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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

16 Aug 1989: Mamoxe, Max

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

MM. If we are looking at the South African situation from now purely, the only prevailing opinion at this point in time is that in SA we are going to have a negotiated settlement. That's because the ANC would be working in terms of armed struggle but that alone has got its own problems and also we must look at the distance in terms of launching the offensive coming from the African states because inside the country they cannot have cells that could co-ordinate the armed struggle activities.

POM. Why is that so? I mean the example I would use would be, say, in Northern Ireland where in cities like Belfast and Derry the IRA can always find safe homes and the army can never ferret them out.

MM. Well to some extent there are areas in which they have already developed such initiatives but because SA is such a big country and diverse sort of opinions that are prevailing, and I am not trying to say that for instance the ANC hasn't got the necessary support, I am not saying that the ANC hasn't got the support to both initiatives, but because of the geographical nature of the country and, secondly, because of divergent opinions in different regions the ANC is regarded as enemy number one by the security in SA and we must not underestimate the fact that there are people who are working 24 hours for the security forces and if we look, for instance, at the National Security Monitoring System, the way it is structured, and people on the ground they don't know how the structure operates on the ground so it is difficult at this point in time to establish such structures.

. But be that as it may, what is wanted here is that the ANC, for instance, has already canvassed a broad spectrum of opinion regarding the constitutional guidelines which in fact indicate a shift with regard to the Freedom Charter. The shift is not radical. For instance, I can give you one example, that the Freedom Charter is talking about nationalisation of conglomerates, industries, and the constitutional guidelines are talking about a mixed economy. But within that context the constitutional guidelines so what we are saying is that the whole question of a mixed economy is an elaboration of the nationalisation process because at the end of the day there will be companies that will be nationalised even if we will have a mixed economy.

. Now given the background of the constitutional guidelines, the ANC has also formulated a document which specifically gears itself towards negotiations and currently they are busy formulating another document which is setting up a climate for negotiations.

PAT. What is the document, the first document you referred to?

MM. I referred to the constitutional guidelines. I referred to the documents purely on negotiations.

PAT. Right. They don't have a name yet, they're just documents?

MM. Purely a negotiation document. Now they are busy setting up a document, for instance, which would create a climate for negotiation. I don't necessarily think that they won't come up with pre-conditions but I think those conditions will be that everybody must put up arms so that you create a peaceful climate of negotiation which fact I think they are setting up the pace for negotiations. While the government is busy with the elections they are busy setting up the pace for negotiations so that immediately after elections they can say these are the conditions for negotiations.

. But if you look at the programme of the NP for the next five years, that programme only entrenches apartheid. It's not a programme that addresses itself specifically to the dismantling of apartheid because in SA if you still have the Population Registration Act, the Group Areas Act, we haven't touched it the core which has in fact separated the people of SA for so many decades. If you want to create a peaceful climate for negotiations then you've got to address yourself specifically to the Population Registration Act and to the Group Areas Act. I'm not talking about minor things like Separate Amenities Act, but in SA at this point in time there is a mood of pragmatism which is developing that even from the NP, for instance, today they are talking about negotiations and they are saying that they are prepared to negotiate with the ANC if it has committed itself to a peaceful solution in SA, but I don't think that it is a subject of debate because if you look at the history of ANC from its inception in 1912, they have been looking for a peaceful solution in this country. It's only after the clampdown during 1959, for instance, when the South African Communist Party was banned and immediately after that in 1960/61 the ANC was banned and they had no other alternative in terms of advancing a peaceful solution in this country so they resorted to the armed struggle.

POM. Do you think the armed struggle has been a successful armed struggle?

MM. Partly yes, in that it has made the enemy in this country to realise that there is organisation outside which is fighting for the dismantling of apartheid in the country, which is the ANC. And also they managed through the armed struggle to make this country ungovernable for a certain period with the assistance of the United Democratic Front and other organisations inside this country, which in fact made an impression and realisation to the government that there is an organisation called African National Congress which would like to be part and parcel of power in this country in terms of ruling the country.

. Now in that situation, for instance, if we were to take the whole question of the border operations in which the ANC is involved which has in fact forced the economy of this country to crumble and now the state realises that what they thought or what they termed 'revolutionary onslaught' has got to be stopped and the only way to stop that is to talk to your enemy which is the ANC and they are now prepared to do that.

POM. What do you think are the most important elements that have brought about this change in attitude of the NP?

MM. Well one is that inside the country the organisation has made it a point that they will make this country ungovernable which I think they have managed to do because we shouldn't be having the state of emergency if they didn't achieve that goal.

