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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

20 Aug 1989: Eglin, Colin

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POM. Talking with Colin Eglin on the 20th of August. Colin, if you had to contrast the situation that existed at the beginning of the emergency in 1985 with the situation today, what contrasts and comparisons would you draw?

CE. I think the state of emergency, its severity on the one hand and its in a sense its effectiveness on the other, has had an impact on all the main actors, I would suggest that the ANC, the UDF, the militants are all in the process of reviewing their strategy and likewise that white people also are reviewing their strategy. On the ANC side it looked to say you could bring the government to its heels by the armed struggle. The UDF said we're going to make South Africa ungovernable. In fact it's not proved to be a practical strategy. But equally the whites when they instituted the state of emergency said, apartheid with minor modifications can last forever and they were having to come to terms with the fact that it can't last forever.

POM. One person characterised the situation for us as being one in which on the one hand you had a recognition by the ANC that it couldn't mount and win a national war of liberation and on the other hand you had a recognition by the government that it couldn't win or control the situation simply by reform from above. So there was an impetus on both sides.

CE. I think both sides have acknowledged a kind of political cul-de-sac and both sides said we've go to adjust our strategy in order to get out of this. And if I must take this centre of gravity of South African society, while the main actors don't want to admit it, I think you're moving closer to a negotiating situation than you had five years before.

POM. What specific things would lead the government to start negotiating?

CE. I think it is a very complex situation, I think its largely an emotional one. The Afrikaner South Africans, and that goes perhaps for Anglo South Africans as well, like to see tidy solutions. And when there is no tidy solution in the offing, they get edgy, they get concerned. They don't like a pragmatic lese-faire approach, they would like to see you working towards a solution. And the fact that you haven't been working towards it for the last four years leaves them edgy and leaves them with frayed nerve ends and leaves them with kind of an emotional upset. At the same time there is no doubt the internal pressures, not in an ugly, visible, formidable way, but just internal pressures of people, the external pressures of isolation are all staring to bear down on your white South African and he would like something different.

POM. Do you think the average white South African subconsciously knows that majority rule is inevitable but is still resisting movement towards it?

CE. Yes, I think when it's put in the stark terms of majority rule, he will tend to resist it, just as I never go to America and hear anybody talking of majority rule. They talk of equal rights for everybody. However the system might evolve. But, yes I would say that, I just find that, and I have just done a recent visit to the Orange Free State, which is a kind of conservative area and to northern Natal ... Their first option would be probably the status quo. We actually say that's our first option, but that's not a reality, And they say we've got to be honest with ourselves, we've got to bite the bullet and acknowledge that everybody in South Africa has got to have an equal say, so that it isn't what people want, but I think that is under the impact of the state of emergency and the isolation and the rejection and what that does to your people psychologically. They understand that there's got to be something else.

POM. You used a phrase at lunch, survival politics.

CE. Yes, you know in the past survival has seemed to be survival by retaining power. I think there's a growing number of people who say survival is being part of the totality of South Africa. So if you ask me, there's been a groundswell, there's been shift of the centre of gravity of white public opinion. Its shifted in a more rational, call it a more liberal direction. I think the process this is; I look after my flat at Clifton, my apartment at Clifton, and I see the waves coming in, that's the tide. But for whatever waves come in there's a backwash and the Conservative Party represents that backwash. So that as the waves come in and people accustom themselves to a new South Africa, so there's a minority who go out on a limb in the other direction.

POM. Something we also touched briefly on at lunch, to an outsider the ANC's armed struggle would appear to be sporadic at best and non-existent at worst, particularly when compared to the efforts of the IRA in Northern Ireland where a small Catholic community has been able to incubate a guerrilla campaign for twenty years now and mount military operations every other week against significant targets. Do you think the armed campaign of the ANC has been effective and if not what purpose does its continuance serve?

CE. Well, if you asked me two or three years ago, well I don't consider the armed struggle or its campaign was effective, its activities were of a sufficiently high profile that you couldn't ignore it. So it was a factor in South African politics. I think it's toned down, it's not as visible, it's not as active as it was. And right at the moment I think it actually has a very negative effect. I think that if in my theory of the South Africa, begrudgingly or otherwise, moving in the direction of negotiation, I think the occasional bombs and the occasional acts of terrorism are in fact totally counter-productive. So that while I can understand the ANC talking of the armed struggle as a kind of standard bearer for something, I don't think anybody is taking it seriously as an integral part of the process of change.

