rid of the structures of apartheid and that would take some time.
A final question – I can see that he wants to go. "Are you disappointed, get frustrated sitting around not being able to get a job? Do you apply for jobs?" "Yes," he answers, "but it was difficult to do so; I am very, very disappointed that I cannot further my education."
We are back in our familiar groves, facing each other in the parlour. Despite my misgivings about translators, I am using a different one. Silas is a member of the Lamola family, which I am also keeping interviewing. Some translator work allows Silas to supplement his income a little. Besides, if Henry might have been predisposed to lean slightly to the ANC's right, Silas would definitely lean to the left. Between the two, I thought I might get a more balanced reading of Bennett's mind. Bennett has put on some weight, not of the potbelly sort, just a slight burliness that was apparent in February.
On the face of things, Bennett's life couldn't be better. He had a full time job. Rose continued to work, so that the family's income stream has improved. Both Priscilla and Theo had passed their matriculation examinations. The violence, once synonymous with Thokoza has all but disappeared.
The much- excoriated RDP was having some limited impact on the community. People were a little more familiar with it; some new houses and schools had been built, some health clinics opened. The pupils at the schools are all African; although in theory they were open to everybody. Quite a number of Black children attend school in Alberton and other surrounding white communities. They come from families who could afford the school fees, which were beyond Bennett's reach.
I agree that things have changed especially like the violence and the work situation also, even though I'm working it's just like from hand to mouth because like right now my kids I'm not able to take them through to University, I have to wait until some time next year maybe. So things did really change but in my life the changes have been slight. I am working for a motor spares company, not as an auto-mechanic, just taking out orders to people who order car spares from our company. You might say I'm a deliveryman. But I'm earning far less than I was when I was an auto-mechanic three years ago. I had to take up this job although the salary is far below the one that I had. I had to take this one just to keep the family going. Rose is also working three days a week.
The family routine has changed a little. Now the have to get up at about 4.30 am. Bennett walks Rose to the train station [what distance, name of train station]. He has to backtrack some to the taxi rank.
Priscilla and Theo just wait at home doing nothing. They are still waiting for their applications to university to be approved. They have applied but they haven't gotten any response as yet, so they are just at home without work or anything. Most of the young people their age who passed their matric are in similar situations, either eking out some money in part time jobs or hanging out, waiting for their applications to university to be approved, idle days occupying idle minds. They look for jobs – jobs of any kind, mostly part-timeout, but they rarely luck out. After a point efforts to find a job simply cease. Even hearing that a job might be available is the result of random encounters.
Theo and Priscilla, for example, talk to people who are working in town or who are employed somewhere else and would always ask them whether they had heard of any positions that were open, anything, whether to make tea or to clean the offices. And they give messages to their friends who are working to let them know if something opens up to let them know and to "list" them with their employers, on the off chance that something might turn up, to let them know that they were instantly available and eager to take anything on offer. "Priscilla and Theo" Bennett says, "use the people who are working to search for any temporary jobs because although they buy the Sowetan and the Star or whatever newspaper, when they phone the job has been taken, so it's a hopeless exercise."
But so far no one had come to them; no one has told them where vacancies might be available.
[ find: the average passing rate for kids in the townships in matric; the number who find full time jobs – usually doing what? How many find part-time employment. Do they usually get stuck at that level. How many get bursaries to college, or the Technician; the distribution basis between the two, the cost difference; how many "go" away to college; how many commute? Average drop out rates; what they usually major in; and finally the number who don't find jobs. Ditto in respect to the number who fail matric. How many who leave school simply become part of the "employment" structure of the informal economy.]
Bennett and the family had voted in the local elections that had taken place two weeks earlier. Thokoza and Alberton are now part of the same local government structure. The Mayor of Thokoza, Mr.??? Maseko is also the Mayor of Alberton; local councillors sit together in the same chamber and make decisions on the basis of majority vote. The Balulas belong to Ward 12; their local councillor,
was a member of the ANC and everyone in the community knows him.
[ The rationale for the 'third tier' structures of government. Bringing government to the people at the grass roots. Establishing accountability. Merging townships, even squatter camps with adjacent once whites-only cities and towns to broaden the tax base and put in place a more equal distribution of resources and services. The better off once whites-areas were going to have to subsidize the provision basic amenities to townships where none existed and to upgrade and expand amenities where rudimentary efforts to provide services had been started. Remember when the white residents of Sandton, paired with Alex, went on a "rates" strike. How was this resolved? Their resort to the argument that if Blacks had stopped paying for services in the eighties to protest the actions of government, they were entitled to do the same.]
Now that local government structures were in place and they actually knew the councillor they could take their complaints to when services failed to be delivered, they were expecting action, although their experience in the two years following the April '94 elections had taught them to keep their expectations within reasonable bounds and not to accept at face value outlandish promises made by candidates courting their vote – a painful lesson in one of the less appealing attributes of the process of democratisation.
It's about two weeks since we voted for these people, and what we are now doing is waiting to see what they will do. We know whom we voted for and the ANC have put their people on the Council. We hope that they will attend to things like roads and collection of garbage and we are hoping that as we pay our monthly rentals then they will attend to a lot of our grievances that we were complaining about as far back as the National Party government. No one is happy with the township set up. I have mentioned the roads. We have been complaining about their condition for years. For streetlights we have these very tall lights, which we call Apollo lights. Some people have electricity, but many others don't.
But how did he expect the government to respond when many township residents, despite the Masekhane campaign, which called on people who were not paying for services to start coughing up and the intensive campaign to get homeowners to start paying their housing bonds, still weren't paying their electricity bills and a lot of people weren't making payments on their bonds?
The ANC led government problem that was of its own making. Their call on the residents of the townships in the eighties to make the country ungovernable had succeeded only too well in certain crucial respects. With the ANC's encouragement, people had simply stopped paying for the utilities being supplied by the municipal authorities in order to break the back of the government in a fiscal sense. They had also stopped paying banks the instalments due on their housing loans to induce kind of banking crisis with all kinds spin-offs that might bring the economy to a standstill.
Now, of course, circumstances had changed. Those who had called for actions to make the country ungovernable, now ruled the country, and making it governable was its top priority. Hence the very people who had been active participants in the grass roots movements that had championed and orchestrated non-payment for anything for which payment could be withheld were being called on to resume payments for all services and to start making arrangements with their banks to start paying off their housing bonds. Unless, the people responded to the former, the government would be unable to provide the utilities townships had been receiving free of charge; and unless the latter began to click into place, banks would simply refuse to make bond loans to would-be homeowners or to make loans to the government, if the government could not guarantee bond repayments, which of course it could not do as long as substantial numbers of homeowners wouldn't abide by their bond agreements.
In the townships the government's call on people to pay their bills for services was met with incredulity. Over the years, the provision of these services at no cost had instilled the belief among residents that they were their due, an entitlement, not a service that had to be paid for, like other goods and services.
Attempts to make township residents change their behavioural patterns just because they now had a government of their own choosing came to nothing. With the passage of time, amenities that once were paid for were metamorphosed into services that were simply a government handout. The reason why non-payment was encouraged in the first place got lost in the nether world of more pressing problems. Indeed, many in the townships found it unfathomable that one of the first "benefits" of the struggle would result in their already meagre standards of living being further eroded, due to the money they would have to set aside to meet rent and bond debts. It was inconceivable that "their" liberation government would charge them for services that the apartheid government had provided free of cost.
Since the proposition that payment was now the other side of delivery seemed so farfetched, townships simply ignored the authorities' collection strategies. Non-payment had become an ingrained part of people's behaviour. They had come to disassociate it from one of the struggle's strategic objectives into something they simply took for granted. Moreover, in the best of circumstances an order not to pay for something because it would be morally reprehensible to do so is an order that is easily complied with in the knowledge that you are doing your bit for the cause of freedom. It is not easily replaced by compliance with an order that mandates payment in order to build a new society, especially when the benefits of that new society are not all that apparent. To undo the effects of behaviour requires that the behaviours themselves are unlearned and a new value system inculcated, and hence the government's recourse to the Masekhane campaign.
[Data on the staggering amounts that were owed municipalities, and the level of non-compliance. Data on the lack of success of the Masekane campaign, and the problems it posed for the new local government structures which had to rely on fees for the provision of services to provide the services. Rates of payment varied fro one township to another. In the end, the government adopted a hard-line: if gentle persuasion wouldn't work, then wield the Big Stick i.e. cut the services off].
Like many of the "remedial" programs the government embarked on with great enthusiasm in the early days of the Mandela administration, the good intentions often exceeded the actual impact. First, the assumption that education that would inform the people what services cost to provide cut no ice; moreover, education rarely results in behaviour modification. Second, it failed to address the central question: if the apartheid government could find a way to provide these services free of cost, why couldn't the ANC government do likewise. And third, it failed to pay sufficient attention to the obvious: fewer Black households were in an economic position to pay for current services, leaving aside all issues pertaining to arrears.
Forgotten in the mess confronting local authorities was the fact that the apartheid government deliberately choose not to cut off services to preclude further escalation of conflict in the townships, a strategy that had its origins in the "win their hearts and minds" thinking that underpinned government policy in the mid-eighties.16 The apartheid government wanted to minimise township upheavals; hence actions that might contribute to a worsening of the situation were rejected in favour of actions that provided a short term cushion, even when that cushion was being increasingly financed by foreign borrowing and fiscal sleights-of hand that were slowly bankrupting the economy.
It took a lot more than appeals to patriotism and calls for sacrifice to build the new South Africa to get across the simple message that the new administration had inherited an economy that was for all intents and purposes broke, and that it had to show the international banking barons that it could restore fiscal order in its own house before it came, cap in hand, looking for assistance. If South Africa's masses choose to continue to be part of the problem, Swiss gremlins had no intention of becoming part of the solution.
[On the decisions re IMF loans, World Bank, arrangements with international debtors]
Defaults on bond repayments were a different matter.
The situation, like here in my case -- because I cannot exclude myself from this problem -- arose when we took a decision not to pay for services and to engage in bond boycotts because we were told that non-payment was a tool to fight the previous government. Even in my situation, like I have been unemployed since 1991 up to the elections last year, so I didn't pay anything. But the situation after the 1994 elections has changed things. SANCO17 had to intervene when the Banks began to repossess people's houses and was trying to resell them to other people, SANCO intervened and an organisation?? was formed to open negotiations with the banks.
Like the Banks were evicting people and SANCO had to intervene and stop the banks from doing that. SANCO committed itself to taking care of the problem, to get people to pay. So the situation as it stands right now is that people communicate with SANCO and then SANCO communicates with the Bank. The Bank doesn't communicate directly with the homeowner in default, doesn't go to the house-owner and say, 'well you have to pay up or face the consequences.' the Bank goes to SANCO, and then SANCO comes to the people. That is the situation right now.
After I was unemployed the bank declared the house repossessed but I wouldn't move out of the house because of the unity amongst the people in this community. We attended meetings where we took decisions like, well, even if the bank says someone has to get out of the house we wouldn't move. If the bank says, 'you get out of that house,' no one moves out and no one pays the bond. So that is how I am still in this house and up to now I haven't paid anything. I am still waiting for the assessors from SANCO. SANCO has promised to bring assessors to come and evaluate the house, the condition, and get complaints from me as to what are the problems with the house so that the house can be priced; but at the moment we don't even know how much this house is going to cost us.
The SANCO people are doing the negotiating with the bank. They told us that we will have to wait for the assessors to come and assess the house, and then according to my understanding, maybe there could be some price changes on the house. When I started the bank told me that this house was worth about R37000-00. I am also not clear about the technicalities of the whole thing but what I know is that we are waiting for the assessors to assess the house and I understand that they will tell us how much this house cost.
According to what SANCO has told us, after the whole process of assessment is done with, SANCO will come and check how much our total income is here at home, and then based on our income and expenditures they will tell us how much to pay for the house.
For the service charges -- that is water and removal of garbage and electricity -- everyone is paying right now and there is also some kind of an arrangement whereby if your bill is too high, then they can arrange for you to pay in instalments.
At the time in Johannesburg, crime had become the issue of the day. The media carried daily stories of brutal car hijackings, drivers pulled from their cars and summarily executed on busy street corners, murders were reaching astronomical proportions, burglary was rampant, house break-ins accompanied by savage assault commonplace, rape was routine.[data] Even Thabo Mbeki, the Deputy President, didn't escape the dramatic surge in crime.[ Get details. Also see SHADES'95]
In contrast Bennett's Thokoza had become a haven of tranquillity, untroubled by car –hi-jacking, rape, murder, burglary or violent crime.
In Thokoza, we now live like we used to live, although there is one area we still avoid – the area where the ???? hostels are located. We still don't use that road; we use the old road because on the at Penduka ??? side the people are still split in two groups. One group in the hostel is saying that they don't want to live with the people in the township and the other group is saying they are prepared to do so. It's not safe to drive along that road.
And that, in a nutshell, was the extent of the community's crime problem, if one chooses to characterize it as such.
If Priscilla is out at night, we don't worry about her being attacked. We don't have any anxieties if she visits friends, even if she goes out with a boy friend to Katlehong, which is just next to us here, or even to Soweto -- wherever they go we don't have any worries whatsoever that they will be attacked, especially here in Tokoza. We know that nothing will happen to them at night. My son is in Penduka.??? He walks from there around nine o'clock or so.[ what is Theo doing in Penduka, and what road does he take]
He walks from there to here at night and there is no problem. Also I do that, I also walk to my uncle at times at night and I have no fear or any worry of being attacked. They don't have any police any more, which is a lot different from past years when the whole area used to be heavily patrolled by the police and the army. But now we have no army and no police in this area and everyone is just living freely without any fear of being attacked.
I shouldn't say the police have totally disappeared. The police are not totally out, but it's not like it used to be when they used to patrol. Now they are doing their normal day-to-day duties and I think one could also say that it was the SADF, [ Is he confusing SADF with the ISU?] which was responsible for instigating the violence in this area because when they moved out, the violence stopped. The self-defence units are still around, and although there is no violence, they are a bulwark we can rely on in the unlikely event of something happening.
Bennett's almost idyllic description of the community ambience in the community, which was sandwiched between two ominous hostel complexes, as a cocoon of tranquillity, throws me. It doesn't fit with what I've witnessed in Thokoza itself or with what other residents of Thokoza had told me, as does his repeated assertions that now he has no worries whatsoever about Priscilla's comings and goings.
His equanimity about her safety, especially when she stays out late at night, even if she spends her time hanging out in Soweto with her friends leaves me completely non-plussed.
Since the early nineties, crimes against women has grown exponentially; rape is "administered" by youths not seeking sexual satisfaction, but to express inner rages of unimaginable proportions; gang rape is a veil of silence few are prepared to lift. And while gruesome media accounts of rape and sexual assaults on women in the Northern suburbs regularly dominate the news and instil terror into women who heretofore lived under the protective eye of whites policing white areas; their experiences pale in comparison to the crimes perpetrated on women in the townships, which are steadily accelerating both in number and sheer viciousness. Women in the townships are targets of what is beginning to look like a calculated campaign to ravage them, humiliate them, and inflict unspeakable injury, levels of brutality that even the SAP and the SADF could not, even in their heyday, have matched.
[Data on the escalation of sexual assaults, rape, gang rape, estimated differentials between reported and actual rape 1990/1994. The distribution of police resources still overwhelmingly in white areas up to 80 per cent of police are still deployed there-part of the problem is, of course, that the preponderance of police stations are in white areas and one cannot simply transplant a police station in white area to a Black one. White policemen will not accept details in police stations in Black areas. The police force itself is undergoing an "untidy" restructuring; the old police culture still prevails; few police have training in the collection of evidence or actually investigation of crime; the days when extracted confessions were sufficient to obtain convictions are gone, and the police have not yet had the training to go about things in a different way; forensic expertise is absent; and perhaps up to 40 per cent of the police are illiterate, and perhaps just as many are corrupt. When did the famous encounter between Mandela and De Klerk on Hollard Street occur? Data on Thokoza itself]
Certainly understandable was the fact that the incidence of car hijackings was not a township problem. Car hijacking was an extremely lucrative trade; the actual hijacker just a single spoke in a wheel of avarice that spun to a ruthless efficiency. Only certain cars were targeted; BMWs or Mercedes or other highly upscale models that would carry inflated price tags in the underground market for refurbished stolen vehicles, which were often exported and, as often as not, reappeared in South Africa as imports. Global mafias came to South Africa before global trade.