. Secondly, the alternative structures, which I call communal structures, like street committees and area committees, have in fact given an indication of what democracy from lower level is. Not only that, within the NP ranks there were people who knew that democracy is not debated in parliament but the street committees and area committees, UDF, COSATU and other organisations are also talking about democracy. Now if those organisations outside parliament are talking about democracy, what difference does it make for those organisations to talk about democracy outside parliament as the government is talking about democracy?

. Now you've got to correlate those ideas and see exactly where you differ and it became clear that in fact the people of SA, I'm talking about the African majority, would like to be part and parcel of the government of this country not only because they are indigenous people of this country but because they are part and parcel of the political process.

POM. One person characterised the situation to us as being one in which on the one hand the ANC had realised that an armed revolutionary movement would not bring about freedom and on the other hand the government realised that reform imposed from above would never bring stability or peace, so both sides had reason to move towards negotiations. Do you think that's an accurate observation?

MM. Well what I can say is I don't think it would be 100% correct to say that there was a realisation on the part of the ANC with regard to this whole question of armed struggle that would force them to attain freedom in this country. But the fact of the matter is that they wouldn't secure power within the next five, ten years relying only on the armed struggle because I think if that was going to continue there were going to be a lot of lives that would be lost in the process but the ultimate goal would be achieved. But if there is anything coming forth with regard to peace in this country and solution into the SA question then I think given that opportunity the ANC would grab it, or everybody would grab it.

. Even the government if they cannot grab the opportunity that is there now in terms of negotiation what is going to happen in this country? The economy of this country is going to go down the drain, the social order in this country is going to go down the drain. Now if people are mindful of all political events in this country I think any opportunity that comes up with regard to the resolution of political problems in this country they must grab it. I think that is even why FW de Klerk couldn't give in an inch to what PW Botha was saying about Kaunda and Lusaka, because he was saying that the ANC is there, they are getting facilities are there, they are getting almost everything there and he is regarding Zambia as the launching pad of the ANC in as far as the attacks inside this country are concerned.

. But be that as it may, ANC is not only in Zambia, only in Mozambique, Tanzania, Lesotho, head offices are in London. It is in Norway, all Nordic countries they are represented. The ANC has got 32 to 33 diplomats internationally. So it's a recognised organisation. So not to recognise that organisation on the part of PW Botha is wishful thinking, or only to think that it's only confined to Zambia. So I think it was wise for FW de Klerk not to give in in that situation and Pik Botha too.

. And also if, I think, after elections the NP, if they do win, I hope they might win, but by the same token I don't think they will get that majority given the current crisis before elections, for instance. I think if they are wise now immediately after the meeting with Kaunda they must come up with a programme as to how are they going to address the whole question of negotiations, when are they going to start?

. Let me also say that it became clear within the last week that having removed Mandela, for instance, from Robben Island it was a process of trying to find out what are the political aspirations of the people outside given the situation that Mandela has been in jail for 28 years and he knew exactly what is happening in SA and what is happening internationally and he couldn't give an inch in terms of selling out in so far as the political aspirations of the people are concerned. And the NP realised that without addressing that they would have butterflies in their tummies for the rest of their lives. So they had to give an indication to Nelson Mandela that, look, if you are prepared for SA to reach a peaceful solution, if you can commit yourself in that, we will release you. I don't think that is a condition because he has been committed to peace since the time he was arrested. What is important is Mandela cannot be released from a smaller cell to a bigger cell, like the case with Govan Mbeki, for instance. If they want Mandela to play a vital role in as far as negotiations in this country is concerned they must unban his organisation inside the country.

. The question of coming back of exiles, they can come back prior to elections sorry, prior to negotiations, they can come back. But if he has got to be released, which I think they must do immediately after elections, they must release him so that they can set up the package for negotiations inside the country in terms of creating a climate for negotiation. They must release him and unban his organisation so that he can freely operate inside the country and also they must make it possible for him to consult with his colleagues outside the country. They must make it possible for him to get an international opinion. He must be able to go and address meetings overseas and he must be able to be questioned in those countries about the solution in this country, which I think we all know. The solution in this country lies in dismantling apartheid.

POM. What does the Conservative Party do?