POM. If that is so why is it so difficult for them to renounce something that probably doesn't exist in the first place?

CE. Well you must go to Lusaka and ask them that. I mean it puts them in a unique position in that nobody else is arguing in favour of the armed struggle. So in that sense it gives a very unique claim to support. I think that if you look at revolutions around the world, part of the revolution has been the revolution of violence and to that extent they want to still identify with that character of revolution. I actually think in the end the silent revolution of the demography of economic forces or moral forces within the society are going to become more effective, I would say the ANC committed itself. It is not easy for an organisation to say we have now changed our tactics, so that they live with the armed struggle and they are making the most of it although they don't think it's effective.

POM. Do you think its a symbol like to use in the township?

CE. It's symbolic of what I call the totality of the struggle. There's a difference between the symbol and the practical reality of what is effective. But I think the ANC has actually conceded that it's not going to be effective but it still is necessary as a masthead.

POM. If you were to look at the white community as a whole and again compare and contrast where it was four years ago with where it is today, what are the most significant differences in attitude between the two dates?

CE. I think that ...

POM. When you talk about this moving centre of gravity what does the movement?

CE. You take apartheid in the social and economic fields, I think most white South Africans have come to terms of the fact that in those two fields apartheid has to go or it is going. So socially and economically I don't think that is the key issue. The real issue is to where political power is going to lie and I think white South Africans have moved to the centre to the extent that they say the blacks have to share power. I think overwhelmingly most whites see this as a token sharing but I think there is a growing number of whites who actually understand that it's got to be real sharing and that's got to be on the basis of a universal franchise.

POM. When they talk about really sharing power are they talking about a situation say in which the white community might have a 15% say in executive decisions? That power would be proportionately shared?

CE. You ask me do I think that the majority of whites think that? No. But I think a significant and a growing minority of whites face up to the demographic realities of this country that the whites are 15%. It doesn't necessarily mean that their power is only 15%. I think in a free and open society they may have more influence then their 15% but I think there is a willingness of whites to bite the political bullet and to realise that the concept that whites are in a position of political superiority or privilege is out. I don't say it is a majority, but I think it is a growing minority and I that's really encouraging.

POM. If you had to look at the black community and take its general attitudes in 1985 and take the attitudes in 1989, what do you see as the significant developments there?

CE. I must be very careful, I've lots of other times to be an expert on what the blacks are thinking. I think that in that terms of objective it remains the same. That is, we want a society in which each black is going to have the same say as each white and on the numbers game that means there will be more black faces in the corridors of power than white faces in the corridors of power. But in terms of strategy, how you get there? Whereas the armed struggle was making South Africa ungovernable, I actually think they've decided that the negotiation route is probably a more viable and more feasible one than the struggle route. So that I think that the whites from their side and the blacks from theirs, albeit begrudgingly, its not a willing change of position, faced with the realities of an emergency situation with a tough security apparatus on the one hand and from the black side they are facing that reality, and the whites are facing the reality that they can't solve the problems, that both are saying we must find some way of compromising.

POM. This is a two part question, we read a lot, at least in the US, about black on black violence. To what extent is black on black violence real? What is it due to? What messages does it send to the white community?

CE. I think the black on black violence has been a regional phenomena. I don't think it's been significant in the Western Cape area or significant in the Transvaal. It's been largely a Natal phenomena. But there are two factors, one is important and that is there is rivalry which can be mobilised. I don't think it in itself has been mobilised and exploited but it has been there. [I'd say less important and one more still a traditional ethnic by people from time to time, danger. But it is there to by people and I think it has been to an extent], but far more than that I would say that the black on black violence is actually a struggle for political territory. That is two groups of people who are both in the power game in which they say that town, that village, that street is either on my side or it's on your side and you sort it out by violence because it cannot be sorted out on a democratic basis. So that I think most of the black violence, part of it has been just the degeneration of the society and the gangs and the warfare but to the extent that it has had a political background it's been a competition for territorial imperative either by Inkatha on the one hand or the UDF on the other.

