From “Apartheid and Reconciliation in South Africa”, Jiménez Turati Aglaya; pp. 302-318. Interview n. 3: BRIAN MPHALELE, Apartheid victim, 11/2012, CAPE TOWN (SA).
[recording started after the beginning of the conversation]
Do you want to hear my story?
Yes. I’m feeling like I don’t know what to say..
Well I was incarcerated in solidly confinement for one year.
Yeah. And then after that I went to court and I was given 10 years on Robben Island.
Because of the government structures. My house was destroyed by dynamites and petrol, places like pubs, administration offices, schools; and then in 1987 I was a free man. I was let out of Robben Island and I was still doing sentences because I was always under observation, they always came to my mother’s house and look for me if I did not go to exile. It’s not only me alone and other comrades, until 1990 all the political parties were unbanned, the ANC and my liberation movement PAC and AZAPO they were all free to talk and then they stopped coming to my mother’s house to look for me because I was under a never ending observation. So they stopped it and 6 years later, in 1996…oh well let me go back, in 1994. Our first democratic election here in South Africa on the 27 of April 1994, we all went to the polling station to cast our votes for the party that you were a member of, or the party of your choice. Well, well, well, two years later the TRC was established by Mandela, Tutu and other prominent figures of South Africa like professor Charles Villa Vicencio, people of high profile. In 1997, I went to state my case, I went to submit my case to the TRC statement taker in Cape Town and it was taken. I don’t remember how many pages were there, and then two weeks later, they phoned me at my mother’s house. They called me and I thought, yes, the perpetrators are coming; I’m going to see those people who tortured me, am going to face them. I went to town to the TRC’s offices and there was nobody, they were not there and I said to this young lady, what are you calling me here for? She said, look Brian the TRC is running out of time and out of money in western Cape because in western Cape alone we have more than 2000 cases to handle so, what do you want the TRC to do for you? I said, look am a torture survivor, for the whole week, right here in town I was physically and brutally tortured my teeth were broken, were kicked out and I was electrocuted. Every form of torture was carried out on me and then a week later I was transferred to a maximum prison called Pollsmoor where I was incarcerated for the whole year, for 12 months all by myself, alone in the tiny little cell and then a year later I was transferred to Malmesbury, a small little town about one hour’s drive from town where I went to face an unfair trial that was held in “Kemera”. It took two weeks and those who I was working with during the struggle, they testified against me, I don’t blame them a bit, we were young boys of 18/19, well they could not cope with torture, so they betrayed me, I was betrayed by my own friends, they testified against me, it took two weeks and on the last day of the second week, on a Friday. I was given 10 years. I went back, I was referred back to Pollsmoor for observation, it took two weeks and then…
So I was sent back Pollsmoor and from Pollsmoor I was sent to the Waterfront. The Waterfront was not established yet, I was on board the boat that took me to Robben Island, this was in 1977 at the end of July, it was very cold, it was in winter. So now, I have told you about the TRC and I was called again after I had submitted my statement. I wanted to take a gun with me because I still have that anger. I am an angry man and I am still angry and bitter about those who did this to me, because when I was at school, I wanted to become a Human Rights Lawyer, that was my ambition, that was what I was gunning for in my life but that never materialized because of what happened to me and I still go to the trauma centre where the TRC sent me. On that very second day I went when I thought the perpetrators will be there but they were not there and they asked me if I know where the trauma center is? I said yes, so they phoned the trauma centre and told them about me, so I went to trauma centre for more than 4 years, I was counselled for more than 4 years because at the tortured chambers I sustained internal head injuries. After 4 years of being counselled at the trauma centre, the trauma centre referred me to Groote Schuur for brain scan, I was brain scanned by the radiologist, the radiologist gave the report to the psychiatrist and this doctor looked at the photos of my brain and she said to me that I am suffering from Amnesia and I am so lucky not to suffer from Alzheimer. I said, what is Alzheimer? And she explained to me what Alzheimer is, so well, she wrote a letter that I must take to the social worker so that I can have disability grants because I can no longer work for any company, I am a sick man, I can no longer do any work for a company…and again let me go back. When I was on my way to the TRC’s offices, on the grand parade, I met a group of elderly people with one white lady, and that caught my attraction. I went to them and asked, hey, what are you standing