PAT. There are two points to this. I'm having a hard time understanding the condition of rejecting violence relative to the armed struggle. Now I can understand what the ANC says about that, I understand what Mandela says about it, but what I'm having a difficult time understanding is how often did it manifest itself in SA? We were saying earlier that when you look at the ANC's armed struggle it's much different than what we are used to in other liberation guerrilla type armed activities. It's different than SWAPO and their forces, it's different from the IRA in Northern Ireland, it's different from what happened in Zimbabwe, because the conditions are obviously different in SA, which is what you said in response to that; it sometimes doesn't seem that you look at it in terms of conventional manifestations of armed struggle, that it's then difficult for the ANC to relinquish the armed struggle in the process of negotiations. But at the same time it seems that the rejection of violence and of arms is something else that's taking place but it's hard for us to understand, it seems to manifest itself more in Inkatha versus the UDF and AZAPO and the UDF. You don't see it that much, maybe that's because we don't read about it in the newspapers that much. I'm not exactly sure, if we want to understand this what do we have to see that's happening here in the armed struggle that the ANC is going to have to at some point relinquish?

MM. First of all, as you have already mentioned, the conditions, they do differ from one place to another in any revolution but let me also say this why conditions are different in SA. First of all if, for instance, we were to view the Mass Democratic Movement or look specifically at UDF, initially when UDF was formed it was a front that was meant to co-opt, if I may put it that way, all political organisations irrespective of their political persuasion. Now organisations like AZAPO, for instance, and Inkatha say that was a form of coercion in order to put a particular political ideology so they refused to be part and parcel of the UDF. But because UDF became such a massive based organisation as a result in that process organisations like AZAPO, for instance, organisations like Inkatha, for instance, lost their membership because those people saw that this is the only salvation in so far as the problems of this country are concerned. But in that process the security police clamped down to advantage a situation which was already there in terms of intervening within the conflict that emerged between UDF and AZAPO. I think the differences there were only on the political terrain in that one organisation was fighting for mass support, AZAPO, UDF for instance, and AZAPO in the process knew that they were losing legitimacy, they were losing support and they saw UDF as a coercive front. In that process differences emerged and the security police exploited that situation particularly in the Eastern Cape where they were seen supporting openly AZAPO against UDF.

. Given that situation then, a conflict between UDF and AZAPO emerged and the enemy was backing AZAPO and I think in our minds it was a question of crushing AZAPO and the enemy as well. Given the homogeneity of the political nature in the Eastern Cape which I think there is a very, very strong Congress line, and it is the idea of the security forces to destabilise such a process so that you create a conflict and in that conflict situation you go back home and you strategise while people are fighting amongst themselves. That will create a ...

POM. That will be created by?

MM. By the security police. That tension was created by the security police and in that process Argentinean (tactics) crept in and we lost our leaders big time and today nobody is responsible for that in that no-one was found guilty as to where the people went, how did they disappear.

. Now if we address the whole question of violence in SA let me refer first to this question of black on black violence. In our opinion in SA it's not only white people who are supporting the NP. There are black people within our ranks that are supportive of the policies of apartheid within our ranks and it was unfortunate in that during the revolutionary uprising they became victims of that situation. But because the dictates of the time demanded that, and nobody can run away from that, the dictates of the time demanded that and not only that, that situation was also influenced by the security police.

POM. When you're talking about Africans who supported the NP, that is people who worked the police who worked in the townships for them?

MM. Starting from the police right down to the informers who are giving day to day businesses of what is taking place in the townships. Those people are supportive of the NP policy because if they were not they can't do that. Now that type of conflict gave a boost to the NP government as well as the security because they could easily come up and say that there is no way that our presence cannot be felt in the townships because people are burning one another there which is the situation they planned with the people, AZAPO and others who were involved in that operation.

. But be that as it may, what is important here, I think people now understand their mistake and they understand that it is important for all people of different political persuasions to form up an anti-apartheid movement.

POM. What Patricia was driving at, and I'll use the IRA as an example, they set off at least a couple of bombs a week in the major cities, they shoot members of the security forces and there's a continuing pattern of struggle targeted against specific individuals of the armed forces and the apparatus that supports them. The government of course, the British government, has said that it can never talk to the IRA at all until it renounces violence. The impression one gets here is that the military wing of the ANC only occasionally bombs a facility, it might be one a month, it might be one every two months. One never hears about them. So that when the government says the ANC must renounce its armed struggle it would appear to us that they don't have to renounce a lot because there's not a lot of armed struggle in fact going on.

MM. That's right. That is true because what is happening here as much as there are incidents of those bombs that are taking place but by the same token it's difficult for the ANC to intensify that type of situation given the security background of SA.

