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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

24 Aug 1989: ANC Members

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ANC. I don't really want to add to that given there are increasing consultations by members of the white community with the ANC to get the views of the ANC on certain matters, etc., so that they do regard the ANC as an important force. And of course perhaps it's a way to international representation and reputation which is another aspect.

ANC. I wanted to say, apart from representing the majority, and when you say the majority we are not only talking about blacks, the majority includes the whites, we are talking about the struggle as a whole which is those who are oppressed and the Pretoria issue, will it bear the struggle. The ANC has over the years taken the position of leadership of that struggle both politically and ... so much that in the South African context the ANC and the apartheid regime are pitted against each other so much that the other forces that the comrade has just enumerated are there but they are not relevant in terms of who dismisses who in the struggle for the future of Africa.

POM. We heard from a number of organisations, from NUMSA and from the South African and Railways & Harbours Workers Union that through COSATU they send their views to you and that their views become reflected in the policy decisions that you make, it's how the contact works.

ANC. Yes it's true that a lot is going on with contact and consultation back and forth between the ANC and what we refer to as the Mass Democratic Movement, the UDF, COSATU, the national students' organisations, and that way we stay attuned to the mood of the people, we remain in a position to provide ... Perhaps one way to re-pose the question would be to address it from the point of view of who subscribes to the objectives which the ANC subscribes to, namely a united, non-racial, democratic SA. In this case one can confidently say that our objectives are raised by the overwhelming majority of South Africans including a growing number of whites, including the Democratic Party which for the first time in the history of SA is going to represent an anti-apartheid struggle within the parliamentary process.

POM. I was going to ask you that, do you make it a very clear cut distinction between the National Party and the Democratic Party?

ANC. Well they certainly do make a very clear distinction. They stand for everything that apartheid hates.

POM. That's the Democratic Party?

ANC. Yes. They had a delegation here recently [led by Raymond ... including other leaders of the party] and we made it very clear to them that the people of SA and the ANC, of course, always rejected the South African parliamentary process because it was unrepresentative and that we could never endorse any political force that ran within that framework of that parliamentary process but they could do a very useful thing by running on a clear anti-apartheid platform for the purposes of educating our fellow whites about what we stand for.

POM. Do you make a distinction between people who would be anti-apartheid yet not Mass Democratic Movement, whites who were kind of in no man's land, they want to be rid of apartheid?

ANC. The parliamentary opposition to apartheid, for instance, does not belong to the Mass Democratic Movement, but it has a role to play and has a certain purpose and we have encouraged links, co-ordination of effort and co-operation between the Mass Democratic Movement and those forces which are beyond the Mass Democratic Movement but are opposed to apartheid.

POM. One of the things that we never got unequivocally from members of the Democratic Party who we have talked to, we didn't get a clear sense that they were unambiguously for one man one vote majority rule. They were for one man one vote but they talked about federations or confederations.

PAT. Power sharing.

ANC. When you talk about power sharing you run into problems in the South African situation where for a long time power has only been vested in the minority whites. Now if you talk about power sharing it means you have quite a number of groupings who must share in power, you have power there and you have to share it among them. When we talk about political majorities, not black majority rule, it so happens that the political majority in SA is also black. We reject the concept of power sharing because it divides and we are fighting for a non-racial, democratic SA, a united one. Any power sharing denotes that we are not going to get that and we have been fighting for more than 32 years for that.

POM. I suppose what I'm getting at, did the DP, to you, make it clear that they were for a unitary, non-racial, democratic state?

ANC. Right now we are discussing the process and it's not surprising that this is only being discussed at this point in time. The DP is a very new party, in its infancy, it's still working out its programme and there are great debates going on inside there. But what can be said is that they know what we stand for and they are saying there are possibilities of co-operating with us and to the extent that we have always fostered co-operation we subscribe to the debate that is going on inside the DP and hope that one day there will be a convergence of the issues on this particular issue of the objective of a united, non-racial, democratic SA.