Mafias that had earned their credentials during the upheavals in Easter Europe were, like any other business, aggressively seeking new markets, and South Africa in the immediate post –transition period offered opportunities that any self-respecting entrepreneur in the business of the illicit could not forego. Transitions, with the yawning gaps that appear in the enforcement of the law, the tenuousness of the rule of law itself, the rocky paths that have to be traversed before orderly systems of governance are established and corrupt institutions sanitized, are themselves fragile and prone to becoming enmeshed in the very practices they seek to eliminate.
Easy, too, to offer an unemployed kid, with no money and no future a couple of hundred rand to hijack a car at of a certain make and deliver it to a "safe" haven.[repeat] Given the ineffectualness of the police and their frequent participation in the hijacking operations themselves in the business chain that managed these operations with well earned competence and precision, the chances of being apprehended were a thousand to one, and scared whites handed over their vehicles – and whatever possessions of value they might be carrying, intent only on escaping with their lives.
In 1995, the gratuitousness violence that would characterize car hijackings in later years was only beginning to experience birth pangs. And thus, the kid at the local hang-out spot was a susceptible prospect, and after a few "jobs" the rewards in the form of hard cash, which immediately conferred status and envy among one' peers, [repeat] many became eager converts, anxious to promote their talents in a world that had few rules, other than absolute loyalty, and huge financial rewards for rather danger-free work, became an acceptable alternative to trying to find one's way in an economy that at best offered a pittance for long and unrewarding hours of work, and at worst simply dumped you into the rubbish heap of the permanently unemployable, the mere unemployed or the soon to become unemployed. Local gangs were simply absorbed in friendly "mergers," hostile "bids" or other persuasive means of "buying out" existing "shareholders," and operated within the framework of larger "corporate" entities, which had little time for white knights. International crime syndicates, with their domestic subsidiaries, were beginning to become a major threat to the new state's security.18
The continued existence of SDUs was a problem in waiting for the ANC, one that they had not found a way of authoritatively addressing even though they were well settled after eighteen months. While the SDUs liked to regard themselves as adjuncts to the SAPS, they were little more than vigilante groups, more often a headache to the police than a help, with lingering memories of a role that had become obsolete, but with old rivalries still to be settled and the power they exercised over their communities not something they were about to surrender easily. Clearly, for as long as they continued to exercise a presence in a community, they undermined the authority of the police and hence the inculcation among the masses of a respect the SAPS desperately needed to receive from the community, often impossible, in view of the way the SAP had acted in the past.
To the ordinary resident of a township a man in a police uniform was indelibly associated with the oppressions of the past, the detention of the loved ones, brutal acts meted out with wholesale indifference. Thus, the fact that the SAP, which had been the handmaiden of apartheid, had been reborn as the ANC's SAPS, which was supposed to follow strict guidelines with regard to the individual's constitutional rights cut little ice with people at large. Once a policeman, always a policeman; for members of the SAP who became integrated into the new force, the culture that had characterized their behaviour was difficult to erase, yet if the SAPS, beset as it was with problems, found itself having to contend with the detritus of a militant youth that prided itself on speaking on behalf of the ANC, the SAPS could never establish its legitimacy in the community. The time was quickly arriving when the ANC would have to put its authority on the line and order the SDUs to disband and hand over whatever hardware they possessed to the police.19
In view of the state of relative calm and serenity that Bennett ascribed to his Extension, what, I wanted to know, did he make of the stories in the newspapers or that he saw on television, all wailing about the incredibly high level of crime in South Africa and how Johannesburg was the murder capital of the world, the rape capital of the world, the car car-jacking capital of the world, that South Africa either claimed the top spot or came a close second or third in every significant category of violent crime?
According to me there is nothing like that going on. Those reports really are just reports to paint South Africa bad to other countries. These things that are happening right now have been happening during the National Party government. According to my own assessment, the reports are just trying to show the world that Black people cannot govern themselves. According to me there's nothing serious happening; we are living in a normal way. These things happen, but not according to what we see on the TV or read in the newspapers.
In short, the media were lying in order to hammer the view that Blacks were incapable of governing.
Yet, he stood firmly behind one statement he made during our first interview: His respect for de Klerk had not diminished. None of the events leading up to the election did anything to erase that respect, and nothing had happened since the elections that would have moved him to reconsider his opinion.
I haven't changed from that the last time when you were here, I mean before, when Mandela
was released. I still respect de Klerk a lot and I think he is the man who made it possible for the changes to take place and I still really see him as a man who really helped us to change the situation in this country.
I am searching for a different way to frame the question that continues to nag: "It's been five years, Bennett, since Mr Mandela was released from prison, 18 months since an ANC led government assumed power, yet during that period of time your income has gone down so you've gotten worse off not better off. Rose has had to work whereas when I met you first Rose wasn't working. Your two children even though they have passed their matriculation are unemployed with no immediate prospect for a job. So what had changed in your life – and your family's -- that make you feel free or better off now than five years ago, or even two years ago?"
Bennett considers the question, but not for long:
We are in the government of national unity right now where the ANC has the majority, but we don't expect change overnight and I have been talking to someone about this and I said, 'well according to me I think it will take us close to three years before we can see real change.' The ANC has to do a lot of work to bring about change but we don't expect change overnight.
Bennett's expectations had undergone a fundamental readjustment. He no longer saw that BMW parked outside the house. But gone, too, was his anger. The government was doing its best, despite the entrenched obstacles it faced. He would not criticize the ANC. Rather than seeing the ANC as having made promises that were beyond their ability to deliver, he seemed inclined to see the people as having built up expectations of change that were their own undoing. The expectations of meaningful change that he had harboured a couple of years ago had been put in a box and the lid secured.
Perhaps it all played out to its own mysterious tunes. Under white rule, the great majority of Blacks led lives of quite acquiescence, waiting patiently for the most part, for the day of deliverance to come, lives lived in hope. In a sense passivity was a way of surviving. Under Black rule, the great majority continued to live lives of quite acquiescence, waiting patiently for the most part for the new government to deliver the material things that would make a difference to their lives, but they were still lives lived in hope. Passivity continued to have a purpose; it continued to be a way of making surviving easier.
It is not unusual in transitions, especially in developing countries groping their way towards democracy after decades of being one party states for the initial euphoria of the masses, induced by expectations of dramatic changes that would lift them out of their poverty and transform their lives, to slowly give way to a sense of disillusionment when the expected changes do not materialize and the new elites begin to behave suspiciously like the old elites.
After 18 months, the rumblings of discontent were beginning to gather force – not that any Black person would abandon the ANC for the NP, but the government's inability to deliver basic services at the grass roots had become an issue. Moreover, the media had become more emboldened, drawing attention with more frequency to the so-called 'gravy train': the ministerial accoutrements of sleek BMWs, assigned drivers, retinues of bodyguards, how well members of parliament paid themselves, the well-padded travel allowances, how the new-boys –on –the- power block had abandoned the townships for swanky houses in upscale white suburbs.
More frequently heard were allegations that a lot of Black people were making a lot of money very quickly as a result of being in government; that they appeared more concerned with lining their own pockets than with addressing the needs of the masses. Most townships, which I visited, had never had a visit from a government minister. Because of the proportional representational system of voting, the people had no idea who represented them in parliament other than the ubiquitous ANC, but that when they went looking for a MP to help them out with a problem, they were never referred to a real live MP, but to the local ANC office.
Your question takes me back to the earlier question when you were asking about rape and other related crime. I think this is just a plan by people who don't wish this government of national unity to do well because these kinds of reports never surfaced during National Party rule. We never knew that some members of parliament had owned big farms or flashy cars or big houses. Only now that we have Black people in the government are we having people coming up with these kinds of reports. In my opinion, these are just reports to demoralise people and to make this government a failure.
Were newspapers like the Citizen, the Star, Business Day, or the Sunday Times out to "get" the government in the sense that they wanted to show government officials as living high on the hog, making huge amounts of money, and wallowing in the luxuries of the good life while the Black masses which had entrusted them upliftment from the deprivations of the past were being badly let down?
Newspapers are different and the only newspaper that I read now and then is the Citizen. I cannot say whether the Citizen would like to see this government fail. I believe that although the Citizen criticises the government, it also criticises the white people of this country and tells them that they have to change their ways from what they were in the past to live with all people in a normal way. I wouldn't say that a newspaper like the Citizen is really against the government.
Ironically, the Citizen was a regular target of ANC criticism that disparaged it as a left over from the days of the National Party, unable to get a "fix" on the changes that were occurring all over the country, for the few number of Blacks on the editorial staff, and the still fewer number of Black columnists and commentators that it employed. And that even when it did stoop to employ the occasional Black as a commentator, he was invariably of the Uncle Tom variety.
One could begin to discern the faint outlines of an emerging ANC strategy for dealing with the media: an emphasis on their being white-owned, and thus representative of white interests; the absence of Black editors in key decision making decisions, thus ensuring that the news always had a certain slant, perhaps not consciously premeditated, but merely the product of how thy had been taught to view the world, and the employment of a minimal number of Black political commentators with their own by-lines to satisfy affirmative action standards, but with careful regard to these Blacks being the right 'type" i.e. Blacks who would reinforce the prevailing white view of Black rule, and thus give it the currency of legitimacy.
Little did I know at that point that the tensions between the ANC and the media would escalate in the years to come to the point where the government would launch pre-emptive "attacks" on incipient news reports,20 accusing the media of failing to embrace the process of transformation, which involved the restructuring of every sector of South African society, and of overt racism, and when "overt" didn't quite fit the bill, of "subliminal" racism.
[Data on MP salaries and allowances; how they differed from the apartheid system; of tenure for pension; of education for children; of "dislocation" when officials had to split their time between Pretoria and Cape Town etc. Of salaries etc paid to CEOs of parastatals and side benefits; of the major corruption scandals that began to surface among ANC incumbents, particularly in Mpumalanga. Of the ANC's mantra: corruption no words than in apartheid years; probably less – the only difference we are transparent about it, they hid it. South Africa's position on the Transparency International Corruption Index.]
Perhaps what I found troubling about Bennett's replies to my questions was his reluctance to acknowledge that in terms of his economic status, things had gotten worse, and his uncritical, indeed, unhesitating acceptance of the government's mantra: media accounts of their being this "gravy train', of a creeping propensity for less than ethical transactions between the public and the private sectors, of educated, middle class Blacks migrating whenever they could afford it to more affluent areas, which only years earlier were open for residence to whites only, were fictions spread by opponents of social and economic transformation who, having seen whites stripped of their privileges and power, were still prepared to fight a rearguard action to discredit the new government.
First, the fate of the economy was largely beyond the control pf the government, part of the flotsam and jetsam of peripheral economies in the emerging global order. Opening the economy to the harsh realities of competitiveness was not an option, but an imperative. The huge global swing to trade liberalization, which South Africa had no control over or say in, simply wiped out whole sectors of the economy, thus exacerbating an unemployment problem it inherited. The unwillingness of foreign companies to make significant direct foreign investment (DFI) that would create employment and provide a stimulus for growth was a product of many factors, some of which the government could influence, but most which it could not.
In the dream world the ANC created in their conceptualisation of the new South Africa were a number of assumptions that were not only sorely wanting but evinced a naivety on the ANC's part that was strangely out of character for an organization well used to the vicissitudes of self interests. Perhaps it had bought into the notion that South Africa was somehow "special," that the world-wide anti-apartheid movement" reflected not just an abhorrence of apartheid but a bond with South Africa that transcended the ordinary, that Mandela and South Africa were synonymous in the public consciousness to an extent that it thought that part of the adulation Mandela inspired would induce foreign investors to "reward" South Africa, an offering at the alter of Mandela in the form of hard currency investments.
When the government indicated that it would introduce extraordinarily "labour friendly" legislation and require companies to submit annual reports setting out in great detail how they had meet affirmative action standards and bridged the gap between what management and workers earned,21 international investors did what came natural to them: they wrote off South Africa as a prospective profitable venture and took their money to other countries where the return on investment was higher and labour legislation less interventionist.
And what could one expect the emerging Black middle class to do? Replace compulsory segregation with voluntary segregation? Confine themselves out of some absurd notion of solidarity in ghettoes created by the Group Areas Act, thus in a sense validating apartheid or live where they wanted to, in a mixed multi cultured, non-racial society? To have the right to live wherever whites lived, if they choose to do so, was a core part of the Black liberation struggle. Not to assert that principle when the opportunity presented itself would have amounted to an abrogation of the essence of the struggle itself.
But in this regard liberation came with a price. As increasing numbers of middle and upper middle class Blacks migrated from the townships into white urban areas, they robbed the townships of their vitality and diversity. Townships were ghettos. Apartheid put no limit on the income Blacks could make, on the size or type of house they could live in, on the "opulence" they could surround themselves with, on any opportunity to "make it" as long as they did so within the confines of the ghettos they lived in, townships were a melting pot. Blacks could see other Blacks who had done well and were quite prepared to display their ostentatious way of living, and other Blacks could aspire to achieve similar levels of social status and personal wealth. Envy was a stimulus to achievement. The young had role models.
And thus my question to Bennett: were white people now treating Blacks with more respect, more like equals or did they see themselves as superior? Were whites resentful of the changes that were taking place?
According to me the white people in this country have not changed. They are still having those superiority complexes they had before and I think that it will take time for them to change. Their attitude I think will not change right now. They are still in that same situation whereby they see themselves as superior to Black people. They treat me as if I am just an African, not an equal. They still treat me as a minor.
But there is no resentfulness in his voice; indeed, if anything too much tolerance. Am I trying to make Bennett explode in anger? To castigate whites who continue their patronizing attitudes towards him? To assert his self esteem? He is not fitting into the stereotype I used to carry in my mind of the victimized Black, enraged by the injustices he has experienced and, now free unwilling to put up with the condescension of whites? How does he internalise his experiences? Live with himself, seeing his dreams of the better future he once envisaged slowly wither? When you have live under a system that rules every aspect of your life, do you adjust your subconscious "coordinates" to letting things be because you can't change them, your efforts to do so would be futile, and will only get you into hot-water without changing anything?
And, if, after decades the controls that you have taken for granted are suddenly lifted, what are you to put in their place when you have no other experience to draw on, no locus point of direction? You had to learn behaviours that enabled you to function, to live, to see purpose in life in a system that has robbed it of purpose, to be, without going mad; indeed, with a certain degree of equanimity? You had to find palliatives you could use to circumvent the system. How do you unlearn these behaviours, put the palliatives into a different perspective? And why should you unlearn them when there is no incentive to do so or when the incentive proves to be illusory?
Do they surrender themselves to the intrinsic inner life we all possess, but too often fail to cultivate? Do they reach an understanding that nothing outside of themselves can give them purpose or fulfillment, that the external is extraneous to the internal? Is this the basis of Tutu's constant reference to ubuntu? Or does it work the other way around? Is the inner feeling of worthlessness such that no amount of compensation for being oppressed will change that condition? Has apartheid precluded Blacks from ever feeling whole or did apartheid leave Blacks with no option other than to pursue that intrinsic inner life, that sense of wholeness? Or are we talking part one, part the other, the coexistence of two personalities.
There is much talk of "Black empowerment," but illusions of empowerment are more often than not the meagre handouts that governments hand out to the "right" people; they are another way of exerting control. Once you have been seduced into believing that you make a difference, you are no longer a threat to the new order. In fact, the last thing a new order wants to create is a truly "empowered" citizenry, since its very existence would become a threat to it, something no new-order government, not used to governing, more than a little unsure of itself as it grapples to get a steady hand on the levers of power, find their way through the maze-like corridors of bureaucratic establishments who use knowledge to perpetuate itself.
Making oneself indispensable is best achieved by withholding information that would make you dispensable. What the new ruling order wants is a populace that believes it has been liberated from the tyranny of apartheid, but in all other respects is as docile as they were under apartheid. The goal is not difficult to achieve: you merely encourage people to behave as they always have: government knows best, and if things go a little awry at times, there's always the legacy of apartheid to excuse every screw-up.
In the years after elections in April 1994, "the legacy of apartheid" became a veritable pretext for having to account for every malady that infected any aspect of social, political, or personal behaviour. Those who should have led by example preferred to rely on the old reliables, and any reference to "the legacy of apartheid" was sure to elicit knowing nods of understanding. The past was a virtual treasure trove with a seeming endless store of explanations for explaining the unexplainable.