PAT. Sure. You might ask the government, What do you mean by the armed struggle? Besides, it doesn't exist.

MM. That's right but I don't think it will be easy for them to make an admission of that except saying that this is valid, this is purely violence, see it in that context because that's the only argument they can advance to the international community in order to suppress that situation finally. That's the only reason. For them to make an admission that there is an armed struggle then in fact they will be supporting, they will be openly supporting ANC, they will be openly supporting UDF because UDF cannot talk about violence, it will talk about armed struggle which the government is not prepared to accept or to meet its demand as a political weapon which is being used by the ANC because in that situation they will embarrass themselves, that in fact once you had an armed struggle it means you've got a political problem then why don't you address it. But if they say, no, it's only violence that is taking place in SA, then the only way to deal with violence is to suppress it. You can suppress it peacefully or violently depending on the degree of that type of violence and that is what is taking place. And, for instance, for the ANC cadres to bomb specific targets which sometimes does happen but I think it is very, very difficult because those places are manned 24 hours a day.

POM. So are you saying that the armed struggle is symbolic of a people fighting oppression and using whatever means they have at their disposal to do so?

MM. That's right.

POM. Thus for the ANC to admit in some way, to very easily just say, OK, the armed struggle is over, that it would be admitting its failure in a way and that until they see the government being prepared to meet their conditions for negotiations; there's no question of them giving up a symbolic armed struggle even if it doesn't bomb very often. The important thing is that people know symbolically it's there and symbolically relate to it.

MM. That's right. I think you are correct. Take for instance on the news this morning, after the conference they had they said they are going to intensify the armed struggle. Now at the stage when they have already produced documents for negotiation, they have produced constitutional guidelines and they are saying they are going to intensify the armed struggle, one would ask; isn't this confusion which is taking place? No I don't think so. That is a strategy for it. You don't necessarily put everything away because you are preparing to talk. Sometimes, I'm not saying this is what's going to happen, while people are talking during the day on that night you will have attacks. On that night. Then people will ask; why don't you put down your arms because you are now talking? What happened? When the EPG was busy debating vital issues with the government here the SA Defence Force they went and attacked Mozambique, they went and attacked Zimbabwe while the EPG was here debating vital issues with the state. So that's what happened. The armed struggle will be intensified until the day negotiations have taken place. Before that, talking doesn't necessarily mean that people have agreed to negotiate. Now the armed struggle is going to be intensified and it's going to continue until such time that there is a realisation of concrete talking in this country.

PAT. The image of an armed struggle has got to be an issue. Security, in all conventional struggles the liberation forces say we're going to intensify the armed struggle and they carry on the process, beginning with talks about talks. Regardless of whether or not it exists you have to say that because that's how they say you do it. That is part of the strategy.

MM. Let's take the issue of Namibia for instance. Koevoet was confined in a base. They went out of the base and they went and attacked Outjo during the peace process. The American representative and Louis Pienaar they had to say publicly that we are going to see to it that Koevoet is confined to the base. Why they left that base and went and attacked Outjo for instance, what would you say why they did that?

PAT. Why would you say that SWAPO penetrated the border at the time when the peace process was beginning? Was it not part of their strategy to go on to establish what their position was politically?

MM. Correct. They wanted to indicate that in fact they are still surviving and their presence must be felt.

POM. Can we come back to see you again? We have an appointment at a quarter to one but could we come back and see you tomorrow or the next day some time?

MM. Yes definitely.

POM. Let me give you three election scenarios and tell me what might be the probable outcome in terms of government policy in the case of each of them? One, a situation in which the NP is elected with a comfortable majority, down a couple of seats but comfortable. Second, one in which the NP is elected with a small majority where the bulk of the other support has gone to the Conservative Party. And the third, a situation where you would have hung parliament. What kind of government policies do you think would come from each of the three situations.

MM. On the question of a hung parliament, according to the constitution the only party that can rule in this country is the party that has the majority of seats in parliament. So if the NP fail to have a majority of seats then they are forced to amalgamate with another body. Well looking at the policy of the NP which has now I believe been usurped by the Conservative Party, now you find a situation where the NP, for instance, is sandwiched between the CP and the Democratic Party on the other hand. Now it's likely that if they were to forge any amalgamation they would align themselves with the DP because I don't think there is a fundamental difference in as far as their policies are concerned. Then in that situation you are bound to have policies which would be most influenced by the DP in terms of reforms.

POM. Do you think that if the NP formed a coalition with the DP that the NP would split and some of its more conservative elements go to the CP?