POM. Now one of the ways I suppose we too have been inclined to define what you do is that there are two major elements or two major pillars to your strategy and that is maintaining pressure on the international community to put pressure on the apartheid regime and then a national war of liberation, an armed struggle going on on the other hand. Are there other components as well or are they the two main ones?

ANC. Well you left out the most important component which is the political struggle on the ground. The armed struggle is just an auxiliary, it's one of many strategies that we use but the struggle is political and consists principally of mass mobilisation of the people and giving them direction. This has been going on as far back as the ANC has been in existence. The armed struggle is a recent thing, it only began in 1961.

POM. I was going to ask you about that because in my professional work I do a lot of work in Northern Ireland and there the IRA for many years had a strategy only of relying on physical force, they wouldn't have anything to do with politics at all. Then in the last seven or eight years they have developed a strategy that on the one hand has the armed struggle but on the other hand they're trying to politicise more people and they have a political party that is trying to even contest elections. Where does the armed struggle rank with you in terms of strategy?

ANC. As I have said to you, political struggle is the most important and armed struggle is meant to promote the realisation of the objectives of the political struggle.

POM. Does it serve as a beacon for the youth in SA, that they do know, when the ANC commits a military operation that the young people can identify with it, that it's some kind of outlet for their pent-up anger or anything? Is there an air of symbolism to it?

ANC. Well it's true that the armed struggle will excite the young people. It's important to know that the real reason for the armed struggle is not sensationalism but a response to the conflict situation in SA, where the regime was using violence against our people, making no distinction between civilians and (non-civilians) in a situation where the majority of the people are actually civilians. And the people were saying, "When are we going to learn to defend ourselves? When are we going to move into a position in which we can give the doctor a dose of his own medicine?" It was a response to those two questions that led to the launch of the armed struggle. In the process, of course, it engaged the excitement of the youth.

POM. That's almost just subsidiary?

ANC. Yes, yes. In the struggle we have to be very careful to avoid fostering two governments. We don't see the struggle entertaining that. We certainly find no room for sensationalism in the struggle and as you will also probably know the ANC took the decision to launch the armed struggle with great difficulty because this was going against the grain of the tradition which at that time was almost 50 years old and it had to be recognised that we had no choices left, especially after the banning of the ANC. Then the armed struggle came into the picture strictly in response to a conflict situation, in response to a dynamic which had been set in motion by ...

PAT. And this is why one gains such a strong ... in mobilisation and non-violent action, why when you talk to people there is such a strong ethic of non-violent mobilisation effort, because it's their history and this is what is ingrained in the people, in their philosophy.

POM. We were both here in SA for a couple of weeks in 1985. I don't know whether you remember but there were ten young people from Dublin, from a store called Dunne Stores who had mounted a strike in Dublin because they wouldn't check out South African goods and they were brought here and they were denied entry. We brought them over and they got just as far as the airport and the government held them for twelve hours and pushed them right back to London. But we were around until the day the first emergency was declared and coming back four years later there appears to us, and again this is only the impression we can gain after two and a half weeks, that there's a different mood. The word 'negotiations' is on almost everyone's mouth from all spectrums right across the board. What do you think has created a climate in which negotiations might be conducted or do you think that climate has been created?

ANC. Well the climate has always been there for years before the ANC embarked on the armed struggle. It had never stopped the authorities to suggest the convening of a national convention where all South Africans would be represented and where a peaceful solution would be found to the conflict. You could correctly say that the period since we have been engaged in our struggle is really an interlude in terms of the broader sweep of the history of our struggle. In 1985 there had also been this incentive by the Eminent Persons Group of the Commonwealth who came away with the impression that if they could persuade Pretoria to talk then there was a chance for peaceful resolution to the conflict. And consistent with our tradition we let the international community know that we were open to the possibility of pursuing a peaceful resolution to the conflict. So in short you might just say that the South African people have always been open even at the height of the armed struggle, even as that struggle continues to convey, we have always been open to the possibility of finding a peaceful solution.

