About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Aug 1989: Dhlomo, Oscar

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM. We're talking with Oscar Dhlomo on the 14th of August. Oscar as a starting point, as Patricia said, we were last here in 1985, we left the country on the day the first emergency was declared, How would you compare the situation at that time with the situation as it exists today?

OD. As you know of course we are in the second emergency now. When the first emergency expired about a few months ago there was a serious debate in government as it whether it should be renewed. What we gather is that the politicians thought it should not be renewed but the security people thought it should be renewed, Their argument being that the calm that was apparent in the country was as a result of the state of emergency, So it would appear that the security people prevailed because the state of emergency was re-imposed a few months ago. The violence has subsided. That's true. And the necklace murders have virtually disappeared, One cannot be definite whether this is as a result of the state of emergency or whether people simply realise that violence wasn't the way forward, There hasn't been much change since the first emergency.

POM. There has or hasn't?

OD. There hasn't been except that there is no longer the amount of violence there was, the chaos in the black townships, town councillors being murdered and so on. You don't have that at all now.

POM. But today you have, everyone we've talked to has talked almost optimistically in terms of a negotiated settlement that seems on the horizon, not tomorrow perhaps, but within a reasonable span of time, whereas five years ago there was no talk about a negotiated settlement or anything like that at all.

OD. That's true.

POM. What do you think has accounted for this change in attitude?

OD. Well, many things, First, I think there has been optimism as a result of changes that are going to take place within the ruling party. The ruling party, the National Party, will have a new leader, most probably Mr de Klerk but anything can still happen, as you are aware of what's happening at the moment. So there is that optimism which is psychological. The National Party is getting a new leader after PW Botha. He is younger, he doesn't belong to PW Botha's generation, he has made very promising noises, he has visited some western leaders and has been told what is expected of the country most probably. Before the end of the month he will also meet frontline state leaders, something that was impossible with the present leader, so there is that optimism. That is one.

. Secondly, we have an election coming up and the ruling party is threatened like never before during this election. It appears to be losing support from both the left and right and some people are even talking in terms of a so-called hung parliament where there wouldn't be any party with an absolute majority and that the ruling party might be forced to do a deal and the expectation is that the deal would most probably be with the Democratic Party rather than the Conservative Party.

. Thirdly, since the Indaba negotiations there has been this whole change of attitude amongst South Africans, I would say vis-à-vis the question of negotiations. Nobody now rules out the possibility of negotiations, even the Conservative Party say they want to negotiate partition. they want to negotiate how the country will be divided up. The National Party wants to negotiate, the ANC wants to negotiate, well, I don't mention us, we have always wanted to negotiate provided conditions are right for that. So there is that fashion, if you want, that now promotes negotiation politics. There is consensus that there can't be any other solution other than one that would be negotiated.

POM. Some people have said to us that what you have on the one hand is a recognition by the ANC that freedom is not going to come through a revolutionary war and on the other hand you have a recognition by the government that reform imposed from the top down by them will also never solve the problem. Do you think that's an accurate assessment?

OD. Yes, that's another dimension. Yes, I would go on and say the ANC realise that we shall not solve this problem through revolution. Their armed struggle, so called, has not taken off really because what they have had for the last 29 years is not really a real armed struggle; at best you could call it urban guerrilla warfare, exploding bombs in inner cities and shopping areas, It's not the kind of armed struggle that you saw in Zimbabwe. There isn't a single operational area in South Africa because of ANC infiltrations from the north and so on so I think they realise that for the armed struggle to succeed it would have to be intensified perhaps a hundred times and that even if it did those who would win would inherit ashes, they would inherit an economic and social desert and so perhaps the better route is negotiation. Then of course, even internationally, there is now, we see, some disillusionment with the armed struggle as a way forward. The ANC's principle sponsor, the Soviet Union, is now co-operating with western powers in achieving a negotiated settlement for the whole sub-region of southern Africa. It started with Namibia and now Angola and Mozambique.