In short, the function of government is not to facilitate the unlearning of behaviours that were designed to protect one from the incongruities of the apartheid regime, but to manage it so that behaviour conforms to the government's plans to restructure society, a manipulation of people's attitudes that would be, of course, contribute to their upliftment. Thus, the Masekane campaign was not focused on helping people unlearn the behaviour that was responsible for the non-payment for services in the first place – that would require the government to take responsibility for the undesirable behaviours the people clung to with resilience. Instead, the campaign was conceived in more grandiose terms, how to manage behaviour for the purpose of nation building, for birthing yet again the new South Africa.
Although the GNU has three years to turn things around, Bennett's commitment to the ANC will continue to be loyal, but less supportive if the ANC still fails to deliver on the core promises it made in 1994. The next round of elections for both the provincial legislature and the National Assembly would take place in 1999. If he was not earning more than he was earning now, and Priscilla and Theo were not at college, but were still unemployed or only working part-time jobs, if the roads outside his house were still in the same state of disrepair, and if, in general, things hadn't gotten much better and it was apparent that the ANC simply hadn't delivered, Bennett would not consider voting for a party other than the ANC, because there would be no other party he could vote for.
"If 1999 comes and the situation is still like this, ' he says, "I don't see myself voting for anyone. I won't vote for any party, I would rather go to the sea and throw myself in there to be eaten by sharks. I will go to Durban because there is no sea here; I will just go to Durban because there will be no help." Nor would he be alone in his decision not to vote: "if these three years go by and there is no change the ANC will lose a lot of votes." But having said that, he reiterated his original allegiance: "I will never vote for any other political organisation except the ANC." Not even the PAC, the one party other than the ANC that had genuine struggle credentials.
His reply, rather sombrely delivered, is cause for concern. It sheds perspective on one of the asymmetrical dimensions of the process of democratisation in South Africa. Africans associate democracy with majority; whites associate it with guarantees of power sharing. In other countries, democracy is associated with choice: the range of parties the voter can choose from. In the context of South Africa, deeply divided and polarized along ethnic and racial lines, that range of choices does not exist. No matter how disillusioned a Black might be, the odds of his turning to his oppressor of 50 years as an alternative to the ANC would be not only masochistic in the extreme, ludicrous by every of social coherence, and irrational. [see angst for old days] With a single gesture, Blacks would be giving the thumbs down to everything they had been striving to achieve for over 100 years because their government hadn't come through for them after a mere five years in office. If the spirit of ubuntu were as ingrained as Archbishop Tutu claimed, Blacks would succumb to abstentionism, at worst an expression of grass roots discontent, not a notice of divorce.
But the fact that the there appears to be no alternative to the ANC as the ruling party for the foreseeable future allows the ANC to act complacently in the knowledge that as long as it keeps the disparate parts of the tripartite alliance together, there is no political threat to its position. The more that position becomes entrenched, the more a creeping disregard for the petulancies that are the heartbeat of a thriving democracy sets; corruption and malfeasance in high places are usually not far behind.
Can you have democracy in the absence of competitive choice? Are we in the west so enamoured of our definition of what constitutes democracy that we have enjoined consideration of other possibilities for cultures that do not adhere to our norms? What, Africans, ask me, is wrong with a one party democracy as long as there is a constitution that protects the rights of the individual, a judiciary that keeps the checks and balances well-oiled, a media that enjoys full freedom of expression, and a strong civic society that acts to counterbalance the power of the state? Nothing, perhaps, other that in the long run the absence of choice has a corrosive effect that slowly diminishes rather than encourages the realignment of political forces that open societies to the fresh air of new ideas, new life, and is the best protection against the abuse of human rights and the promotion of the common good.22 [See NY times article 7 June 1999]
But even as I write these words, I am not at ease with them. They make me feel uncomfortable. My thinking is too linear, too untouched by what most poor people want and what policies and prohibitions must be implemented to meet those basic needs – policies that may be wholly undemocratic to our way of thinking and prohibitions that may violate our concepts of individual rights – compulsory testing for HIV/AIDS comes immediately to mind. Yet, these policies may be necessary in the face of massive poverty, disease, inequality, famine, endemic conflict, irredeemable debt and the mass movement of millions of refugees – 12 million in Africa alone at last count – that make nineteenth century maps of sovereign boundaries, mapped by the guiding hands of colonial avarice redundant and irrelevant. In all the conversations, I have had with an infinitesimal fraction of the millions across Africa who toll every day of their lives to stave off the constellations of disasters that surround them, I have never heard any define democracy other than in terms of the majority shall rule, and therein lies the seeds of future disasters. [see Berkeley]
There is no one perfect form of democracy. Democracy itself is an evolutionary process that arises out of the indigenous nature of different cultures. To attempt to foist 21st century concepts of democracy that have evolved over centuries muddied with blood and conflict onto societies in early stages of the evolutionary process is a prescription for regression. You cannot leapfrog evolution. IT and other technological innovations that are revolutionizing the ways we live, work, interact with each other and other countries are scientific achievements of immense importance, which we cannot fail to hail for their impact, are the engines that will drive the economies of the future, but they are idiot savants where democracy is concerned. You can leapfrog technology into developing countries and provide them with the benefits that are it's natural knock-offs, transform backward societies and guide them into the modern era, but you cannot leapfrog the value systems that underpin Judea/Christian democracies into societies that espouse different values, are culturally alien, and practice social norms that might make us squirm, and say, "This is the way you must rule yourselves if you want our money." [Uganda/Museveni/ his system/ the denouncements of recent elections/ western judgments. He was our "good" boy, but now that he is not quite living up to the way we run elections, he is becoming a "bad" boy. Perhaps we should give him a smack on the wrist and withdraw some aid. World Bank: aid dependent on "good governance. But who defines "good governance"?]
Unfortunately, the same reasoning applies to education. There is no tradition in South Africa – in the sub-Sahara-for the culture of learning, where learning is prized for it's own sake, not for the opportunities for employment education may provide. Schooling is a means to an end, not a cherished end in itself. Apartheid used education as a means of producing an assembly line of workers' with enough skills to keep South Africa's industrial economy humming, nut it did not encourage curiosity,
the sine qua non of education. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge, the grab-bag of history, philosophy, literature, art, music, religions, that provide the spiritual foundation for the development of our "internal" lives, that enrich the experience of our humanity, that allow us to balance the crass consumerism that pervades us with values that are rooted in the study of the human condition, which emerge from our familiarity with the evolution of learning itself.
Apartheid discouraged learning. Blacks had a value in the market place of commerce. To the extent that Blacks added value to commerce, the system added value to Blacks. Improving the conditions under which they were ruled, had little to do with humane considerations; they were necessary to improve Black productivity, the underbelly of white prosperity. Or as a former white South African Member of Parliament, Southey bluntly put it: "[Within white society, Africans] are only supplying a commodity, the commodity of labour… It is labour we are importing [into the white areas] and not labourers as individuals…23 Thus, education had to be managed as a process that provided Blacks with the skills that enabled them to enhance their productive capacities in an industrial era, but would not incite them to questioning the system that used them as fodder. The two objectives were, of course, incompatible. Given whites dependence on Black labour and the demographic make-up of South Africa, it was only a matter of time before apartheid collapsed under the weight of its own internal consistencies. [I have used this phrase elsewhere]
The apartheid rulers knew that an educational system that encouraged pupils to ask a question that had the word "why" as a prefix could only provoke more questioning of the way things were, and thus put in place the building blocks that would topple the apartheid edifice. Young people were not taught how to develop rich interior lives that would create a respect for one self, a self-esteem that did not measure human worth in terms of material possessions, but in the innate satisfaction and wonder of being human. The revolt that was unleashed by the Soweto Uprising of 1976 took more than a horrific toll in human life. It debased education; made learning, not struggle- indoctrination an activity that should be eschewed, a pursuit that put learning above the imperative for liberation. The slogan "liberation before education," sounded the death knell of true freedom. It encouraged the young to take matters into their own hands, bound by neither convention nor the rules of conduct that guide human beings in their interaction with each other, not because they necessarily want to, but because they understand that unless they do, they jeopardize their own existence. South Africans know little of the history of Africa, of the great African civilizations that flourished before the advent – and triumph -- of the Christian/Judea civilization; there is no continuity of historical or cultural connection. History began with the arrival of the white man.
But the point is that in a post liberation situation, the young "disciples" of the struggle had little conception of what freedom meant, other than not being under the jackboot of the white man; no idea of what liberation meant, other than not having to do what the white man told you to do; no idea of what democratisation required, other than vague notions of being as well-off as the white man, a decidedly undemocratic figure. They tore down an educational system they despised without any idea of what education entailed. They had no educational system of their own that would encourage them to abandon the destructive practices that had characterized their attitudes toward education, no understanding of the necessity for discipline, no appreciation of the learning process itself. And little incentive to change their ways. If the odds were overwhelmingly against you that matriculation would not open the way to a job or a university education why bother? Or, in a more personal sense, what were you bothering for.
Hence Thabo Mbeki's call for an African Renaissance. Addressing the United Nations he made the case for the rediscovery of the African legacy to humanity. His speech was a sustained d effort to create a past that existed centuries before colonialism, a past that was obliterated by colonialism and its aftermath. The Renaissance provides the textural framework in which Africans can "rediscover" their true selves, in which Africa's rich and multifaceted cultures, stretching across millenniums into the earliest times of recorded history are the equal of Europe's aggrandizement of its cultural heritages.
It provides the core for Africans to develop and explore their inner lives.
…. some who harbor the view that as Africans we are a peculiar species of humanity pose the challenge: How dare they speak of an African Renaissance? After all, in the context of the evolution of the European peoples, when we speak of the Renaissance, we speak of advances in science and technology, voyages of discovery across the oceans, a revolution in printing and an attendant spread, development and flowering of knowledge and a blossoming of the arts.
The question must arise about how we do we hope to emulate the great human achievements of the earlier Renaissance of the Europe of the 15th and 16th centuries?
One of our answers to this question is that, as Africans, we recall the fact that as the European Renaissance burst into history in the 15th and 16th centuries, there was a royal court in the African city of Timbuktu which, in the same centuries, was as learned as its European counterparts.
What this tells me is that my people are not a peculiar species of humanity! I say this here today both because it is true, but also because I know that you, the citizens of this ancient land, will understand its true significance. And as we speak of an African Renaissance, we project into both the past and the future. I speak here of a glorious past of the emergence of Homo sapiens on the African continent.
I speak of African works of art in South Africa that are a thousand years old. I speak of the continuum in the fine arts that encompasses the varied artistic creations of the Nubians and the Egyptians, the Benin bronzes of Nigeria and the intricate sculptures of the Makonde of Tanzania and Mozambique. I speak of the centuries-old contributions to the evolution of religious thought made by the Christians of Ethiopia and the Muslims of Nigeria.
I refer also to the architectural monuments represented by the giant sculptured stones of Aksum in Ethiopia, the Egyptian sphinxes and pyramids, the Tunisian city of Carthage, and the Zimbabwe ruins, as well as the legacy of the ancient universities of Alexandria of Egypt, Fez of Morocco and, once more, Timbuktu of Mali. When I survey all this and much more besides, I find nothing to sustain the long-held dogma of African exceptionalism, according to which the colour Black becomes a symbol of fear, evil and death.
I speak of this long-held dogma because it continues still to weigh down the African mind and spirit, like the ton of lead that the African slave carries on her own shoulders, producing in her and the rest a condition which, in itself, contests any assertion that she is capable of initiative, creativity, individuality, and entrepreneurship. Its weight dictates that she will never straighten her back and thus discover that she is as tall as the slave master who carries the whip. Neither will she have the opportunity to question why the master has legal title both to the commodity she transports on her back and the labour she must make available to ensure that the burden on her shoulders translates into dollars and yen.
An essential and necessary element of the African Renaissance is that we all must take it as our task to encourage she, who carries this leaden weight, to rebel, to assert the principality of her humanity -- the fact that she, in the first instance, is not a beast of burden, but a human and African being.
But whence and whither this confidence? I would dare say that that confidence, in part, derives from a rediscovery of ourselves, from the fact that, perforce, as one would who is critical of oneself, we have had to undertake a voyage of discovery into our own antecedents, our own past, as Africans. And when archeology presents daily evidence of an African primacy in the historical evolution to the emergence of the human person described in science as homo sapiens, how can we be but confident that we are capable of effecting Africa's rebirth?
When the world of fine arts speak to us of the creativity of the Nubians of Sudan and its decisive impact on the revered and everlasting imaginative creations of the African land of the Pharaohs -- how can we be but confident that we will succeed to be the midwives of our continent's rebirth? And when we recall that African armies at Omduraman in the Sudan and Isandhlwana in South Africa out-generalled, out-soldiered and defeated the mighty armies of the mighty and arrogant British Empire in the seventies of the last century, how can we be but confident that through our efforts, Africa will regain her place among the continents of our universe?
And in the end, an entire epoch in human history, the epoch of colonialism and white foreign rule, progressed to its ultimate historical burial grounds because, from Morocco and Algeria to Guinea Bissau and Senegal, from Ghana and Nigeria to Tanzania and Kenya, from the Congo and Angola to Zimbabwe and South Africa, the Africans dared to stand up to say the new must be born, whatever the sacrifice we have to make -- Africa must be free!
We are convinced that such a people has a legitimate right to expect of itself that it has the capacity to set itself free from the oppressive historical legacy of poverty, hunger, backwardness and marginalisation in the struggle to order world affairs, so that all human civilisation puts as the principal objective of its existence the humane existence of all that is human!
And again we come back to the point that we, who are our own liberators from imperial domination, cannot but be confident that our project to ensure the restoration not of empires, but the other conditions in the 16th century described by Leo Africanus: of peace, stability, prosperity, and intellectual creativity, will and must succeed! The simple phrase "We are our own liberators!" is the epitaph on the gravestone of every African who dared to carry the vision in his or her heart of Africa reborn.
The conviction therefore that our past tells us that the time for Africa's Renaissance has come, is fundamental to the very conceptualization of this Renaissance and the answer to the question: Whence this confidence? Unless we are able to answer the question "Who were we?" we will not be able to answer the question "What shall we be?" This complex exercise, which can be stated in simple terms, links the past to the future and speaks to the interconnection between an empowering process of restoration and the consequences or the response to the acquisition of that newly restored power to create something new.24
"Are there any circumstances at all," I ask Bennett, "under which you could ever see himself voting for the National Party? "No, I couldn't even dream of that, " he answers, rather aghast that I would even put such a question to him. Never? "Truly I will never. Any white organisation I will never, ever vote for." So much for non-racialism.
" Does this mean that when the National Party goes into Black communities, thinking that it can get Black votes is it really fooling itself completely?" "Yes," says Bennett.
According to me I don't think that the National Party can get any votes in the townships. For 48 years the National Party failed to give us a better life. I don't see how it can change and give us a better life now, so I don't value the National Party in any way. They have failed and I don't think there is any Black person who really could have any hope that the National Party would change things."
And as for the IFP: " I will never vote for the IFP; the IFP is in an alliance with the Boers." An interesting response since all the parties in the GNU were, on paper, at least, in alliance with each other. But, as they say, "all politics are local, " and it is more likely, Bennett was recalling the violence in Tokoza when supporters of the ANC were convinced that the SAP (Interestingly, Bennett had been more inclined to point to the SADF) and the IFP members of the Zulus (the Self Protection Units – SPUs) in the hostels were colluding with each other to destroy the ANC's presence in Thokoza. Elections, which in "normal" democracies pit political parties against each other as they vie for votes, often vigorously and sometimes viciously but always within the parameters of the given "rules of engagement," polarize in divided societies. Surface niceties are stripped away; antagonisms not yet resolved reignite old hatreds; our nakedness becomes self-revealing.