POM. Why do you think that has brought the regime in Pretoria closer to talking about negotiations whereas before they were so adamant that they would never ...?

ANC. Well one thing is that they actually see the propaganda possibilities, the public relations possibilities of posturing, being in favour of negotiations. As a matter of fact the word negotiations is not new to the South African public. They have always said that they are prepared to talk to very clearly defined political forces and people and invariably they meant those people they had installed as leaders in the Bantustans, their own people who would tell them what they've always wanted to hear. The second element is a recent development which has put Pretoria under pressure, (i) the international community is growing increasingly impatient with apartheid stonewalling, (ii) progress which has been made in terms of resolving the conflict in Namibia has given rise to optimism in the international community that a similar solution might be found to the problem in SA. This has already begun to translate into contacts of various sorts with people like ... who came out to Pretoria again, suggesting to Pretoria that it's time to talk. There was a military defeat in Angola and you might say a military defeat which also extended into Namibia and they have made a mess with their SADF forces, Unita and Renamo and they cannot afford to sustain those type of enterprises. But one thing is already very clear, Pretoria has not, or the SA Defence Force has not been able to deliver the political solutions that Pretoria had hoped for and so this translates into disenchantment inside SA, in the white constituencies. It translates into visible conflict between the military and the civilians. It translates into the fragmentation of the Afrikaner Nationalist Party into the Conservative Party and the AWB which is led by Terre'Blanche. There is disaffection with the army also by young people who, as you probably know, are engaged in a war resistance movement tailored to the South African situation. The economy is in bad shape, the business people are saying apartheid has become too costly for business.

POM. Do you think that compared to ten years ago that the majority of white people subconsciously accept the inevitability of majority rule but they are still trying to place obstacles in the way of it coming about?

ANC. One thing has to be recognised and that is that many whites in SA until very recently were not even aware that apartheid is being challenged because the regime has set up this incredible wall between the black and white realities in SA. So when they do become aware that apartheid is being challenged this happens very dramatically where some people may be like ostriches to bury their heads in the sand and refuse to recognise this reality and becoming even more entrenched in their adherence to apartheid. And there are those who move towards what I guess you would call relatively other extreme point of wanting to identify with the struggle, wanting to identify with the ANC and wanting to identify with the Mass Democratic Movement. But somewhere in between you'll probably have whites who, as you are saying, only accept the inevitability of change in SA at a subliminal level.

POM. But still can't act on it.

ANC. Yes. The other thing is that Pretoria propaganda has painted most whites into a corner. People say apartheid is unacceptable, it's inhuman. Then to the extent that they see the ANC and its objectives as the alternative they are held back from embracing the ANC and its objectives again because they still have to be disabused of Pretoria propaganda which is that the ANC is a terrorist and communist organisation. So for such people when they think about the future in terms of ANC playing a central role, they see terrorism and communism and this is obviously an uninformed position but the reality is that it is precipitated by apartheid.

POM. Do you think the development of perestroika and glasnost and Gorbachev moving around the West and being greeted enthusiastically has affected, undermined this 'we must at all times be aware of communism ticking over' or something?

ANC. Well certainly this has had an effect on a fraction of the white populace in SA but white SA, again because of the insular nature of apartheid, are very provincial people and it's quite likely that they will only catch up with international relations years from now.

PAT. What about their government negotiating with the Cubans and the Angolans and the Soviets?

ANC. It probably lost them their traditional support. They still have some explaining to do to their own constituency why it became necessary for them to do that.

PAT. Explaining why they appeared to be so schizophrenic?

ANC. They didn't appear to be schizophrenic, they really were.

POM. When the people in Pretoria use the word 'negotiations' what do you think they mean? What do you mean when you use the word 'negotiations'?

