About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Jul 1990: Nel, Christo

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POM. Christo, could you start with your analysis of the situation as it stands today in the middle of July?

CN. I think the arena as it has evolved now is being buffeted from two major points of view. On the one side is a rising black aspiration, and very much an aspiration rooted in acute poverty and inequality, and it's a combination of inequality and acute policy and with aspirations about how rapidly one can move out of that. On the other hand it is white perceptions, uncertainly and fear, which are becoming increasingly prevalent. In the process I think the major problems in trying to combat or trying to overcome the potential conflict in that is very much rooted in the fact that your white perceptions have been formed through decades of perceptual formation, for want of a better word, perceptual formation through selective usage of the media, selective inattention to certain issues, or alternatively highly discriminatory selection of little bits of news information. For instance, you just show blacks throwing stones, you don't show police shooting, that type of situation. Also a situation of blowing up the so-called communist threat over many years and blowing up the rhetoric of the black community.

. The vast majority of whites have never had first hand experience of the black community. They have not gone into the townships, their contact with blacks has been primarily in a master/servant relationship and now they're having to adapt their entire way of thinking from one of - it is necessary to control blacks, to, you are probably going to be, at least perceptually, controlled by blacks and the whole black danger, in Afrikaans swart gevaar. Black danger attitude is one that is so deeply ingrained that whilst if you walk around in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, southern suburbs of Cape Town, the more affluent areas, it is not fashionable to talk about white fears or about black danger but when you start digging, even in the so-called liberal white community, then you find that there's a high degree of uncertainly, high degree of fear. As you move through to the right, in the white political spectrum, the fear gives way to an aggression, to a very early phase, middle phase nationalism with very strong ethnocentric, exclusive roots and paranoia that goes with exclusive ethnocentric type of value systems.

. On the black community side you've got the extreme poverty. The major driving force in that, I think, is twofold, namely urbanisation and education, and so what we're getting at the moment in SA is a massive urbanisation with already 50% of your black community urbanised. If you take the highly concentrated areas in the so-called homelands then as much as 58% of the black community is urbanised. Now that is significantly different to any other country in Africa. It's the first urbanised African country, in other words. In the white community 90% are already urbanised. The so-called Indian and coloured community, also in excess of 80% of them are urbanised. But you've got an urbanised community. Together with that you've got a semi-literate, towards literate, community. Although large numbers are still illiterate and semi-literate there are enough people within the community that are at least semi-literate or literate to make access to written media fairly easy.

. Now you've got a combination of education plus urbanisation which has brought the rural poor, if you want, face to face in the urban set-up with the urban prosperous and I think that clash of inequality and poverty is starting to blow over. Typically, on the way here this morning I picked up a young black guy who was hitchhiking, he's 20/21 years old, he's studying for his Grade 12 so he would be relatively literate although because of the black education system he would be more semi-literate than literate, but the bottom line of it is that he is trying to study. He's studying in a rural area called Pietersburg which is about 200 kms from Johannesburg. He needs R55 (that is about $19) that's what he needs to pay for his registration fees to write his exams at the end of this year. He hasn't been able to find a job in Pietersburg, he hitchhiked to Johannesburg, can't find a job here and he's now hitchhiking his way to Bloemfontein which is a town another 300 kms away from here, in attempting to get R55 to register for his Grade 12. The chances are very good that he's not going to get it. The majority of his ilk are not going to get it. So you have a huge frustration level. People are just this side of the border of accessing affluence, if you wish, and I think that frustration level is building up severely.

. So within those two arenas you then have the rhetoric of the so-called right which is really starting to blow up white fears. You've got the middle ground, the Nationalist Party, who have not at this stage embarked upon a major  programme. They haven't embarked upon a major re-education programme for whites to try and re-adjust values, to adjust perceptions, they have not, no. There has been a little bit of it but nothing of the magnitude that you need.

. On the other hand you've got the black political leaders who have no economic or social power with which to retain their constituency. The result is that they are virtually entirely dependent upon rhetoric and militancy or at least projected militancy and so you're finding that the black leadership is having to remain fairly dependent upon harsh sounding rhetoric which in turn is addressing the frustration and aspirations of their constituency, and on the other hand you've got whites that are very poorly exposed. I think within that you've got the political and psychological implications of poverty and inequality on the one side and of perceptions and uncertainly on the other side and that I think would probably describe the clash of aspirations and perceptions.