Bennett's certainty reminded me of two stories, one told to me by Linda Twala,25 the "unofficial mayor" of Alexandra, the Black township with some 300,000 people squashed into its narrow confines [measurements] that abuts Johannesburg – a Black ghetto within the confines of Johannesburg that is home to 300,000 Blacks squashed into a half square mile – the most densely populated square half mile in all of South Africa. The National Party, in an effort to reach out to Black voters and put its discredited past behind it, announced that it would hold an election rally in Alex (a brave decision had the party reflected for a moment on how it had dehumanised the residents through the plethora of apartheid laws it had forced the them to comply with over 48 years; the fact that the NP was incapable of engaging in that kind of introspection only reinforced the perception that it had not come to grips with the enormity of its inhumane policies and considered the slate wiped clean with the release of Mandela, unbanning of the liberation organizations and repeal of apartheid laws. In some bizarre and twisted way, the NP believed that Blacks "owed" them something; that without the party's "munificent" gestures, Blacks would not be enjoying the "liberties" they could now freely practice without the threat of being detained indefinitely for unspecified crimes).
Local residents in Alex came to Linda to seek his advice: should they attend the National Party rally?
Always the pragmatist, Linda dispensed the following counsel: since the NP would want to make a good impression and show their appreciation for Blacks who turned out, it was more than likely that the event would be more like a hospitality gathering than a formal political rally. Hence, the NP would go all out and put on an impressive spread – ample food for everyone, soft drinks, sandwiches, and pastries – a virtual feast. As many Alex as possible should attend the rally and bring with them as many bags – paper, plastic, whatever would serve as a container. They should stuff the bags with food, listen politely to what the NP had to say, go home, enjoy the food and forget about the NP. Linda's strategy worked brilliantly. The crowd overflowed. The NP acted more as a caterer than a political party. Being polite people, the residents dutifully listened to what NP candidates had to say, took their promises with the proverbial grain of salt, and then they made their way home loaded down with bags of food that would last them for days. The practical triumphed over the political.
A couple of weeks later I was interviewing one of the NP's campaign managers. He couldn't wait to tell me of the breakthrough the NP made in Alex; its rally had attracted hundreds, there was no hostility towards the party; indeed, the residents had listened attentively to what the party candidates had to say and even applauded when they finished speaking. On all accounts a smashing success, the NP's message was getting across in the Black community; after eighteen months of waiting for the ANC to fulfil even its most elemental election promises, it appeared that substantial number of Blacks were highly disillusioned and were prepared to consider voting for a NP that now disavowed apartheid and all that it stood for. Bringing things full circle, NP dignitaries lined up to condemn the malpractices of the past, although they were careful not to apologize or to say that apartheid was wrong and immoral; rather it continued to be seen, even among reformers in the NP as a "noble" experiment that had gone "wrong" and in going wrong it became an instrument of unwarranted suffering for millions of Blacks.
But the wrongs inflicted had not been intended; they were the accidental fallout of poorly designed, hastily implemented, and badly administered policies. Even in 1996, whites could not bring themselves to face the truth: apartheid had not just been wrong; it had been evil. Whites could not give it a moral context, and thus continued to take comfort in denial. Denial was not confined to "ordinary" whites. When I put the question directly to Johannes Heyns,26 a former moderator in the Dutch Reformed Church in 199x, a man who had played a crucial behind-the scenes- role during negotiations, he equivocated: [ insert from interview with Heyns in 199?]
Bennett has not lost hope.
Like I said, I am expecting that in the third year we should see some changes. If I may give an example, in 1948 when the National Party took over it promised the white people that it would give them a better life, and it did that. Therefore I am also expecting that the ANC should do the same. They should fulfil all those things that they promised us and give us a better life. In a few years an open-minded person will see the direction that the country is taking; they will see the changes. Whites have enjoyed a lot more than Blacks, but I think that as the years go by people will see a lot of changes. Black people are in the majority. White people because of their numbers have benefited a lot from the previous government. But since there are so many Black people, it will take time to spread the benefits from the government.
In short, if the Afrikaner could turn things around for his people in a short space of time, what excuse could the ANC have for not being able to do the same for its own? The legacy the Afrikaner left to Blacks was enshrined in the model Blacks should emulate in order to empower themselves. One aspect of the "legacy of apartheid" that the ANC adopted with almost unseemly alacrity was stuffing state bureaucracies and parastatals with as many of their own as possible and the wholesale application of affirmative action. Of course, in 1948, the phrase had not yet existed, but the Afrikaner got the gist of the idea within months of assuming power, and leveraged it into total control of the state's bureaucracies within two years.
Now, we are witnessing the reverse, which at first was a little more complicated because the November 1993 settlement guaranteed whites that they would not lose their tenure in the civil service and parastatals. But tenure did not mean position and as competent Blacks were recruited, whites were shunted aside, but the shunting was always done adroitly. On the one hand, the emerging Black public servants while possessing academic pedigrees of the first order knew nothing of the intricacies that were involved in running a government, how bureaucracies worked --or didn't, how orders from the top got misplaced, how the miasma of rules and regulations required to carry out the most simple task could throttle the best laid plans, how the recommendations of impressive White Papers were never implemented, how delivery of services were mysteriously jettisoned. On the other hand, the Afrikaners who had mastered every aspect of bureaucratisation and could find their way blindfolded through the paper trails that had to accompany every official act were needed; the old boys would show the new boys how things got done – or, as important didn't get done. In this regard there was a symbiosis of interests; having due regard for each others' concerns smoothed the transition, albeit the government never ceased to put the finger of blame on "the old guard" within the state administration as a "third force" still out to prove that Blacks couldn't run governments. When conspiracies began to run out of currency, you simply recharged the batteries.
The new order needed the expertise of the old, if the new order was ever to make good on its promises to its constituents. Many in key positions were bought out with lucrative severance they simply could not refuse27 and were subsequently hired for hefty sums as 'consultants' to the people who had replaced them. Thus, official figures as to who occupied what position in the bureaucracies always showed a steady increase in the number of Blacks in prominent positions. The cost of severance packages and consultants who facilitated this happy state of affairs could be found in the small print under an asterisk.
I found it intriguing that Blacks kept returning to the issue of the ANC's unkept promises. They understood -- and accepted --the ANC's explanation that it had underestimated the monumental effort it would take to dismantle the old order and install a new one, one that would be responsive to Black needs; it had assumed that ample government resources were available and could be speedily redeployed; it got entangled in the bureaucratic tape that strangled the process of consolidating 14 departments of everything into a single national department for each line function. None of these obstacles had been anticipated. And neither had the implications that would accompany these amalgamations.
(This wasn't quite true. The ANC feigned an ignorance regarding the true state of the economy when it assumed office; tirelessly insisting that they were shocked to find, on assuming power, how perilously close the country was to bankruptcy. On the contrary, Derek Keys,28 Mr. De Klerk's last Minister of Finance and President Mandela's first had gone to each of them in ???? and issued a blunt warning to both: the state of the country's finances was precarious and could not withstand further extended breakdowns in negotiations. He presented them with the uncompromising data: the country was teetering on the brink of financial collapse. Unless the two men put their differences aside and promptly, there wouldn't be much of a South Africa left for the "winner" to rule.)
Blacks preoccupation with unkept promises, I came to believe, was a germane ingredient of what their preconceived notions of what democracy was, preconceptions that were based on abstractions they associated with the word rather than with familiarity with the modalities of how it was practiced. In 'mature" democracies, voters know that during election campaigns all parties make extravagant promises they would be incapable of meeting, were they elected. Promises are put in a context: they are part of the paraphernalia parties draw on to woo voters; voters, having been through this ritual on numerous occasions, view these promises with a sceptic's eye at best, a cynic's at worst. No one is deceived. If anything, they are slightly amused with a "there-they –go-again" attitude.
Devotees of the belief that you can fool some of the people some of the time, political parties try to lure swing voters with promises that are direct reflections of what these voters have identified as their pressing interests in protracted opinion polling. Hence the last minute "promise whatever you have to" avalanche of advertisements in the closing stages of campaigns. But does anyone really believe that these promises will become the agenda of a new government? Few do, and fewer still expect them to.
Voters don't on the basis of promises that will be mysteriously transmogrified into new realities. They look for other criteria to guide their promises.
The word "watershed" has been so overused in describing the April '94 elections in South Africa that it has elevated itself into the cache of frequently called upon clichés. So much attention has been paid to the fact that Blacks were finally emancipated, free for the first time in their history to exercise the right to vote, that the context in which the elections took place received little attention. Pundits like breaking history, not deciphering the multiplicity of backgrounds that shape it.
For the first time Blacks were exposed to the full sweep of a modern political campaign. They had no parallel to draw upon to give it context. For the first time they heard Black people make promises on their behalf, an experience that had no wellspring in their consciousness. They had no context in which to assimilate the politics of the last promise. They had no assimilative skills, no prior knowledge of how to process the firestorm of manifestos, rallies, political propaganda, and incessant barrage of political messages that assaulted them from every quarter. They had no base line they could use to judge the feasibility of the promises recklessly made, of the capacities that existed to put flesh on their bones, of the infrastructures that existed to ensure their implementation. Democracy and promises became synonymous.
If a context did exist, it was the context of knowing what whites had, of how they lived, of the taken-for granted amenities that enveloped them. Blacks had to reduce the ANC's promises to something they could understand: the ANC were promising to give them what whites already had. And, after eighteen months of government characterized by stumbling but well meaning efforts, all, including the ANC were beginning to slowly realize that they had created an illusory world, and had to make the difficult and arduous journey to the real one.
Silas, translator for the day, spells it out for me:
In Randburg I used to work in Access Control System Company and my manager used to say, 'well Silas when you take over the government, then you can take everything that I have. I don't have anything - I have a company car and I have a boat. The house that I am living in is also a rented house, it's not mine, so there is nothing to take from me." But I did have this thing in my mind that when we took over the government then I am going to look for the best car in town. I would go to Sandton and just claim a house there. I would say to the white owners, 'well this is a beautiful house. I am giving you two days to move out because I need this house.'
We were leaving to visit some other people in the area who had expressed an interest in sharing their views on the ongoing political situation and things in general. Before we leave Bennett has a specific request to make: "I have this problem with these children [Theo and Priscilla], " he says "who cannot get bursaries and I would make a special request that if you could try and maybe help us through other contacts or whatever to get bursaries for these children, I would appreciate it." That is my request. I told him I would have to have copies of their matriculation certificates. He did not have them on hand, but would try to locate them. And there was one more thing: he was also interested in finding out if life in the U.S. is better than life in South Africa or not.
As we were about to leave the conversation began to free-flow. Sam XXXX, who had accompanied Silas and listening attentively to Bennett, chimes in,
When Mandela was released; I remember that day thinking, "let's just clear all the white people out. I mean there was this happiness, but also anger and I started to see that the white man was not as strong as we had thought he was. But after a couple of weeks things just started to settle down, and that's when all the violence erupted. We had to concentrate on ending the violence rather than thinking about where the country was heading.
But now we are seeing something totally different; everybody is concerned about their own lives, even though there are a lot of people still unemployed. However, I suppose it is better to be unemployed than employed and dead! . You have only got one life. So even if I was unemployed I would complain a lot but I would still be thankful that I was alive. I am thankful that I am still alive and able to see the changes that are taking place.
Silas offers his own two cents:
You know, I also I had all these ideas, like one day I am going to own this company that I used to work for. I mean the treatment that we received was not good. I had all these things built in my mind and I said one day these people, they will take orders from me. When Chris Hani29 was assassinated I said to myself, 'well this man Mandela says we should channel our anger, it means he is trying to depoliticise us when he tells us about channelling our anger. Then I said, well this old man is really taking us somewhere where and we really don't like it. But now I can see he is a great statesman and I think he has saved this country. I just wish him well.
Mandela is a great man. Some of the white people working with him they say they thank Mandela. They hope that Mandela won't die because if Mandela dies then this country is going to collapse. All these people who are coming up behind him just want to throw the white people out of the country. But white people want to keep Mandela alive in order to keep the country as it is because they can see there have been changes both from the National Party and the ANC.
Intrinsic inner lives beginning to stir?
The problem that I have with this new government is that they are turning people into criminals like the members of the self-defence units (SDUs) In Orange Farm30 at times there were people who killed other people and these SDUs would come and kill that person or discipline that person. Now they are being taken to court and taken to jail and they are being seen as criminals, whereas to me they are not criminals. The police are not able to solve some of these crimes and when the people in the SDUs help to solve crime they are treated as criminals and taken to jail -- even those who are doing good things, like stopping the crime level in the townships.
I'm telling you what it's like. There are people that I know who they have never been to any factory or any organisation. Since they have been in the townships they never worked anywhere. All they know is how is how to steal cars. It's something like it's their profession. So when you tell that kind of a person and say, 'well NDI31 has got some vacancies can you come in and work with us,' he will definitely tell you, 'no, I don't want to go and work there,' even though he doesn't make a lot of money out of stealing cars.
But the idea that he is there, that he can unlock a car, he can do things, he has a gun in his hand; it makes him feel strong.
I think we still have a lot of things to do, but I am still not quite happy right now because our situation is really going to take a much longer time than we think before things will really change.
When we used to organise after Mandela was released from jail, he would say things like 'throw your pangas into the sea.' But the people who were working with us at the grass roots told us, "It's okay. When Mandela says these things in the stadium, it's not what you as activists have to do. You have to use your own discretion because Mandela is going to be the State President and he can't just go and say, 'well, kill the criminal or do whatever. You in the townships have your own judgement to make.'
People who were involved in action used their own discretion, but in general people would take what was being said in the newspapers or whatever and say, "well this man (Mandela) is mad."
Some people didn't even know that Mandela is such a tough guy that when he says something he cannot reverse it, he doesn't go back. We had people who came to us who were in jail with Mandela and they would tell us stories. One old man told us that Mandela once slapped him and he also says that on one occasion even Sisulu32 was slapped by Mandela. Mandela was a boxer; and he's a tough guy. Some of us don't know that he is such a tough person. We always see him as a person who is very soft, who addresses the fears of the white people, and who wants change to happen but in way that is not very drastic.
Bennett, who has been quite while Sam and Silas were talking, gets back into the discussion. He harps on a theme that I am hearing more frequently:
The National Party changed everything within a few years one it came to power. It had its own people to draw on. The ANC is now the majority party; they hold everything. The ANC is in power and the question is whether the ANC will use its power, just as the National Party did before it, to make the changes it wants to make and put its own people in positions that ensure the changes the ANC wants to take place are carried out.
In other African countries, whites pulled out once Blacks took over. They went back to their countries; people closed their businesses or sold them. In South Africa, whites don't want to pull out and go back to their countries because most of them have no countries to go back to. Everybody will get a job but slowly. And people will have houses. We are humans and we don't do exactly the same things at the same time, like the Old Man says. It takes a long time, but the people must get their equal rates.
That's why I said I do respect de Klerk, because he was only the man in the parliament who knew that the day was coming when the Black people were going to lead us. Mr Pik Botha33 said to Mr P W Botha, when he was Premier that he wouldn't mind serving in a government under a Black Prime Minister or President. The ministers in parliament knew it; they knew what was coming. They knew that Black people were going to rule this country one day.
Africans are ruling the whole of Africa; it's only South Africa that was being ruled by white people and the people in other African countries were helping us. They were trying to help the ANC because most of the people in the ANC ran away from this country. Now the country is in the hands of Black people.
I like the way the ANC is doing things with us. We were sort of like what you would call "radicals," where the only thing that we wanted was to follow in the steps of Mozambique or the other African countries that had liberated themselves from colonial rule through armed struggle. At one stage I knew all the farmers in the southern part of Johannesburg, knew each farmer in that area and how he has been treating farm workers; which farmer is the best farmer, which one is a bad farmer. We could go and just kill the bad farmer like they used to do in Zimbabwe. But then I got talking to people from Zambia and they would tell us, "look, guys, the best thing you can do is to hit the AWB with a big fine when it does something to someone so that their organisation becomes bankrupt, and I think that is what is happening right now. The AWB is still there; but only in name.
What I was saying is that when this right wing organisation, when they do things like killing people, for example, the houses of the Mxopo people were burnt down and their cars smashed by the AWB. Terre'Blanche had to pay a lot of money to those people.34 Although individually people didn't get a lot of money, some people got R1000-00 or so, but by fining the AWB every time they engage in these acts we will make sure that the that the capacity of the AWB will be further diminished because they will not have money to buy more guns or to manufacture more guns since they will be paying all these fines.
Any time that a Terre'Blanche decides to call me a kaffir, I will take him to court and get him fined rather than fighting the white person who says something bad to me. One day I wanted to fight with our Manager but I decided that it would be wiser not to challenge him, because if I did I might kill him, and my challenging him, therefore, wouldn't be worth the price. I would go to jail -- this government also sends people to jail -- then what about my children?