here for? They said, we are Khulumani Support Group members; we are going to parliament to protest in front of parliament for reparation, if you want to join us you can go to Woodstock at the trauma centre. This was supposed to be and then the TRC sent me to the trauma center where I was counselled and Khulumani Support Group have a place there where they held meetings. That was where I joined Khulumani Support Group in 1997. I joined Khulumani Support Group since its inception till now, and the following year 1998, the then president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki announced in parliament, we were there, we as committee members of Khulumani, we were there to listen to Thabo Mbeki, what is he going to say about our reparation. And he made a long story, eventually he said the government is paying out a once of payment of 30 thousand Rands and before that, when the TRC finally closed its doors, on the 29th of October 1998, Khulumani Support Group, we went there banged on their doors, to keep their doors open because they left thousands of people out in the cold, so our banging fell on deaf ears, on that date 29th of October 1998 the TRC handed over the final report of the TRC, Volume 5. Now, we went to parliament to protest in front of parliament gates, not once, not twice, several times we handed over our memorandums and we were not listend to, they never listened to us, they kept on promising to meet us and they never did and in the president’s fund there was 850 million Rands that was left. That shows you that there were people that they left out of the process and the TRC only declared 22000 people, 22000 victims of gross Human Rights abuses and violations, not in Cape Town, in South Africa and as time went by, that number of people shrinked to 17 000 people.
And is it not true?
Yeah, it’s not true. We’ve never given up the fight, we’ve never given up, we will keep on fighting for victims of gross Human Rights violations for their rights as well. In the year 2002, on the 22nd of November, Khulumani Support Group took a giant deep, we said to the cooperation referring companies that are best in South Africa to give money for reparations, they said, no! We are not here on political reasons, we are here on business, we are not going to contribute for reparations so Khulumani decided to institute a lawsuit against 23 big companies. So, we’re…this was on the 22nd of November 2002. The case is still on to this day. Six years down the line, this lawsuit is heard by 9 judges at the second district court in New York. Six years down the line our lawyers find out that the presiding judge John Sprizzo and three other judges, were holding shares and other interests in some of the companies we are holding accountable for knowingly aiding and abetting the previous apartheid government. So the 4 judges were rechosed from the lawsuit and 4 judges had to be appointed. The presiding judge is now Mrs. Shira Scheindling, a Jewish woman and last year, one of the companies, General Motors, filed insolvency lawsuit. They said they have no money, they are bankrupt and this was Joseph Smolinsky who told Michael Hausfeld, our lawyer, he said at the court in front of Shira Scheindlin and other judges that general motors are now insolvent, they are bankrupt, they have no money, they are down, all they can do, they know that they are guilty of aiding and abetting apartheid government but they say they are so sorry for that. All that they can do, they can put 1 and a half million dollars, and that was a drop in the ocean that was nothing. And if you convert 1 and a half million US dollars into South African currency, it’s about 10 and a half million Rands, which is nothing and it is still going to be taxed, so it is a drop in the sea. Well now, we have 4 and 18 of this companies got off the hook, we were left with 5 now there are 4 left because GM settled out of court, right, now we have IBM, Rheinmetall Defence, a German armed manufacturing company, Tema Chrysler and Ford. I do not know when the case will be shared again, maybe next year, I don’t know yet.
It is very complicated.
Very complicated yes, and the government is sneaking their nose in our lawsuit and also in the middle of things, the then justice Minister Mr. Penuell Maduna wrote an affidavit, he did fax it to the late John Sprizzo, this was in 2006 I think, saying that this affidavit he wrote it to the judge, it said every victim of gross Human Rights violations and abuses is very happy with what the TRC has done for them. Their reparation was well paid, no one is complaining so this lawsuit must be dismissed. John Sprizzo felt very happy, the lawsuit was dismissed, it was kicked out of the court and our lawyers appealed against dismissal and also they said, our own government, they said, Khulumani Support Group is undermining the sovereignty of South Africa and secondly Khulumani support group is going to chase investors away and those investors who are on their way to South Africa are not going to come because of this lawsuit Khulumani instituted against other big corporations which was not true. All these companies must do is to just to pay out reparations and then it’ll be business as usual. Case closed. That’s all.