POM. If you had been told a year ago that not only would Mandela be released and the ANC and the Communist Party unbanned, and that the government and the ANC would actually embark on a process of negotiation, were sitting at the same table, what would you have said?

CN. I would have expected that the inevitabilities, the pressure of change and more specifically economic pressures made it necessary. I would not have expected that it would have occurred in one swoop as it has. I think that FW de Klerk has surprised virtually everybody and I would have thought that it needed to be preceded by a much more intensive re-education, sensitisation process. That not having occurred I think is one of the major shortfalls now.

POM. Why do you think De Klerk moved with such speed to do so many things simultaneously?

CN. De Klerk is a very interesting figure. Firstly he is a flexible person with a legal background and the whole concept of justice and dignity and so on. In terms of his educational process he's there. He's also from a religious background which is a fairly conservative, protestant background but with an interesting dedication to argument, debate and to openness of thinking. Now up until February last year De Klerk was to all intents and purposes secluded. He had never been in a hugely controversial position. He was capable of being secluded from that. The one thing that did occur when De Klerk then came to power firstly as Acting President and Leader of the NP in February last year, 1989, he went on an intensive tour of exposure. He met with dozens and dozens of business leaders, academics, he met with people who were not necessarily supporters of the old PW Botha or the old FW de Klerk line of thinking and that is where the personality of the man has played a major role because he's actually listened and he's been confronted with facts and concepts which had been, because of the NP information structures and systems, kept away from him. He is intellectually powerful enough that he couldn't live with the contradictions that he was hearing and so he has responded to that. That's the first thing.

. The other area is, and this is very much my personal feeling on it but it has come out with others, because of his Calvinistic religious background the concept of a calling, having a calling, weighs fairly heavily and he has been quoted as saying that even if he has to lose everything's he got he wants to know that he's done the right thing. So there is a concept of historic calling which is tied back into a strong protestant Calvinistic lifestyle and I think, together with his intellectual acuity and ability, has made him approachable to insights, to knowledge which previously had been denied him and he's been intelligent enough to recognise where his own perceptual base had been manipulated in the past. So I think that's been part of it.

POM. In the NP's election manifesto last year the party was for universal franchise, no-one group would dominate another group, so it was still on groups, and it also said that any constitutional settlement arrived at would be put before the white electorate in a referendum. (1) Do you think that De Klerk still holds on to the group right concept or has he moved to accepting the inevitability of some form of majority rule? (2) Do you think that he will put whatever arrangement is arrived at to the white electorate or will events have simply overtaken that?

CN. I think firstly he has not relinquished the concept of group but the definition of group that he now is toying with is significantly different. In essence one is looking at the difference between defining group prior to the electoral process or defining group through the electoral process. In essence what one is saying then is that if the group had to be pre-defined then people would have to vote in and for groups. It would appear that he's increasingly relinquishing that which would be the old party manifesto and starting to say that the electoral process itself must define groups. So if there is a political party who theoretically speaking, and in practice it probably could happen, only whites voted for and another one that only blacks voted for, but it would be an electoral group as opposed to a pre-defined group. So that is the one shift that is starting to occur definitely as far as FW de Klerk and Gerrit Viljoen are concerned. As far the rest of the NP caucus is concerned there's still major debate but it would appear that what is happening is that they are selling to themselves the concept that group can be defined through the electoral process. Definitely at the high levels, and here I'm talking about Gerrit Viljoen and FW de Klerk and so on, I think they've come to acknowledge that pre-electoral definition of groups is out, that they've come to acknowledge. Are they then going to put proposals to a referendum? I think they would. Probably they'll put it to a general referendum.

POM. OK. That would lead me to the following question. As far as we understand it there are two general scenarios. One in which the ANC and the government talk and then more people are brought into the negotiating process, a consensus is arrived at and a settlement, a constitution is drawn up and that's the way it goes. And the other is that while other people will be brought into the process that will lead to a proposal for a Constituent Assembly there will be an election for a CA and that will draw up the constitution. Which of these two do you think is the more likely route?

CN. Well the NP, of course, is pushing the former, namely that there will be a process of negotiation and through that process a constitutional proposal will be drawn up, the constitutional proposal would be put to a referendum. The referendum one would anticipate would accept it and from that there would be elections with a government coming out of that. Within that framework the NP is pushing a bilateral chamber of a majority rule first chamber and a proportional representation second chamber. The major question about that is whether they are going to try to get some form of veto power into the second chamber where any group, for argument's sake, with more than 3% or 5% representation would be able to either retard or actually veto. What they would in essence say is that it would be as capable for the ANC to veto at the second chamber as it would be for the NP or anybody else.

