This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
08 Aug 1992: Mzizi, Gertrude
POM Since I've been here the last time, Gertrude, what's been going on in terms of the community, the violence around you?
GM The violence is a bit down. The only problem we had was the problem concerning electricity where the rent boycott was resolved 1991 in July and we made an agreement with the concerned parties and the authorities that a flat rate of R71-00 should be paid for the month of July and June and as from August we are going to pay as per consumption. But that didn't work because there were other organisations which deceived the community and told the community that that R71-00 is going to be paid for ever and the Town Council of Thokoza went on to cut off electricity to those who can't have it. In the LDRC(?) the talks for peace are still going on.
POM When the massacre happened at Boipatong, do you think the IFP have been unfairly blamed for that and damned in a way that's unfair?
GM Yes the IFP was unfairly blamed in that massacre because if you look at that KwaMadala Hostel and that Slovo Park and the new squatter camp, KwaMadala Hostel is totally out of sight. I don't understand how did they see those people in that hostel. Because now the commission is going on, to date no-one has ever given the commission the evidence that the people were from KwaMadala. They just say they saw a group of people marching towards the direction of KwaMadala, which is really a surprise and we feel very bad about it because the world is now opening up it's ears and eyes to that thing whereas at Crossroads our people were killed by people who were identified to be people from Mandela squatter camp, Holomisa squatter camp and Khuthala Hostel and those people were not arrested but some of them were the people who were known to the victims.
POM So what do you think happened at Boipatong?
GM I don't know because there are too many parties in this violence; there are too many parties concerned; there are too many groups. We are only waiting for the court of law to judge because it won't say KwaMadala people did that until they are proven guilty in a court of law.
POM Do you feel more optimistic than you were at Christmas? Do you feel safer than you felt then?
GM Myself, I don't feel safe because I knew the role that I'm taking, the hit list of my enemy or my opponent. I don't feel safe.
POM Why do you feel you're on the top of this hit list?
GM I know that has been on for quite a long time and too many attempts have been made to my life, but I am still surviving.
POM Do you take any measures to protect yourself?
GM It's very difficult to take any measures as a woman. The only measure I take is to go where I know I'm safe. I choose places, sometimes I even find it difficult to go to the nearest town because I'm not mobile, I have to use the public transport and I don't know who I am going to meet, who can do what to me.
POM So do you tend to stay in the house most of the time?
GM Yes, most of my time I'm confined to this house.
POM And do you feel safe in the house itself?
GM Yes I feel safe. Even if something can happen to me, I think it's going to be better rather than to have my corpse somewhere that I lie which is not going to be identified. If I can die here it's easily going to be identified, even my children, my family can say this is the body of my mother.
POM So what do you think is happening with negotiations? Do you think they getting anywhere?
GM There are not that much effective. The only thing is it's much better than nothing. The only thing which saved the situation here in Thokoza is because the Phola Park is now under police siege. It's been under police siege for more than a month and it's quiet although there are still some other reports of violence but the minor ones where one person will die, not that full scale war.
POM Do you mix here with other people in the community?
GM Yes we mix. We've got too many members of IFP in the township, too many members. It's wrong for people to say IFP is a thing for the hostels. It's a thing for everybody. The only thing is that most of the hostel residents are the supporters. They have got too many people.
POM How many about? Is there one branch here?
GM We have got five branches. Thokoza is a constituency and under it we have got five branches. We have got [here she gives names of the branches].
POM And how many members belong to your ...?
GM In the constituency we have got 3700 card-carrying members in the constituency.
POM That's a real big number.
GM It's a big number but the supporters are more than the card-carrying members. When I talk about membership I talk about the card-carrying members because in the hostel alone the hostel is housing 6000, so some other people just don't feel they can carry cards, they just believe they belong to IFP. They are going to vote whenever there's a need to vote but they don't believe in being card-carrying members.
POM So when you look to the negotiations that are going on at the national level, at what happened at CODESA, what do you think happened there?
GM What happened in CODESA is that there was a deadlock in CODESA 2 between the ANC and the government or the government was saying 75% and the ANC two thirds. That's where there was a breakdown. Not that the massacre of Boipatong caused the ANC to pull out of CODESA, because if ANC didn't want to see people die they could have long pulled out of CODESA because the Crossroads massacre was one of the worst massacres. They could have also pulled out. Boipatong massacre is just a scapegoat. ANC is only interested in street politics. They wanted to get out of CODESA which we all know is the negotiating forum, the forum for demands.
