About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Non-Collaboration with Dignity

An interview with Clarence Makwetu

Clarence Mlamli Makwetu was born on 6 December 1928 at Cofimvaba in the Transkei. ("ChrisHani was also born there - he is my neighbour," he says).

He matriculated at Lovedale, and went to work in Cape Town in 1948. He joined the ANC Youth League in 1954 and was instrumental in the formation of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in 1959. "I was amongst those who disagreed with the leadership of the ANC on a number of issues. The last straw was the adoption of the Freedom Charter. We were opposed to what the Freedom Charter spoke for."

Mr Makwetu was the first PAC Branch Secretary of the Langa Flats branch. His assistant secretary was Philip Ata Kgosana - the activist who led the Anti-Pass march on Parliament on 30 March 1960.

Later, Mr Makwetu became Regional Chairman of the PAC Western Cape Region, a position that automatically entitled him to become a Deputy President of the PAC.

Makwetu was first wrested on 29 March 1960 in the then State of Emergency - he was released in September. In August 1961 he was banished to his home in Cofimvaba. A month later he was detained for 5 months, after which he returned to Cape Town. He was ordered back to the Transkei. He was then charged for conducting illegal PAC meetings, and later for furthering the aims of the banned PAC. He served an effective five years on Robben Island.

He finished his sentence in 1968 and returned to the Transkei. He was again detained from June 1976, for 11 months. And again - July 1977, this time for 4 months. And again - July 1979, for 4 months.

In December 1979 his blood cousin, KD. Matanzima, banished him to the Libode district for 5 years. He was allowed to return to Cofimvaba in October 1984. In August 1986 - detention again, this time for 4 months/ 7 continued - restriction, detention, detention, detention, banishment and all that. I was in and out!"

In December 1989 Mr Makwetu became the first President of the Pan Africanist Movement (PAM). The PAC was unbanned on 2 February 1990. Thereafter, on 10 March 1990, the PAM Special Congress in Bloemfontein dissolved the front organisation, and MrMakwetu assumed the role of Deputy President of the PAC.

In December 1990, after the death of Ziphania Mothopeng Clarence Makwetu was elected President of the Pan Africanist Congress.

MONITOR: Has the PAC got resources - is it up, is it moving?

CLARENCE MAKWETU: It has no resources whatsoever. It is the poorest organisation in the country. It is moving without resources.

Apparently there is a campaign against us, being run by the international community. They are offering the ANC millions and millions. Similarly with Inkatha. Us? Hardly a cent. Why? I think they are backing a horse they hope is going to win.

We have set up offices thoughout this country, but some of those offices have no furniture. They're not even staffed, for that matter, for want of resources. At times we are finding it difficult to pay rent for this office and the phone.

But we are optimistic.

Non-collaboration with the regime - what is your actual position now?

It has not changed - we cannot imagine ourselves involved with the structures created by the present regime. But we have never said we will not negotiate. We are prepared to sit down with the regime and discuss the modalities of how to bring about a new constitution. For this we need a democratically elected constituent assembly. And when we say this, when we say "Let us apply democracy," they run away. If you want to end up democratically you must start democratically. So, let us get a mandate from the electorate to draw up a new constitution.

Is your position on a constituent assembly the same as the ANC's?

We have no mandate to speak on their behalf. But they are calling for a constituent assembly, and they seem to subscribe to the idea. Hence the Pactriotic Front - we are marching together towards a constituent assembly.

The National Peace Initiative.

You did not sign, although you attended. Benny Alexander said the major reason you did not sign was your policy of non-collaboratioon. At the National Peace Conference you gave two other reasons: firstly that the issue of the causes of the violence had not been addressed, and also that the issue of the involvment of the international community was also not properly addressed.

Are these the reasons you didn't sign?

These are the main reasons.

The causes of the violence, as I said at the conference, are not ANC and Inkatha. That might have been the position initially, but it is not so now.

We see operating now mercenaries, professional killers, who are carrying out a systematic campaign of terror.

Why, if it was Inkatha against the ANC, would a gunman shoot up children, the aged, women, and others, indiscriminately? How would he know he was not killing his own supporters?