. The ANC is pushing for the concept of the election of a Constituent Assembly who would then negotiate. I think from that point of view the ANC has been perhaps unduly influenced by the Namibian settlement. The Namibian situation did not have an at least legally acknowledged government in place as SA has and I can't see the NP going the Constituent Assembly route. I would imagine they won't.

. So I think one of the major points of compromise is going to be whether the ANC is willing to relinquish their demand for a Constituent Assembly and replace that perhaps with the mechanisms of a negotiating process reinforced by a referendum.

PAT. In that process what kind of leverage does the ANC have?

CN. That has been one of the interesting things. The ANC tends to underestimate some of its power. It's major power is walk-away power. It has very little leveraging power anywhere else. The armed struggle is a myth to all intents and purposes and sanctions have been to a large extent overplayed. The effect of sanctions by most analyses would be approximately 7% - 12% impact on our GDP. If one looks at the abuse of resources and inappropriate investment inside SA it far outstrips the impact that sanctions has had. So sanctions have been a very useful red herring for all parties. For the ANC it's been symbolically powerful and for the NP and business it's been a scapegoat. So the ANC has very little power in the traditional sense of the word. Their power lies in their capacity to walk away from the table.

. The NP's power lies in its capacity to control the situation in the short term. The question is asked whether they've got continuous support of the military in that process. Definitely they don't have the support of major portions of the police and, it would appear, some of the security factions. That's going to be one of the NP's major problems. I think in the later studies on governments and societies in transition it would appear that the reformist government needs to have, for want of a better word, a purified securocrat system. The NP does not have a purified securocratic system. It has a very, very spotted mixed bag of securocrats underneath it.

. But that's the ANC's main power and the NP, therefore, I think will rely increasingly on trying to win the heights of reasonability in the eyes of the international community so every time the ANC comes out with a call for nationalisation or for any extreme measures, every time someone marches under the communist flag, it's a point for the NP. They're having to, and I think FW de Klerk has done a marvellous job in that, of regaining the sense of reasonableness in the international eyes. So I think what we will see as we now go forward is that the third power that's going to come to play, as opposed to the ANC's walk-away capacity, the NP's coercive capacity and patronage capacity which is because of the economic situation very much reduced, is the fight for the heights of reasonability.

. In that the international community could start playing a more significant role mainly because the ANC and the NP - one of their big common grounds is an understanding of the need to radically alter the outflow of capital. Latest figures are that 4% of GDP is flowing out of the country annually. If that could be halted to bring it to zero then we could go from growing at less than 2% to growing at 3% - 3½%. If it could be reversed to a net inflow of 4% of GDP our economy could be growing at 5% - 5½%. That together with the need for capital investment, the need for accessing world markets, both from the import and export point of view, oil, etc., are all crucial to the short, rapid resuscitation of the economy and both parties realise that the international community and the heights of reasonability are a major player in the field especially as we get closer to the constitutional resolution.

POM. If you look at the government first and then the ANC, what must each side be looking over its shoulder at? What's behind them if they trip up or if the negotiations get stalled or derailed?

CN. The government has an absolute deadline, four years, because by then they either have to suspend the constitution or, alternatively, they have to call another general election which if by that stage they have not been able to get a major re-education programme going or alternatively have made major gains to calm white fears, then the chances are that you have a hung parliament or you even have a right wing parliament, which, of course, then just plummets it into despair from an international as well as a local point of view. So the government's problems are much more clearly defined I would feel.

. The ANC's is a bit more complex and if I can just spend two or three minutes on that, the ANC is rooted in its 75 80 years of history. They are essentially a very, very conservative organisation, conservative in the sense that they don't change policy or attitude rapidly. Historically it's taken them a few years of debate before they've changed, not unlike the NP as far as that's concerned. Their roots lie at a time where the major thrust of African nationalism was in breaking down tribal barriers. The leaders in 1912 were either leaders that had first hand, one generation removed, information that was linked to the frontier wars, the tribal wars, the British wars against the tribes as well and tribe against tribe wars, and they were rooted in the whole passive resistance tradition of Gandhi. Now that leadership generation, Jabavu, Dube, Xuma and others, Gumede, they are only two leadership generations removed from the current leadership generation. You had the in-between group which was Luthuli, Z K Matthews and others who also were very closely rooted back to the old concept of bridging tribalism. So their roots are in the whole process of mobilising an early, early urbanising community with still strong tribal roots.

