SA Newsletter- 10/12/94

SA Newsletter- 10/12/94


Greetings from the New South Africa.

On the 27 September there were no leaves on the mulberry tree outside my window. Today it is covered with foliage. The early morning is a riot of birdsong, and the crisp chill has been melted from the morning air. This is the first summer after the first representative election South Africa has ever had.

Life seems to have settled down to something as close to normality as I imagine we can expect in the burgeoning new South Africa. The general kind of news printed nowadays is fairly unremarkable, and would be delightfully boring, but for two factors - the high crime rate and the increased incidence in crippling industrial strike action, and the violence associated with both. There is also a little concern over politics in the Zulu nation and the impact that might have on the Government of National Unity (GNU).

There is an increased focus on reporting of crime, and the magnitude and intensity of violent crime is appalling. It seems to be getting much worse. Either it really is getting worse, or now that politics is getting back to almost normal, the horrid crimes that would have appeared on the Miscellaneous pages are edging towards the front of the newspapers. In either case, I fear that there are certain negative aspects to this Newsletter.

A friend's father had his car removed from him at gunpoint yesterday. He was lucky to keep his life. Armed vehicle theft is high, and on the increase. About 3,500 cars were stolen or hijacked nationwide in April, compared with more than 5,000 in June. There are a number of vehicle theft syndicates, apparently involving policemen, in current operation. Increasingly, people are simply killed for the keys to their cars. SAPS spokesman Colonel David Bruce revealed that this year there has been an average of 23 car hijackings a day. The reef experiences 50% of the hijackings.

At a recent community policing conference PWV Premier Tokyo Sexwale has appealed to township residents to trust the police, and to yield information on criminal activity. He said "People must come forward. Yes, I know to inform used to be bad, but get this right and half the problem will be behind us." He said there were a core of professionals within the SA Police, like those who had tried to turn down the electricity when they were torturing him in jail.

Tokyo Sexwale announced a "war on crime", and there was a flurry of police activity a few months ago, with roadblocks and house- to-house searches. A large number of people were arrested. Organized crime leaders in Soweto were reported as having accused Tokyo of intending to "take the bread out of our mouths", and the homes of a number of ANC members were ransacked. I haven't heard of further details of this "war" since.

In a move to put more policemen on the streets, rapidly trained police reservists, drawn from the communities' Self Defence Units (SDU's), have been deployed (hopefully not echoes of the KitsKops). These units were set up by the ANC during the War Years, and they were seen by residents as defenders of the people during bloody clashes with the IFP hostel dwellers. They enjoy the support of the community, and will probably be more successful than the ISU (Internal Stability Unit) police who were seen to be invaders, and in some cases were implicated in police brutality.

Last week police in Tembisa arrested some SDU members for illegal possession of firearms. Seven of the eight were police issue that had had their serial numbers filed off. Given that a lot of policemen are being killed lately, and their firearms removed from their bodies, the police were anxious to interrogate their suspects. A crowd of Tembisa residents, backed by the local Community Forum, gathered at the station, demanding the release of the SDU members and the return of their weapons. ANC MP Robert McBride intervened and negotiated the release of the suspects, though the police retained the weapons. Police spokesman Colonel Dave Bruce criticised the Tembisa Community Forum for irresponsibility, charging that they should be working with the police in the interests of the community (Sunday Times, 25/9/94).

There is concern over the light sentences that violent offenders are getting. Following the recommendations of the Brian Currin committee, the death sentences of 70 prisoners were commuted on Sept 26 to live imprisonment. Beneficiaries of the deal include Almond Nofomela of the Vlakplaas police death squad and police captain Brian Mitchell of the Trust Feed massacre. A further 36 were granted immunity from prosecution, including Major General Eddie Webb, head of the CCB and a number of other riffraff who planted bombs in taxi ranks. A further 20 convicted criminals were simply released.