ANC. When they say negotiations I think it recognises the fact that they now recognise that the methods they traditionally used to ensure the survival of apartheid no longer work and that they have to change the rules of the game in order to stay in the game. On the other hand when they talk about negotiations they are probably talking about sitting down, I don't know with whom, to find out areas where they think they can make concessions in order to retain the essence of apartheid. It certainly does not mean that they want to do away with apartheid. When we say negotiations, first take them against the backdrop of our standing for the attainment of a united, non-racist and democratic SA and to us it reflects the fact that even though we use the methods we use, if it is possible to find more peaceful methods to proceed towards that objective we are open to that.

POM. So when De Klerk in the last couple of weeks is making all these fine sounding phrases about we are willing to talk, we are willing to change, we are willing to do this, that and the other, do you think this is all part of a design to get rid of the worst aspects of apartheid and yet hold on to power themselves, that the one thing they won't negotiate is the giving away of power?

ANC. They certainly would be giving away not the worst parts of apartheid, they want to retain the essentials of apartheid and they want to give away the sugar coating. They want to retain those because

POM. What would you call the essentials, just so that I know?

ANC. Keep the ethnic groups and races separated and above all preserve white privilege and white domination. I was going to say that it would be difficult for us to agree with you that De Klerk has been trading in fine sounding phrases, there is nothing but contradiction in all the things he's said, including his five-year plan of action. One moment he says, "We're opposed to white domination, we want to do away with apartheid", then the next moment he says, "We reject one person one vote on the basis of a common voters' roll with a united SA", and then he says they must insist on the protection of group rights, and that's apartheid by another name. So there's nothing find sounding about that.

POM. If the NP were re-elected would you see them scrapping the Group Areas Act or still leaving it in there or just kind of ignoring it and allowing more grey areas to develop?

ANC. I don't think they are going to ... the Group Areas Act for a target because inevitably ... both domestic and international, that would have to be done. But whether the NP is going to do that is not entirely clear at this stage in time. We are guessing that they would like to keep this, as I say, the essentials of apartheid and that includes the Group Areas Act. They would like to preserve white domination, they would like to preserve white privilege. This is why they keep talking about the protection of group rights. The only group in SA which has always had its rights protected was the whites and that was what apartheid was about. When they start talking about group rights you will have to ask which group they are referring to. They are rejecting the very groups which they have refused to recognise. For instance, we have never wanted to be divided for political purposes along ethnic lines but Pretoria has said you're very different people, even though we kept saying we are the same people, as a matter of fact you belong to us. They said, no we don't belong to you and you don't belong to each other and seriously reject those divisions of the groups. We see no necessity for the group to be protected. We think it's important to protect individual rights in particular, blacks, whites and everybody else across the board.

POM. So the ANC would be in favour, for example, of a Bill of Rights?

ANC. We've gone public on that. It's reflected in our constitutional guidelines. I don't know if you've seen them?

PAT. We've seen newspaper reports.

ANC. They've been discussed outside SA.

PAT. So you see not much of any difference between a De Klerk administration and a Botha administration?

ANC. There's no difference. It might be that De Klerk is even worse in the sense that at least he will get more vicious as it goes through its death throes.

PAT. So you think he's being given a grace period by people in the international community? What is your sense? Do the frontline leaders think they might be able to get further with De Klerk than they've been able to get with Botha because he's new?

ANC. You know, you're naturally optimistic when you're in struggle. Your objective is to make progress and you're more inclined than not to explore every possibility but nobody is interested in giving anybody a grace period as far as it is necessary to move this situation forward in SA.

POM. Is the outcome of this election of any significance to you? For example, let me give you three scenarios and you can say which one you would consider the best one for your own purposes. One would be the NP is re-elected with a majority, not as big as its majority was but it's comfortable. The second would be one in which the NP is re-elected with a slim majority and the bulk of its vote has gone to the Conservative Party. And the third one would be one in which there is a hung parliament.