. Now they've got a very different constituency. The constituency is young, 82% of blacks are younger than 35. Something like 60% are younger than 27. There's a very, very young population. They've been uprooted from their tribal roots and are in the phases of an emergent nationalism. Now if one looks at the history of nationalisms then nationalism goes through its first phase in which it tends to be subjugated to other forces; it could be colonial forces, imperial forces, tribal forces, whatever the case may be. As it emerges out of that, then nationalism would appear to be bound by increasing unifying symbols which in turn tend to be linked to ethnocentric and, if there is a racial or religious component to it, exclusive race or exclusive religious connotations. That's the powerful process of nationalisms, it would appear, in its secondary development phase and that is the phase that the black community, the urbanising and urbanised black community is going into. They're going into an early development phase of nationalism.

. The ANC to a certain extent through its policy of non-racialism is propagating an overarching nation-wide nationalism which is inclusive of differences of race, tribe, ethnicity, religion. So to a certain extent the ANC is propagating a leap over the historic process of nationalism first being exclusive and ethnocentric. It would appear that the key factor which is going to enable them to make that leap, if it's historically possible to make the leap, is going to be economic capacity. Are they going to be capable of fulfilling the socio-economic aspirations, desires of this young, urbanising, tribally uprooted and therefore identity seeking mass? And if they are not capable of doing that then that constituency will flow right underneath them and will become the fertile arena for much more dogmatic, ethnocentric, nationalist leaders.

POM. That would be the PAC?

CN. Maybe the PAC. I don't even know if the PAC would be radical enough for that. I think that given that dramatic thing one could say that we could be preparing the soil for a new Hendrik Verwoerd but this time he will be black. I think that is the major problem the ANC is facing.

POM. I'm talking about an even shorter term, over the next three or four years, as they are in this negotiating process and they obviously have to show some gains in the short period of time, what sort of gains do they need to show in order to maintain the solidarity of support in the black community, or what kinds of things will bring about the disintegration of the fragmenting of that support?

CN. Well they firstly need symbolic gains and I think here to compare it, for instance, with say Zimbabwe or Namibia, Robert Mugabe has the symbolic victory of Lancaster House. One can argue logistically whether he won the war or not, the fact is that they eroded the economy to a standstill but he at least had a symbolic victory of negotiating a win. With Njoma in Namibia they had the symbolic insurgence and then a withdrawal from that but there was again the symbolic planting of the flag behind the enemy lines type of thing. That's not going to happen here so it raises a question of what symbolic victory does the ANC have. I'm afraid that the removal of Group Areas, Separate Amenities and so on are not symbolic victories. They are, the way that one of the black youth leaders put it to me, he said, "Don't ever expect me to thank you for taking bricks out of the bag on my back which you put on my back in the first place." So that's going to be a critical area, what symbolic victory?

. I think part of it is going to have to be things like anthems, flags, monuments, I don't know. One is going to going to have to really battle with that. How do you displace the symbolism of victory with something different? Having said that, the symbolic victory will be short-lived or the symbols of victory will be short-lived if it doesn't then come with a fairly rapid incremental, doesn't have to be major, incremental improvement of socio-economic experiences. Free education, for argument's sake, I think would be something of major import. Opening up of schools, clearly, but if one looks at it one of the things that will have to occur is almost a moratorium on certain types of private sector and government expenditure and here I'm talking about, and if you haven't done it in your trip up to now then you must do it in the next few days, and that is to drive on the highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

PAT. We've done it every day.

CN. Well it must be one of the most sophisticated highway systems in the world that I've come across with that lighting, etc., and then you drive through, you get first to Sandton on your left, you have these magnificent head offices and then Midrand on the right, magnificent head offices, and the one thing that a head office doesn't do, it doesn't create wealth, it doesn't create jobs, all that service industry does is tend to trade with wealth that's already been created. Now we're spending billions inside the country, private sector and government expenditure on that type of expenditure whilst just down the road you've got Alexandra Township with no roads, no pavements, no lights and communal water points where some people have to walk a couple of kilometres to get water. So part and parcel of the resuscitation I think of constituency support is going to be whether the ANC, or whichever party and I've got a certain affinity to the Mass Democratic Movement which would be UDF, COSATU, ANC, mainly because of their inclusive, nationalistic philosophies and practices, maybe not yet, but at least they've got the philosophy in place. That is that if you go into areas such as Alexandra Township, Thokoza, Mpumalanga and everywhere else where people at the moment have to spend a great deal of their day in collecting wood or gathering water, getting water, if you can put 1000 taps into an area where at the moment there are 1000 per tap then you can with relatively small infrastructural development significantly enhance the quality of life. And here we're going to have to rely upon the assumed human tendency that people aspire somewhere between 10% - 20% above what they've got. If they've got no water they aspire to water and once they've got water they aspire to the next step. So by phasing in infrastructural expenditure and linking it back to the current political powers, by that I'm talking about the ANC and so on, and not doing it through these illegitimate, to a large extent, town councils. The government actually has to back off social spending at this stage. It should try to get into ways and means in the negotiation process itself.