MM. That is a likelihood in that if you look at the meetings before the election, to come back, there are people who are critical of the DP policy more especially on the question of security. Now the conservative elements within the NP I don't necessarily think that they would accept such a condition, then they are bound to become disillusioned and move away from the NP. I am reluctant to say that they will join the CP, they might become independent representatives. That could possibly happen. On the policies of the NP they will be forced to make a dramatic change in so far as reform is concerned because there will be a very, very strong DP influence.

POM. Do you think that that situation is one that could lead to meaningful negotiations between the government and the ANC?

MM. Yes because within the DP you've got people who have met the ANC several times and would influence that position even in parliament. Now I don't think the former members of the NP, for instance, in that situation would come up openly and say we cannot negotiate with the ANC as they are saying now, because they are no longer confined to the view that the ANC should renounce violence. They are now saying that if it is committed to a peaceful solution then they can talk to them. So I think even that position they might be influenced by DP members of parliament. There might be a shift from their former style.

POM. OK, the next scenario of where the NP has a small majority where the bulk of support they have lost has gone to the CP. What do you think the NP would do then in terms of policy?

MM. Well it's a difficult scenario. If the NP hasn't got the necessary majority the first problem area they are facing is the constitution. Let us assume that they haven't got the majority.

POM. They have a majority but it's a small one.

MM. A very, very small majority.

POM. And the CP is breathing down their neck.

MM. Now what is going to happen there is going to be a strangulation in as far as reforms are concerned because of the fact posed by the CP. I listened carefully to FW de Klerk the other day when he said if they don't get the necessary majority and they are forced and bound to get into a coalition administration or government with any of these parties they will tell the voters to go back and make up their minds.

POM. They'll call another election?

MM. Call another election. I don't think that can happen not unless they are taking a very, very serious breach because on the second election they don't know where they are constitutionally, what their position would be. So I think if they've got a small majority there will be strangulation on the question of reforms. So you will find a situation wherein the CP, for instance, will have the upper hand in as far as their influence is concerned in parliament. That will happen. So that will force a situation where the reforms will be strangulated.

POM. And the third one is where the NP is re-elected and has a comfortable majority, not as big as it was but comfortable.

MM. Well that's a situation that could possibly arise after 6 September. Looking at the five-year policy of the NP you would find that there is nothing in as far as change is concerned except entrenching apartheid. If you look at the free settlement areas where an area will be declared a free settlement area, now that situation is again falling directly under Own Affairs. So if for instance they went to De Klerk only to look at the free settlement areas then the people in PE must agree to it but if they don't agree then the government has got no right to impose that. So the whole question of free settlement areas is not going to work and on the one hand he is shifting a responsibility on the part of the state and put the onus on the people of a particular area.

POM. When you say 'the people' here, does that include Africans as well?

MM. No, no, no, I'm talking about the white community.

POM. Whites. The whites would have to decide whether they wanted a city to be an open city or not?

MM. Correct. I think if pressure is brought to bear the white community would call for a referendum and I am positive that referendum will be negative in that they will disagree. Now given that scenario it seems to me that the idea of free settlement areas is not going to work and if you look again at the whole idea of the Group Areas Act where they intend to create grey areas, if you look at the grey areas, there is a grey area in PE, it's very far from town, it's very far from everything, it's an area which is not far from the white suburbs. Now it only means it's only whites who have accepted change in their minds or who have accepted non-racialism in their lives who can only go and buy there. Now as far as I'm concerned grey areas should not be far from the central business district because it should be a situation given to people who manage transport-wise to go to town to work in the morning and come back home, like the situation you will find in other areas, for instance, in America where you find that adjacent to the central business district will be people who cannot afford transport who are staying in those areas so that they can be close to the city, to doctors, to professional people, lawyers, you see? A situation of that nature.

. But there is one likely element here that can happen. I think the government has been consulting Mandela for so many years and Mandela hasn't committed himself from 1940 on the question of peaceful solution in this country. Then, if I observe correctly, the NP is prepared to negotiate with the ANC but they cannot say that before the election. First of all they must see to it that they are in power again then they will be able to say in order to have peace - they are not going to say in SA, they are going to say in order to have peace in southern Africa we must talk to our enemies. Once they do that through the TV and radio, people are going to accept that, that there should be peace in this region.

. Now to get to secure peace in this region you've got to talk to your enemy, that's why they started speaking to people like Chissano for instance, that's why they intend speaking to people like Kaunda, for instance. And they are going to talk to the ANC and I am definitely positive the ANC is going to say, in fact we are saying now what we said in 1940, that we are committed to a peaceful solution but we were forced by your government to adopt all the strategies we have adopted from 1960.