I become increasingly worried about the state of the country's people. Sometimes I wonder if the fabric of society in the townships has not been irretrievably damaged by the wretched living conditions and the brutality of the Struggle.

Some time ago a sociologist was lamenting the number of children witnessing "necklacings" and other pogrom activity. There has been unrest recently at a number of schools in Soweto. Headmasters were run off the school premises for belonging to the Soweto Headmasters' Association. A few weeks ago a horde of school children of all ages and genders hunted down a man they said had struck one of their number, stripped him, and frogmarched him about before beating him to death. Three weekends ago a schoolbus was stopped by a gang of young boys with AK47's (they called themselves the "Germans"), who took 12 schoolgirls off to be raped. Boipatong and Sharpeville are thought to be largely under control of armed gangs of teenagers. Four of the Germans were later found beaten to death. Police think that this is the work either of vigilantes, or of a rival gang.

In addition to crimes performed by youngsters, crimes are increasingly being visited on children with child molestation, parental child abuse and child theft on the increase in the Rand townships. Of particular concern is the sharp rise in rapes of children below the age of 5. The Goldstone Commission, in its report on public violence involving children has concluded that South Africa is currently one of the most violent countries in the world, and has recommended sweeping legal reforms in all matters regarding children, a full commitment to children's rights, and open access to support services for victims of violence. A total ban on corporal punishment is proposed.

There is a serial killer at work in Johannesburg, called the Cleveland Strangler. So far nine of his victims, all young women, have been found.

The taxi wars continue, if on a seemingly smaller scale than before.

There have been worrisome developments amongst the top Zulu political figures, King Goodwill Zwelithini and Chief Mangosuthu Bothalezi (oops, that should read "Buthelezi"). The recent events have been summarized chronologically (Glenda Daniels, The Star, 22/9/94):

Sept 10:   Controversy over whether President Mandela has
           received a formal invitation to the Shaka Day
           celebrations.  Buthelezi says he has no knowledge of
           the invitation, said to have been issued by King
           Goodwill Zwelithini.
Sept 11:   A Mandela office spokesman says he will accept the
Sept 13:   Buthelezi again objects to the invitation, saying the
           correct protocol is for it to go through him as the
           king's traditional prime minister.
Sept 14:   IFP official says ANC is trying to lure the King into
           their camp.
Sept 19:   Mandela announces he will not attend celebrations
           amid suggestions that his safety cannot be assured,
           after a lengthy meeting in the royal residence in
           KwaZulu with the king and Buthelezi.  IFP members
           stone residence, damaging property.  IFP youths also
           stone Mandela's helicopter.
Sept 20:   King cancels celebrations, saying his dignity has
           been impaired by the attack on his residence and adds
           that he is breaking off relations with Buthelezi. 
           (He announces that Buthelezi is no longer his
           traditional prime minister).
Sept 21:   Buthelezi and KwaZulu/Natal government say
           celebrations will go ahead.
Sept 22:   Buthelezi says he is still waiting to be informed
           about the calling off of the celebrations. 
           Zwelithini is flown to Johannesburg by the SANDF amid
           fears for his safety.
Sept 23-24:  Shaka Day celebrations in Stanger and KwaMashu go 
           off peacefully.
Sept 25:   TV fracas at SABC's Durban studio.

The last note refers to Buthelezi's invasion of the Durban SABC studio while the SABC's Freek Robinson was interviewing IFP Transvaal leader Themba Khoza and Prince Sifiso Zulu. The former two were in Johannesburg, and Prince Sifiso was connected online from Durban. Buthelezi didn't like what Sifiso was saying, and he invaded the studio with 10 of his aides and bodyguards. There were sounds of a scuffle, and of blows, and Zulu shouting "Leave me, leave me". The bodyguards reportedly manhandled Zulu and Buthelezi reportedly punched him in the chest. Television audiences saw a gun being pulled out by an unidentified man, whereupon calm ensued. Buthelezi was seen jabbing towards Zulu with his short ceremonial stick, whereupon one of the bodyguards pushed the television camera to face the wall.