Thanks for share your story with me.
Stuggle continues. A luta continua!
I have some questions to ask you, can I?
The first question is, what is the participation degree in social life of all “non-white” people today?
To 18 years ago, when apartheid was alive and well? Well, in the first place, today the unemployment rate today is very high. People are struggling, people are not working and even those who are at work are also complaining, that is why, you see, in South Africa you get protests every day. Few weeks ago and even today, the miners are striking. The farm workers, everybody is embarking on strike because of wages and working conditions are upholding. Nobody is happy and the economy of this country is still in white hands. White people are still controlling the economy of this country.
I was referring to the participation in democracy, I mean do you think that now people participate I mean as citizens in social life?
Well, people are no longer interested in social life. People are very disappointed by our own government that we fought for in first place. If you were a black person living in the township, you would feel the very same way and am sure when you landed at Cape Town airport…
I came by bus.
Oh, from Joburg?
And you are going to fly back?
No I will go by bus.
Well, if the plane lands at Cape Town International Airport, just before the landing you could see through the windows, slums, they are so congested, that is where we live and that is where still live even during apartheid era. So, almost nothing has changed in our social lives. Nothing has changed!
I have been in some townships for my interviews, I saw somehow the situation is and it is something really strong to accept. Too much inequalities and injustices.
I’ve been in different places. Here I’ve been…I went to a townships close to Kuils River, Crossroads..
I’ve also been in Soweto, and in Thokoza close to Joburg, then I’ve been to Thaba Nchu and Botshabelo close to Bloemfontain. But I travelled too a little bit, like in Polokwane or Kroonstad and other places, so I can say and I saw somehow a little of how the people are living.
And people are still living below the breadline in South Africa, black people.
Yes, well hasn’t it changed?
Sure! There is still a vast difference between white and black. It is now 18 years down the line. In such a rich country, people are still living under these conditions, people living below the breadline and I can assure you that taking up arms again is not an easy decision to make but I know that when we people finally decide that this is enough, enough is enough, then we will stand up and we don’t care, and we will stand, we’ve nothing to lose. We will fight until the last man standing and we are capable of doing that. We can make this country ungovernable. Not this province. The country, we can make it ungovernable because we have been waiting for what we have been promised, nothing is coming our way, nothing!
In what way do the people express their opinion today, are they free to do it?
Yes, you are free to express yourself because it is part of your democratic right but however, you cannot say whatever you like against the government, they will arrest you.
So, do you mean that there is no freedom?
Do you mean that it’s just in the papers, but in the reality there isn’t freedom?
How much has trust grown among whites, blacks and coloreds since the end of apartheid?
Since 1994, we don’t trust each other.
Not at all?
No! No! No! No! No! Oh yes, I do have white friends, like the one I trust from…if maybe, as usual, I don’t always have something to put on the table for my family, I go cry to him, doctor Hugo from Centre for study of violence and reconciliation, I go to him. I go to Conoracks, I go to Shadiga. I’ve got white friends who we trust each other but I can assure you; I don’t have more than 10, No! I don’t have a lots of white friends and even they, they are the people I come from a long way with them, so they know me, they trust me, and I trust them.
What are the contexts in which dialogue among blacks, whites and coloreds has manifested itself the most?
Environments where there has been the chance of dialogue, where do you see interaction among the different cultures…in what contexts?
There is freedom of movement.
No, I’m asking about the dialogue, the communication.
The communication is free.
But where does it happen, this communication?
Where do you see a dialogue among blacks, coloreds and whites, in what places?
At this place, did you see the hall downstairs? At such places, because there are different NGOs, there are more than 15 NGOs in this building alone. I am trying to answer your question. And right opposite, there is COSATU boardroom and the majority of these NGOs. The COSATU is the Umbrella body, they also come here to hold meetings and that is where the communication begins, they talk whatever they want to talk.
But I mean in the normal life, I mean for example when you go to the streets, you go in…
Not normal life. There’s nothing like that here, No! As I said before, you have to know me, I have to know you and we have been together, we have been colleagues, we have been comrades in whatever, we were or we are still doing, not just any person from streets, No! That doesn’t happen here. Even in colored areas, No! Apartheid is still alive and well in this country, it is only script in the structure books that it’s not there but it’s in people.