POM. Which outcome in the election do you think would be best for the Mass Democratic Movement? An alliance between the DP and the NP, a simple NP majority or power moving towards the Conservatives? Which one do you think best suits the MDM?

MM. I think first of all the position of the MDM with regard to the DP is a very, very simple one in that they accept the DP but they know exactly that the DP cannot influence any fundamental change in parliament but as long as they will be a voice in parliament talking about non-racialism and democracy, the DP is only acceptable for that reason, nothing more, nothing less.

. Now the coalition administration or government between the NP and the DP means nothing except that there will be an influence which might not change things that much in parliament from the DP position. It might happen, I don't know, that their influence could be so strong that the members of the NP within that coalition can be influenced and in that situation they will be able to talk with the ANC. But if that doesn't happen I still believe that given the situation prior to the elections and given a situation where PW Botha has resigned for instance, FW de Klerk would always try to be seen as someone who is trying to implement some change in this country and, as we have seen, that they have been preparing for negotiations as much as they are not coming up openly, that in fact they are going to negotiate with the ANC. The image they are portraying is that, we believe, that they are going to negotiate with people who are already on their side, Gatsha Buthelezi for instance. You don't have to negotiate with Gatsha Buthelezi because he is within your ranks. You don't have to negotiate with so-called community councillors, they have already accepted the structures of apartheid, so you are in fact negotiating with your friends, so that is not negotiation. Negotiation is a process between two enemies over a particular dispute. So there is no dispute between the community councillors and Gatsha Buthelezi with the government, so why must they negotiate? They cannot negotiate. The SA government is going to negotiate with number one enemy which is the ANC/SACP alliance.

POM. It's going to?

MM. It's going to.

POM. I want to ask you some questions about the African community and then about the white community. What do you think have been the most significant developments within the black community itself in the last four or five years?

MM. Well if we assess our situation correctly immediately after the Koornhof bills, for instance, the Black Local Authority Act, the Free Settlement Areas Act, I forget the third one, if when we look at those bills we knew for the first time that in fact these are the most serious views ever introduced in SA from the first Act which were introduced from 1948/49/50, the Suppression of Communism Act, the Bantu Education Act and what have you. Now that gave real direction to the UDF which was a great fundamental development in the history of this country which was meant to oppose those bills and by the same token it was meant to group together all anti-apartheid groups in this country.

. Now we know the history of the UDF from 1983 up until now, or until the time it was restricted. Now a new development is the Mass Democratic Movement which people were talking about while UDF was being operated. Now the MDM, people might not have a clear picture of what people are talking about when they are talking about a mass democratic movement. In SA you've got a different field of operation. We've got sport, we've got politics, we've got labour, we've got civic. Now all those areas are involved in this MDM which has in fact encompassed all people in SA except those who are still supporting the apartheid system in this country. That is the MDM and within the MDM the revolutionary core of that situation is COSATU and UDF.

POM. Do you think that the emergence of the trade union movement, particularly in the last four or five years, has been one of the most significant things that has happened?

MM. Right, let me finish with the MDM first. That is now a movement which has in fact engulfed all anti-apartheid forces in this country. But not only that, if you look at the labour movement, for instance, COSATU has managed to bring together a number of trade unions and if you look at COSATU now, look in the Eastern Cape, there are so many strikes which I think the co-ordination of those strikes is very, very important for the strength of COSATU in that if these strikes in the Eastern Cape were co-ordinated by different independent unions you wouldn't know what budget they are going to bring about, what social economic changes they are going to bring about. But now we have moved, COSATU is in a position to know that in fact our trade unions in the Eastern Cape have gripped the economy in that area. Right? And the gain of that situation will be attributed to COSATU. So the development of UDF, COSATU and the MDM, those organisations that I am talking about, have developed within a very, very short space of time and the gains they have made even before the imposition of the state of emergency and the gains they have made under the state of emergency are incredible.

POM. What role in all of this has the emergence of a black middle class played? I've been told two things. On the one hand some people have said to me the black middle class is like a form of co-option, they're more identified with the established interests of government than with anybody else. On the other hand people have said a black middle class starts making demands on the systems that are very often more effective sometimes than the mass of people can be because the government or the state needs their skills so they have more bargaining power.