The event reminds me of an occasion when erstwhile President Botha fired SABC director Herman Ecksteen for allowing fractious Coloured politician Allan Hendrickse 10 minutes of prime time television. It seems Mangosuthu Buthelezi prefers the "hands on" approach. Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi is our Minister of Home Affairs.

There was a subsequent parliamentary debate on the TV studio events, and Buthelezi publicly apologized. This, for him, is an awesome act, and I was heartened by it. Prince Zulu appeared in court over the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, which he claims were planted on him by Buthelezi's bodyguards.

People are worried about renewed fighting in Zululand. The bloodshed that seemed to halt just after the election merely abated, and has kept up a (relatively) low level of violence since. During the hostilities between Buthelezi and Zwelithini the Natal ANC came out in support of the King. Funny, just before the election Buthelezi was saying that he was the King's servant and anything the king ordered him to do he would. John Robbie of Radio 702 conducted a 'phone in radio poll, and suggested that Zulu people seem to pledge support for their King "only when it suits them to do so".

Zwelithini intends calling a meeting of all his tribal chiefs within weeks to clarify his position on the division on the royal family (Buthelezi is his uncle) and to set up a Kings Council.

Events in KwaZulu are important for the nation as a whole because it is possible that if Buthelezi feels threatened in his position in the Government of National Unity, he might try to take the IFP out of it, and attempt to sabotage it from without. It is speculated that the Nationalists intend to do this anyway, towards the end of the GNU's term. They would be able to criticise the state of the nation, which might not be as good as a lot of voters thought it might be, in the hopes of canvassing more votes for the next elections.

Speaking of groups which would benefit from failure of the GNU and/or the RDP, PAC General Secretary Benny Alexander has inexplicably changed his name to "!Khoisan X".

Since the apparently magical 100 days in office of the new government, there have been a number of bitter industrial actions.

Strikes are now commonplace, and are increasingly accompanied by some thuggery, ranging from blockading, to sabotage to hostage- taking. On two occasions the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg were blockaded, on one occasion for a few days. Livestock in transit suffered, and millions of rands business was lost in the blockade.

People from all sectors are striking - security guards, thousands of ex-MK members of the SANDF, Johannesburg bus drivers (blockaded the CBD on Oct 8,9), automobile manufacturers (cost the country upward of R1,5 billion in turnover), taxi operators (complaining about hijacking and killing of drivers), hospital workers nationwide (including some who effectively took hospital staff hostage in Nelspruit). The Authorities have been generally reluctant to act harshly against strikers involved in criminal action, but Premier Mathews Phosa intervened in the latter incident, calling the police. The army was called in to assist in strikes in Durban hospitals, where a number of patients were reported to have died as a direct result of the strikes.

More than 400 IFP-supporting Alexandra residents recently marched on Alexandra's municipal offices demanding legal status to their illegal occupation of houses in the Beirut area of Alex. The IFP supporters took occupation of the houses when the former residents fled the 1991 violence between IFP hostel dwellers and township residents.

The PWV's MEC for Housing and Local Government, Dan Mofokeng promised an angry crowd of township residents that their rent arrears, amounting to R1.5-billion, would be written off. He further promised them free transfer of housing stock. The non- paying of rent started in the 1980's as part of the struggle against Apartheid, and has developed into a culture of non- payment. There are two sides to the story. Services in some communities are very poor or nonexistent. Mofokeng said the money to write off the arrears would come from central government. National Minister of Housing, Joe Slovo was horrified, saying that if other provinces follow suit, "A nationwide wholesale writeoff would have financial implications running into billions of rands and would be fiscally unsustainable, The effect of the proposed write-off would be to afford a limited group of people far greater housing benefits than those available to the population at large.".