Has there been a growth of social responsibility at individual level for the building of a new South Africa? I mean, do the people feel more responsible at social level in order to build a new South Africa?
Well, there are very few and I am going to tell you about my township, Langa. People there are no longer interested as I have said earlier on; people are very much disappointed by our government. People don’t want to take any responsibility.
When you say people whom do you refer to?
Black people. They feel marginalized, they feel betrayed by the same government that we fought for in putting place and the promises…empty promises that the government is making for us, and things that they are doing to us recently are not materializing. And more, there’s still that sense of xenophobic attacks to the other black people who’ve been around South Africa here, who’ve been to the townships, and you’ve seen. Now there are millions of them that have flocked in our country and they do find work easily, I think you must have heard about that, they do find work easily because they are exploited to the extreme, they can take a job that pays 40 rands a day and we as people of this country, we don’t work for such money. So now the bosses, they are not employing us they are employing these foreigners from war torn countries, poverty stricken countries, war ridden countries and they are taking advantage of these people to pay them peanuts, so they cannot employ us, so now the thing is, instead, I don’t know how to put this to you. Do I blame the bosses or do I blame these people? No, I don’t blame the bosses, I don’t blame these people but I blame the government. I don’t hear anything about wars in Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, bla bla bla it’s quiet, why can’t the government repatriate them? Why?
At the social level, instead, have South Africans developed some strategies to build a new South Africa?
So, I was asking you if South Africans have developed some strategy to get a growth of the country at social level, I mean if there is a social responsibility felt by all the people to work together? As I have said earlier on that we South Africans we feel left out in many things. There are those black people who are benefiting from this democracy and there are black people who benefited from apartheid. People who were siding with the previous apartheid government especially in the Eastern Cape and also right here in Cape Town, colored people, Muslims, Indians, they benefited from apartheid and they are still benefiting from this democratic government, how? If you’ve been to the colored townships and if you can roam around the Muslim areas, those houses they live in were not built yesterday or after 1994, No, they were there during apartheid area and the education that they received was totally different from what we received. We received the most inferior education in the world which was called Bantu education. So the communication amongst us, black, color even Muslim, is not so much intact. We are still feeling that we are left out, it’s only…how can I put it…this is very complicated but it’s in my mind and apartheid is still there, it’s in the communities, in the society, but it’s not in the statute books, it is abolished.
Do you mean that it’s politically abolished; it’s just an agreement within few men but it’s not a reality?
It’s not a reality, you are right! But from the statute books, it abolished but this is still in the air. So, there are also those black people who benefitted, they live such a posh life even today and white people in this country, as I have said earlier on, there’s a vast difference among the rich and black and the poor, we are getting poorer than we were before and the rich are getting much richer than they were before. So, black people the most majority of them, are poor people and even those who went to exile and put their legs on the line, they are ignored by the very same government they sacrificed for, like myself. We are the forgotten heroes. And the community in our black township, they can see that because we are living with them in the same area, in the same place, we are doing the same things every day of our lives and people are talking about revolution.
Please don’t say that…
We are the forgotten heroes.
No, no, why do you say that?
We are marginalized. We are ignored; we are betrayed by the very same government.
What are the contexts in which indigenous cultures can be expressed?
Culture? Indigenous culture? Am a Pedi Originally am from Polokwane. It takes you 3 hours from Joburg by car.
I went there.
I went to Polokwane.
With Marjorie Jobson, I went there with her.
That is where my family originates from, but I was born here in Cape Town. What was your question again?
What are the contexts in which indigenous cultures can be expressed?
Am a Pedi, my mother is Xhosa, my father is from that area. And my father is wise but he has passed on in 1988 on the 12th of July, I hate that date because I was sentenced on the 12th of July and my father died on the same date, same month but different years. I hate the 12th of July. My father studied medicine; he was from a very prestigious family, Mphahlele. He studied medicine in Durban, that university I forgot the university’s name but I walked passed that university the other year, when we were invited at the World Conference against Racism in Durban, this was in 2001 or in 2002, all the Khulumani members from different provinces were invited, so I was walking with the Khulumani members in this university, my father studied here, it’s Medunsa Medical University of South Africa, he obtained his BAC degree, when he studied further to become a medical doctor, he dropped out, I think he was doing CAB or some degree to qualify as a medical doctor, he dropped out. Sorry, we are talking about culture?