The only remedy that I have when he says something bad to me is to take him to court and get him fined. He will learn that if he does something bad to a Black person the next day, then he might be taken to court and arrested or maybe fined a lot of money. That will make him think twice. So, I think this is a right way of doing things because killing people also calls for a lot of things.
In the townships we used to do it and even now people still do it like with car hijackers, but it's never a very good experience. I saw people being burned, someone being given petrol to drink and given a cigarette to light; he will be given a light and then he just goes in flames. Some of these people, or most of these people really were bad people, hardened criminals, people who would be beaten up. You would think that when he stands up there [before he is burned] he would say, "Well guys, ' I'm sorry I did this." But no, instead he will just swear at you and say bad things and if you leave him like that he will continue to do what he has been doing.
One day I was telling someone that in Orange Farm there were two boys who were twin brothers. They killed this woman, she was pregnant and they killed her. Actually before they killed her they raped her and then after that they killed her, they opened her tummy to see where the child was placed. Then when they were found they were burnt alive. It's never a very good scene to watch a person burning but it sends a message to criminals because our legal system is a laugh. If someone gets arrested for killing someone, in a week's time that person is back again on the streets, either paid bail or maybe he's paid off the police or the investigating officer, and then the case just ends nowhere.
My younger brother now has got a case. People came into his house; they took a TV set, the video, the radio. He went to the police station to report. Nothing has been done. It's now over four weeks since he reported the incident. I had to phone the senior Police in the Vaal and say can something be done because we have the car registrations. I tracked down the address of those people, their phone number and everything. I even phoned to confirm that they had such a car and then I gave all that information to the police but still they wouldn't act and I am still waiting. They are still investigating. So the police are failing. Like I was saying to my brother, as brothers now what do we do? We will give the police some extra time; then if they don't do anything we will have to go there ourselves. Whether those guys would shoot us or we manage to shoot them first t will depend. But that's the situation. I even went to the place where these guys are staying and asked their neighbours what kind of people are staying in this house? They said, " Well these are car hi-hackers who are staying there and these guys can shoot you in front of the police." You can go anywhere in the Vaal, report them to any police station in the Vaal Triangle, they will never be arrested. Even if you can get an honest policeman, he will write down the docket, try and investigate, but when it gets to the top the top guys will tell them that that group is untouchable, leave them alone.
They are untouchable, not because the police are being bribed or accepting kickbacks to turn a blind eye, but because they are working hand-in-hand with the police. A fraternity of sorts; what national negotiators in the recent past were fond of calling "win-win" situations, not, of course in the context of the of criminal exchange that regulate the marketplace between criminals, gangs, syndicates, and their official accomplices. Everything has a price, and for a price anything can be accomplished.
The taxi industry regularly implodes, consumed by regular shoot-outs at taxi ranks where the victims are invariably innocent bystanders, or kamikaze-like attacks on speeding freeways by drivers on other drivers, each carrying full loads of passengers, avaricious operators hell bent on butchering each other to secure routes. The rationale in many cases was explicable: a taxi–owner who either "discovered " or had assiduously cultivated a certain route regarded either as his. If other drivers began to "invade" his territory, it was tantamount to stealing the fruits of a man's hard work; he moved quickly to dissuade them. Nothing better than a bullet in the head to convey seriousness of intent. And if it required that passengers should be reminded of who "owned" the routes they were travelling, a splattering of shots from AK47s would concentrate their minds and a smattering of bullet-ridden corpses littering the taxi stands at peak hours would shock passengers to their senses: you did not patronize those who stole from you.
Adding to the malaise is the extent of police involvement; the very people who were supposed to regulate relations between competing taxi groups owned at least ten per cent of all taxis.35 Corruption is systemic, and thus not receptive to band-aid solutions. Police corruption is so pervasive that it is not unusual to find police officers charged with crimes released on bail because the police shortage is so acute; a man in a police uniform, even if corrupt, is more of a deterrent to crime than the absence of any police presence whatsoever. A bewildering situation, but not one without its own perverse logic.
[shades 98/ questions for George Fivaz]
My brother knows a lot of policemen who come to the shebeen and say, "well, here we have a 9 mm, we will sell it for R800-00, or we have a Z99 or whatever you need." For an AK47, the going price is in the region of R900-00. That's what you would pay, and there was never any shortage of takers.
The situation is still a long way from being right, because the police take some of the prisoners they are holding and go housebreaking with them. I have a friend who was arrested for bank robbery, and while he was in jail the prisoners in his cellblock were taken out in a police van to go and do housebreaking. The police would escort the prisoners and say, "this is the shop that you need to break into," Then they would cover these guys and the police would keep watch as the prisoners who were supposedly in their custody, went in and took whatever was there. Then from there they were taken them back to their cells where they are locked up again.
It's a very difficult situation for the people: it's either we as the people start acting on our own, because the way car hijackers are being shot at these days shows that people have lost confidence in the police. They see that the police are not doing anything; cars are being just hi-jacked. Sometimes you go to a police station at night; you report a case that has just happened; they will tell you they can't go into the township at night, they are also scared for their lives. So that's why people turn out and say, "Well, okay, let's do it ourselves."
In our case, if I go with my brother to where these guys live and we managed to burn their house down and kill whoever is there, we would be arrested and looked upon as criminals. The court wouldn't hear that we had made every effort we could to try to get this matter solved in a legal way. The case was reported just after it happened but the police didn't take any action. Right now four weeks have gone by. Where would the police get that TV now? They would not get it anywhere and there would be no evidence or anything so the whole case would just be dropped like that. So that's why we say, "Okay, we will go to court and if these guys are find R30-00 or given 30 days, it's OK." But if nothing happens, then we will do it ourselves, even if we are branded as criminals.
That's why I said it's a pity that this government also doesn't look into the nature of cases. People are being arrested for doing good things. The government just look at people as criminals and say, "well, you've killed someone.' They don't see your action as being OK; yes, you killed this person because you were trying to resolve a crime the police refused to, or you were trying to save the community. It's just a pity.
[Silas and vigilante groups/ ex SDUs/ collapse of policing/ pervasive corruption/ collusion between police and prisoners being held/ Silas' indifference to the value of life/ if the police wouldn't do the job, you shot, burned, or otherwise exterminated the bugger/ not only eliminated that problem and precluded permanently the deceased's further perusal of his anti-social activities, it sent a message to would-be adventurers contemplating similar careers]
I can' help but wonder is Bennett listening to Silas, absorbing what he is saying. Whether he is as confident now that when Theo and Priscilla are out at night, there is nothing to worry about. The policemen who occasionally – if ever -- patrol his section of Thokoza are the same police who colluded with the IFP, or so they were told, a mere four years ago. Has all changed? Changed utterly? I am surprised at his naivety.
I am anxious to go and visit Silas' friends. He is a little more reluctant: "As long as you think it will be safe for us to drive around the township at this time," he says, but not very enthusiastically. I point to Bennett and say jokingly, "Gee, Bennett has just finished telling us that this is the safest place on earth!" Not quite, Bennett answers, he had added caveats: you do not go into the Penduka area.
His area is safe to walk at any time but that if you go into the Penduka area, the borderline area between the residential area that is heavily pro-ANC and the hostels, that are still heavily pro IFP, then they will they will start asking you, who are you, where do you come from? And things can get nasty.
The opportunity slips. Bennett, for one, doesn't like to walk the streets at night, at least not in the company of white people. I have always considered it one of the great contradictions of apartheid's collapse. When apartheid laws were on the books, it was, of course, illegal for a white person to enter an African designated area. The Afrikaner, using his moral mathematics, sought ideological consistency. Thus, if Blacks were denied access to white areas unless they had permits granting them permission to be there for a stated purpose and the nature and duration of their business, a similar set of criteria should apply to white people who wanted to enter Black areas. Without the stamped papers authorizing entry, whites that visited townships were in violation of the law. Not that the government made a practice of enforcing it. But it could always point to the reciprocity of the arrangements to make the point that racial segregation and racism were two different things. If Blacks were not free to travel wherever they wanted to, neither were whites. Separate, yes, but equal too. These paper distinctions no doubt made whites feel that theirs was a democratic state, governed by the rule of law. Being misunderstood didn't mean being wrong.
Bennett and I are at it again, measuring the minutiae of what might come under the rubric of change, tabulating the visible signs of incremental change, looking for the institution-building structures that are evidence of transformation across the width and breath of society, and listening for the plangent clamors of civil society, the fourth pillar of democracy,36 as it flexes its muscles. In June, after the Constituent Assembly, had passed the country's permanent constitution, de Klerk took his party out of the GNU since the final constitution made no provisions for mandated power-sharing after the 1999 elections. Henceforth it would seat itself in parliament as the Official Opposition.
But Bennett is in no mood today for discussing the ups and downs of democratic transitions. For the moment, he has had it with the platitudes that keep emanating from "official sources." Bennett, to put it mildly is sick of waiting for change. After two and a half years in office, the mid point of its term, the government has little to show the masses that much has changed for the many. " Nothing's changed," "Nothing?"
That's true because since the ANC took over with promises of what they would give to the people, that it was going to create some jobs, build houses and lift the standard of living for Black people. As Black people we've tried with all our power to vote for ANC. But now the things are going, what's happening, we don't see the ANC as having done anything for our people, for the people who voted for the ANC. Now our people are beginning to get worked up, even I am starting to think that the old government of South Africa were much better than what the ANC is doing after all their promises, because there is nothing happening. Now what I think is that it would be better if the National Party, which ruled with the ANC, were still part of the government. The National Party more or less was doing something for Black people.
I am, to say the least, dumfounded. Bennett believes the National Party did more for Blacks than the ANC? He would like to see the National Party return to government? "Are you saying," I ask him, "that you think you would be better off if you had the National Party in government?"
At the moment what we are seeing? What is the ANC doing now? I am thinking -- I'm not thinking for other people, at the moment I'm thinking for myself. The National Party oppressed Black people but they were also trying to give some Black people something to live on; now with the ANC, I don't see any action on their part to improve the way in which we have been living.
Now it's almost three years now since the ANC took over, we haven't seen anything change in our area. We are still living as though there was apartheid, because nothing has been changed, nothing. People still are starving, people are out of jobs, people haven't houses, people are living in shacks. The ANC promised, promised they would give people houses, that people would get jobs, that people would get all these things, but now you see Black people are still suffering.
Now, speaking on my own behalf, in the next election I think I will be the first one or one of the ones to vote for the National Party. They might do something for Black people because they were trying before. Mr. de Klerk is the man who tried to organize everything with the ANC. The ANC can do something together with the National Party, but the ANC people are on top now, they are getting bigger salaries. The people in the bottom division, we are struggling, but we voted for the ANC in the hope that they would help us; but nothing happened.
Has he brought these issues up with anyone?
We do go to the ANC meetings and talk to them. But the people we elected to our local government –our local councilors –have nothing to show us. We elected them to improve our areas and to give us some power, but most of these people left the townships, they went to the suburbs.
They took their salaries and moved of the area. We voted for them to become councilors for local government because we need a better standard of living. We believed that everything -- our streets, schools, and crèches would be upgraded, but now nothing has happened. We see no evidence that the ANC is doing something for Black people. We vote for the ANC because we know that the ANC is for Blacks, that it is the organization for Blacks. In years past the ANC was banned because it was trying to fight for Black people; and Black people tried by all means to fight for all these things. When it comes to the election we stood for the ANC because they know how much Black people suffered under apartheid.
But we are still living under apartheid. They are living in better houses, they are right on top, and they are getting what they want. We are the people on the grassroots who didn't get anything. So what I am saying, on my behalf, is that I am really disappointed. With the next election, if possible, I don't know, whether I will vote or not because the ANC has got another two years to go now before the next election.
Mr. Mandela has said that he is not staying, but that things are changing. I believe he should resign. For these three years, two and a half years, I'm sorry, but there is nothing he has done to my area.[syndrome: if things have changed, then others have benefited, not me] I can see what they are doing to other places, what they build, but in our areas, nothing. This is the area where there was a big struggle, it's where everything began, where people for the ANC fought the IFP. It's where everything began and we fought for the ANC. Our sons, our brothers, mothers, sisters and friends have died. We lost our children, everything.
Now, the people who fled and left their homes have started to come back, but the IFP is threatening to fight them because they say they won't have a place to live if they have to give up the houses they moved into when their owners fled to other places. But the owners are returning and they want their houses back. The places the IFP people occupy at the moment is not their place and the ANC is trying to get the people out of these houses and give the houses back to their owners.
But what I am saying? Am I talking to the ANC about they are promising to do, what they are promising these people? They were saying you're going to get this, you're going to get that and you're going get it. Then they are going to say, but we couldn't get it.
Things haven't improved much for Priscilla and Theo either. They haven't been able to get bursaries to go to college.
That is a burning question for me because I haven't been able to pay to get my children into university. I thought that I was going to get a better job, and unfortunately I couldn't get it. At the moment the job where I'm working is only the job where I can earn enough to feed them, but I couldn't afford - they can't go to the College here, they can't go to the University because I've got no money. I'm working at the moment and make enough where I am working to live in this space only.
Have they had any luck in getting jobs?
BB. They tried themselves to get a job, but couldn't. A neighbor was able to get Priscilla a job fin some hairdressing business. And then? Well, she took him to where she works and he has a part time job only. They earn a living where they can buy some clothes. Until, by myself, if I come right, I will get a bit of money then I can let them go through, go to the University, go to the College. Priscilla did apply for a bursary. She is still waiting for replies back. Also Theo. He applied for a bursary but he couldn't get a reply back again. But I promised him, I said wait for me, the sooner the better, I will try to help you because I don't want you to end up on what you've got. You must go further because tomorrow you're going to be the people who will help the other people.
[Where has Bennett's vehement angry at the ANC come from? For him the waiting is over. The ANC hasn't delivered. He is tired of them making promises and then finding some reason why they could not keep them. Councilors don't live in the townships, but once they had their well-appointed jobs they took off for the suburbs and were infrequently seen in the townships. They may as well be strangers. He continues to hope that he will find a better job, but why does he think the new job will provide him with the means to go to Technikon? His homily to Theo suggests that if he were to get enough money to make college possible, Theo – son, eldest, comrade, is first in line. Priscilla's only chance is a bursary. Is this her second, third application. Her fate may already be sealed. Are they working in Alberton? Bennett continues to hope, but gloom, disappointment, and anger are increasingly beginning to assert themselves. Interesting that it should come after the local government elections. Before that, government was remote – Pretoria or Cape Town. It's hard to be angry at some thing both remote and impersonal. But the local elections brought government into the townships. The candidates were people they knew. Government had come to the people. Anger and disappointment could now be directed at individuals whom you held accountable. Anger was inflamed when these guys left the townships behind them and settled into the white suburbs. Government's dream of working for himself has been quenched. Most surprisingly, even Mandela doesn't escape his wrath. The NP continues, by some weird train of logic, to retain his "affections." For Bennett, "the war of liberation," pitted the ANC and the IFP together. No reference to third forces, government collusion etc. Is this surprising? Perhaps not. Again, the limited forms of transportation within townships and between townships, the meager coverage individual acts of " rebellion" that would appear in the media, one's own township became the focal point of the struggle, and in the absence of knowledge regarding what was occurring elsewhere, the only point of reference.]
"Would you say, Bennett, that there's a lot of dissatisfaction among the people here among your neighbours?" I ask him. "Do they feel like you feel about how little has changed and how little has been done and the promises made and not kept?"
That's very true,[he answers] people are feeling what I am feeling too because we've been coming together for a couple of months, making meetings and you go to the civics and speak to them and ask them, please do something because we have voted for ANC and now look where we are ending up.
Most of the people are not paying rent, not paying bond, not paying all these things. They are being evicted from their houses and we've tried to fight all these things. Because of what's happening today to us people here, most of us now are trying to make a decision now about the ANC. We wouldn't mind changing over to one of the other parties. Some people talk about the PAC because they fought for our country and said our people must get their rights. But the PAC is not a strong organization.
The ANC has got more people than other organisations. We thought that the ANC was going to help people but years are going by and now we are going into another election and the ANC hasn't fulfilled its promises. And what is Mr. Mandela saying about that? He doesn't even come to our township come and talk to our people. He doesn't come.