The Department of Housing has proposed in the Discussion Document for the White Paper on Housing that funds for township reconstruction and development should be granted only in cases where residents are making acceptable levels of payment for their services and housing. Also recommended is the scheme for "incremental housing", in which the poorest people (earning less than R1,500 a month) be provided with a fully subsidized "starter home", effectively a single room structure, on a serviced stand to which they have secure tenure. Thereafter the Government's contribution would be limited to proactively supporting residents in their efforts to expand this structure into a complete house.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided guarantees for R162 million of foreign finance, at preferential interest rates, to be raised by the South African bank Nedcor. The money will be extended to South Africans as housing loans.

Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry says that 12 - 16 million people are without ready access to clean water and 21 million are without hygienic sanitation. He is having difficulty working with his department's Old Guard. In a recent address he called them tardy and passive, and warned that "There seems to be the mistaken notion that all that is necessary is for the department to adjust to the new minister. This is a grave mistake. Things will never be the same again. We are now in an interim phase. All senior management officials are acting in their present posts in an interim capacity. The constitution provides for job security but not retention in a particular job" (Weekly Mail, 23- 29 Sept).

The Cabinet has allocated R3 million for emergency drinking water in drought-stricken rural areas. Relief is offered in places where supply drops below 15 litres per person per day. The Northern Transvaal is the most affected area.

Most recently the Public Servants Association has threatened to strike. A friend quipped that we would be hard put to tell the difference between action and inaction from that cadre. There are about 1.2 million public servants inherited from the Apartheid era, with job security guaranteed by the interim constitution. If the Association succeeds in getting their pay demands, their salaries will cost the taxpayer a staggering R13.3-billion per year. Observers think that what is happening now is preliminary posturing for the big showdown in two years, when the interim constitution is replaced by a final one.

Finance Minister Derek Keys resigned soon after the elections. He refused to reveal his motives, which sent a worried tremor throughout the stock markets. His successor is Chris Liebenberg.

I spied the summers' first mosquito yesterday. It was huge. Contemplating its hungry proboscis reminded me that one of the first official acts of our worthy Government of National Unity (GNU) was to vote themselves a substantial increase in salary. Anglican Archbishop and veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu publicly expressed disappointment that the people who claim to represent the impoverished, and who were put there by their votes, should "board the gravy train". President Mandela publicly regretted that "a well-known religious leader" has been unable to resist jumping on the bandwagon, and criticising the government. He found this act very irresponsible. Mandela also regretted populism within the ANC, with prominent individuals criticising the party. In a reference to the ANC senate chief whip Bulelani Ngcuka's criticism of President Mandela for not appointing "Africans" as ambassadors, he said "I find it very irresponsible that a leading official should take advantage of his position and play into the hands of his enemy" (The Star, 22/9/94). Archbishop Tutu responded by publicly expressing distress that President Mandela was behaving like "an ordinary politician".

New Finance Minister Chris Liebenberg noted that public service salaries already accounted for 54% of government spending, where in other countries this figure was only 30%. He recommended that the public service be trimmed. He also presented a recommendation to President Mandela that Cabinet Ministers endure a 20% pay cut, and MP's get a 10% pay cut.

Some high-ranking ANC politicians have criticised the liberal media for "biased" or "unfair" reporting. This has provoked an almost paranoid reaction from the media who remember well the dark days of the Nationalists' press restrictions.

Inflation is on the rise again. The inflation rate for August rose from 7.5% in June to 8.2% in July to 9.4% in August. This is the sharpest monthly increase in years (Charlotte Mathews, Star, 27/9/94). In addition, mortgage and overdraft rates have increased. Some economists are unfazed and believe that the economy would continue to grow at 3% next year.