My culture is totally different to Xhosa, Zulu, Tswana although we live in the same area. There are also traditions, culture and traditions, they are totally different.
Do you feel free to express your culture everywhere today?
Of course! But there are things that we keep to ourselves. We cannot talk to Xhosa, Zulu, Tswana about circumcision. We don’t discuss that with other ethnic groups although I can marry a Zulu girl, any girl from any ethnic group. It’s unlike a Muslim girl, I cannot marry her, she can love me, I can love her but we can’t get married, we can’t even fall in love, with a Muslim girl, but other cultures, other ethnic groups, I can fall in love with any girl, our culture doesn’t tell us not to fall in love with a Zulu girl. Look at the leader of my beloved political focalization, PAC, Pan Africanist Congress. I belong to Pan Africanist Congress of Azania that broke from ANC in the late 50s because of ideology. Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe never liked the ANC’s ideology, so he broke away with few other members and he formed the Pan Africanist Congress. I am a staunch and a loyal member of PAC of Azania. Mangaliso Sobukwe was a Xhosa man but he got married and got children from a Zulu woman. And I once met his son at the Waterfront the other year, Dinilesizwe meaning sacrifice for the nation and he is baring a remarkable resemblance to his father. He looks exactly like his father and I said to him, you mustn’t smoke because your father was a chain smoker, he used to smoke a lot and he was a lawyer and he was a lecturer at Vets University.
I see, so you said that you can express your culture everywhere, in every place in South Africa without problems?
With no strings attached, with no problems, but not…I can’t discuss what we do on the mountains when we go to circumcise. That I cannot tell you, I cannot tell any other ethnic group unless we are sitting together. We can’t talk freely about what is happening on the mountains.
Oh I see, about your rites?
Yes. Rites of passage. We don’t discuss it with anyone, we don’t.
Do you still have that rite?
Yeah, yes! It’s happening every June and December
In your opinion, what are the environments in which the national identity is build today?
For example, during the Rugby World Cup, did all South Africans feel united? What are the contexts or the events; when do all South Africans white, black, colored, feel South Africans together?
Well, Jake White, the former Springbok coach took Springbok’s Rugby National Team to the World Cup in France and he never lost a single match to the last final match and Amabokoboko brought the World Cup to South Africa. But coming together, love each other, like each other is only for a short spell and then it vanishes into thin air and then life goes back to normal.
So do you mean that you don’t think that South Africans feel themselves united?
No! No! No! It’s only for a short spell when we all feel happy.
Then when it ends then what? How do you feel? Don’t you feel South African just like a white man, like a colored man, like any other black man?
Oh No! No! No! I feel great and politics will always report on the table and the vast majority of my people politicize everything. Look, if there are only 3 blacks in the National Squad that will be put into politics, you get my meaning?
So if you go out of the country in whatever place and you meet another South African that for example is white, do you feel both South Africans?
Yes! Yes! In Uruguay, I was in Uruguay in Montevideo. I was walking down the road, main road Avenida 18 de julio, well, I walked passed a cinema and I looked at the posters “Grito de libertad” Cry freedom and this is now reality. On the 9thof March 1970, I was 17 years 10 months old when I was introduced to Steve Biko.
Did you meet Steve Biko?
I was introduced to him. And he used to go to my mother’s house and look for me and my mother used to chase him out of her house and he used to come every time. The late Steve Bantu Biko. I was a teen, I was 17 years old 10 months, that was when I joined liberation forces. So now, in 1988, I was in Uruguay in Montevideo when I looked at this there were people at the foyer queuing to buy tickets and I joined them, I had US dollars, I had 100 USD bill, I went to Banco de Uruguay to change 50 and I got pesos. I had lots of pesos and of course I was giving a 50 USD bill back. I joined the queue. Am trying to answer your question..