POM. Just to talk about the elections for a moment. I'll outline three scenarios and tell me what you think will happen under each one. One would be the ruling party, the Nats, return to power with a majority, they've got a simple majority. The second would be the ruling party returns to power but with a very slim majority where the right has gained considerably. And the third would be a hung parliament. Tell me what do you think will happen in each situation?

OD. Well, I would first say the first scenario is what we expect.

POM. That would be the ruling party return with a majority.

OD. The ruling party will regain power with a majority, perhaps reduced but not an uncomfortable majority. If that happens of course we will see intensified efforts by De Klerk to start negotiations, We'll see him trying to address the obstacles that are up to now impeding negotiation. He will release political prisoners, Nelson Mandela and the others. He will try to find ways of involving the ANC and the other banned organisations. If it means unbanning them he will come close to doing that perhaps with certain assurances from these organisations.

POM. Would you see him repealing the Group Areas Act?

OD. Not immediately, not immediately. I see him making it more comfortable in the form of grey areas. I don' t think he would repeal it immediately especially if the right will have gained more seats after the elections. If you go around town you see rightwing posters, Vote CP to prevent open areas. So he will be very careful in that direction. He will go full steam to try and start negotiations, serious negotiations which will be inclusive, not exclusive of other people.

POM. Two will be a return to power with a small majority with a large increase in the CP.

OD. OK, if that happens it might encourage him to stall on reform. Because he will read the message as saying the majority of white South Africans don't approve of rapid reform, that if the government increased the speed of reform they would lose more and more to the right. I mean that would be a clear democratic message that I think he would read from that situation. A hung parliament, depending on the state of the parties, two things would be possible, If the CP made progress so that it was the next biggest block and the DP was an insignificant block, I think two things might happen there. Either, the National Party would split with one faction going right, the other going left and then it would depend on which faction was stronger numerically. If the rightwing faction was stronger, then of course you would have a rightwing government as a result of a coalition with the CP. If the left was stronger and they would, if they malinger with the DP Forum, the government, then of course you'd have that. So that's a split. Perhaps then you wouldn't have a split you'd simply have the National Party making a deal with which ever party would give them the majority, If it was the DP there would be trade offs. Perhaps the DP would say scrap the Group Areas Act, that would be our report, unban the ANC, you know, that kind of stuff. But if it was the CP then of course they would say scrap the grey areas you're talking about, restore the Group Areas Act, get back to the Verwoerdian policy of separate development, then we're on board. So either way a hung parliament wouldn't be a safe situation.

POM. What do you think would happen in the African community if there were a turn to the right?

OD. Well there would be increased polarisation. Prospects for negotiation that we were talking about just a few minutes ago would disappear overnight. The black constituency would radicalise. And people who have passed aspersions on negotiation politics would say we told you so. There is no way you negotiate with these people. That would precipitate a confrontation no doubt, unless the CP of course would change the present policies that they advocate.

POM. First let's talk about the Indaba for a moment. Part of the debate that is going on in South Africa, as far as we can gather, is that on the one hand you have people argue for one man one vote and a unitary non-racial state, and you have the National Party talking in terms of some power sharing arrangement where each minority would be protected and the Indaba was in fact built on the concept of power sharing where each group had a veto power in the second chamber.

OD. That's right. On specific issues.

POM. Do you think and does Chief Buthelezi think that a system, a central government system, built along those lines of the Indaba would be a satisfactory outcome to the negotiating process?

OD. Yes, that's a difficult question, I would say yes but it would need to be a result of serious negotiations because I know, having gone through the negotiation process in the Indaba, sitting there for eight months, that what came out eventually was something that nobody had advocated when we started. I mean we came in with our own scenario, one man one vote, unitary state, that's all. We were pushed in a very interesting way to accepting a bicameral legislature and that we didn't intend. When we put our proposals, one chamber straight for a majority, we then suggested, because it appeared to us that the concern of the white minority was on their language, their cultural, their religion, so we said OK there must then be cultural councils which operate outside of the legislature which would safeguard those things, language, religion and culture and people could refer to the cultural councils legislation that would have something to do with language and religion and culture would be referred to the cultural councils, they would have an input. Then somebody just said, would you object if those cultural councils were first brought into the legislature, secondly, as a second chamber? And that is how the whole thing began. So it's not possible for me to say yes, people would accept what came out of Indaba. I wouldn't have accepted it myself as an offering bet at the negotiating table because it was not my policy.