ANC. As I said at the beginning we don't recognise the SA government and its processes, so we do not attach any significance to the direction in which that process proceeds. A growing number of whites recognise that the parliamentary approach in SA is incapable of delivering the changes which are necessary so in a fundamental sense it really does not matter to us who emerges as what out of those elections.

POM. But do you think if there was a coalition between the Democrats and the NP that there might be a swifter move towards serious negotiations?

ANC. I think that is a hypothesis we are afraid to make. I cannot see how there can be a coalition between the Democratic Party and the Nationalist Party. But more important than that is the fact that the necessary changes in SA are not going to be delivered through the parliamentary process which is an instrument of white domination in SA. It's like you cannot proceed to democracy through undemocratic structures and practices.

PAT. So the moves that take place from inside, from political movement inside, is from outside pressures, is that what you mean?

POM. As you move towards creating a process for negotiations, is there a role, a formal role for the international community, of the Organisation for African Unity, of the Commonwealth, of Mrs Thatcher, are there any actors on the stage outside that can help create a forum in which negotiations can be conducted or do you think it's purely a matter between you and whatever forces there are in Pretoria?

ANC. I think the problem there is how to eliminate a fundamental bottleneck, how to get the parties to the conflict to begin engaging each other in a new way. One has to respect the role that the international community continues to play in the struggle against apartheid. It is reasonable to expect that if it becomes necessary there might be a role for the international community, but of course there are limitations as to who can do what. In the first place somebody like Margaret Thatcher would never be an acceptable interlocutor because she's seen by the majority of the people of SA as an ally of apartheid and would be regarded with suspicion. She is not alone in her stance and this applies to many other people.

POM. Could you ever take her seriously in the sense that one day she was calling Robert Mugabe a terrorist and the next day she invited him to Lancaster House?

ANC. Well we're not unaware of that but if she had to turn around it would have to be more than that. She would have to be seen to engage in apartheid the way we have always called upon the international community, to engage apartheid. She would have to do what the Americans are doing now, to stop calling us terrorists, to stop calling us communists. She would have, again, to follow the example of the US which imposed sanctions on Pretoria.

POM. How do you envisage a process opening up that can create this forum for negotiations?

ANC. Well in a sense it's already started. There was this meeting two weeks ago of the frontline states where they considered a united stand in response to the current situation in Southern Africa. This was endorsed at the beginning of the week by the Ad Hoc Committee of the OAU of Southern Africa and there was a document which said we want specific types of changes because we want to achieve these objectives and we think that if we can get the ball rolling if this produces a (commitment) by Pretoria and we think that this thing must proceed on two faces. The negotiations themselves must be preceded by free consultations between all South African people on something as important as this.

POM. This would be a table - who would be around this table?

ANC. It's for the South African people to decide and in a sense they have already decided because they keep saying Pretoria must talk to the ANC, Pretoria must talk to the ANC.

PAT. That first part of the negotiation process is a consultation part. Then what?

ANC. People must decide, OK we have the standing objectives of a united, non-racial, democratic SA. [... uncomfortable without objectives ... following the ANC because it was the least unacceptable choice, and we have to be honest about that ...] So either they will have to reaffirm that objective, alter it or reject it and then we must then decide who is going to represent them at the table before negotiations take place. Then they must decide what structures, interim structures are going to be necessary to maintain law and order in the democratic sense in the process of undoing the foundations of apartheid. Then I think the substance of negotiations actually will be how to proceed to the objective of a democratic and non-racial SA. I don't think that objective itself is subject to negotiation. We have advanced principles and this is in that document. There must be common agreement on these principles and it might be necessary for parties to discuss those two with a certain amount of flexibility but retaining the objective of a united, non-racial and democratic SA. It is not subject to negotiations. It is the how to get to that objective.