More or less…
Now it was my turn to buy a ticket and they speak Spanish, so I spoke English, I said, I need a ticket to watch “Grito de Libertad”, Cry Freedom. Now, the white lady said to me, where are you from, are you from America? I said no am from South Africa. Where in South Africa? Cape Town. She screamed. I thought, what’s happening? She said to me, do you see that man? I said yes. That’s my husband, I got married to him 15 years ago, I am from Cape Town, Seapoint. That was when I felt, wowww! My hometown girl, thousands of miles away from home and I felt something changing in my body. She wanted to cry and she said to me, it’s the very first time I am seeing a black South African in Montevideo, Uruguay, so you are not going to pay and she called an usher to let me in and give me one of the best sits.
What year was that?
1988. I was just released from prison and by some ways I went abroad.
You perfectly answered my question. Thanks. What are the activities by which the historical memory of South Africa is kept alive?
Well, the 16th of June, South Africa was on fire, students were protesting against Bantu education and Afrikaans, which was the most inferior education on earth. That day will never be forgotten and also the 21st of March 1960, when the PAC was protesting about past laws. Those are the days that we will never forget in our lives. The 21st of March and the 16th of June, in South Africa. We feel very bad when we see young people and even elderly people enjoying themselves, going to the waterfront, going to the city gardens, enjoying themselves, it’s like making parties. We were supposed to mourn on those days, we are mourning for those who were killed in prisons and on the streets of South Africa by the South African defense force. We are supposed to mourn; we are not supposed to feel happy. To throw parties, to go out to the beach, to out to the gardens. We are not supposed to do that.
So do you think that today the memory of South Africa is not kept alive?
Youths don’t know what happened in the past?
Yes, even the youth of today. The vast majority of the youth today, especially the born frees. If you tell them about Steve Biko, they are just not interested. Tell them about the fashion, the hairstyle and all that, then they will listen.
Does the government consider lower class programs and in what way?
They don’t even care. If you watch… do you watch news on TV?
No, I don’t have a TV where I stay.
It’s a pity. Every day, especially in rural areas even in urban areas, the living conditions of black people. People are dying of poverty, people are dying of diseases. It is worse in the rural areas where if you go to the hospital you are told that, we have no medication. Basic needs are not there..
In what way do South Africans feel themselves united?
You see, it’s very hard and we never knew what the democracy would bring for us. We did not know it. We were so excited because it was the very first time we went to the polling stations and cast our vote but we noticed, even when Mandela was still the first black person, we noticed, those who are so observant like myself, I said look this is the 4th year and people are starting to be in such a hurry, we just got independence the other day. I said look this is the 4th year and this is abnormally rich country. We were supposed by now to see changes and we don’t see anything to this day.
What are the strongest prejudices against black and colored people?
I mean things that people use to say about black people or colored people that aren’t true. Are there prejudices against black people?
Not like before. There were but it’s not like before.
So has it changed?
A little bit. It’s not like before because before we used to undermine each other. To give each other bad names like Kaffir for black people, Coolies for Indians. That is how we people we used to give each other bad names. But it is not like before.
Do you mean that through the language things are changing? Is the communication more polite now?
Yes, because of our children schooling together, Indian, Muslim, colored they are in the same classroom. So now, that bad communication amongst each other, it is still there but not like before because we are all sailing in the same boat.
So is this an improvement?
Yeah. And also at work place, here and there, not everywhere, I share an office with a white man, with a Muslim girl, we share the office which is very rare here in Cape Town to get. But although black people are in high positions, there are very few CEOs, there are very few directors in big corporations although black people are also through their skills and education, they are in high positions. But we are no longer regarded as baboons, kaffirs. Now Muslims and colored they start to realize that black people are so intelligent, they are so clever and they are also black lecturers at universities, lecturing white children, Muslim and also black. So there’s no longer that undermining of black people. They are rectors, vice rector, vice chancellors, chancellors a black person.
What are the strongest prejudices against white people?
Oh well, we are still, let me talk about myself. I am still…
Well, we still have anger towards the white people in the true sense of the word. Black people are still holding grudges against white people, what they have done to us is still in our hearts, it is still in our minds and they are still doing it. If you watch news on TV you will see it because, today, I mean few days ago, the farm workers have embarked on strike, they have…they are burning the farms where they work because of salaries. They are underpaid, so this thing between white and black, it will take centuries to end.
Do you mean that you think that there are still prejudices?
Yeah. Yeah. There are.
In your opinion, what are the cases in which there has been justice for the problems created by apartheid, where have you seen justice since 1994?
