Apartheid Justice

A Prison Interview With Mzwakhe Mbuli

VILLAGE VOICE (VV): What, in your opinion, is the reason you're behind bars?

MZWAKHE MBULI (MZ): It is unfortunate that I do not possess the information to speculate deep into the conspiracy. I was framed by the police and this conspiracy involves powerful people or people in government.

VV: Do you consider yourself a political prisoner?

MZ:I have no doubt that the people behind my arrest are politicians who are involved in the drug trade. Given my stature and popularity it is not possible to go and rob a bank without even some form of disguise. Police have abused their power and issue wild and tarnishing malicious media statements to ruin my reputation.

VV: How does your current prison experience compare with your incarceration under apartheid?

MZ:The Mandela-led government inherited prisons from the apartheid regime, including personnel. Treatment of prisoners and rules and regulations are still the same, and racism is here to stay. Under the previous regime I was placed in solitary confinement. Recently I have occupied a condemned cell for almost five months. I met people such as apartheid-era murderers Eugene de Kock and Janus Walusz. Presently I share my cell with 64 other prisoners with only one toilet. We use a bucket of water in order to flush. Prisoners are being assaulted by warders. Weekly, prisoners arrive bitten by police dogs. It is 90 percent black people. Let me put it plainly— if I was white the treatment would have been different. Yeah, it is not yet uhuru.

VV: Is there anything people around the world can do to help your case?

MZ:Increase the pressure on the South African government. I am worried about my family and concerned about my safety. Apartheid-trained police are capable of any act of terror. Here in prison every week people with dog bites are brought in— exclusively black suspects. The independent justice system is a total mockery and a joke. The justice system is still the same as under the apartheid regime. Apartheid appointees, judges, and magistrates continue to run the country through the courts.

VV: What are you doing to keep your spirits up and your mind engaged?

MZ:In order to keep myself upbeat I have developed a physical training program. I train often with my cellmates. Every morning and evening we sing and pray in our cell. Reading is part of my life, so I read and write. I have composed a lot of poetry and music which is now stashed away. There is no regime that can affect my creative powers.

VV: What do you think about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

MZ:Although the TRC has played its role, it has failed to reconcile the South African population. It is more than 20 years after the death of Steve Biko and the police have failed to tell the truth on how Biko was killed. More than 200 people were massacred during the 1976 June 16 students' uprising, but no one is held responsible. Apartheid generals have not come forward to testify about their participation in acts of terror. The former president, P.W. Botha, remains unrepentant, arrogant, stubborn, and lacking in remorse despite the fact that under his leadership there were death squads, activists were thrown into crocodile-infested rivers. He even sanctioned the bombing of a building owned by the South African Council of Churches. An Adolf Hitler cannot become an angel. So it is with P.W. Botha. It is sad that P.W. Botha is too old to go to prison but not to marry. The TRC work is not yet over, and cannot be over.

VV: Given the IMF and multinational corporate domination of the world economy, and the collapse of the rand, how would you operate in this global economic environment if you were in Nelson Mandela's shoes?

MZ:The sad story is that the ANC-led government has got to pay the foreign debt created by apartheid. It is estimated at $300 billion. When the struggle against apartheid intensified, the regime borrowed more money to boost its equipment of suppression and support its allies. It is unfair for the people of this country to inherit apartheid's burden. The Nelson Mandela­led government has compromised a lot. It looks to me that they forgot who put them in power. It is the poor black majority. The meaning of freedom is not to just vote after every five years. People are going to stay away from the polls next year, I am saying boldly.

VV: What do you think will happen after Nelson Mandela steps down in 1999?

MZ:Life after Nelson Mandela won't be rosy. The rot has started in government. Job creation is like a lost dream. The rise of the unemployment rate will lead to chaos. The degree of poverty has reached unprecedented levels. Workers cannot be expected to keep quiet and do nothing when exploited by unscrupulous employers. Mass action by trade union movements will destabilize the country's economy. Due to resentment and disappointment the masses of our country will revolt in the not-too-distant future. The ANC-led government has failed to address the scourge of racism, and I do not think they will manage to tackle this problem in the future. South Africa is a country of two nations: the poor black nation and the rich white nation.

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