POM. I draw a contrast between Northern Ireland and South Africa. In Northern Ireland the Catholic minority has access to the ballot box and all discriminatory laws of long ago have been abolished and yet the IRA continues to operate effectively in the Catholic community, incubates new recruiters into the IRA all the time. If one looks at South Africa and looks at the extent of the injury done to the black community, their impotence, the repression and the remarkably little amount of violence that has really accompanied it, why do you think blacks have not been far more violent than they have been?

CE. I really don't know but I thank God at the same the time. I come back to, I've used this analogy at meetings in recent times because here you sit after 80 years since the Union of South Africa was formed and not a single black has got a vote for the central government. Now if when the British won the Anglo Boer war and they settled on a new Union in 1910 and said that whites can have a vote but Afrikaners won't, I can promise you, you would have had a revolutionary situation long before now. So there has been a remarkable stoicism and patience in amongst the blacks. I don't know why. Really I can't understand the reason, but it has been that.

POM. Do you think it is because they lack some indigenous culture of violence whereas in Northern Ireland or in Ireland on the whole, use of violence to obtain political ends has been a tradition that goes back at least 200 years?

CE. I'm at a disadvantage, I don't know sufficient about Northern Ireland to draw analogies. The fact is this, that your black South African has been remarkably relaxed, has been remarkably at ease with the situation although he's been unhappy with it, I think gradually starting to build up. But why there has not been a greater retribution I don't know but that is the reality.

POM. I'm going to give you three election scenarios and they are all hypothetical. One is one in which the National Party is re-elected with a reduced majority but not a terribly reduced one; the second is one in which the National Party is re-elected but with the bulk of the votes going to the Conservative Party; the third is one in which there is a hung parliament. What policies do you think would proceed out of each of those three scenarios?

CE. Well let's say the National Party gets back with a majority even if it's a slender one, I say whatever adjustments, whatever changes, are going to be so peripheral, so slow, so begrudging that they're not going to meet the demand of the times. I not saying De Klerk is not going to move but he's not an initiator, he's not an out-front leader, he's basically a reactive politician. So he will allow white South Africa to respond to the pressures which I think is what he's been trying to do and it's not successful. So I think almost the worst scenario from the point of view of the long term is the National Party getting in with a reduced majority. On the side of let's say they get in but there's a mass shift to the Conservative Party, I don't like that. I think it will create ugliness, gross conflicts. I suppose if I was a revolutionary Marxist I would quite like it. It will force the show down. I mean I happen not to agree with the showdown scenario. I'm working for the negotiated scenario. So I can understand that from a revolutionary point of view. My own view is that the most creative scene is a hung parliament situation. I know governments and party bosses don't like hung parliaments because they can't have it their own way but in almost every society hung parliaments (occur) on the occasions on which you have political realignments, and I would say the hung parliament situation involves an incorporation of democratic factors into the government of South Africa. I don't believe that FW is going to be able to cross that Rubicon on his own. The only way he can cross the Rubicon is if in fact there are a few democrats pushing him across. So uncomfortable that may be, there may be a lack of crisp decision in the short term, I would say a hung parliament involves a realignment of political parties.

POM. Do you see a split in the National Party itself?

CE. I described the other day the National Party, I'm talking at the caucus level, there may be other things happening outside. It consists of three groups; it consists of old time conservative racists who actually belong with the conservatives but aren't there because of patronage and there is a whole centre group of what we call fence-sitters, jar-sitters, who in a sense know that they should move but don't quite know what to do. But I think there is an important growing group in the National Party of what I would call democrats in slow motion. I think the impact of a hung parliament would be that the National Party would have to shed its old time racists and that the other two elements in some way or another come to some understanding either by way of fusion, amalgamation, alignment, uncomfortable agreement with the Democratic Party. If I look at De Klerk for instance, I don't think he is any more verlig, if I may use the word, or verkrampte - I don't know if you know, it's a South African phrase, it's liberal, very liberal, I don't think he's any more liberal or any less liberal than Botha but Botha has run out of reforming steam, He has been there for 20 years, he's now ossified, he's become fossilised whereas De Klerk at least is thought to be a much more pliable negotiator with 15 years to go. If there was a hung parliament on the 6th of September, he doesn't need any more white votes for another five years. But he knows that if he actually does a deal with the Conservative Party, nothing that he wants to achieve for the country can be achieved. He knows the sanctions become intensified, he knows that that black/white pressures become intensified, he knows that the rand goes down, so that I would say that necessity will force De Klerk into looking for new allies.