Oh well, I am going back to 1996 when the TRC was established; there were about 5 perpetrators who were languishing behind bars. Justice never ran its course in South Africa; justice was never done because perpetrators got away with what they did to us. The TRC was a big, big joke, the TRC was perpetrator friendly, it favoured the perpetrators. The perpetrators got free for what they have done and even some perpetrators have undermined the TRC, they never went to testify to the TRC, they never went because the TRC was chaired by a black person, Desmond Tutu. Now, there was no justice at all. One of the major perpetrators was maybe killed in Guguletu when he went to say sorry for what he did and he was nearly killed, you can’t say sorry. I am telling you the only aspect I know of Eugene de Kock, Janusz Waluś, a foreigner, the one who killed Chris Hani and his friend, I forgot his name, there are about 4 or 5 of them that are in prison. The TRC let them go free, they let them off the hook. And then again the government through the TRC only paid out a once off payment of 30,000 Rands and I was one of the 17,000 victims who received the final reparation. And I extended my mother’s house and 30,000 was gone before the house was finished. It was gone before I knew it and the house wasn’t well done, it wasn’t finished. Because everything is now expensive, labour, the building material, transport to deliver to go and take these materials and 30,000 Rands was gone. And the TRC recommended before they finally closed their doors, they recommended that if you have sustained minor injuries at the torture chambers, you were liable to be paid out 17,000 Rand a year, for six years. If you were seriously injured, if you had sustained major injuries at the torture chambers, you were liable to get paid 24,500 Rands a year for six years, and that never happened. Thabo Mbeki paid out only 30,000 Rands.
What are the social signs by which you feel that the situation has improved compared to the former?
There’s nothing like that.
Do you mean that there’s no social sign by which you can say that the situation has improved?
At all? But, you told me before about the language…
I sleep in a shack in the first place. I am one of the people who played a big role to liberate South Africa but am left behind and ignored, so there’s no social change in me, nothing. I live in a shack. And you know what a shack looks like, you saw it.
I understand, but you said that at least the language among you has changed.
Yes, at least it’s a kind of improvement, is it?
So one social sign is language, the communication at least has started to change.
It has changed but that means nothing to me. And even if I fall in love with a white girl, that means nothing to me. This is politics. I was not fighting. When we were free, when we won the struggle, I did not want to be a rich man like they are in parliament, I did not want to drive Ferrari, Lamborghini, all I wanted was to live a normal life.
What are the meaningful signs that let you understand that there has been acknowledgement by both parts?
In my life? Well…
I mean the meaningful signs in the society, in general…
You mean by going to a place where are full of white people so that I can sit with them, enjoy with them, yes I do. Like if I go to the Jewish Museum in town, have you been there?
No I’ve been to a museum, but it’s the slave museum close to Gardens…
Do you mean the museum about the slaves? Slave lodge?
So, is everything okay?
Yeah, yeah, am fine.
So we were talking about the social signs of acknowledgement.
Yeah, association with other people.
Sign of acknowledgement of what happened from all parts, white, black people..
Yes, there are people who acknowledge that, there are. In both parts, there definitely are people who acknowledge what I’ve been through, who acknowledge what I’ve done for the country, there are people who are taking their hats off for me, there are. Yeah! People who praise me a lot.
Black and white?
What have been the meaningful signs of forgiveness that you have seen after apartheid? The most important sign of forgiveness that you have seen.
Forgiveness or reconciliation?
Well, I can’t forgive…I can’t forget, I can’t forgive. Look at when I wanted to carry a gun when I was called to the TRC for the second time and I thought that the perpetrators were going to be there. Now, I can’t forgive those who did this to me because I can no longer restore my dignity. That piece of whatever I can call it…that 30,000 Rands, it was insult that they gave us. It was a pure insult for the people who went through hell like me. It was like saying, take this 30,000 and get out of my sight; I don’t want to see you any more in front of me.
I see, but apart of your case, do you know some of your friends that did; have you ever heard about some signs of forgiveness?