POM Do you think the ANC wanted to get out of CODESA?
GM Yes because they failed. They just want to get out of it so they were so lucky that massacre at Boipatong happened and they used it as a scapegoat.
POM When you say they failed, they failed to get their way is it?
GM Yes they failed to get away with it, with everything in CODESA. As I told you before CODESA is a forum for negotiations, not a forum for demand. You can't say you are going to negotiate and then you come with your demands, not a proposal. You must come with a proposal and I come with my proposal and we compromise because in negotiations you give and take. So they didn't want to give, they just wanted to take.
POM Do you think they are going to get back to the negotiating table?
GM They've got no other way. This is only the madness of street politics. They will have to because if they don't want to go back it means they will have to go back to the bush and fight, that which they have never done because they went to Angola where they prepared themselves to fight for Angolan government. They fought UNITA, they fought FAPLA, all these things. They have never fought the South African government. Instead they only fight the KwaZulu government and the supporters of IFP.
POM And the strike here this week, the stayaway, what was the atmosphere here like?
GM They went to work, we didn't have any strike. There was no mass action here. Life was just normal.
POM Everyone went to work?
GM Yes. Because you will find that in most of the cases people who want to go to work they are unable to go to work because there is no transport, because taxi people fear to take out their taxis because they are going to be stoned or set alight. But here they didn't do it.
POM So all the taxis?
GM The taxis were moving up and down taking people to and fro from work. There was no trouble. And there was not even a single incident reported.
POM So in that regard things are getting better in a way here would you say?
GM The manner in which I view it, it seems as if things are getting better simply because Phola Park is under siege because those are the people who are the trouble makers.
POM When you look to the future are you feeling more hopeful that there's going to be an outcome that will bring peace or do you still feel that ...?
GM No because that policing of Phola Park is not a long term measure, it's just a short term measure. Some day or other the police will have to leave that place because they can't be there for ever and the minute the police leave they are just going to go loose and the people who have been arming them with lethal weapons they are going to do the same thing again.
POM Dr Buthelezi has said that if the Zulu King is excluded from CODESA or any negotiating forum that the Zulu people will never be a party to any agreement made between the government and the ANC? What do you think is going to happen there? Do you think there's going to be a new negotiating forum ?
GM In fact I'm not a Zulu, I can't speak for the Zulus. I'm a Sotho, I can only speak for IFP. But I also feel very bad that His Majesty the King of the Zulus is excluded from the talks because as a King; he must be there when they make the decision about the boundaries of his land because he is the one and only man responsible for KwaZulu land. And I think Buthelezi was right to stay away from CODESA because he is the Prime Minister of His Majesty the King, but not for IFP. IFP is a political party which represents too many different nations. It's only in CODESA to put across our political aspirations.
POM I'm trying to get a sense of whether you feel things are generally getting better?
GM They are getting worse.
POM They are getting worse. What do you point to that shows things are getting worse?
GM Street politics because you can't breed a new government by taking people out of their houses and fill up the streets and then tyres in the road and barricades in the roads. It is getting worse and it's causing another bad confrontation because in this mass action which COSATU said is going to go on for the next week, people lost their lives and their property and there were quite a lot of confrontations like the confrontation in Ciskei.
POM So are things going to continue to get worse?
GM Yes, it's going to get more and more worse. And another thing which makes things difficult for South Africa is the foreign intervention because I believe if these people could stay out of it and let South Africa solve it's problems things will be much better. And the power of the police and the soldiers has now been decreased because they don't have that much control over the situation during the times of violence. They know we know that in some other cases there are those members of the police force or SADF who were supporters of the extreme right wing who do their own things, who have got their own agendas. But I believe that if South Africa could be left alone to solve its problems things are going to go back to normal. Because the United Kingdom is not going to do a thing for us, or England is not going to solve our problems, or America is not going to solve our problems. Our problems are lying on our hands.
POM Do you think that the United Nations has any role to play? There's a suggestion that the United Nations will suggest sending about 40 or 50 people here to work with the National Peace Committee to monitor.
GM They were here monitoring; people were still dying. If that was going to bring peace that could not have happened. They were here. They saw roads were barricaded with anything and they didn't do a thing about it.
POM So when you look at the stayaway which the ANC and COSATU claim that four million people didn't show up for work, in your view was that voluntary or were most of them intimidated?