POM. And this morning we talked with Johan Heyns and one of the questions I asked him was about the National Party or his perception of the Democratic Party. He was very dismissive and said that if I was talking to you that I should ask you to remember what you said about Dennis Worrall a year ago.

CE. I know what I said about Dennis a year ago.

POM. It wasn't very complimentary - at least according to him. The Democratic Party, from people we've spoken to, seem to lack a specific identity.

CE. Let's look, the Democratic Party in a sense does that. I actually am an old timer, I believe in one leader, I believe in a very crisp identity. I think the Democratic Party is going through a process of amalgamation of bringing people out of where they were into a new entity. I think that process is always an untidy one especially when you don't have a central thrust of one leader, On the other hand, if you only had one leader it may be that you don't bring all the people into the process. That's the practical reality. My test, as I say my wife is might be more suspicious than I am, is that provided the leadership continues to give a sound ideological thrust in the sense of human rights, of civil liberties, of equal political opportunity I don't think you should criticise the fact that they are bringing all kinds of people together. So the test is really I think they've been highly successful in mobilising people, The real test is having mobilised them, are they going to give them a new thrust to their political thinking?

POM. I note that one of your campaign slogans is 'Stop Creeping Poverty'. What is the real message behind that?

CE. Well you know for the first time in 41 years white South Africa, I'm talking to white voters, are starting to look at apartheid not in terms of desirable objective or undesirable objective but whether you can afford it or not. And so for the first time the economic pinch is starting to become a political factor and this is a party beaming in on something we know gives us access to those voters' minds. Once you have access to the minds you can try to bend them in one or other direction. But it's only because of the economic pinch that they're starting to re-examine ideological alternatives.

POM. Is this economic pinch due to the cost of administering an apartheid system, a apartheid system of government with its duplication, triplication, quadrupling, or is it due in part to the effects of sanctions? What I want you to talk about is, is it the internal cost of apartheid or the external?

CE. It's the total cost and the consequences. It's the economic consequences of apartheid. And I suppose they are in two categories; one is the measurable cost of applying a system that is wasteful and the duplication, it is the cost of lost productive opportunities. For the people being in industry, in productive employment, they're not. So those are the direct cost ones. The other one is just the general cost of foreign isolation, the cost of investor confidence, the cost of disinvestment, and disinvestment isn't just foreigners disinvesting, it's actually South Africans disinvesting, their not reinvesting their savings. They're looking outward rather than inward. So you put all of that together, I think South Africans are saying the cost of maintaining apartheid is too high for comfort, let's do something about it.

POM. You mentioned at lunch that sanctions in the short run lead to an increase in consumption but undermine the infrastructure of the country, there's no investment in the infrastructure?

CE. Well, not so much sanctions as as soon as there are external pressures and you can go to any government and the external pressures you pull down the shutters all around and you have a closed economy. And when you have a closed economy which is really a consumer oriented economy, money is generated, it can't get out anywhere and so in fact there is an expansion of consumerism. That happened to Ian Smith at the worst of his times actually the consumer economy was doing very well. But you must look at your economy in terms of the cost of the capital replacement; are you building new schools, are you getting your high tech industries going, are you replacing capital goods? And that is where the down side is. You're actually becoming in terms of above the line on the balance sheet becoming poorer although below the line you are doing better.

POM. Do you think the average white person believes that sanctions have had an impact on his or her standard of living?