POM. It wouldn't be where you would start but it could be where you would end.

OD. No, if it could be where I would end in a process of give and take and compromise. Because if you conceded that there are genuine fears of the minorities and that they have what they regard as rights which they want protected, not privileges, just rights, then you have to take that seriously. And for us what we interpreted as rights and not privileges are language, culture and religion. The other rights we thought could be protected in terms of a bill of rights but there will be other whites of course who would say no, this is not sufficient. That's what the National Party is saying to the Indaba proposals at the moment. No, no, no you want to have political self determination for groups and so on, now that takes you to the tricameral parliament, which we reject.

POM. But in a way the National Party is being inconsistent on this. Because on the one hand at central government level they seem to be saying that some power sharing arrangement must be worked out where no group dominates the other group and the Indaba is precisely a form of that very arrangement.

OD. Accept that the National Party does not believe that the Indaba actually prevents group domination. They say that the protective mechanisms that the Indaba worked out are not adequate, They need more than that. They need more protection than simply the language, religious and cultural rights. They say that Afrikaners must also enjoy political self determination. Now how do you do that other than by establishing an Afrikaner parliament, you see? And then you're back to the tricameral parliament or even more than three parliaments.

POM. If you had to compare and contrast the ANC and Inkatha and Chief Buthelezi's national positions how would you do so?

OD. Well, I would say that if you put aside strategies, how we propose to achieve what we advocate, no difference, no difference at all. The difference comes when you talk about how you get to wherever you want then the ANC of course will emphasise pressure, armed pressure, international isolation, economic pressures and so on and would emphasise negotiation. But we want the same things. We have spent so much time arguing about how we get to those things to the extent that the argument on strategies has appeared as if it was argument on principles. The current ANC constitutional proposals conceded now, as we did in the Indaba, that you need to protect the people's linguistic, cultural and religious rights. They never considered that, they said that was a thing of apartheid, but a person's language is not apartheid. It has been abused in this country in the service of apartheid but Afrikaners are entitled to their language, to their religion, to their culture, there's no problem about that. It is them who have abused those legitimate rights to promote apartheid. They would force Afrikaans on the children in schools and in Soweto in 1976 and so on, but that doesn't mean that they are not entitled to them. So there is another area where the ANC has shifted its position. The ANC now talks about an interim government, a Constituent Assembly to draw up a new constitution, elections and so on. Not so before, before they talked about revolutionary seizure of power, transferring power to the majority and the majority was themselves not other South Africans. So there is that, there is that convergence of positions.

POM. Do you see the ANC as having moved closer to your position in terms of strategies?

OD. That's right. Without saying so, I don't think they would say so if you ask them but I think they are moving in our direction. Economic policies. Their latest proposals no longer mention anywhere the concept of nationalisation. Nationalising private assets, that's not to be seen. They still talk about a mixed economy and they explain it in different fashions but there is progress there as well.

POM. Since we've gotten here we've heard a lot about the Mass Democratic Movement, it seems to be on everybody's list of changes that have happened. It is hard to know exactly where it started or who exactly is in it. But of the list of organisations we hear that form part of this umbrella, like COSATU, the ANC, or the UDF or whatever, we've never heard that Inkatha or Chief Buthelezi is in it.

OD. Oh yes, no we are not in it. The Mass Democratic Movement is the UDF, it's the name.

PAT. That's one of the effects of the state of emergency?

OD. That's right, yes, nothing has changed except that they have given themselves a new name. Understandably so.

POM. To be unrestricted?