He doesn't come here and he knows himself that our township, Tokoza, was the main, main, main township that was fighting for the ANC and most of the people died because of that. They lost their houses, but he is just going - I am sorry to say things like that -- he does go to other people when he wants to go, to his homelands, all that thing. But we were the main people who were fighting for the ANC, who brought the ANC into power. We fought the old structure because here in Tokoza and Natalspruit we have got a lot of hostels – we were fighting in the most dangerous zones, but now we find ourselves being thrown out of our houses. They say 'Come along, you must pay, come along you must do this, come along you must that.'
At the meetings of the ANC here, we say the ANC should think about the people, families, who lost their sons, who lost their houses, who lost everything. The ANC should think of that and try to organise, make a campaign to cover the people who lost everything. They must give them money to build their houses. What about our area? The houses have been damaged, vandalised, everything, all that, but the ANC have done nothing for us.
Must I go to the party, or must I go to the church? I think sometimes I must go to the church and praise God. He is the last person. At the end of my life, God will take my soul. The ANC will never, they can't do anything, at the moment where am I sitting now? My children are on the street, not in universities. Even now I'm still wondering about this -- the last one, Kenneth, the young one. I am still waiting for the results of his exams. If he passes he is going to do Form 1. Now where is the money coming from to pay for him? He must go to school. We Black people needed the ANC to fight for jobs, to create jobs and to change the working system. If you are the driver and the white person is a driver we must get equal right. What we were fighting for, we are Black people, and we must get equal rights with white people. We are not chasing white people out of the country. We need white people. Let's live together in one country. But where jobs are concerned, we must have equality.
I'm not working as an auto-mechanic anymore, because I was out of a job for quite a long time. You see a job in a newspaper but when you go there, they say they need white people. [are they quite as blatant as that? Is the fact that Bennett has not worked as an auto mechanic for a long time something that works against him – there are more recently qualified mechanics looking for jobs? Where did Bennett train to become an auto mechanic? Was he apprenticed or did he go to school? Has he a certificate?] They say many things. I have said to myself because I don't want to stay in the location, [this is a complete turnabout], 'let me get this job to live with my children, get something to eat, get something to pay and all those things.' [he is living with his children] But the sooner the better. I'm not only depending on the job, I am also trying to spend money from gambling, all these things to try and get money.
"You're gambling?" My tone, I hope, is not judgmental. I don't know whether to say something, something like, " But Bennett how can you! How can you play the horses if you're making so little. You're only hurting yourself, hurting your family. Can't you see that? You know the bookie always wins. That's why he's in business!" Or should I keep my mouth shut. Who am I to dispense morality, and, if your situation becomes desperate enough, gambling may not be an irrational act.
Yes, I'm gambling, to get money in my house because if I have to wait to get a job as a mechanic, job, then it will be too late. The sooner the better, if things come right, I will go back to being a mechanic. At the moment I'm driving, doing deliveries. But I'm being paid a lesser wage than what they give the white people. I can't do anything about it; there is no union where I work. They pay me a lot less than they pay white people who are doing the same work.
Nothing has changed. I am just getting tired. Even if I read the newspapers I will see that the ANC are reversing many things. What are Black people to believe after we read about these things? [In this regard, Bennett is not alone. The RDP is dumped in favor of GEAR, despite vociferous opposition from COSATU and SACP. In what year do Mandela and Mbeki excoriate COSATU? ANC begins policy of cooption – Sam Shilowa. Disagreements described as family rows. All families have them and the patch things up. Disagreements are inevitable in the "broad church" that comprises the Alliance. Disagreements are democracy in full flourish. No repressing freedom of expression or denying disagreements. Hence transparency. The media, as always working against the interests of the people, hence democracy, hence ANC, are blowing things out of proportion.]
Whenever I watch the TV, read the newspaper, the ANC are going back on things. I'm listening with interest about Vlakplaas,37 because people were killed there. Those people, they won't wake up from the grave and what's the good of people who come now to the Truth Commission and talk about these things -- to get money for people who are dead people?
Let the ANC help the people who vote, people who are still alive. Let the ANC fight for that. We are still alive. Forget about the past. What Mandela said, he said let's forget about the past, let's go forward. Now why are they going backwards now? Why are they talking about the Truth Commission, Vlakplaas, all these things. Those people are dead, they will never vote for ANC. We vote for ANC now, we people who are still alive. We must go further, we must go forward. Now a dead body never says nothing. The ANC should fight for people who are still alive and make improvement to people with the promises they made.
It's what Mr. de Klerk said in Cape Town. 'Now Mandela, where are your promises? You promised your people they will get houses, they will get jobs. Where are the promises?
It's what I was saying about the National Party, 'never mind we've been under apartheid.' I was born 1948; because my father died in 1954 and my family and me [How many in family? What became of them?] Grew up with my mother. My mother she died in 1985 and I get married to Rose. I see the life of all those years was more much better. Now we vote for ANC; the government is for Blacks. White people are more much better. Although apartheid is supposed to be over, there is something moving to white people. The ANC is moving to them, it's not moving to us. The Ministers are getting better salaries. The salaries they get should be going to the families of poor people.
[Comment on this outburst!! What was happening in the country at the time?]
But despite the fact that "nothing has changed, and the failure of either Theo or Priscilla or Theo to secure either full time jobs, commensurate with their having matriculated or to receive college bursaries, Bennett is confident about their futures.
I think God will help me, God will help me one of these days, God will help me. Today I have been to work. God was with me, with them. We will sleep tonight. Tomorrow we don't know what's going to happen but God will give me power. One of these days he will give me power. I don't want to look for things from politicians or look for things from the ANC. I must now work for myself and look after my children.
My children, because they've grown up now can see what's happening. They can work for themselves or they can come to me and ask for something, "Daddy, Father, we want this and this". "Look, my children, this is only what I've got, this is all I can help you with." But I am promising that if God can give me power I am going to help them without the ANC. I have got to work for myself.
I can see what's happening, but there are some other people they don't have a chance like this, they don't even sit in houses like this. People are sitting in shacks and it's leaking, it's raining. They've got kids, babies. Think of those souls. What makes so angry was when I read in the newspaper that Mr. Dullah Omar, the Minister of Justice,38 was complaining that the salaries of ministers were too low. Now they are getting R19000 per month. Dullah Omar said that the Ministers were doing a lot of work, that they were working overtime, they worked on weekends, and that the salary they were getting was to low. He said they must get a rise, an increase. And what they should get? -- almost R24000 a month.
I was surprised, Jesus Christ, these people travel only by government cars, they get all sorts of things from the state free, and yet, R19000 a month is too little! What about the people here, the people who don't work, people who don't know where they are going to sleep tonight? The ANC are now working for their own pockets. They are all on the gravy train.
Tokyo Sexwale is the governor of Gauteng. As premier of Gauteng, South Africa's most prosperous province and the economic power that drives the rest of the country (The per capita income in Gauteng is XXXX, higher than the per capita income in Portugal, Greece, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia, and all the countries that were once part of the USSR) [enter excerpt from interview with Tokyo]
Has Tokyo ever visited Thokoza? Has Bennett ever seen him?
He is too scared to come because once on a Sunday he was supposed to come here and he couldn't come because people were waiting for him to come and ask him where are your promises? Where are your promises because they build on the other side of Tokoza nearby the hostel, they build such small houses that you can't even live with your wife and children in them.
The houses are so small, they are like toilets. If you spread the mattress out to sleep with your wife, what about the children? Where are they going to sleep? They say it's the RDP. We said, 'good gosh, if we knew it, what was going to happen to us, we couldn't vote for you people because we were expecting you people were going to give us a better living because me, as Bennett, we are living in the bond houses. We thought that you people were going to fight for us, for our bonds, because we didn't know nothing about the bond.'
We took the bond because we didn't have places. We thought that now if we've got these houses we're going to live the better living. But unfortunately, the bond, we don't know nothing, we Black people we don't know nothing about the bond. But the white people, they know what's happening with this thing. Now we're in a damn mess; we're in bond and they can't build the houses for people to live. Even these house that they're building, they're putting people into the bond and the Black people they don't want a bond. People, they want to live in the old system of apartheid, to get a house and rent a house, that's all. You know it is not your own, you are renting the house. Like me too, in my old house, old room, I used to rent that house, some other people would pay the rent pay for the water, that's it. We thought ANC was going to do that but ANC are putting the people on the bond.
"You're saying," I say to him, " that they are making Black people buy their houses when they should be having people rent houses?"
If you want you must buy a house, you must own the house. Not to rent it, you must buy the house; it's your house. But through the bond, but we can't afford the bond, we can't afford it. We can't afford the installment of buying furniture, what about the bond? Because the bond installment is due each month on the 15th you must pay and if you don't pay on the 15th there is an increment, a penalty. It's what kills the Black people. I think now Black people we don't get what the white people get. If I had got a job like a white man I'd be able to pay, but I am not going to get paid like a white man because of the color of my skin. I'm a Black person, but the government is for the Blacks. The government for the Blacks hasn't fought for the Blacks. They are fighting for themselves there in the parliament.
So Tokyo didn't turn up, couldn't turn up because he knows if he comes here then at the end of the day he won't be able to say even a word to people, because he has not kept the promises he gave to people. He couldn't fulfill them. I think none of them will come to Tokoza because I just read a newspaper yesterday, which said there will be a rally -- they are trying to make peace, they are going to play soccer, netball, tennis, all those things. That thing will never please people.39 They can play soccer themselves but what we need, we need a better living and we want to see what the ANC have done to us as we voted for ANC.
Really I'm disappointed, I'm really disappointed. I was in favour of the ANC but what's happening today? Even Mandela what he is doing about all these things? I don't know whether he's getting old or what, I don't know, but now I'm talking to myself. In Tokoza, Kathorus, there is nothing that they're doing. Now they have been in power for three years, only two years to go. Most of the people now are thinking of the National Party. They think of the PAC because the PAC was fighting for Blacks, but they were saying, 'well if we win, gentlemen, we will drive the white people out of the country," but we think, look, if you drive these people out then the country collapses. We can't drive these people out of the country. But the ANC? They feed only themselves and their children.
I had told Bennett I wouldn't keep him for too long, since he was on his way out, but when I say I don't want to keep him too much longer, he protests:
It is not too long because I've got to say what I'm saying now. You asked me and I've got to put it clear to you. I've said I'm not happy. I don't even look at the TV any more now. I just sit in the kitchen, read the newspaper, look there, read the horses. I think the horses are far better than the ANC because horses they can give me something.
Horses they can make me poor but the ANC I thought that they were going to give us a better living. Not for me only but for other people, because the ANC to me is like a church, a church that is going to help people because they know how people have suffered for so many years from our forefathers until after the grandchildren. But at the end of the day, they have only helped themselves. They live in the suburbs, in better living. We're still in the location, fighting always. Like today, they want to stay in those houses that don't belong to them. Those houses belonged to people who had to flee when there was violence in the township, people had to leave their houses and IFP have been occupying those houses since.
The Greater Alberton Council have tried to make these people leave and to give the rightful owners their houses back. Now today I believe, because I heard it from work, they say the real owners were marching, going to Alberton, but they were stopped and could not go through the town. They were forced to go back. I don't know what's going to happen to the houses.
I say, well let me now fight for myself and forget the rest of the thing. I don't want to take anything or take a sign or carry a badge. I have been a fan for ANC for all these years. Now what I say to my heart, to my brain: I will be the strong organization to God, that's all. Forget everything what's happening in the street because we couldn't sleep when there was violence here. We tried to be supporters of the ANC, that I can say to you. But I am very disappointed about this.
Really I am. God will give me power. I can see the country - reading the newspaper, because I read the Citizen, [see what media report had to say about the Citizen.] I see what's happening to other countries, just the same like South Africa. But what can I do? I've got no power. Mandela, Mbeki, all these Ministers they have got power. They are out from Robben Island; other people they come from exile. Now they are leaders today and they are getting what they want. These are the bosses today now.
Things are bad for me; they are bad for me with the house, with everything. I am just thinking what I'm going to do but I won't kill myself or kill my wife or kill the children because I'm suffering. I say, 'God give me power, God help me. You know how am I suffering. You are the one, You are looking after me. Whenever I go out there with my children You are the one who is leading us. Lead us God to a peaceful place, or whatever it is, even my children, whatever they need, please help them." That's my prayer to God. I have prayed for the ANC, prayed for an end to the violence, to fighting against the National Party, to fighting against the IFP.
I am a little taken aback. I don't know what to say, how to follow-up, what to ask. Commiseration seems pointless, akin to telling a dying man that there is always hope. Platitudes to dispel what makes us ill at ease, uncomfortable. But I do remember something. On our way in we had to circumnavigate a roadblock. It didn't seem unreasonable to ask what was going on. Trouble brewing over the houses that were still "occupied?"
They [the Zulus] are starting a roadblock because they see what's happening, but that's only just for the moment. Tomorrow they are going to leave it there and see what happens. Because they themselves, they came after the people had been killed. It's too late. Now I just want to look after myself. At the moment in the trains, it's quiet. But the people who are coming from Alberton in the taxis will see the roadblock. They know that the people in the hostels, the IFP, can kill people, like what is happening in KwaZulu/Natal.
Tokoza is going to become like another KwaZulu/Natal. I can see that the violence is going to happen again. Next year we're going to have to watch out. These things will start again. It's going to be IFP/ANC again. I think most people are sick and tired of it.
I don't think people are going to fight in other places; only in Thokoza. Because Mandela, Tokyo, all of them, they can go to other places, address meetings there and talk and talk. They go to Soweto, and they never fight like we do in Tokoza. The people who fight the most are from Tokoza. But most of the people coming from overseas, whenever they come they go to Soweto. No one ever comes to Tokoza. No one ever comes to see what Tokoza is like. No, they just go to Soweto and see what Soweto looks like. They give millions to upgrade Soweto. But here in Thokoza, no, we only get promises. A lot of things never get done.
They only promise us now you're going to get parks; you're going to get this and this. Look at the street, it's full of stones. When it's raining, there is mud everywhere. Go and have a look at my own carpet: my wife is moaning to me 'Leave your shoes outside, just walk with your feet'. But the ANC made promises in 1994, 1995,and 1996 and nothing has been done to improve the streets.
If my child asks me for something and I say, 'Look here boy, as soon as I get paid, then on the set date, set month, I will give you this'. And if that month comes and my son doesn't see anything happening, what is he going to do? He will say 'Are you playing the fool with me? You promised me. You said you would buy me a bike or whatever on the 4th, on the 5th December, what's happening?' I say, 'No, my child.'
It's just what the ANC is doing. It's what they say in English, never make promises, never make promises because you don't know what's going to happen. It's what the ANC has done. I am sorry to say things like that about the ANC. I loved the ANC, thought the ANC was going to help me but I'm still in a hole, and I see that most of the people live in shacks. The time is gone and time is wasted, never again. Never again. They can forget it. Mandela is going on pension. Next month he's going on pension.40 All of them are going on pension; they've got the bread. But the people at the grassroots, it's what I'm saying, why can't we go back to the National Party? And if IFP can become stronger we can still go to them. If the PAC is strong and can help people we can go to them.
The people will turn away from the ANC and vote for the National Party or the PAC or the IFP? ANC supporters voting for the IFP here in Tokoza is not just improbable, the very mention of the idea would be heretical, enough to have your house burned down, to have you chased out of the community. Is Bennett indulging in a stream of consciousness monologue, trotting out wild thoughts? Is he simply meandering, making foolish threats, like voting for the IFP? And if he is meandering, why is he? Too many beers at the shebeen? Or inarticulately trying to make sense for himself of the depth of his disappointment, of the distortions of his visions of the future he thought he would "inherit" once the ANC became the rulers of the country? Has he simply snapped?
I feel guilty. He sits before me spitting out a tale of disappointment, of disillusionment. For the first time in the five years I have known him, I can hear the anger in his voice and a bitterness that I did not think he was capable of. Certainly, a bitterness that surpasses the bitterness he felt when he was fired as an auto mechanic in 1991[did he really feel relieved when he was fired?]