POM. Would the type of economy the country has be something that would be negotiable between South Africans themselves? I ask that because in the guidelines which were published last week in one of the South African papers it mentioned your being in favour of a mixed economy, and we talked to some people in NUMSA, brought up the subject of a mixed economy and there was a muttering and they said, "Well that's part of the negotiation process."

ANC. Well there are people who are for complete privatisation of the South African economy and we know who those people are. There are people also who are for the complete nationalisation of that economy. The existence of those two polarities is occasion enough for negotiation around the question of what type of economy we want for the future and we said a mixed economy, somewhere in between those two extremes. It's exact nature can be negotiated.

PAT. Yes, we could understand why you would choose a mixed economy but what they said was that that remains to be an unresolved issue and obviously they would be for the nationalisation of the economy. Didn't you notice what SWAPO said? Well then how did you know of its manifesto for the election? It, for political reasons, had to back off on some of their nationalisation and redistribution positions and take a more moderate position. This is what they are saying. So they are inferring to us that there is political posturing going on here and it gets into the negotiating process but internally, inside the movement, these are issues that we haven't resolved yet.

ANC. Well I hope that's part of the democratic process, we're given the right to impute whatever, the ANC, the people have a complete right to do that.

PAT. Our question related to what you were talking about, the phases and the evolution of this process and about negotiations that would be consultations that would go on inside the community, and I think your question was is this part of that or is this something that sort of gets postponed and comes far later?

ANC. It will have to be part of the consultations as opposed to negotiations because the issue might come up again when we address a different audience at the level of this stage of negotiations. Definitely, almost every item in the constitutional guidelines, for instance, our documents about our idea of the future, will be subject to consultation between the South African people.

PAT. They also said, on another matter that you talked about, I think it would be fair to say, that they were disenchanted by the execution of sanctions, that you give a lot more credit I think to the US, what the US did on sanctions, than they would give credit at all. The US had failed its sanctions because it hadn't executed comprehensive sanctions and they saw this, I think it would be fair to say, as really debilitating to their own efforts inside.

ANC. In general one has to respect their views and there's a lot of truth in what they're saying but the problem is it would be very foolhardy for anybody to say because we didn't get a complete package from the Americans, therefore what America has done is completely unacceptable. We certainly see what the Americans have done as a good beginning in the right direction and that this needs to be encouraged, while making the point that it is not enough. So we are not giving blanket praise to the United States.

POM. If you look at the African community in South Africa from the eve of the first emergency in July of 1985 to today, what do you think have been the most significant developments that have taken place within it during that period?

ANC. The most significant development is the resistance of the people, you spoke of the futility of the state of emergency itself. Two, the near paralysis of most organisations which were above board and committed to the use of peaceful forms of struggle. They have been forced to go underground and go through the same experiences that the ANC went through in the decade of the sixties after we had been banned and find new methods which are appropriate to new conditions. Here the organisation has been going on, the resistance is alive and well. The other significant development is that by making it even more difficult to struggle peacefully the state of emergency should precipitate a dynamic which throws even more weight on the armed struggle.

POM. If you look at the white community in the same period, July of 1985 to today, what do you think have been the most significant developments there?

ANC. For them in a general sense I think it's been a very educational experience, one about the fact that apartheid is not invincible. Two, it took the state of emergency to expose a growing number of whites to what apartheid meant to us. We were victorious and they had to go and occupy the black townships as part of its programme of repression. They were taking those young people who had never been to black townships into the townships and showing them just how horrible apartheid was to blacks in the townships and that was a very significant educational experience for them. As a matter of fact, I think the process of white fragmentation gathered momentum during the period of the state of emergency with the black resistance movement emerging, with more and more whites going into the Mass Democratic Movement, with for the first time in the recent history of SA, a white political formation inside of parliament has emerged and is explicitly opposing apartheid.

POM. Sanctions. Have they been effective?

ANC. Yes I think they have if ... is to be relied upon.

