As City Press has revealed seemingly profligate expenditure on the President’s rural private home, the terrible saga continues of the struggle of Mrs Mulobela over 25 years for the ANC to keep its promise to her and her family that they will replace their Livingstone home.
In this house, Mrs Mulobela sheltered exiles in-transit out of South Africa. This home was reduced to rubble in the 26 April 1987 raid on the property by commandos of the South African Defence Force.
Khulumani has been trying to assist Mrs Mulobela and her family for around the last three years. The issue is the failure of the ANC to keep promises made to the family over the past 25 years from the time that Mrs Mulobela provided shelter in her home in Livingstone, Zambia resulting in the SADF raising the premises, reducing the house to rubble and killing Mrs Mulobela's two sons, David and Sidney.
The failure of the ANC to honour promises that were made repeatedly over the past 25 years, are deeply disappointing. Khulumani wants to see a visible turning amongst the leadership of the ANC in whom so much hope was entrusted by citizens.
The problem for most citizens is captured in the explanation given by Obika Gray of why empowered people still cannot ensure that just demands are met. Rather people are unfairly left for 25 years, as in the case of Mrs Mulobela, with nothing more that the 'never never promises of politicians'.
The average citizen in most communities lacks the information, the organizational connection, the resources and the necessary channels of representation to solve simple problems, to pressure the bureaucracy into conceding just demands, to ensure that he or she is not taken advantage of by more privileged interests, and to provide a vehicle by which individuals with common problems can put minds and hands together to work them out rather than await the ‘never never’ promises of politicians. (From Demeaned but Empowered, The Social Power of the Urban Poor in Jamaica, Obika Gray)
The raid was apparently motivated as being necessary to prevent the anticipated attempted disruption of South Africa’s parliamentary elections by ANC guerrillas. In the attack on her Dambwa, Livingstone home, Mrs Jeanette Mulobela lost two sons, David and Sydney, aged 19 and 20 years respectively.
Mrs Mulobela explains that, “On that fateful day, my house was reduced to rubble by South African commandos, destroying it completely and killing my two sons David and Sydney. They arrived by motorbikes and helicopters and started shooting at my house. I have suffered a lot since the raid”.
Representatives of ANC President, Mr O R Tambo, made promises to the family at the funeral that the ANC would compensate Mrs Mulobela for her grave loss by replacing the damaged house, by providing educational assistance for tertiary studies to her remaining children and by paying for the cost of the funerals. The promises only materialized as three months’ supplies of groceries, up until the present.
Twenty-five years later, Mrs Mulobela still waits for the ANC to become an organization that keeps its promises. In the intervening years, Mrs Mulobela has travelled at her own expense to pursue the matter with the ANC in Lusaka and in Johannesburg, but nothing has transpired from these meetings. “I used the little money I got from the rentals to travel to meetings with the ANC in Lusaka and Johannesburg. It’s frustrating for me to know that all I worked hard for was lost in one night”, she exclaims.
Then in November 1990, she was told that the ANC would cover the cost of rebuilding her destroyed home and that she should submit the plans of the original house to builders, Dennis and Weaver. But the funds never came through. “Finally the break-through I had been praying for came. I was given an option to choose from several houses. I denied the first one because it was inferior to the house I had lost”. The second was “Green House” that had been used to accommodate “needy and indigent” students who had run away from the apartheid regime. But I was told I would have to wait for the tenants to move out.” Then in 1993, it emerged that the ANC did not in fact own “Green House” and it was therefore not theirs to give away. Again the ANC through the office of its Secretary General at that time, Mr Sindiso Mfenyana, reassured the Mulobela family that the ANC would do everything in its power to secure alternative accommodation for Mrs Mulobela in Lusaka.
On 2 July 1992, Mrs Mulobela wrote once again to the ANC to remind them that they had committed to paying her rental between 1990 until she would be able to move into a replacement house, to paying for her children’s education, to reimbursing her travel costs for her to attend meetings they called in Johannesburg, as well as the costs of the tombstones for her two sons.
Eventually Mrs Mulobela received notice from Mr Makgothi, Head of ANC Administration on 15 September 1993 that the ANC had resolved to compensate her by providing her with a structure equivalent to the property she had lost. Comrades Naicker and Moosajee at the ANC’s Zambian Mission were asked to expedite the issuing of a house to Mrs Mulobela. But the house that they offered her was apparently in a serious state of dilapidation and she requested that the ANC find her a suitable house of equivalent value, before they closed down their Zambian operations. A house was apparently identified by the ANC but Mrs Mulobela was told that she would have to raise R30,000.00 to cover costs including transfer costs for the house. Mrs Mulobela responded, “How can they expect that of me, haven’t I been through enough? I had no access to the R30,000 to pay for these fees.”
From that time, the ANC has remained tight-lipped on the issue, despite the best efforts of the Legal Aid Clinic for Women in Zambia. Over the course of the intervening years, the family has dealt with many different ANC representatives and has received many contradictory promises. “It seems there was no consultation among members of the ANC, especially with their superiors. A further difficulty we experienced was that most ANC members we dealt with in Lusaka used pseudonyms so it was very difficult to track them down. However I remember meeting with notable people such as Msimang, Nkobi and Japhet Ndlovu.”
As she nears the end of her life, Mrs Mulobela wishes at least to be financially compensated for the loss of her home in 1987. A daughter, Ms Muzumara comments, “My mother has nothing left and at 79 years of age she lives in a country that does not have an old age pension system. I am appealing to the ANC to grant her a house (or to provide her with a monetary amount to represent the cost of the house that she lost and has never been able to replace) so she can have closure on this issue.”
Mrs Mulobela did attend a hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and was declared a victim of a gross human rights violation. Even this has not brought any remedy to Mrs Mulobela. “Yet the people I stood side-by-side with during the struggle have yet to fulfill their promise. The time they needed my help, I took up the challenge and fought with them side by side. Of course no amount of compensation can replace my children but I would welcome a bit of sympathy from the ANC to at least replace my house”, says a distressed Mrs Mulobela. The last written communication between the family and the ANC took place on 9 June 2012. It was an email addressed to Mr George Chaane at Luthuli House. There has been no response from the ANC to date.
Mrs Mulobela’s struggle over the past quarter of a century throws up many deep concerns about the way in which those who served the ANC are treated. Khulumani calls on the ANC to turn back to honouring promises made to those who lost so much in supporting the struggle for liberation. The resolution of this “unfinished business” needs to be prioritized in the context of the President’s excessive expenditure on his own private home at Nkandla.