There are very few people who can prove to you and I think people who never enjoyed what I went through, people who take things easily. I don’t take things easily because I was nearly killed and today I am suffering and I am still suffering because of what the perpetrators did to me. I cannot forgive them. After I was released, long before I went to the TRC I was tracking them down, I still had a gun. I looked at the telephone directory looking for their addresses and they were not on the telephone directories. So, I can’t forgive a person or people who did this to me. It’s not easy to forgive. It is also not easy to reconcile with a perpetrator. 30,000 Rands meant nothing to me and it only opened wounds.
What are the cultural practices that promote integration and growth as South Africans and not as divided communities?
Well that only happens once in a year. It happens during festive season and it is now, as we speak, it’s on its way, in December and January. Not countrywide, its only in Cape Town when we enjoy Cape Coons. Is it your first time here?
Well, in December and January there are more than 30 groups of Cape Coons like in Brazil. The Coons Carnival. That brings us together in Cape Town, and then we feel happy.
What are the problems connected to the land in South Africa?
We have no houses. It’s a daily battle to have a place to stay especially we black people. We had land restitution, but only few people benefited from that, I went to apply for a house and I was rejected. This was years ago when I went to the government Department for Housing. I was given a piece of paper saying that I can’t own a house because am not working. This is it, when was this? 6 years ago. That is from the government (Brian showed me a letter where he was refused to have a home from the Department mentioned in the letter).
What is the distribution degree of the wealth in South Africa?
There’s no distribution by the wealthy people who can donate to us, anything. No. Not that I know of.
Can you explain it better?
Not that I know of, say for instance, I am making an example, this is Khulumani Support Group, a non-profit organization, we depend on the funder, which is in Switzerland. Here in South Africa we have tried some companies to fund us, to keep this office running, we have no funds in South Africa. There are no contributions that I know of here in Cape Town, maybe some colored organizations because colored people get first preference. Here in Western Cape, they are the majority so they get first preference and they vote for Democratic Alliance and before the National Party was distended, they voted National Party, not PAC or ANC. Of course there are ANC members of colored people but not like the PAC, DA, all they do, they go for white, they go where white people are and there are more than 35 townships here in Cape Town that are dominated by colored people and we, there’s Langa that is where I stay, Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Crossroad, Philippi, Delft, Tunun, Seven. And Delft and Tunun, I think about 4 years ago, they were those townships that were established, there were about only 4 or 5 black townships all these years in Cape Town. The vast majority of the townships in Cape Town are dominated by colored people, so they are the majority in this area. So, the first preference goes to them.
In what way has South African lives improved in the last times?
It has improved to the elites, it has improved a lot to the elites, because as I have said earlier on, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
Do you know what Ubuntu is?
What do you think about Ubuntu?
It’s not like before. Humanity is almost no longer there. Today one is for himself or herself. There’s no longer Ubuntu like before.
Can you explain it better?
Yeah. If I ask a lift from you, maybe on a rainy day. Can you give me a lift to town? Oh, I wish I could Brian, but however I am first going to observatory, I am not going straight to town whereas you are going straight to town. There’s no longer Ubuntu today. There is no longer sharing.
And before? When?
Oh yes, we used to share.
What do you mean when you say before? When exactly?
This was 20/30 years ago. We used to share whatever I’ve got, whatever you’ve got, we used to share.
That was Ubuntu?
Yeah, that is humanity.
And so today Ubuntu is kind of dead?
Well, today we no longer do that. There are very few people who still do that, especially in the remote areas, in rural areas, but in the urban areas you have to fend for yourself.
Is there anything else that you want to add about all what we’ve discussed?
Oh, I think I have said it all but what I must tell you as a… I don’t want to call you a foreigner; you are not a foreigner… what’s your name again?
Aglaya what I can tell you… I have said most of the things that are in my heart and in my brain but in South Africa I can assure you that if we don’t stand up and fight against the evil system, nothing is going to happen to us, we are still going to live the same life we lived. I’ve said everything I think. It wasn’t my intention to talk about this because what I went through was very bad, they wanted to kill me but they dismally failed to break my will because I still have that power to fight on, until the last man standing. We can’t live like this, No. What I am doing here is voluntary work, I volunteer because I am a plaintiff in the lawsuit and am still fighting for reparation that is why I always come and hang around here. I don’t get paid; I depend on these disabilities grant.
Yeah because they injured me. I sustained internal head injuries at the torture chambers and now the doctors say I am on disability grant, which is also nothing.