OD. Yes, emergency regulations, many UDF leaders have been restricted so they, perhaps to outwit the government I would say, they've called themselves the MDM. Nobody new has joined, it is still the old organisations that were associated with the UDF which is now called the MDM. And people calling the shots being COSATU and within COSATU the NUM, nationally the mine workers which is the largest component of COSATU. So that's the MDM, the usual links with the ANC, strategic links, consulting from time to time. We are aware that there's an ANC strategy to form a far broader black front than the MDM, because the MDM excludes many other organisations, not only Inkatha, they also exclude the Black Consciousness component, AZAPO. It's only the charterist organisations.

POM. All the charterists organisations are in the MDM?

OD. That's right, not the Black Consciousness organisations, well we have no classification but I would say we are closer to the charterists than we are to the Black Consciousness groupings because we believe in multiracialism. Black Consciousness groups say no, this struggle belongs to black people, no white South African can be an ally in the struggle. We think that's rubbish, I know many white South Africans here who are as concerned about this situation as I am or even more than I am. So it is not just to say that they can't be part of a struggle to transform the country.

PAT. Well there is a lot of focus on negotiations between the government and the African community. There are also negotiations or talks that are going on between yourselves and the ANC and others, I understand. Are those talks resulting in this common strategy, this agreed upon strategy? Are they focused on as an objective to come out of the talks, that there are the certain principals that you obviously have all agreed to as conditions relative to negotiations? Could you tell us more about what's going on in that process?

OD. Well, it's very interesting. The talks have nothing to do with a common strategy. The talks centre around the violence that has engulfed this region. It's getting much better now since we started talking but when we came to discuss the causes of the violence it so happened that we all decided that if we would have peace in this region it wouldn't be enough just to call for peace we would need also to call for reconciliation amongst the warring factions. Without that, without reconciliation, then we would not succeed. So we had to set about creating all sorts of preconditions that would be needed before there was peace and other preconditions that would be needed before there was reconciliation. One of the preconditions under reconciliation was that the warring factions should create a semi-permanent forum where they could discuss on a continuous basis their differences and issues that were divisive, issues that were causing divisions amongst them even when those issues were no longer violence. And that will bring us to talking about strategies. Why do we oppose sanctions? Why do you support sanctions? And so on and so on. How can we agree to disagree on those issues? So the idea of a common strategy will flow from peace talks that we are presently conducting and will hopefully assist the political situation as well.

POM. What are the major sources of the conflict between Inkatha and the UDF?

OD. It started as an ideological conflict. UDF with its strategies and Inkatha with their own strategies, There was no co-ordination. UDF for instance, let's say COSATU unions would advocate a stayaway without consultation. They would simply distribute pamphlets at night calling for a stayaway the following morning. The other groups, Inkatha and others, it's only that Inkatha was the most powerful of these, the Black Consciousness groups also complained, look there is no consultation, we are expected to abide by a stayaway, nobody discussed it with us so we are going to work tomorrow. UDF elements would waylay these people at the stations and so on and there would be conflict, That's how it started I think.

OD. Then of course it became more complicated as time went on. It was no longer really the Afrikaner kind of authority, criminal elements cast in as well, social conditions of the people, overcrowding, lack of resources, people would scramble for very scarce resources, at the end there would be conflict. What had started as an ideological conflict, I think that today you will find that most social scientists in the region lay greater emphasis on the social causes of the conflict.

POM. In that regard what have sanctions done? Have they been a positive force or a negative force or simply not a factor in the situation at all?

OD. Well, I can't say in this particular issue of violence they have been a negative factor. Sanctions have caused unemployment in this country.

POM. They have hurt employment?

OD. Yes, they have caused a lot of unemployment, Where I come from in Zululand, north of here, there is a coal mine that had to close down because the market for coal was withdrawn. So it closed down, people were thrown out of work, The steel industry is going. Newcastle also had to retrench workers and so on. So I don't want to be unscientific, throw sanctions in to the violence as such. What sanctions have done, they have caused or exacerbated unemployment.