POM. Two people characterised the situation to us as being one in which on the one hand you had a recognition by the ANC that they could never win a national war of liberation, an armed struggle, and that on the other hand you had a recognition by the government that reform imposed from above simply would never work, would never produce stability or peace or whatever. Do you think that's a fair assessment?

ANC. Pretoria recognises the fact that reform imposed from above is incapable of working. As a matter of fact, I think it remains their understanding that reforms must be unilaterally imposed by them and that this is why they are already pontificating to us about what changes ought to take place and how - if you've seen their five-year plan of action. On the other hand the ANC has never entertained the objective of wanting to militarily defeat the SA Defence Force. Like I said, the area of the struggle is political and the armed struggle is a component of strategies for the attainment of the political objective of a united, non-racial and democratic SA.

POM. I make a comparison with Northern Ireland in the 1960s. You had had for 50 years one party, the Unionist Party, that was a monolith that was entirely Protestant and that rules the state and maintained Protestant privilege and Protestant power. The Catholic community was put out from everything; they had no say in anything at all. Then in the 1960s you had a 'reformist' Prime Minister of this party who tried to make concessions to Catholics, little concessions to kind of bring them in, co-opt them. This didn't work. Every time he made a concession it became irrelevant but on his right wing it kept creating more and more problems and ultimately the whole monolith split apart, it fragmented and brought about the dissolution of the state. Do you see any similar process that could be at work in the NP itself as it tries to on the one hand have it's little reform here and on the other hand to appease its right wing, that the party simply loses its identity?

ANC. I don't know. I wouldn't like to take up the remarks of this comparison to Ireland because at the moment we've been going through a very difficult process in which people have been writing certain disputed documents to bring some identity between ANC and the Irish movement and there have been several appeals in the press of that nature, but I think it's better to consider but it's wrong to historically compare.

POM. I'm not comparing them, I'm just saying this has happened.

ANC. I think there's a whole exercise of De Klerk is meant to win to contain both his right wing whilst at the same time trying to co-opt certain elements from amongst the oppressed or the middle classes, etc., on to this so-called new dispensation, I mean as he has said this is the policy of - this five-year plan of his is nothing but that. Admittedly after this election there will be a lot of rhetoric about changes and negotiations and that type of thing but it really does not alter the fact that they will still continue with this group policy modified in some way. That on the other hand does not mean that we are changing our tactics because of this rhetoric. We are going to continue and already now we see the Defiance Campaign going on inside the country, that people are moving ahead of even this five-year plan of De Klerk's, their determination of saying, listen whatever is going on we are continuing the struggle until we achieve our objectives.

POM. I don't want to make a comparison between the ANC and the IRA, but the IRA make a comparison between themselves and you. At their annual conventions every year they always pass resolutions endorsing the ANC and in West Belfast in the Catholic ghettos the biggest mural on the wall is 'Free Nelson Mandela'. Would you, from your point of view, would you regard them as fighting for the liberation of their country in the same way as you are or would you just put them in a different category?

ANC. I think what we have said is that we have no relations at all.

POM. Oh I know you've no relations with them. But would you see them as - will there be an empathy with what they're doing as distinct from any association?

ANC. We of the ANC have not taken a position on this. Maybe individuals may have views but the ANC does not.

PAT. Is that proof of the fact that you said at the beginning that there are those who are making those comparisons, does that make it sort of another item on your agenda to have to try and associate yourself in the international community with such movements?

ANC. For instance we have been accused of having a very close relationship with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Of course we do have a relationship with them. We also have a relationship with the MPLA and Frelimo which are now in power. We have by and large endorsed the legitimacy of the objective of national liberation. And of course inevitably, because of experiences, we share certain aspects in common. They are part of those things between different organisations.

POM. What would be the minimum things the government in Pretoria would have to do in order to show you that they were in fact serious about getting into talks about talks or whatever?

ANC. Hopefully the climate will facilitate free consultation between the people. To this end we say we need Nelson Mandela and all the political prisoners and the safe return of political exiles and unban the ANC and other organisations, lift the state of emergency, withdraw apartheid troops from the townships.