He no longer makes excuses for what he sees as the ANC's neglect and negligence. He no longer says "I won't vote for any party, I would rather go to the sea and throw myself in there to be eaten by sharks." The unswerving loyalty has been replaced by a strain of loathing. The passivity is gone. Or is it? The rhetoric has changed, but as always with Bennett, other than telling you once again that he will get a better job, the determination to follow through seems curiously absent. He is not an uneducated Black, among those classified as the "unemployables." He has a skill. He is a trained auto mechanic. Is there no market for auto mechanics in Thokoza or any of the adjacent townships? Or in Alberton? Has he not said that he only wants to work in the location, and to work only for himself? Has he ever pursued these aspirations? If he has, why has he never mentioned over the years the difficulties he encountered or how hard it is to get a business off the ground? Why did he simply drop the subject all together? Because he gave up trying? Because he never tried? Because he thought the odds of his striking it rich on a horse were better than the chances of his succeeding in establishing a business? Was his fantasy world, his inner life, more sustaining than having to face burdens that never seemed to go away? And were did this sudden desire to get out of the location come from? If he could not make ends meet in the township, how did he expect to make them meet, if he left, and left to go where with what?
But who am I to judge? In fact, what is the point of asking these questions? Yes, I am confused, but no answer will change his circumstances, alleviate his disappointment. I do what perhaps I should not do but seems the only thing to do. I reach into my pocket and give him all the rand I have with me. I promise to have more for him after Christmas.
Am I acting to help him, because of his genuine need or is there some part of me that feels that as a white person, I, by virtue of some racial osmosis, am somehow responsible for his condition, that I am "guilty" by my being white?
The answer is that I don't know.
20 January 1998
I am back again. The gas station is still burned out, the 3, 2, I, "streets," are still caked with the brownish red soil, the boulder one must navigate to enter "!" still holding pride of place. It is evening, night falling fast. The Balula house is in darkness. Strange that no one would be around and no lights on. I knock on the door a couple of times. No reply. So I go to the kitchen door. Bennett is sitting on an upturned bucket, reading his newspaper, the only light coming from the Apollo light, some forty feet away that still casts its cold eye on the area.
"What's going on," I ask him. The electricity, he tells me, has been cut off since 8th December.
They said we are in arrears. My arrears is about R4000-00, but I can't believe this because after the elections Mr. Mandela announced that all the arrears would be cancelled and we would start anew.41 But after the local government elections we all received letters that said the Council owed ESCOM many millions of rands and that while we had been paying, we had not been paying in full. We were paying R50, R100, R200, but when we received our bill they told us that we owed R4000 in arrears. I couldn't understand it.
The local councilors -- the ANC -- they said that unless we agreed to pay off the arrears using a system they had come up with, they would have to cut off the electricity. The whole township has been cut off, from that side right to the bottom. Now when the electricity is cut off you must go to their offices to make arrangements about how much you are going to pay, but first you have to make a payment of R600-00, if you want to be reconnected. Then they tell you how much you are going to pay per month to cover the total arrears. For sixty months you must pay a fixed amount. For me, I think it's R72-00 per month – that's what I read in the paper. I must pay R72-00 to pay off the arrears plus what I owe for the current month.
Now that amounts to nearly R300/R400 per month. Now people, those who have been reconnected, they are starting to complain because they are paying R400/R500. That's too much now, that's really too much. And then you must also pay the installment on the bond on the house. People are paying R600-00, they are paying R500-00, and when you add it all up that comes to R1000-00 per month. Where are you going to manage to afford to get that money and have the kids here? We don't get that much money where we work.
Last week we sent a memorandum to Mr. Mandela –all the people of the township. We told our leaders that they must take it to him. We said the Council said we must make new arrangements, that we must pay this money and that our leaders are opposing this cutting off of the electricity.
I have a job with DNA Motor Spares in Edenvale. I drive a bakkie, make deliveries in Johannesburg. My work hours are from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm. But I have to get up at 5.00 am to leave here at 6.00 am to catch a train to Joburg, and from Joburg I take a taxi to Edenvale -- two transports. I get home about 7.30 pm. The job is steady, it's just to keep on living, to get food and the young kid must go to school. But now to take the elder ones to university I couldn't manage it.
Rose still works as a domestic and even with the bit of money she gets, we can never cope. What I get, the little bit, is only to pay for the services to the Council. I must get money to go to work and money for food. So now we have this problem of electricity they cut off.
"And Theo, " I ask, "What's he up to? Is he working?"
At the moment Theo he is in Durban. He left here in December with Rose's son's father, he went to Durban for holidays. I think he will be coming next month. But, no, he is not working.
Since he matriculated he has never worked. He is doing nothing. Before he went to Durban, he was at home; he was sitting around here. He hasn't even tried to apply for a job. He didn't even try, because I have to try and look for a job for him. I was prepared to get him a license, then he could get some jobs driving so he could get money and he could go further for his studies. But he is now sitting at home.
I tell him at night when I am here that he should look for a job, but when I wake up in the morning and I come home in the evening, I see he has been sleeping the whole day here. What can you do with a person like that? You talk to him and he says yes, yes, yes. When I wake up in the morning and leave the house in the morning and when I come back I see he has been sleeping the whole day. He doesn't move; he just sits on the couch here. Sleeps and eats. That's all.
But Bennett, I say, why don't you tell him to get out there and start looking for a job for himself. Because, he says, I would be chasing my son away. But, I say, he has a matriculation certificate.
Yes. I don't know if he is even prepared or what. I don't know, since he likes to go with these other youngsters in the township. I've been warning him, "look here stay away from these youngsters because at the end of the day you will be in trouble because these other people never went to school and you know people who never went to school are dangerous. They are looking for money and doing hijacks and all those things." Some of the people in the area have been warning us about them.
But he never keeps away from them. He never keeps away. He always comes in the night late, when we are sleeping. Often it's midnight, one o'clock or later. He goes out all the time at night.
He comes in and then he sleeps all day. And I've warned him of that. I said, "look here if everybody is sleeping nobody is going to wake up from his bed and come and open the door for you. If you are not doing what we are saying in the house you had better pick up and go." But at the moment I am having a rest because he is away from me now but I am really, really upset because I want to help him. I don't want my children to say tomorrow our father couldn't do anything for us. I want to help them.
But now he doesn't live here any more. He's staying with his girl friend. And what we are afraid of now is what these youngsters are doing: they're hijacking, killing people, doing robberies all that. We are scared of that thing and we are trying now to bring him back, he must stay at home. One day he said to me, 'Look Daddy you've tried your best until now ... now we must try to help you, you and Ma'.
That's really tough. Really I don't know what I can do. I have been trying to get a loan from the company. They can't help me. I tried to get a loan from the provident fund. They can't help me. I have been trying to decide whether I should withdraw from them and take my money and say forget it, give me my money back and forget about me, I must look after my kids.
Look, I'm sitting in darkness. I've got no hot water. I've got to make the small stove with paraffin and the paraffin kills, it's too strong in the house. When you're making it you must open the windows, open the doors and when you cook with the paraffin the food is not so - but what can you do, you've got to eat.
But we really, we people, we're blaming everything on the ANC because it's the ANC that have done all these things; it's not the Afrikaner people because the people who are there in the Council are for the ANC, it's them who are doing these things to us. We didn't expect that they were going to do things like that to us and cut the electricity away from us because we voted for them, because we wanted to take these Afrikaners out. But now it seems that those Afrikaners are much better than the ANC, because I've been here for nearly ten years and this is the first time my electricity has been cut off. Under what you call apartheid they never came and touched me and cut my electricity. The only sent a letter and then if you want you come there, make new arrangements and they leave you there, you pay a little. But after we voted for the ANC, they are sitting in the government, what's the good of it to have people like this.
Well Priscilla sits here the whole day in the house, cleaning the house and then she reads books. Whenever I come during the day to bring some food, meat, I find her in the house reading books. Sometimes she writes letters and then she gives them to me and says 'Daddy take this, post it for me. I am making an application for something'. Priscilla she is trying, trying, trying. Priscilla is angry with the ANC, because she's making applications for bursaries but they never come through. So, she's not working either; she is living at home. They are all staying at home. Now I am looking after this small one – Kenneth.
They got a report yesterday: we must buy the books; the government can't afford to give the kids the books because the government hasn't got the money. All the schools in the township must buy books. They can't get the books until the end of March. Now we must buy the books. At the moment I don't know where to go to get this money to go and buy books for him because I haven't even got money to go and pay for the electricity. We are sitting here in the darkness, the fridge is not working; it's just like sitting in the veldt. I want to pay the R600, but I haven't got the money to pay. We've had no electricity since December 8th. Now it's January 20th. That's seven weeks. Seven weeks in the dark. Everybody in Tokoza is very angry with the ANC, because you can't say it's the National Party that's doing it; it's the ANC.
Will this affect how people will vote in the 1999 elections? " In this house," says Bennett, "we say, forget the elections." Does that mean he won't vote?
I don't know. But I wouldn't vote for the ANC now. No. Because if you vote for these people at the end of the day they kill you. They put more pressure on top of you, but they live better. Their children, they're in white suburbs; mine are in the township. I can't even buy a school uniform for Kenneth.
My view is that we should elect people who will help us. Now they say we must buy books but we thought that the government we elected was going to help the people. For quite a long time the National Party was in power. Now we know better. We say the National Party has been fine. Yes, they were putting pressure on Black people, but they were also doing something for Black people.
But, I point out to him when the National Party was in power, Blacks had to pay for their schoolbooks.
Yes, we used to pay for the books but the National Party has changed. Now they say that the children must get free books, everything must be free for them. Now they said this only since the ANC took over. But two years ago the ANC said the kids must get free books. This is now the fourth year: they've changed. Now they say we must buy books. Tell me, where do we get the money? We must pay for electricity now. We must pay for the bond. We must pay for the kids. Where must we get the money? I am working alone in the house. I've got to make sure every day the kids must eat, they must get water, they must work, they must go to school, they must have clothes and I must have clothes.
Kenneth is going to be 14 and is in Standard 6 now. He can't do his homework because it's dark in the house. They can't read in front of a candle: the candle has got only a small light -- it doesn't light the whole house. If I had money I would buy a bigger light to get away from these circumstances but I haven't got that money. A packet of six candles is R2-00, and they barely lighten the house. That's why I'm sitting outside, sitting here so that I can get light from the Apollo, it's a big one, so I can read and when I'm finished I go inside and then I eat and go and sleep. That's the situation that we've got in the township.
[Bennett is more angry with the ANC now than he was 13 months ago. I don't know what he is referring to when he says that Mandela wiped the slate clean on arrears when he was elected. When was the "get tough" policy of government introduced? After the Masekane policy petered out? Get figures on what total arrears were. What did the Masekane policy produce? Why was it not successful? What were the assumptions behind it? Some notion of nation building? The new route: the tough route to behavioral modification.[WHY NOT A SIMILAR TOUGH BEHAVIORAL POLICY TOWARDS AIDS??] Bennett goes on and on about promises. Yet, when the NP makes promises of free schoolbooks, he immediately buys in. When did ANC decide that parents had to pay for schoolbooks? When did NP go opposite way? Bennett's constant refrain: money, money, and money. And "nothing has changed." Everything has been reduced to money. Consumerism. Why did he not push Theo to get his license? His long day –14 hours fro waking to returning home. Genteel poverty. Theo has given up. Priscilla persists. No jobs. How many years now since they matriculated? What "turned" Theo? Again, his predilection for the NP. How would one describe what Bennett's conception of being free is? How many thought the same way that he did? Must the elite lead the masses? In fact, the experience of transition suggests that a single strong party at the helm is exactly the medicine the people need. The lack of alternative choices is a good thing in the early years; allows things to get done. A multiplicity of parties would result in a multiplicity of promises. The rush to garnish votes gets in the way of good policy as every party seeks to out promise each other, the policies they advocate are policies that will attract the greatest number of voters. But they may not be what a fledgling democracy needs, especially re need for sacrifice, development, growth, labor discipline etc. Bennett's increasing preoccupation with the white suburbs. Is this a case of when no one was leaving, everyone wanted to stay but once a critical number began to migrate, the those left behind felt exactly that – they were being left behind; hence resentment. Extraordinary expressions of entitlement, of passivity in the sense that the ANC should be doing things for people that the people should just sit idly by and wait for the good things in life to be delivered. Not an iota of understanding that the masses had to help themselves, that they too were responsible. The anger now is being directed at local officials}]
At this point, it seems redundant to ask Bennett whether the new South Africa has almost seems redundant to ask him whether he feels that the stake has been driven through the heart of apartheid, whether the new South Africa is much different place from the South Africa he grew up in.
His tirade continues:
Nothing has been changed. Like I said before to you, we have been living here for almost ten years. The first thing they promised us is that they would build up everything. But now look at this; it's still the same as it was. This Council has been in office for two years, but the first thing they've done is to cut off the electricity. They will never come and fix the streets but were quick to come and cut the electricity. It's still only stones and mud, all these things. How long is it? For ten years now, the liberation movement [check: when he says "they promised" who is he talking about?] promised that when the ANC comes in power we're going to build streets, do this, all that. It was only cheap talk. Now they have got what they want, they say, well people, you can see for yourself, you've got to pay for everything. Now, next time I'm not going to bother myself about the elections. Even with Mr. Roelf Meyer and General Holomisa,42 I am less interested. I will just look after myself and my kids, go to work and come back. What the government is doing, it is not doing to me only, it's doing to everybody because we didn't sleep when we voted for ANC.
"You didn't what?"
We didn't sleep. We woke up in the early morning by two to go stand in the queue to vote for the ANC and the ANC say if they win then Black people are going to get what they want, but now nothing has been changed. You know when I see people looking for a job; I say there - I feel I can cry by myself. I say what can I do? I am also struggling by myself. There is nothing I can do. People who come to me asking for R2-00 to buy a loaf of bread to eat, but the ANC came to us and made us promises, saying you will get jobs, you get work, promises, promises. It's what the NP said; the ANC couldn't fulfill their promises. They promised the people so that they could get the vote and win. And when they win what happens to the promises they made to the people? People are starving; people are out of jobs, crime, and all these things. [in which year did he say this stuff about crime etc. was all anti-government propaganda? That he had no concerns when Priscilla was out at night?]
"So is there a lot of crime in the township? Is there more crime now than there was two or three years ago?"
At the moment now in our township since everything has been changed it's nice and quiet because now we are together now with those people from hostels. We are together now; we are people living together now. There is no more fighting. We walk now that side, they come this side, now it's nice. There are no more orders to fight Inkatha or the ANC. Now we are one nation. That's what I like. Even this time I can walk, go that side, I know that I am not scared and they are not going to shoot me. Now the only the crime is in town. You see they go from the location; they go to town because people are hungry.
"Have you any idea, Bennett," I ask, "where Theo goes at night?"
I can never say because when he goes out I don't know where he's going. I don't follow him where he goes. I sleep because I'm an old man, I must sleep, look after my darling there. Whether he goes to town, I don't know. I can't look after him but I keep on telling Theo, "look my son, look after yourself, stay away from these people, don't ever carry a gun on yourself because you will be in the bus, once you've got a gun you're going to do something and they're going to lock you up. Just do for me that favor and listen to what I am saying to you.
Never mind that I haven't got money. I am trying all this time, I am trying for you to live. When I grew up, my mother used to tell me that my father was trying by all means to bring me up. Now it's up to me, I must look after you, I must bring you up, then tomorrow you are going to get married, get your own houses and then say come to Daddy. 'Daddy you helped us so that for the rest of your life you and mother can sit down; we can help you.'"
My children want, but I must get money to take them further. They mustn't end up here like this young one. He [goes to town on Saturdays to drink beer] must only go to town and drink on Saturday and then Monday to Friday he must keep on with his school. But what I'm upset about is that you must pay this for electricity and this for school. We must buy books. That makes me mad because it's the ANC. I think in the whole township, even in the East Rand, the ANC will not get anywhere near the number of voted they got in 1994. What they have done to people has really, really, hurt people. It really hurt people because to try to talk to the Council, to the leaders of the ANC in the local government 'look let's sit down, talk to the people and you never consulted after they voted you into office.'
In November, the Council wrote letters to the residents of Tokoza saying it was going to cut off the electricity and the residents marched to protest its action to the Civic Centre in Alberton where the Council met.
But the Councilors said that although they regretted what they were going to do, they said no ways; we're going to cut it. On 5th December they start to cut. What we people, who are the residents of Tokoza, don't understand is when the Council says it owes ESCOM millions. What we can't understand is how can they hire other people to come and cut the electricity off That money that they are using to pay these contractors is money that should they should be keeping to pay ESCOM.