CE. No, I don't think so. I think the average white has got an ambivalent attitude, I think he can't help noticing that the rand is going down in value and that his own cost of living is increasing. And in that sense you'd say the situation is getting worse. I think psychologically however, he adopts a hostile approach towards the people who are applying pressures. So that I don't think that the pressures that are being applied are necessary persuasive in terms of the message they convey. In terms of the changes in the society they may have an effect.

POM. To go back to the Democratic Party for a moment. How would you distinguish the essentials of your policies from the essentials of the National Party's policies?

CE. There's one fundamental and that is that the National Party in terms of the final hurdle of dismantling of apartheid, which I think is in the constitutional political power structure, it still maintains that whatever you do in the future your political structures must be based on race and race classification. In other words building blocks for a constitution, they've got to be race. We argue a fundamentally different point of view. That is that the building blocks of the future have got to be based on the individual. It may well be that within free mobilisation, voluntary association, that there will be parties that exploit race or ethnicity or religions or whatever may be. But our view is that is to entrench or to codify race into the constitution is to intensify and exacerbate the racial differences whereas by not codifying it at least you allow mobility of people to escape from the racial compartments in which they have been locked.

POM. Can all that be translated into a statement that the National Party believes in some odd way in groups rights and the Democratic Party believes in one man one vote majority rule?

CE. Well I think that's also a foreigner's kind of interpretation. The National Party believes in group rights and basically the Democratic Party believes in individual rights. Whether those individual rights collectively should result in majority rule or consensus government or shared government is another matter. I mean I want strong views and that is perhaps from when I was just old enough to fight a war in the late forties, I actually don't believe that majorities necessarily produce democratic governments, I actually believe individual rights produce democratic governments. Therefore, just as I believe that minority governments are automatically autocratic, I actually believe majority governments to be exactly the same thing, So that I think you've got to move away from the concept of majorities and minorities into the field of individuals moving and mixing with different majorities being formed on different issues. Rather than a finite racial majority and a finite racial minority. I'm not trying to avoid the concept that every individual voter should have exactly the same political rights on a non-racial voters' role. That I think should happen. But if you ask me is a federal system of government better than a unitary system, I'd say a federal system of government is. If you asked me is proportional representation better than non-proportional, I'd say proportional is. If you ask me is society better with a bill of rights than without a bill of rights, yes it's better with a bill of rights. So if you say to me simple majoritarianism is fundamentally right no matter what it does to the minority, I'd say no.

POM. To recapture it in a slightly different way, if there were a negotiating table, who should be at that table?

CE. Well, you know, who in fact should be will depend on how the cookie crumbles at the time, who are the power factors. You know, who can produce the peace. I mean I would say at the moment amongst the significant actors are Mandela representing the ANC, I think that COSATU just as a labour movement is going to be very important in the political history of the future, I don't think one can ignore either Buthelezi or Holomisa and a few others of the homeland leaders who've developed constituencies of their own. No doubt that you will have major white actors who are going to be factors. It's very difficult to say in advance that these are necessary the components. But I think, just as you take the Lancaster House talks, you said two years before who would be there? Nobody knew who they were going to be. It emerges that these are the people who can resolve the issues and other people can't resolve them.

POM. On the white side who would be there?

CE. Now mind you, a very strong one, and this is where I've seen a major shift in the ANC in the last two months as I might have mentioned, the ANC in the past has always said we are not prepared to talk to the white government because it is an apartheid regime, it's merely a question of hand over of power. From the moment that Mandela saw Botha and Mandela's subsequent statement, he says it's important for Botha representing the government to talk to the ANC representing the people. And that is a significant shift away from 'Botha is irrelevant, it's the people that count', to a position of negotiating. Now I listen to what the ANC has said even more recently, that Mr. Botha's government must talk to the ANC, it also means that the ANC must talk to Mr. Botha. So that if they take those two polls apart the one actor that has to be at the table is the government of the day. I think to exclude the government of the day is actually to deal with an irrelevance. Whether I like it or not or the ANC likes it or not, the person who controls the legislature and the executive and the armed forces and the security forces, whoever that might be, is a major actor. So that number one person that must be involved is the government. And after that you must take who are the other significant actors in the white scene and the black scene.