President Clinton, after a visit by President Mandela, announced a $100 million fund to boost small business in southern Africa, about half of which is earmarked for South Africa, and a decision to send the US Peace Corps here to assist with training and development. A Joint Binational Commission (JBC) will be formed "to promote co-operation between our nations". This will be chaired jointly by US Vice President Al Gore, and SA Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. It will concentrate on the environment, science and technology, business development, energy, human resource development and culture. I am not sure what the latter means. Also announced were loan guarantees on nearly $500- million for housing, $50 million for township electrification and $30 million for basic health care.

There are fears about an apparent huge influx of "illegal aliens", flooding from North and East. Chief Buthelezi said in Parliament and on TV that "charity begins at home", and rampant immigration could torpedo the RDP. The Home Affairs office has threatened any illegal aliens found with expulsion, and any employers of illegal aliens with stiff fines. There is a rising tide of intolerance to illegals among workers and small traders, which threatens to develop into witch hunts (Weekly Mail, 23-29 Sept). Police estimate that South Africa has 8-million illegals - two thirds of the economically active population. Between 60 and 80% of the "illegals" come from Mozambique. Some within the ANC and Cosatu caution against dumping illegals back where they came from, claiming that (a) it would lead to heightened economic instability in the home country and increase the imperative to migrate here, and (b) unless growth and development was promoted throughout the Southern African region, the effects of human insecurity in neighbouring countries will be felt here. Neil Coleman of Cosatu reminds us that the Pass Laws failed - "you cannot legislate the movement of economically desperate people, you just drive the problem underground".

The petrol price has been dropped by 6c a litre in implementation of an interim pricing mechanism approved by Cabinet. Minister Botha said that this mechanism, allowing for regular and automatic adjustment of prices, ends a practice lasting 40 years, and depoliticises the adjustment of fuel prices.

An oilfield has been discovered off the Cape south coast near Bredasdorp. Soekor's chief executive Joggie Heuser says that it seems upward of 20,000 barrels of high quality light crude oil could be tapped from the resource. Overseas partners are being sought to develop the oil fields, and the SA taxpayers have been promised they won't have to pay a cent for it.

We now have a R200 note. It apparently has a leopard forming the main motif, and is coloured orange. The economy is still strong enough, and my earning power still weak enough (I am employed at a research organization) that I am unlikely to own one of those for more than a few brief moments.

My daughter Caitlin was born last month. Shortly before she was born, a number of babies were being snatched from hospitals, and the snatcher seems to be trying again. Only one of the snatched babies has subsequently come to light. I was pleased to see that the Park Lane hospital responded by installing virtually impregnable security in the maternity wards. I was not so pleased to receive the bills - R2,800 for 3days' hospital stay, R1,500 + R132 after hours surcharge for Gynaecologist, and R186 for about 5mins of the Paediatrician's time. To put this in perspective, A highly competent G.P. (general practitioner) charged us R70 per person for thorough half-hour examinations of three family members last week.

I realized a lifelong ambition last week when I attended a concert by Jethro Tull. It was incredible. Also visiting South Africa are Sting, Midnight Oil, and UB40. Locals playing this month include Johnny Clegg, the Cherry Faced Lurchers, Brenda Fassie and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

I recently saw the stageplay "Hair" in the appallingly expensive Johannesburg Civic Theatre. It was an extremely impressive performance, and it took me back to the days when South Africa was fighting the Angolan war, and young men were travelling to foreign soil to die for reasons they still don't understand. At a recent party I heard a man in his 50's bitterly complain about the fact that "They fought against each other for so many years, and now they are talking at last. What a f******g waste!" He had tears in his eyes. I think he lost someone in Angola.

The War is over, but the callup isn't. Young White Males are still issued with callup papers, even though the population register has been abandoned. There have been some angry letters to newspapers about this, and near Wits University I saw posters of Bart Simpson giving a Middle Finger Salute, and saying "Modise, Eat my Callup".