Now they are hiring another contractor to come and reconnect again, and to come and reconnect that contractor is charging many thousands of rands --, the more people they reconnect in the township, the more they earn. Now all the money they are spending disconnecting and reconnecting is the money that they should keep and pay to ESCOM and in that way bring down their account. But now they're paying those people to cut off the electricity, and they want us to pay for it. I think the idea is just to grab us; cut off the electricity, and you must come and make a new agreement with them.
They said I owe R4000-00. I have no idea how they arrived at that figure. When I checked, because most of us in the township we pay R100-00, R200-00, When the account comes every month it says you owe R300-00. You go and pay R150-00 -- at least you pay something, show them that you are prepared to pay them. But now when they say you owe them R4000-00 for three years, I can't understand that. I can't understand it because if you owe R4000-00 it means you've not been paying at all. Because even on the paper they show you that says you pay so much -- R100-00 -- but now they say it is interest that keeps increasing the amount you owe them, so that an arrears of R1000 becomes an arrears of R4000.
What am I to conclude? He is working. Rose is working. The children can't get jobs. They live in darkness and they have to use paraffin to cook. Bennett sums it up: "This is a really bad time for me."
They never see a MLA or an MP. As far as the residents of Tokoza are concerned members of the Gauteng legislature and the National Assembly could be sitting in Timbuktu.
No, they don't ever come to Thokoza. They end up in Soweto, that's where they go, to Soweto. They never come to Tokoza and it's a township that struggled for the ANC but now they've got their bread and butter and they have forgotten about us. Most of the young kids, they can't walk, they walk with a wheelchair, some of them they're dead, people who fought for the ANC.
People coming from overseas, like the big boxers, they don't come to Tokoza, they just go to Soweto. We only just read in papers, 'so and so was in Soweto or Johannesburg". Will he come into Tokoza? No it's dangerous, you can't go there; they will kill you there. Meanwhile, we live in peace in Tokoza. We can't understand why shouldn't these people come and see Tokoza. They only just land up come to Johannesburg Airport and end up in Soweto. That's the end of it for them. But they don't come to see where the war began. They must come and see where the war began.
But for all of Bennett's railing against the government for doing nothing, the government has started to build houses.
Yes, they are building houses. All these open spaces, which at one point the National Parks said there was no room to build there, are getting full of houses now. I don't know how but they are beginning to be built now. On top of that they have tried to make some small houses to get people out of the squatter camps to houses. But I don't think ANC will be able to take care of all the squatters before the next election. There are a lot of people staying in the squatter camps. [are these the same houses Bennett derided before?]
Do I detect a slight sound of begrudgery in his voice?
Given all that he's said, how would he assess the overall performance of the government after three years? Is the ANC doing a good job at governing or not?
You know it's very hard to say because of what the ANC is doing in our township. The last time our residents and leaders went to a meeting of the local Council and asked them now, 'you promised people that you're going to fix streets, do all this, build some parks, but it seems we are still in the same place." They say the RDP hasn't got any more money. Now our leaders here in the township – that' SANCO -- they want to find out what happened to the money for RDP.
They want to find out what happened to the money for the RDP because the people who have been hired, who have got a job, who couldn't get a job from the factories they came to work for the RDP so they must get paid. But now these people have lost their jobs. They say RDP hasn't got money and we can see ourselves that nothing is moving; they don't fix things, nothing. We're still living in the mud.
[what happened to the arrangements between SANCO and ESCOM and the banks?? Re payments.]
He reduces the problems of governing the country to the changes he has seen happen in Tokoza. To an extent, there is no world outside of Tokoza. He will only evaluate the government's performance in the context of its performance in Thokoza. He appears to have lost interest in the wider view, how difficult it would be to get to grips with entrenched interests; the structural problems, economic and social, that apartheid created; the realization that while it was easy to identify most of these problems, it is far more difficult to disaggregate them into smaller components that can more easily be addressed; that South Africa was, in a macro economic sense, broke when the new government came to power; that there was no rush by the outside world to come to the aid of South Africa once apartheid had been abolished; that sanctions created further distortions in the structures of the economy, reducing South Africa's ability to compete in international markets and thus the flow of external revenues; that the burden of debt repayment, inherited from the apartheid government, which the new government had to honor if South Africa ever wished to borrow in international capital markets, absorbed one fifth of the government's tax revenues, and thus its capacity to redress social and economic imbalances at the drop of a hat; that the world itself had changed – South Africa was as a bit player, a mere follower as the forces of globalization revolutionized the ways in which business was done and eliminated the capacity of individual countries in the world pecking order to "do its own thing;" that South Africa's corporations, given the opportunity to reinvest their profits in South Africa preferred to invest abroad in more lucrative markets in accordance with the simple global commandment that capital should flow freely, unfettered by constraints, to the opportunities of maximum return; that while South Africa had been preoccupied with building a new South Africa, a new world had emerged outside its borders that had discarded with brutish indifference the old ways of conducting the world's business; that while it might have appeared to most South Africans – Black and white – that South Africa was in the world's First Division league, it was in reality a Second Division team.
In short, Bennett no longer looked much at the world that existed beyond South Africa. Indeed, there was much South Africa could do to scramble its way up the pole of economic growth, the pole was waxed with grease and the real determinants of South Africa's performance in many crucial regards were beyond South Africa's capacity to influence. In Africa, South Africa may have seemed to tower over its neighbors, but in the Big Bad World outside, South Africa was bush-league.
And, perhaps, he had forgotten the most important ingredient the new South Africa needed, if it was not to get bogged down in a quagmire partly of its own making and partly not, was a willingness on the part of the liberated majority to make sacrifices in the short run to ensure their children could inherit a South Africa that had rid itself of behaviors that were making a successful transformation more difficult, and a watchful outside world wary and reluctant to invest heavily in a country that could not get its own house in order. The disease of entitlement had to be eradicated, the material privileges that were the hallmark of white dominance had to be seen for what they were. They were truly the product of apartheid, aberrations that disfigured the country. They were not things to be sought after or emulated but appurtenances that were hollow, non-liberating, and the underlying reason why too many Blacks put their own self interests i.e. where is my new house, new school, new job, new road, my electricity, water, telephone, and where is it now, and why can't I have all the things whites have now. And the illusionary belief that the services that provided the infrastructure of a community were a right that came free of cost rather than a right that the community had the responsibility had the obligation to pay for.
"So, your view, is that the condition of your life has gotten worse in the last three years?"
Really, really, really!!! Because I was expecting that we were going to get a better life. We thought that when we voted for the ANC that we were going to get a better life. OK. They tried like Mr. Mandela, to get all these other countries to bring money to South Africa, but I don't know what's happening down there on the floor.
There is something happening on the floor, people - most of the Black people they are out of their jobs. If you lose your job now you can just forget it, you won't get a job any more unless you know somebody who can try and push you inside. But if you walk in the street and look for a job, forget it, you won't get a job.
That's why all this crime is happening. The youngsters pass their matric: when they pass their matric they want to go further, their families haven't got the money; now the young men are stuck. My family, they are suffering. They can't look to me to take them further. Youngsters take their own decisions now. They want to get money to live on; and to get the money they must kill some other people. They must hijack cars. It's what I can see myself; nobody has to tell me. I can see what is happening. It's the youngsters who are committing the crimes, not old people. OK? Old people are also doing things, but they are also out of a job.
The government should help all these youngsters to get bursaries. Mr. Mandela said he doesn't want to see these youngsters walking around; he wants them to do something. But what I am saying to you, something is happening on the floor there. The old man is right there. But now the people on the bottom, at the grassroots, they are the people making a big mess up. The government says we must buy books now, but the government has got money to spare for other people.
How do you stop the crime now? Even the policemen themselves are doing crime. Who can you trust? The police commit crimes. You read in the newspaper that in all these big robberies the police are involved somewhere. They want money for themselves. They don't get enough from the government. Now what about we people? What about us? I don't want to go to jail. I would rather just stay like this and see what's going to happen. God will keep me and help me to live, I don't know.
But even though I am working full time, I'm not getting enough money to live with my family. If I were earning enough, I wouldn't be sitting here in the darkness. If I was getting good money I wouldn't sit in the darkness like this, I would be sitting in the light, watching the TV. I went last week to pay. [what was he paying?? And for what??] I thought they might feel something for me because I explained everything to them. They said, "OK, we will take this money but you're not getting the lights back on; you must bring the rest, then you will make a new agreement with us, we will come and reconnect the electricity, and then you will pay off all the arrears over 60 months."
Where do I get that money? I must make sure these kids of mine, they must get money in the morning. When we are away at work they must eat in the day here. I must also eat, must have the money for transport and come back at home.
We run through Bennett's outstanding accounts. The debit side of the ledger reads: Balances owed to the local municipality include an outstanding balance for water and electricity: R4971-64; for VAT: R605-00, bringing the total outstanding balance to R5576-00. Payment received up to 17th December 1997: R281-00. Interest on current accounts: R70-00 on the water account, R108-00 on the electricity. VAT for current month: R36-00. Balance owed on 15th January 1998: R5667-05. Remittance received: R250-00.Since the R250-00 is offset against the reconnection fee of R670-00, reconnection will cost another R420-00.He has a water account to settle. How much? About R500-00. But the water is still running.
On the credit side: Bennett's weekly wage of R400-00. After deductions he takes home a little less than R380-00. Bennett's' travel expenses to and from work: R13-00 per week for the train to and from Johannesburg; R4.60 per day for taxis to and from Edendale. Weekly travel costs: R36-00,
Rose receives R125-00 per week for five days of domestic service; working hours: 8am to 4 pm. Travel expenses: R23.00 plus she has to bring her own lunch with her since her employer supplies no food. Total family disposable income per week: in the region of R440-00, about R1760-00 per month. Plus whatever surplus the beer business brings in, now, at least temporarily foreclosed.
From the R400-00 I receive, before I come home I buy some food, buy all the things that we need in the house. By the time I reach home I have maybe R200-00. And the children want money; they have things they want to buy.
And the housing bond payment? "I'm paying R400-00 – although sometimes I don't pay it in full .I must keep R100 or R50 to cover things that crop up -- that's life.
I'm trying to make sense of Bennett's financial state. Housing costs plus household costs plus an on- going R72 per month to pay off electricity arrears would account for R1272 out of a monthly disposable family income o R1760-00. Which would leave a monthly surplus of R450, a little over R100-00 on a weekly basis to meet all other expenses: electricity, water, children's allowances, school fees – but since only Kenneth is going to school now, school fees should come to a little under R2-00 per week for attendance plus the cost of school books. A very tight budget with no "leftovers," requiring stringent financial management to make ends meet, no emergencies, no life insurance, and no health costs. Very tight? Yes. Manageable? Just barely. Not much room for the horses.
We can't even sell beer because we have no electricity. There's no light. The people can't buy in the dark. Now other people a couple of houses up are selling the beers outside because they have got electricity. I am very, very upset about this. I've tried to speak to the people at my company, "please lend me money, I am working for you, I must get electricity in my house. But they refuse."
"If you got the R600-00, would you be able to pay the charge of R72-00 every month?"
I am prepared for that. My wife and I will be able to arrange it. But we have to get the R600-00. They set a deadline. There's a deadline on the 31st of this month. If you don't go and make a new agreement by that date, they will take you to court.
Yes, they say they will take you to court. "Why don't you want to come in? " they ask, "because other people they make agreements. If you don't make an agreement now, you must pay the money by the 31st. I don't want to go to court. I don't want to go there, I don't want the policeman to come here and put me in a van. They take you there, you sit in a cell, and in the morning you go the Magistrate and there you're going to be charged. What are they going to say to you? But now I don't want to go and see these people. I don't know what to do because with the money I get I can't pay the R600-00. The minute I get my wages I must buy food for the house; the kids stomachs must never be empty. They have got to have food. The minute I get my money, I've got to use it. Where am I going to get the R600-00? I spoke to my boss. He won't give it me and I don't know how to make money to go and pay them. Other people reconnect themselves, like the people in the house over there.
There is a wire running across the side of Bennett's house, which is hooked up to a power box nearby. A neighbor had asked Bennett whether he could string the wire across his property, hook it up to the power box and reconnect himself. Bennett hadn't said he couldn't. He shows me the summons municipal inspectors leave at the houses where they discover illegal connections have been made, it reads:
A follow-up disconnection has taken place to all consumers who have illegally reconnected themselves and have consumed electricity illegally. You are hereby requested to visit the office within five working days from the date of this notice in order to make payment and to make acceptable arrangements for payment in order to avoid further steps. The electrical connection to your premises has been removed; the cost of removal and reinstatement will be recoverable before connection. The reconnection fee is R22-80; the cable cut is R670-00.
Now I don't want to do that because I will be arrested, I will be charged. They want R600-00; I will have to pay another R1000-00 if I am arrested. I don't want to be arrested. I would rather stay in the darkness until I get money. But I've got only one week to go now, because today is the 20th -- the 31st is next week Saturday and it's final.
Once the 1st February comes, they send their cars now to come and fetch you, they're going to stick you in the cells and in the morning bring you before the Magistrate, and what do I say to the Magistrate? That's the problem that I see in the township. Most of the people are still in the darkness. The other people they have paid and they are crying. It's a lot of money. I see it every day. What can I do? I don't know who can help me in this world, I don't know.
Perhaps, I've known all the time what Bennett is driving at. At one level I feel very sorry for him, sitting there on a chair, squinting at the newspaper, eating when he is finished in the darkness, repairing to the refuge of the bed, and up again at 5.00 am for a 14-hour day. Surely something has gone terribly wrong.
I don't understand what the municipal authorities are hoping to achieve by bring people before a Magistrate. If the delinquents haven't got the R600-00 and don't earn enough to put it together, what are they supposed to do? Live in darkness indefinitely, until rand by rand they somehow accumulate the R600-00? In the end, where does the fault lie? The millions who responded to the ANC's call not to pay for services, adjusted their meager standards to spend the "extra." Now, many are out of jobs and can't possibly repay arrears, never mind making current payments. Millions more live hand- to- mouth, have never saved a penny in their lives, and might take a lifetime to accumulate the R600 or whatever down payment they have to come up with in order to get light, and among the millions who reneged on their payments did so not out of a desire not to pay, but simply because they didn't have the means to do so.
No doubt, there were also millions who thought that as long as you could get away with not paying the full amount due, why bother to do so. A legacy of apartheid? Perhaps. A sense of entitlement bred by not paying for a prolonged period without any repercussions where entitlement slowly evolved into a "right?" -- that citizens had the right to have basic services provided free of cost. Perhaps? Who inculcated these values?
And the government? It had tried the carrot. The people had eaten the carrot, but they thought that the carrot, too, was free. The time had come to crack the whip. You could change behavior, either by offering incentives, but when the incentives became part of the problem, a healthy dose of hard pain, unpalatable as it might be became the antidote to the virus. Ironically, an ANC government could get away with things that would have millions toi-toiing in the streets and the rest of the world screaming bloody murder had an apartheid government ever attempted to take similar measures. Such are the fruits of freedom.
At another level, I feel that Bennett might, perhaps, have brought a lot of this on himself. But on this particular evening I know that is beside the point. I will have the R600-00 for him the following day, I tell him. He is relieved. His pleading, expressed in the form of denunciations at the actions of his own government and never directed at me personally, had paid off. Not that he would have thought of it as getting the better of a foreigner to whom R600-00 was peanuts, but because he was a betting man, and he had marked his cards carefully.
The next day, during the afternoon when I know that Rose will be at home, I return to the Balula's house and give Rose the R600-00. At least I know that the lights will be turned on.
21 November 1999
Again, darkness is falling when we get to Tokoza. I have been unable to contact either Rose or Bennett at the phone numbers I occasionally could reach them at. There is no one at home. The house is in darkness, no sign of life anywhere. We go to the neighbors next door. No, they hadn't seen the Balulas that evening. They must be visiting someone. One asks, "have you heard about Theo?" No. "Oh, you don't know then that he killed about six months ago? No. We had no idea.
It seems that Theo and a friend got into a fight over a girl, and that Theo had been stabbed to death. That simple. Theo was 24 years of age.
And thus the life of Theo Balula. A township child in one of the most violent townships in South Africa, who had dreams of opportunity in the new South Africa, whose dreams turned to ashes; unable to escape township life he surrendered to the value system its unwanted youth imposed. One value was that it was worthwhile to fight to the death over the proprietary rights to the young woman who was supposed to be your girlfriend.
We leave. What, after all, was one supposed to say?