POM. I'll ask you this question because it was a question rhetorically asked of me when I was asking somebody else a question and again it goes back to the identity of the Democratic Party. The question was, yes they're different but ask them which side of the table they would be sitting at in negotiations along with the National Party and the Conservative Party across the table from black interests or would they be on the side of black interests against the power of the state? Assuming that the table isn't circular.

CE. Well, you know once again one's talking of black interests versus white interests. I'd say that I would hope that the Democratic Party doesn't approach it from a black interest versus a white interest. But the kind of society which is going to result from the negotiations, we'll have blacks saying we want an autocratic one man one vote one party state, then we will be arguing for a truly democratic situation. But you're talking in terms of race, I mean I'd say that the Democratic Party would say that the whites have had the advantage of legalised privilege for many years and they're actually going to have to forego their privilege, that if it's not a privilege but an opportunity it's going to have to shift towards the blacks. And I think that's what they are going to have to argue.

POM. How can you have a change to a more democratic form of government where the grievances done to blacks over generations are addressed unless you somehow fundamentally redistribute the resources of the country, by the resources specifically I mean land?

CE. Well the land is in a sense is the easiest one. I mean, well the land is in a sense is the easiest one. I mean clearly the restrictions on the availability of land have got to be removed, And I would say that there are going to be ways and means found of finding a greater access to the land for those who have been disadvantaged over the years, I found the most encouraging country that's dealt with it has been Zimbabwe. They had a war and they killed 20,000 of each other and after that without prejudicing the economically active white farmers, I'll use that phrase, they managed to find there's enough other land that is not in the kind of economically active group to make available to other people. And I would presume that a similar thing applies in South Africa, that is certain areas of land which are being effectively used, but there must be big areas of South African, while they might be white owned, are not effectively occupied or used or utilised for production. And something's got to be done about that.

POM. You talked about the COSATU being an important player, or an important new player, do you think that part of the inflation in the economy is due to the fact that black trade unions are now more effective at negotiating fair market wages of the work people?

CE. I must say I think that's only marginal. I mean I would not doubt that they are getting fair market wages, In the main the argument for fair market wages also goes hand in hand with increased productivity. I don't want to say it's actually almost even but in the main, yes, there's a pressure for upward wages, I think the practical effect of that is that the employer, in order the meet the demand for increased wages, is also seeing that there is a better means of production. So that while I think in some areas it may be part of the cause of rising prices, I'd say it isn't the main cause at all.

POM. Yesterday you had this strange spectacle of Strand beach ...

CE. Strand beach.

POM. And the National Party in its campaign literature says it either has abolished or is in the process of abolishing all discriminatory laws based on colour and yet in an area where most of the beaches are integrated you have massive military and police presence mounted in order to prevent a thousand blacks from going on to it. What was the purpose do you think?

CE. Let me start with, you've made the statement they say they want to get rid of discrimination or apartheid. What they're actually saying is that we want to find a way of doing this and this is to apply apartheid on a non-discriminatory basis. And this is what De Klerk's philosophy is. In terms of separate residential areas, separate communities, separate schools, separate facilities, separate institutions, that this should be done without having formal apartheid. Black South Africa's heard enough of this and they just say the fact is it is the modern alternative of apartheid and we're going to have to break it down. And you know really the Strand beach is a nonsense thing. It's as much old fashioned Verwoerdian apartheid as anything else ever was.

POM. Why did the government - the question I'm really asking is, was the government doing this to reassure white voters?

CE. I think marginally yes. I think, over lunch, or part of lunch, I was explaining most of the apartheid laws have in the end collapsed. I'm not meaning political apartheid, I'm talking social, economic apartheid, have collapsed because of erosion. Here was an attempt by some blacks to get those laws to collapse by way of deviance. And I think the government reacts differently to deviance than it does to erosion. And it may well be that in five or ten years time the Strand beach will become integrated, not because of deviance but because of the demographic shift in the population, the changes that take place. But the government is not going to admit that it's changing as a result of deviance. It might concede it is changing as a result of erosion but deviance politically it is not going to admit, Secondly, you are moving into an election cycle in which the Mass Democratic Movement has openly said they're going to defy the government. And there is no way a white government fighting an election is going to allow it to be seen that they are surrendering to the demands of the Mass Democratic Movement. And I would say from their point of view it suits them down to the ground. I would say that what happened at Strand yesterday is very damaging to the liberal cause and quite helpful to the Nationalist's cause.