Armscor was embarrassed when a shipload of 15,665 G-3 South African rifles, 8,596 Eastern Bloc-manufactured AK47 rifles and 14-million rounds of ammunition, was found to be at a port in Yemen, despite the ANC's ban on exporting arms to countries involved in civil wars. The Supreme Court has issued an order authorizing the Danish shipping company to take possession of the weapons, which they intend to auction to defray costs. It is rumoured that the arms were destined for Unita in Angola, who couldn't pay because their access to the diamond fields have been cut off, and they were then re-routed to the Lebanon, and erroneously wound up at Yemen.

There has been increased publicity about trafficking in a substance called "Red Mercury", allegedly a chemical explosive capable of triggering a fission bomb. A number of unexplained and startlingly grisly murders are being linked to this mysterious trade. There were allegations of the Israeli agency MOSSAD having something to do with the liquidations of some chemical company directors, but so far nothing concrete has come to the public eye.

A huge fire in the timber districts of the Eastern Transvaal claimed ten lives and razed hectares of land recently. Helicopter pilots with experiences of low flying in the Angolan war were recruited from the local Hoedspruit air force base to douse the flames with water. The object was to cool paths into the blaze for foot-firemen to penetrate through.

A gem mine at Hondeklip Bay on the Cape west coast has yielded a number of fossils, among them the fossilized teeth of a prehistoric sperm whale possibly double the size of its modern counterpart. The teeth were found in a bed estimated to be about three million years old. Other fossils found include seal bones and the teeth of fish and sharks, including the extinct giant shark Carcharodon Megalodon. The seal bones are similar to those of a modern day seal living in Antarctica and South America, supporting the theory that the three continents were part of a single land mass.

Interviews have begun in the Johannesburg Civic Theatre complex for the selection of judges to the Constitutional Court. The interviews are conducted by the Judicial Services Commission. The 24 short-listed candidates are grilled on various subjects, including controversial sentences they have passed.

Some old White towns have had a startling change. At least four black mayors have been elected by transitional municipal councils throughout the country - Port Elizabeth (Nceba Faku); Welkom (Vincent Matsepe); Potchefstroom (Ebrahim Sooliman) and Middelburg (Ben Mokoena).

Peace, Khotso, Vrede, Ukuthula.

ANC       African National Congress 
APLA      Azanian People's Liberation Army (Military wing of the
AVF       Afrikaner Volksfront
AVU       Afrikaner Volks Unie
AWB       Afrikaner Weerstand Beweging 
Bosberaad Clandestine bilateral meeting at some remote venue
Cosatu    Congress of South African Trade Unions
CP        Conservative Party 
DP        Democratic Party 
FA        Freedom Alliance
GNU       Government of National Unity
IFP       Inkatha Freedom Party
ISU       Internal Stability Unit 
KZP       KwaZulu Police (some say it is the military wing of
          the IFP)
MK        Umkhonto we Sizwe (military wing of the ANC)
PAC       Pan Africanist Congress 
Popcru    Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union
PWV       Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging region
RDP       Reconstruction and Development Programme
SABC      South African Broadcasting Corporation
SADF      The old South African Defence Force (some say it was
          the military wing of the National Party)
SANDF     South African National Defence Force, replacing the
SAP       The old South African Police 
SAP       South African Police Service
Volkstaat Dreamed-of Afrikaner homeland

1) The labels "white", "black", "indian" and "coloured" are used simply in a historical sense to identify people who were placed in these categories by the Population Register in South Africa. The author of the newsletter is of the opinion that the concept of race is all in the mind.

2) The Intermittent Newsletter is the private initiative of Peter Wade. Any comments on the Newsletter would be gladly received at email:, or Dr Peter Wade; Watertek; CSIR; PO Box 395; Pretoria; 0001.

3) News is often slanted in the direction of people doing dreadful things to each other. A billion acts of kindness and cooperation go unnoticed, giving the impression that it is a sick world we live in.

From: (Peter Wade)
Subject: SA Newsletter
Date: 12 Oct 1994 16:31:55 GMT

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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