POM. Primarily among Africans?

OD. Oh sure, yes.

POM. So your position is that sanctions are not a good weapon, are not a good strategic weapon?

OD. No, sanctions have not been a good weapon at all which is unfortunate because when you say so you are interpreted as saying, no don't pressurise the South African government. We're not saying that, we're saying we need pressures but let's sit down together with our friends in the west who feel like we do that we must pressurise the government and work out pressures that will hit the perpetrators of apartheid and not the victims.

POM. What would you include in that package of pressures?

OD. Now I have not gone to that extent of drawing up the list myself. I would welcome interested parties who would convene a conference just to discuss that: what pressures can we all agree on that would target apartheid and its perpetrators

PAT. Wouldn't you agree though that that is part of the reason that people came to sanctions because the alternatives were so limited? I mean this was not an overnight decision.

OD. I understand that

PAT. There was a lot of anguish and debate going on about this and the alternatives.

OD. I don't challenge them for that, I had that same discussion with Senator Paul Simon when he came here where he said, Look, once you have alternative pressures, here's my card please give me a ring. My point was, Look Senator, it's not my responsibility. It's our responsibility to look for those kinds of sanctions and for goodness sake before we find them let us not go on with those that we know already are negative simply because we don't have an alternative. It's like saying I go on cutting my throat until I find something better to do. Let's come together because now we are pitted as if we are enemies where in fact we belong to the same camp, we think South Africa should be pressurised and we lose the whole game when he goes on his own pressures, I go on mine and we are not achieving the desired result.

POM. What do you think have been the major changes in the attitudes of the National Party, the state, in the last five years and why do you think those changes in attitude have come about?

OD. Well , even before I think what those changes are I think whatever changes there have been, there have been changes, whatever they have been I think they have not necessarily come out of benevolence on the part of the National Party, they come out of necessity. Their whole policy as worked out in 1948 with amendments down the line has not worked. It has crumbled even where there was no pressure. Natural forces have simply come into play and it has not worked. So there are changes that are coming begrudgingly sometimes on the part of the government. First, they realise now that there is no way that a white minority is going to rule this country single-handedly. Secondly, I think they now also realise that blacks would need to be brought into the economic and the industrial life of the country; demographic logic says that because their population growth rate is declining whereas the black one is going up. You have far, far more black matriculants coming out every year from our schools than you have white, Indian and coloured matriculants taken together. So if you want a strong, vibrant, efficient economy, train your future and power which happens to be black and you can't do that with things like job reservation and what have you, open up so that you've got an efficient future labour force. Three, South Africa is very sensitive to isolation. Contrary to what government spokesmen will tell you, they take very seriously what America thinks, what Britain thinks, what Germany thinks. They feel they are legitimately part of the international community and they realise that the price for acceptance back into the international community is that they must abandon apartheid and they must create a democratic system of government. Same applies to Africa. Fair enough, Africa is not famous for its democratic principals these days.

. As far as South Africa is concerned, which we like very much, they demand a democratic system of government and once again there are, especially in the department of Foreign Affairs, people who realise that even before you want to gain acceptance in the western countries, your best route would need to be through Africa, If you don't come to terms with Africa, you are not going to win. So Africa demands that destabilisation of neighbours must come to an end and apartheid must go, and so on and so on. However, there are many factors. And then of course the whole survival of the white minority in South Africa lies in their opening up. If they close themselves then I think that's their death warrant as happened in Zimbabwe, because they signed themselves off as an isolated perpetual, perpetually threatened minority but if they had opened up perhaps the story might be different.

POM. What role has the emergence of a black middle class played in this?