POM. You also mentioned at lunch that when you had implementation of the Group Areas Act how blacks and coloureds kind of obeyed the restrictions, that there was no real attempt on their part to defy it.

CE. Not exactly. I think that South Africans across the board are fairly disciplined people. And they are quite willing to submit to statutory authority. It doesn't mean to say that they don't allow the laws to erode. You take the pass laws, Most blacks when they're off around carry their passes. I didn't mean to say that a number of them just let it erode, they actually in spite of carrying their passes they did things which the passes didn't allow them to do and so it eroded - the difference between erosion and defiance. Now what you've seen in the last couple of weeks is not the erosion of the laws but an accelerated process of deviance. And I'm not going to say that it might not succeed in the long run. But the immediate impact is here is a white government fighting an election and they are not going to allow the electorate to say you have surrender to deviance.

POM. I suppose the real question I'm trying to get at is when you say that most South Africans including blacks have respect for the law it seems paradoxical that you would have respect for laws that essentially repress you.

CE. I don't think I used the word respect. Respect is an emotional concept. It is an acknowledgment of the effectiveness of the law. So you don't like the law but you obey the law, but obeying doesn't mean to say that you respect it.

POM. Why would they obey it?

CE. I don't know but this has been the nature of South African society that I think that the government over many years has had to apply much less visible authoritarian pressure on people to obey the law than one would have imagined. I can't explain why that's been the case. But you're getting a rebelliousness now amongst younger people and certain people say well we've had enough of that obedience to the law. That is also a factor.

POM. One or two people that we've talked to, young people, mentioned Angola and Namibia as being, for South Africa, what Vietnam was for Americans, that as soldiers they didn't know what they were fighting for or whom they were fighting for, what was the cause of the war, what was the need lose lives over?

CE. We're talking now, talking to white South Africans I presume because blacks will have a different perceptions.

POM. Yes of course, whites.

CE. I mean, I must say I hope I know, I think I know America. I don't think Angola was anything, not one twentieth of the trauma that Vietnam caused in America.

POM. I'm talking about the soldiers who fought ...

CE. I would tell you that I don't think that the trauma is comparable. I'm not saying that there's no trauma. But to actually draw a parallel between those two I think is a kind of romantic exercise. I think there were a number, a growing number of white youngsters who had doubts about what it's all about, although if I'm a state soldier then the concept is that this is the front line of defence of our country. There is no domino theory and all that kind of nonsense that went on. If white South Africans became edgy, concerned about serving in the army, it was far more when the army was started to be used in the townships than the army being used in Angola. I'm not saying Angola wasn't a factor but really I won't be persuaded that a significant number of white South Africans, including the soldiers, were turning on the South African government because of the war and the war, it was the waste of time, it was the stupidity of doing two years of service when you probably were working in the Colonel's office signing papers or something like that or playing sport or it was the use of the army to patrol the townships which became the decisive factor as to whether people would serve or not.

POM. In other countries part of the liberating force has always been the rise of the middle class of the oppressed minority, or majority of the case in the United States. There's the case in Northern Ireland, just to give two examples. What role if any do you think an emerging black middle class has played in the development of black politics?

CE. I don't think it's played a really significant part in black politics, I think that emergence of that black middle class has essentially been an economic phenomenon rather than a political phenomenon. So I think the revolutionary struggle is taking place outside of that process. I think what is important though is that when the struggle is over and you get a post-apartheid South Africa, I think that middle class will be a very important component of the new South Africa, So I don't think they are a significant component of the struggle.

POM. Two last questions. One, speaking as yourself what process would you like to see unfold in the next five years?

CE. Well I, whether it's the next five years or the last five years, I think critically important is the process of negotiation. I don't want to see a civil war in which there's going to be a winner and a loser because I think the result in society is going to reflect the winner and loser syndrome. So I think the process of negotiation, and it's got to start with the unbanning of organisations, it's got to start with the release of Mandela, it's got to start with democratisation once again on the black political structures so they can also become part of this process.