MM. The emergence of the middle class in this country, which was created to be a buffer zone between the low socio-economic group and the white community, more especially if you look at the emergence of the Urban Foundation in this country during late 1977/78, what has happened is the middle class are part and parcel of organisations which are existing. If you take, for instance, the teachers, teachers are part of NEUSA (National Educational Union of South Africa). Those organisations are totally opposed to the ... particularly in the field of education.

POM. Particularly in the field of education?

MM. Yes. Now the middle class is part and parcel of civic organisations, is part and parcel of trade unions. You've got what is called the Black Management Forum which is purely made up of black managers which at this point in time, I think, they are looking at a situation wherein they can work very closely with COSATU. So the intention of the state or of the government of creating that middle class to be a buffer zone, it's not working. What has happened in other areas, the middle class areas have formed up what is being called civic organisations in their areas. So they are still part and parcel of a revolutionary core in this country and the intentions of the government have failed as far as we are concerned.

POM. To turn for a second to the white community. In your view what significant changes, if any, have occurred in the attitudes of the white community to apartheid? Are they becoming more entrenched or do they know that change, major change is inevitable but they haven't quite come to grips with reality yet?

MM. Definitely. I think the whites have accepted the fact that apartheid is unworkable.

POM. They've accepted that?

MM. They've accepted that. But the difficulty they are still having, I don't necessarily think that the MDM in this country or organisations like IDASA, for instance, which are geared towards attitudes and perception changing, what has happened is the people are not actually able to conceptualise the terrain that we are talking about and I think that should be the area of focus and attention. Now if you are talking about non-racialism and democracy in a unitary SA ...

POM. Do you remember you were talking about non-racialism and democracy in a unitary SA?

MM. The first thing that comes up to a white man's mind is how is going to be the economy of the country? How is the economy of the country going to look like? How the social order is going to be? Are we not going to have an African majority in parliament? Are they not going to do what we did with them? Those are the questions. Now I think the emphasis should be conceptualising a terrain, a non-racial terrain we are talking about. We should be very clear as to how the state is going to look like, I'm talking about government. The fear of a majority government in our perception of the thing, that the white people think that the government will be completely black. But if you look at the MDM, for instance, the composition of that, it is made up of white people, it is made up of so-called coloureds, it is made up of so-called Indians, it is made up of so-called blacks. That is an epitome of our future government. In that government we are going to have whites, we are going to have coloureds, we are going to have Indians, we're going to have blacks. So the assumption is wrong. Yes, because of the numerical strength of the African people in this country, yes, in terms of numbers there will be more coloureds and Indians than whites, but you cannot call that government a black government because it is reflective of the SA society and I think that's where the emphasis should lie.

. Coming back to the question of the economy we must be able to say we are going to have a mixed economy and people should come up with what makes the economy. Those are the areas that we should put more emphasis on and the social order that is going to be introduced because there are people who are still afraid of having a black next door neighbour; because of the impression created by the state for so many years and that propaganda we must chip that off completely. If the white people can stay with us for eight hours in a job situation, what is stopping them staying with us from five, six, seven, eight hours? From eight we are all going to bed, no-one is going to look at the other one. We would only see one another again tomorrow when we go to work and we are going to stay there again for eight hours. They must accept that. If they can stay with us at work they can stay with us in their areas. So we must try and move that indoctrination for them that they've got their own areas. Nobody has got his own area in this country. That has been created by people and therefore it must be removed by people.

POM. What do you think has led most white people to accept that apartheid is no longer workable?

MM. One, it's the pressure inside the country, tremendous pressure has been exerted on the state, people totally opposed to government. Secondly, the international community which has in fact completely isolated SA in all spheres of life, in the economy, sport, in everything. Now they know that the international community took a stand that apartheid is a crime against humanity. They know. Now, for instance, you go to Britain from SA, the white people get so attacked by people in Britain, everywhere they go they are attacked because of the apartheid system. So that is working on their minds and they have accepted the fact that apartheid should be changed, should be abolished, should be dismantled but they don't actually know that future beyond apartheid, how is it going to look. I think it is the responsibility of all the anti-apartheid forces to make sure that the conceptualisation of that terrain beyond apartheid is quite clear to everybody. Take, for instance, I couldn't go with you if you just came to me and said, Let's go. The first question I would ask is, Where? What are we going to do there? Those are the things that we must clear in the white community, and organisations like IDASA that's their terrain and that's their sphere of operation. They must try and put a very, very strong emphasis with in fact the assistance of community based organisations.

POM. With the assistance of community based organisations?