OD. A very silent role I would say. How can I put it? When black people don't accept that they are a middle class, although they are, they say that's a bourgeois mentality but when you look at it people who enunciate black aspirations, whether they are from the MDM, Black Consciousness, Inkatha, I mean the middle class, professional people, attorneys, university teachers and so on, people who went to university, they are articulating this, they don't want to be called middle class. I think they've played a role because previously black aspirations did not come to government first hand, they came to government second-hand through, what were they called, the Native Representatives who were white liberal people and so on who themselves were not quite sure what black people wanted. So they are now able to address the government directly. They address meetings, public meetings and they articulate the black point of view. They write articles and they articulate the black point of view. They are in charge of church congregations, they preach sermons and so on and so on. So the people who really confront them on these moral political issues are the middle class. It happens in most revolutions. And in that regard, yes, I think they have had an influence but not as - you know they are not an organised force.

POM. Let me put it in a larger context, we've talked about the major changes that have taken place in the white community over the last five years, what do you think have been the major changes that have emerged in the African community over the last five years?

OD. Yes, well I think black people themselves have been challenged more than ever before. Apartheid laws that prevented black upward mobility are no longer there.

POM. Are no longer there?

OD. Yes, and so in some sense there is no longer any justification for blacks not to be what they wanted to be originally. I mentioned the job reservation act which meant that as a black person you knew that you could not train for certain occupations because you could not be employed; you couldn't train to be an engineer because nobody in South Africa would employ you as an engineer, that was a type of job categorised and reserved for whites. Now that has disappeared and this has sort of raised the ceiling a bit for black people, they have something far higher to aspire to, And secondly, I think that black people realise now that the ultimate solution is inclusion, political inclusion. There is no other way out and that kind of realisation has also posed a challenge to them, are we ready to be included? If not, what's lacking, let's make ourselves ready. Let's stop burning down our schools, let's build more of them instead, let's send our children to schools that are now open, multiracial schools, private schools and let them get the best education while we struggled with apartheid education in our backyards. So there has been that heightened sense of (opportunity).

. Lastly I would say the black struggle of old revolved around - well it was a reactionary struggle. We were reacting against government laws and regulations, the pass laws; let us march to oppose the passes. You know, it was a reactionary kind of situation. Now some of these laws have fallen by the wayside and what is called for now is proactive politics on the part of blacks. If you say you are against apartheid, what are you for? What is your alternative? You know, we know all what we don't want now but we have not said in many words what we want. Let us challenge the government, let us be proactive, let us offer counter proposals so that the government can realise that we are positive, we know what we want. Now that's another new dimension that has come in where black groups are coming up with their own proposals. You would never have had that kind of situation, we waited until an obnoxious law was passed then we decided what to do about it, so we acted and so on. Now the government is being challenged and this is once again a very visible change in black politics.

POM. How does KwaZulu differ from the other homelands?

OD. Well, I don't know how much you know about homelands. Well the whole homelands policy is based on the 1971 act. That act lays down all the steps a homeland needs to go through until it acquires what is called independence, until it becomes a so-called sovereign state, foreign from South Africa and so on.

. Now KwaZulu from the very beginning opposed the concept of independence until it was forced into being part of the homeland of KwaZulu but being part that decided that it would not progress through all the stages to independence for a number of reasons, one reason being that KwaZulu did not, and they still do not, believe in fragmenting South Africa. Fragmenting means into bits and pieces of so-called independent states. They say South Africa is one country, it is a unitary state and it should be governed as such. Secondly, homeland independence came with denationalisation. Those black South Africans who accepted homeland independence were sent back to their homelands and they lost South African citizenship and then they were issued homeland passports which were not recognised by any country. So KwaZulu was saying that now our people are all South African citizens and we use South African passports to travel, at least we are nominal citizens of South Africa.

. Thirdly, psychologically KwaZulu felt bound to lead this movement against independence because as the most populous of all the homelands if it accepted homeland independence then of course the homelands policy would have succeeded, no doubt. So we differ from others in that we remain part of South Africa and because of that the government has now considered that there are homeland regions that will not accept independence and a new courtesy needs to be devised for those and a new policy is that people who live in those homelands who refuse to take independence like KwaZulu will have to be reintegrated into greater South Africa once we have an ultimate political solution, But there are other homelands that have taken independence, Transkei, Ciskei, Venda and Bophuthatswana. Now in South Africa's legal book those are now foreign countries. They have nothing to do with what we do in South Africa. They might come back, perhaps when we solve our problems, but are not duty bound to do so.

