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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
17 Feb 1995: Mzizi, Gertrude
POM I think the last time we saw you was the night of the elections in the hostels when people were voting up to nine and ten o'clock at night. Your life has changed a lot since then. How has it changed?
GM No, not changed. We still live the same kind of life. The only difference is that there is no violence as which used to exist from 1990 up till end 1994, but my life is still the same.
POM But you are a member of the Legislature. Are you living in a different place ?
GM I am still living in Thokoza.
POM You do? The same house?
GM Yes, I bought that house in Alberton in 1993 but it was very difficult for me to move out of the township. There was lots and lots of violence and I was not supposed to leave the people in such shambles.
POM So do your family still live in - could we come out and visit you some evening maybe?
GM My husband is in Cape Town.
POM I saw him the other day.
GM Yes my husband is in Cape Town. Alberton is in fact the place for children, not for me, I still live in Thokoza.
POM But you live in Thokoza?
GM Yes I live in Thokoza. Thokoza and Alberton, it's one thing. Just that Alberton is white and Thokoza is black.
POM Has the atmosphere in Thokoza changed a lot?
GM It has changed very dramatically, dramatically. There is no gunfire and it's like a dream to have a night in Thokoza without a gun shot.
POM Do you think the violence, with all the goings on last year, do you think the elections in Thokoza were free and fair?
GM No. We had elections very fraudulent. I am sure it was the most fraudulent in the whole world.
POM The whole world?
GM I think so because this one was really disastrous.
POM In what way was it disastrous?
GM You see there was no control in polling booths because the officials of the elections were members of the parties. Sometimes people were voting two, three times or four times and we thought it was very, very unfortunate because we joined the election at a very late hour, all the security were from other parties and the officials were from other parties, so we were the most disadvantaged to an extent that the polling station where I voted we had twenty four boxes provincial, and twenty four boxes national but out of all those we counted only seven, the rest were missing.
POM Seven out of twenty four?
GM Seven out of forty eight. The rest were missing. And in many other polling stations - you see, as you know, in the township there were no-go areas, the township was divided into two, IFP/ANC and in many other townships, so the ballot boxes when they reached the place where they were supposed to be stored it was known where they come from as they were numbered or they were labelled, so people who were there they were mainly ANC people, they knew it was from the IFP so it was very easy for them to tamper with them. Many other boxes were not counted because although it was not easy, even for those boxes which were not tampered with, to reconcile with the stubs but with ours it was really worse because some of the boxes were empty, some were filled up with grass, some were filled up with newspapers, some were just open with very few ballot papers, so they could not be counted.
POM Now you had in KwaZulu/Natal ...
GM I don't think I can respond to anything as far as KwaZulu/Natal is concerned. I don't live there.
POM I know, but there were allegations by the IFP that the ANC had stolen votes, there were allegations by the ANC that the IFP had stolen votes, there were allegations by the NP. There were all these allegations and it was a very confused period when they started to count the votes and yet this miraculous result came about where everybody won, everybody won something.
GM I don't think everybody got what they wanted. The only thing is that it was the country and South Africans at stake so we just have to live with all the problems that we experienced. No-one can really say I got what I wanted.
POM So you would say that it was better to accept the results that were there because if you didn't accept them the whole country could erupt in civil war?
POM Therefore, the lesser course of two evils was to take your place. How about the local elections coming up?
GM People don't want to register. You see the problem here is that the manifesto of now the ruling party had lots and lots of promises for the general elections, it was just like - you see they were talking of things which wouldn't happen. Now people didn't get those things. No houses, you can see what is happening in Lenasia now, no houses, no jobs, no anything really, no changes, and it's very difficult for people to just stand up and go to join the long queues and register. They won't see any reason why they should. Sometimes they don't even understand that the delivery, the actual deliveries happen through the local government. So I don't know how the ANC and other parties are dealing with that but I can't speak for them. With us we do the door to door registration. In the hostels we do it cubicle by cubicle, but the fact is that people are not interested.
PM Do you think the lack of interest is because they haven't seen any results?
GM No, there's no change.
POM No change since the election?
GM Unemployed person is still unemployed, the homeless are still homeless.
POM Do you think that is anybody's fault or that it just takes - I mean Mr Sexwale made a promise that he would build a million and a half houses.