MM. Yes, because those are the people who are acting as far as democracy is concerned because this is an idea that came up from them because they were addressing the whole question of an alternative to apartheid and this is the alternative they came up with. So they are able to articulate that.

POM. What impact have sanctions had?

MM. In SA? You see in this country there is a strategy which was adopted by the state of disinformation. There is a lot of disinformation in this country. People don't know what is going on. I went to a conference in Germany between the Soviets, South Africans and the ANC, it came up clearly from the academics, whom I think they know what is going on in this country, it was said that the state had to forestall some programmes last year because of the effects of the economic sanctions. But to say to you those programmes were this and that and that and that, I am unable to do that because the state wouldn't like us to know that in fact the sanctions have had a tremendous impact.

. But the academics came up to say that the state had in fact stopped so many programmes because of sanctions and that is why they are so very, very, very adamantly opposed to people who are canvassing for sanctions and that is why they are even prepared to send people out to countries like America and speak against sanctions. Gatsha Buthelezi is one of them, there are a number of them. Not only that, they've got their people in those countries who do come here and tell us on the TV box that in fact sanctions are going to hurt the black people. Suffering in this country was there long before sanctions so the question of sanctions should not be addressed on the whole question of it's the economy, effect of sanctions.

POM. Do sanctions have an effect on the standard of living of white people?

MM. Definitely yes. They are the ones who are involved in trade, they are the ones who are involved in the economy of this country in as far as economic programmes are concerned. We haven't got that much money to suffer from sanctions. I am not involved in any trade, I've got no reserves, I've got nothing. If people are in business, people are in trade, people who are in commerce are in fact those who are going to suffer. That is why they are so vehemently opposed to the whole question of sanctions. But they shift the emphasis in as far as that debate is concerned in that they are saying that it is going to hurt the black people.

. Take for instance GM, [General Motors] how many people were affected by the disinvestment of GM in this country? Not one of them has died because he happened to lose his job. We know how to survive. When we talk about collectivism we know exactly what we are talking about. If this man hasn't got supper tonight and I've got a piece of bread in my home he's going to share that bread with me. We know what sharing means. If this man has got no place to sleep I am able with him to get some zinc and planks and put up a shack behind my house for him to stay.

. But the full emphasis on the question of sanctions should be on the question of political legitimacy, not on the question of the economic effects on black people. That debate is shifted deliberately there because people they don't want us to know what is happening to them as far as the effects of sanctions are concerned, and that's a problem. We are fully supportive of sanctions because we believe that sanctions are a non-violent measure that could bring about change in this country.

POM. Two last questions. One, what do you think will happen in the next five years?

MM. Well that's a difficult question. In the next five years ...

POM. Will I be having the very same conversation with you with more or less the same responses from you five years from now or would we be having an entirely different conversation?

MM. I think what is going to happen, the anti-apartheid forces first of all are going to sharpen the revolution.

POM. To hasten it?

MM. To sharpen it. OK, let me put it this way. The anti-apartheid forces are going to advance in terms of revolution. There are going to be strategies which will be adopted in order to advance the struggle. Two or three years ago the non-racial struggle was very far from the white community but today we're talking about a struggle which is at the doorsteps of the white community. We're talking about the struggle which has in fact even destabilised the NP which is the government of this country.

. Now what is going to happen if negotiations, for instance, are not taking place? You are going to find a situation developing in this country where there will be serious confrontation between the anti-apartheid forces and the state but that can only be avoided if, for instance, a climate of negotiations is created and the only people who can create that climate is the state.

. If, for argument's sake, Nelson Mandela is released and if the state releases Nelson Mandela only to be part and parcel of creating that climate, then ANC will be unbanned inside this country for him to operate freely and his comrades. Now if that happens then that doesn't necessarily mean that if the climate for negotiations is created we should put down tools and say let's wait and see. We are not adopting that policy even at that time when the government is trying to create the climate for negotiations. We will be more and more vicious to the state because that's the only way of demonstrating our strength because if we put tools down and say, no let's wait and see what's going to happen, the government is going to come up and say we are going to negotiate from a position of strength. Nobody has got the strength more than the other one, not at all, as much as we are not armed but we are going to use our efforts in as far as our numerical strength is concerned to advance the non-racial struggle in the country.

POM. Do you yourself believe that Nelson Mandela will be released in the near future?

MM. Definitely. I think before December this year Nelson Mandela will be in his house in Johannesburg and, not only that, the state of emergency is going to be lifted in this country.

POM. That's a good note to end on. Thanks very much, I really appreciate it.

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.