PAT. Is this your five-point plan?

ANC. It's just demands, it's not a plan because [... that we think apartheid should follow] and of course then assure the right to free association, free speech or, if you like, freedom of expression. All this was designed to create a climate to allow consultations to proceed.

POM. I think most people in the white community we talked to believe that in the pretty near future the government will release Nelson Mandela.

ANC. There's a lot of international pressure for his release and the Pretoria government is almost smarting under the pressure. We are certain that at some point they will have to release him because the situation has actually reversed itself. Nelson Mandela is no longer the political prisoner of apartheid. Pretoria is now hostage to him. Everywhere they go in the world, everybody is saying it. It's in their own interests actually.

POM. Just one last question. How do you see the next five years? Would we be here five years from now having the same conversation again and all the things would have moved to a different plane?

ANC. At the present moment it is very difficult to read the direction of events. But I think if we look at what has been happening for the last 20 years, where in 1965 for instance the Pretoria regime never talked about Mandela. In 1970 they never even talked about reforms, they would say they are nothing, they never talked about reforms in 1970. In 1976 they went into Mafikeng. In 1985 the speech was different. They had even to submit that they cannot govern that country without a state of emergency and that has continued up to today. Today they talk about talks because if they don't ... For the next five years we will have to get the fruits of this atmosphere that has been created by the struggle. There is talk about talks that is going on. We will have to see the truth. We hope, like most people who are in the struggle, we are very hopeful. We are hoping that in five years time when we meet either we will meet in Pretoria or if we meet outside, the struggle will be better than what it is today. That's our hope.

POM. Is there any question we should obviously have asked but didn't?

ANC. The whole process, the amount of political conscientising which has gone on especially amongst our press, it's much higher than it was even three or four years ago and the determination to even risk their lives in order to obtain that objective, it's not the same as it was in 1985. So there has been this rising determination, rising political consciousness, clarity and the very ability of restricted movements to rehabilitate themselves shows an increased organisational strength, clarity and purpose so that we are dealing with a very, how shall I say, dynamic. I wouldn't like to say it's closed the situation but pointing towards the direction of achieving our objectives.

PAT. Anything that is - you sit here and obviously there is frustration, but if you've watched this and you work at it every day, are there any incidences, any things that have happened that offer you more promise than what you would normally see in the routine of development?

ANC. I think maybe one of the most powerful sources for hope and possibly attainment is the fact that the Mass Democratic Movement, people's resistance, has survived the state of emergency, which again goes back to what I said earlier that we have shown that apartheid is not invincible. We have stretched apartheid to its limits. Where does it go after a state of emergency? It cannot go on indefinitely renewing the state of emergency. It's a very costly exercise. Suddenly the economy is also taking a plunge because of that resistance and it's been shown very clearly that the SA Defence Force is not as invincible a weapon of apartheid as it was perceived to be. And most certainly the accelerating process with which white ... is fragmenting also. All these are a significant basis for hope.

ANC. Also the failure of the state of emergency has also defined the people who can get rid of apartheid. The Botha regime now will be the De Klerk regime, it cannot determine the pace of change in SA because the resistance itself is going to determine that tempo and it defined who exactly on the South African scene is capable of dismantling the structures of apartheid, the people themselves, the Mass Democratic Movement led by the ANC.

PAT. Is there a role for a third party in this process in the creation of the climate?

ANC. That will have to be decided by the parties to the conference themselves, there will have to be agreement amongst them on that. We can only go so far as to say, to the extent that the situation makes it necessary to have a third party we are willing to come to that.

ANC. Some third parties emerged during the struggle who are taking part at the present moment, who are likely to be accepted by the people. We hope people are trying to work towards that but working towards that means doing something within this aspect of our struggle.

POM. Thank you very much for seeing us at such short notice and for talking to us.

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.