GM 150,000, and it was very stupid of him. 150,000. It was very stupid of him because I think until such time that we will have oil wells, more uranium and platinum, we can even be able to employ as many people as we can and we can even build 500,000 houses per annum. It's not anyone's fault, it's the economy of the country which cannot afford to and they lied to the people. And the other major thing is that we have got economic and political refugees in South Africa from all over Africa and the unfortunate thing is that some of them have taken jobs from South Africans. People want to see these people leaving and the government in a way is protecting them, and the resources of the country are so scarce that even its own people, they can't even afford to maintain their own people. I think here in this legislature we have got someone who is a Malawian who is working here.
POM How would that have happened?
GM She has got a work permit, she's a secretary.
POM Was she working here before the new legislature came into being?
GM No. You see there is this thing, the ruling party now is the ANC. These people from Malawi can run here, you can name all these African countries. The ANC, some of the people who are now the ministers, the Cabinet ministers or the provincial members of the Executive Council, they lived in those countries so it's something which I can say whether it's a pay-back or a favour or what. The problem we are facing now is that why do we have to employ secretaries, foreign secretaries, when we do have people with such skills? We can do that if only it is something which all South Africans cannot do.
POM Since you've been here has there been any policy of affirmative action in terms of bringing in ...?
GM You mean in the government? No, no, no. None has been implemented. The affirmative action is taking place in the private sector. In the government we haven't.
POM Is that proving to be a problem?
GM I don't know whether it is a problem or not. You must understand that this is an 86 member legislature, we are only three members. The Cabinet is only ANC and the Nationalist Party. Some of the things we are not aware of. The way in which one can get information is only to pose a question in the legislature to a certain minister or the Premier and that means sometimes you don't even get the answer. Instead of getting the answer the whole thing is going to be defended.
POM So is the IFP like the opposition?
POM What does it see as being the role of an opposition party?
GM You see as I said to you earlier on that the Cabinet is three members from the Nationalist Party and nine members from the ANC, the decision has been taken in the Cabinet. The only way of getting information is posing a question in the legislature orally or maybe you can make it written. This is the only way in which you can get the answer. Sometimes the answer is not even the right answer and you can't argue that until such time that you have the right information. So the role, it's a very difficult role to play. You cannot oppose what you don't know. We oppose things which are happening and things which we see. Things which are about to happen or things which were supposed to happen we can only raise those things but you cannot oppose what you don't know.
POM Do you feel powerless?
GM No I don't feel powerless in a sense that my people are protected. The IFP electorate is protected, no-one can tamper with it.
POM In terms of getting things done that you want to get done?
GM I'm powerless there. Getting things done, I'm powerless, I am not in the decision making. To date I don't even know the budget, the 1994/95 budget. There were many questions, many written, I don't know the budget as it is now before we go to the recess. It's now that the 1994/95 budget is going to be tabled, for what good reason I don't know. I only know the national budget. The provincial budget I don't know it.
POM So when you go back to your constituents what do you tell them?
GM Exactly what I am telling you.
POM No wonder then they don't want to register.
GM You must understand the South African situation. There are things which you cannot go out with, things of this legislature which you cannot tell people because you don't want people to revolt, and whatever revolution is not going to bring any change. Some of the things we live with and we fight them here. I can't go out and tell people that there are aliens employed here while they are jobless. What am I expecting? Do I want them to come and march here, disrupt everything? I can't go and tell the people that.
POM So do you have constituency meetings?
POM And what kind of questions do people ask you?
GM The very same questions of housing, jobs.
POM Do you get tired of saying ...?
GM No I don't get tired, I don't get tired of talking, it's my business.
POM I know, but you're saying the same thing over and over again.
GM No, no, people must know. You see the major thing which people must understand is the economic status of the country. It doesn't matter who is in power. That is the most important now, whether the country can afford or not.
POM Do you think the economy has improved?
GM I don't see any improvement.
POM What are your relationships now with the ANC?
GM [It's better than those days when we ... people out of those parties]. You see now the difference is that whatever legislation is going to be passed, the Bill has been referred to the committee first, like you see I have got committees in front of me, education, internal arrangements, housing, rules, public safety and security, and then we will sit down together in our committees when we discuss these things and sometimes we reach consensus, sometimes we don't. But it's not that bad.
POM What is consensus? Is consensus when the ANC and the NP agree?
GM Consensus is sometimes when we all agree, sometimes we don't agree so we will rely on the majority vote, but we will make our objections noted.
POM So if you had to rate the performance of the legislature on a scale of one to ten where one would be very unsatisfactory performance and ten would be very satisfactory performance?
GM You see the problem here, the problem which people must understand, including yourself, is that it is a new legislature which had no administration, which had nothing. Everything is new and it also took lots and lots of our time in trying to set up the new structures, so now it's going to be very unfair for anyone to say we didn't do anything.