GM I'm sure only 20% of it was voluntary, that the rest, 80%, was not voluntary but was caused by the conditions. You go out to work and when you come back you are stoned or your house has been set alight and even if it was four million the population of South Africa is not four million. Four million is not even a quarter of it. So four million can't rule the whole South Africa.
POM So do you think that whole week of mass action was successful or not successful?
GM I won't say that disaster was successful because it was a disaster. Our economy is just going down the drain. Too many people are going to lose their jobs. There's going to be hunger and starvation and there is no schooling. I always wonder what type of society ANC want us to have. Because another thing which worries me is that the advocates of these stayaways they are normally Indians and coloureds and they don't participate. Their schools were running normally and they also went to work and those are the people who are going to occupy our spaces if we let it. So it seems as if the black nation here in South Africa is the most unfortunate because the whites were oppressing us worse than Indians and Coloureds. Now the Indians and coloureds are fooling us and some of my brothers and sisters are so stupid enough to follow these people who are fooling. For instance, here in our township we have got five medical practitioners and only two are black, the rest are Indian. When you go to an Indian suburb you are not going to find not even a single black man owning a business there. That is why I say these people are fooling us because in the whole stayaway they were at work. They didn't even participate in these street politics.
POM So when you say it was coloureds and Indians who were advocating the mass action who were you pointing to?
GM Jay Naidoo. I'm pointing to Jay Naidoo of COSATU who was one of the great men behind it. And as to coloured I refer to a person like Rensburg of National Education Co-ordinating Committee. Rensburg is a coloured. He comes to the township, to our schools and he advocates chalk-downs and stayaways and in the coloured schools there is no stayaway. The same thing applies to the hospitals where NEHAWU, that Dexter is a coloured man; he is the man who is behind the hospital strikes. The black people's lives are at stake in the hospitals because all the workers are on strike, but in hospitals like Coronation, the coloured hospital, there was no strike. The strikes were only for black hospitals so we are now being fooled by coloureds and Indians. They also impose consumer boycotts on black communities and these consumer boycotts they say shouldn't apply to Indian shops, they only apply to white shops, and I don't understand what type of reconciliation they are talking about because they always say they are for reconciliation. I don't know who they are reconciling there.
POM So you say things are getting on worse and on the other hand you think there's no role for the international community to play. Do you think things are going to continue to get worse?
GM Yes. You see the only role which I think the international community can play can only be facilitation in talks. This is the only role I think. Monitoring of violence or monitoring of mass actions, that is not going to help and most of us in IFP, even neutral people, the people who really love South Africa, they have lost confidence in these people because these people when they come here they come with the agenda from ANC. Like now we do have the Goldstone Commission which is enquiring into public violence and intimidation and we had an International Commission of Jurists which only came here for two weeks and in their report they said that the ongoing violence here in South Africa Buthelezi is responsible for it, whereas the local commission is still struggling to get who is responsible. So that is why we say they come here with their own agenda, they are influenced by the anti-Buthelezi sources.
POM But you would see a role for the United Nations maybe as a facilitator, as chairing the peace talks?
GM Chairing the peace talks.
POM Do you think that would be a good role?
GM Yes, that they can play a good role because sometimes the meetings are just of the local people who are always blamed, even if we blame them but we think it's not going to be that much. But as far as violence is concerned they are not going to do any good or be of any help to us because if they care for South Africa they could have been here for the massacre of Crossroads and the massacre where 18 IFP people were killed and as a result of that massacre 54 people died and they didn't come. Now they come here only for the massacre of Boipatong because it is the massacre which ANC is complaining about. So they show us very clearly that they are taking their side.
POM If things are getting worse what do you think would happen when things get better?
GM ANC should stop street politics and demands, should sit down and negotiate with other parties and should stop making themselves the sole representatives of the black oppressed masses of South Africa. They must also allow other people to exist because we are all fighting apartheid but in different ways.
POM So do you think there's any purpose in going back to CODESA or do you think it's time ...?
GM Yes. This is the only forum which is going to lead South Africa to democracy.
POM Do you think you can have peace if the Zulu nation is left out, if the Conservative Party is left out?
GM You can't leave the Zulu nation out. That is the reason the peace is not going to be there because the divisions which are going to be taken there they are not going to be part of it. We can't just complain about the white apartheid regime and introduce another exclusive regime again. We want the inclusive one.
POM So you want the Conservative Party to be there?
GM Everybody. The left wing and the right wing.
POM OK I think I'll stop there. Thanks Gertrude.