PAT. It seems to us in some respects obvious that you represent the largest organised individualistic political organisation in this country and as such usually by political terms are more equal than others are. In the negotiation process we talked about earlier, just sort of a matter of imagination, who sits at the table and how is the table shaped? Some like to make it pretty simple and say the government sits on one side, and the government would be the National Party. There is a question about whether or not the Conservative Party is at the table at all and if they are they're on the side of the government I mean where is the Democratic Party is going to sit and that there is another side which is the African nation. But some would suggest that's a little bit too simplistic and that you might be in very much of a role of the more equal than others to determine the shape of the table as it relates to the terms of negotiations and who represents who.

OD. Yes, that is a very difficult question we will have to face very soon, I think as time goes on. We believe in inclusive negotiations, as I have said. Everybody who is anybody must be there; rather have more than fewer people. So for that reason we popularised the idea in fact of the release of political prisoners. We have invested more than any other group. We want the ANC to be there so the other groups must be unbanned, We want the UDF to be there so it must be derestricted and its leaders must be free to participate. We want the National Party to be there, the CP to be there, anybody who thinks has an idea of how we solve our problems must be at the table.

POM. Would that include leaders of the Transkei, Ciskei, Venda?

OD. Now, we say that if they want to come back to South Africa they need to be there. Some of them don't want to come back, they would need to be coerced, perhaps through economic sanctions. So we are not sure about those. All we say is, well, the door is open if they want to be part of the negotiations, yes let them be part. We believe in a multi-party democracy to begin with. This means that therefore the people who must discuss the future can't belong to one party or just two parties. I envisage as many participants as there are political parties around the negotiating table and we emphasise equality of status at the negotiating table.

OD. Everybody must be equal, including the National Party. They mustn't come and hope that they will dictate the solution. That's why we rejected some of the clauses in the National Strategy Council which the government set up as a forum for negotiation, where they had President Botha as the chairman of the National Forum; we said here this man is a very vital partner in the negotiations, how can he be chairman? And he would appoint others to negotiate again. We said that's not on, how can he appoint his negotiating partners? So we emphasise the equality of status at the negotiating table.

PAT. Do you see an international mediator?

OD. No, we don't see the role yet for an international mediator. We have no particular views against it. Let's say if the majority were to say, look, let's have the Secretary General of the UN as chairman, I don't know that we would object but we think amongst ourselves, once we decide that we must negotiate a solution, we can find an answer.

PAT. Does the ANC, is it your impression that the ANC also has that position?

OD. I have, the ANC never speaks in one voice, They speak with different voices. Sometimes you gain the impression that they think it will be themselves and the government, others will either be around the government or around themselves. You get some ANC spokesmen alluding to it. Now that is not possible, for one thing the ANC is not the only exiled movement, there is the PAC as well. Even if you said only exiled movements sit at the table it would still not be the ANC alone, there would have to be others, Their recent document on negotiation does hint that negotiations will have to be inclusive, but without any details. If you read it you see they indicate more groups than just themselves and the government but they don't name them. We don't mind what they think will happen. Look, we have said all these years that they must be there and in fact ironically we have been even before calling for the unbanning and the release of their leaders. I don't think they do that to us as vigorously as we do for them. Of course there is another reason why we want them to be there, they have been protected for 29 years, they are more or less in cold storage you see, they don't make any mistakes because they are banned, their speeches cannot be published in this country so they have adopted an image of infallibility. You can't challenge them to any public platform and say explain to me how you are going to nationalise Anglo-American Corporation. They are saved from that kind of thing so they don't make any mistakes and we want them to make mistakes like we do everyday, and be criticised and be shown that what we are saying is nonsense, through argument and reason. Unless you unban them of course they will have this aura around them, an aura of infallibility and that doesn't do us much good politically.

POM. Thank you very much.

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