If a document was added to the National Peace Accord outlining the causes of the violence - would you then be willing to sign the Peace Accord?

The police are still there - we can't be seen working hand in hand with the police to implement the laws of the regime.

Do you think the regime is responsible for this violence?

If it is not responsible, who is? I maintain that if they want to put an end to this violence, they would. Why are they keeping the askaris? Why are they using them against us? The regime has an agenda here - we are not part of it.

Your position on the armed struggle?

It has not changed. We are continuing our armed struggle. We regard any form of struggle as legitimate at this stage.

When will you end it?

We can't end it until we get the ballot.

When you get the ballot - that's it?

Yes, that's it. Immediately we get the ballot, the franchise.

The point is often made that the PAC armed struggle is rhetoric - that there actually isn't an armed struggle going on, and that the efforts of the ANC are carrying the PAC to the ballot.

Well, we don't owe anyone an explanation as to how many men we have outside the country, or inside the country. We are happy where we are. To say we are being carried by the ANC - well, that is amusing to us.

Do you not think that the process towards universal franchise is irreversible?

Not when De Klerk has issued a statement recently that when he talks of franchise, he talks of property owners getting franchises - that is the qualified franchise. We don't aspire to that.

Do you not feel that your continued commitment to the armed struggle allows the regime to keep units like the askaris, and the covert military units, under the justification that, as one political grouping is still fighting an armed struggle against the regime, the regime can't abandon these units?

Does that mean the the SADF is not sufficient to confront the PAC or the ANC?

Maybe they'd argue that a guerilla war requires specialised units - not tanks etc.

I wish they's just admit they were keeping these units - now they deny their existence.

You are socialists?

Yes we are.

If you come to power, what would you do with Anglo American?

We won't press them to do strange things. We would sit down with them and show them that the bulk of the country is starving while a tiny few enjoys the riches of the nations. To that we are opposed.

And what would you do about that? Why should people worry about that?

This is not the first country to be freed - up north when the Africans took over, whites were not chased out. They are flocking into Zimbabwe at this moment. So there will be no problem with Anglo American.

Would you try to take them over?

That is another involved issue ... it is a matter of details, how it will be done.

How big is the support base of the PAC?

It is a very big organisation.

When we launched in 1960 we had only 6 branches - today we have nothing less than 51 branches in the Transkei alone. We have 9 in the Free State - we are represented throughout the country.

Has your growth been very big?

I wouldn't say very big, but it is big.

Would you say you have numbers anywhere near the size of the ANC?

We might be bigger for that matter.

One doesn't know how big they are. In December last year they claimed a million numbers. In June this year they said they didn't have 800 000 members. With all the resources they have.

How does that compare with the membership of the PAC?

Oh, we're not competing with them. We might be bigger than them, we might be smaller. But we are represented all over the country, despite our lack of resources.

Transition. What do you expect to happen over the next year?

Well, I wouldn't know really.

The ANC wants an interim government. We differ with them - we cannot imagine ourselves being in a government applying the laws created by the regime. We want an independent body, a neutral or impartial body to supervise elections and the drawing up of a constitution and monitoring the situation.

There must be much debate between the parties. We don't know how the regime, or the ANC, will react.

On what issues do you differ with AZAPO?

I don't know really. AZAPO is a young organisation that came into being while we were on the Island. Initially we thought they were putting the PAC cause across - but now we find they have established their own constituency.

The only difference with them is that they insist on blackness, and we are opposed to that. We believe in African nationalism - our continent has no colour attached to it.

What are your principal points of difference with the ANC?

The line of contention was the Freedom Charter. We are opposed to the Freedom Charter, most particularly to the first clause in it, the one that says that the land belongs to all of us - that is very, very vague.

Britain belongs to the British, and Russia to the Russians - but somehow South Africa belongs to "all of us". We don't know what is meant by that.

For the PAC?

We say that South Africa belongs to those who owe an allegiance to Africa and who are prepared to abide by African leadership. That definition of "African" is, of course, a non-racial definition.

What do you think white liberals should do now? Democratic Party-type people?

They must go to the rightists and tell them that Africans are also human beings. They mustn't come and preach to us - we know what we must do. They have to convince their fellow man that they are oppressing us, simple as that!

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.