. I was in the States 18 months ago and I saw Mr, Schultz and he said, What should we Americans be doing? And I said, Mr. Schultz if you can get Mr. Botha and Oliver Tambo in a room together and get them to start negotiating I will build a second Voortrekker Monument and I'll name it after you. The name of the game is not getting the good guys together, it's actually getting the key actors together and locking them into a process. Now if I must look at my country the actors have all got their acts, they are playing their roles. I actually look at my society, it's much closer to negotiation than it was one, two, three, four, five years ago, and it's not because people want it, it's because on both sides of the spectrum their policies of non-negotiation have not been successful. In the end you cannot carry on non-successful policies, you say well what do I put in its place? And they are not sure that negotiations are going to succeed but if I take the total spectrum, yes, from a great divide when the whites knew exactly what they were going to do and the blacks knew the armed struggle was going to succeed, both have got doubts. And out of the doubts of the existing policies is born the germ of a new philosophy.

POM. Two more last questions.

CE. You said two five minutes ago.

POM. One is, as someone who has travelled extensively abroad what do you think is the most common misperception that people in other countries have about South Africa?

CE. I'd say it's in the phrase "but nothing is happening in your country". I actually believe that if you can ignore the government, if you can ignore the legislative process, this society is on the move. It is changing structurally, emotionally all the time. And I think it's people not seeing that there are processes at work which aren't measured in terms of laws and in terms of governments. Now I think that's something that our government doesn't understand either. They think that because the laws don't change, because the white voters don't change, nothing in society is changing. I think it is one of the most fast moving evolving societies, social, economic and political. Forget whether blacks have got a vote or not, their political power is gaining every day. So that when people say to me well nothing ever happens, I say the one thing you must understand is everything is happening.

POM. Last, how is Cape Town, the Cape Province different in the way it views things than the rest of the country?

CE. Well I suppose each province is different than the rest of the provinces. So if I went to the Orange Free State, or the Transvaal, or Natal or the Cape each would be different but the Cape is different in a peculiar way. First of all in terms of English/Afrikaner relationships, the English and Afrikaner have become integrated, mixed over centuries before that happened in the Transvaal. In the Transvaal, the trekkers, the voortrekkers went there and they were then conquered by the British again. So at the beginning of the (20th) century you actually had a military clash between English and Afrikaans. For 100 years before in the Cape English and Afrikaners were co-operating. So that you haven't got that great English/Afrikaner divide.

. Secondly, the Cape has always been a much more integrated society although that integration has not included many negroid or African blacks. It was essentially Afrikaners, English, French together with Hottentots and then Bushman and Malays and a small number of African blacks. So its an integrated society and in that sense more relaxed.

. But where it is different from the rest of South Africa, it hasn't come to terms with the preponderance of African blacks. It's come to terms with the white, coloured, Malay situation, rather than a white, coloured, Malay, black situation, And it's only in the last few years with the significant influx of blacks that the Cape is now also, as the Transvaal and elsewhere, having to come to terms with that new phenomena. So in a sense it's more relaxed, it's more liberal, it's more urbane, but it also lacks it's not at the coal face and one of these days when it comes to the coal face it might respond slightly differently.

POM. Is there any question that I should obviously have asked you that I didn't?

CE. I don't know what you're looking for. I'm an internationalist, I think that world history for 1981 - 1989 is going through a cycle of which it hasn't been through since the 1940s. It's the perestroika, for Bush to go and talk to the Hungarian and Polish parliaments. I mean for a conservative Republican to go and do that is mind boggling. We're going to be dismantling the nuclear warhead they were putting in place only a couple of years ago. To me it is a dramatic thing in terms of mankind. And I think much the same cycle of events is starting to take place in South Africa. That some of the stereotypes that we had about the good guys the bad guys, the evil guys, is starting to break down. And although there is a background of suspicion, there's a background of hostility, there also is an understanding that you cannot continue as you are. So the centre of gravity of my society is shifting significantly in the direction of negotiations. Whether they will achieve the negotiation result is another matter but that the process is starting I've got no doubt.

POM. Thank you.

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.