POM. So that if the negotiation process is not yielding agreement in two or three years, that change in the socio-economic conditions of the townships occur, the negotiations themselves, that would off-balance the lack of political progress.

CN. Yes. Whether it off-balances it sufficiently is a question which history will answer  to us but it appears to be the only way of offsetting, it appears to be the only way.

POM. And yet The Star this morning, what did it say? And The Citizen. An 80% cut in shock for home buyers, the subsidy has been cut by 80%. This is a move in the opposite direction.

CN. Yes. Look, there are two things that it's moving in the opposite direction, is that those funds that are being made available are unfortunately often being made available through trusts or through institutions which are not legitimate or popularly supported trusts. A typical example, Alexandra Township the other day, I was talking to some of the Alexandra Civic Organisation people, they have, together with the community, identified needs, not wants, the wants are invariably unachievable in the short term, but they have achieved needs and the needs are basic things like a community hall, water in certain areas, etc., but the moneys that are available through these trust funds and things that have become available are not being channelled directly to those needs or are not being channelled through those political instruments. One of the things that we actually need to be doing inside SA is to be strengthening the political structures and instruments of the black leadership because you've got at the moment a highly disorganised, fragmented and severely disempowered black leadership structure which again then makes them more reliant on rhetoric and militancy than anything else.

. So, as I said, there are two directions. The one is that you get these type of cuts in subsidies. On the other hand you get that the subsidies that are made available are not made available through the correct channels. So in both ways you're almost getting a double dilution effect of the capacity of making moneys available. And then there's the traditional disastrous thing of you make moneys available. We've got the SA Housing Trust (it may be interesting for you at some stage to have a closer look at that) where hundreds of millions have been made available. It's difficult to say how much of that money is, through the bureaucracy, weaving its way eventually down to the  builder, to the homeowner. If one looks at the luxury and the state of the art technology in their head offices out in the northern suburbs and the numbers of people that are now employed, then I would not be surprised if anything between 25% - 45% of the moneys are actually going into administering the application of the moneys in the first place. I think there are those type of problems as well.

POM. The right wing, the Conservative Party, how serious is the threat?

CN. The threat is serious but it's a less problematic threat than the threat for black constituency and political support. And the reason I say that, is that your black political support and perceptions are based in daily experience, face-to-face daily confrontation with poverty and inequality. Your white perceptions are based upon perceptual formation so they are not a day-to-day real life experience. They are also based upon, for want of a better word, political and economic illiteracy. It's rather frightening to see even at the top ends of business for instance when you quote very basic figures about economic distribution, inequality ratios, educational problems and so on, then lights of insight go up all over the place. Now when you start exposing, in our experience, whites to the inevitabilities of change, urbanisation figures, population growth figures, when you debunk, for instance, the myth that blacks breed and breed, just the very basic, and you show whites that when they were illiterate, when they were rural, when they were impoverished, they also bred and bred and that it's got nothing to do with race and culture.

. And suddenly very simplistic little things another lovely example that one uses, you almost have to develop a new rhetoric, is the whole huge sensitivity on group areas which is one of the main bugbears for the right wing, the potential removal of it, and when you start showing them that in all of their own suburbs and on all of their own farms there live more black adults than white adults, but the only thing is that the blacks living there who are therefore their neighbours, merely aren't allowed to own the land. And suddenly you're able to create change in their perceptions by reading to them, showing them speeches of Nelson Mandela and others which way back, 1964, were already calling for a strong private sector. Then you again debunk a lot of the mythology and you can unpack a lot of that.

. When you then, together with that, the most dynamic thing of all, bring black and white together in face-to-face interaction with one another, then it's quite remarkable how rapidly you can create perceptual changes. In our experiences in companies where I primarily operate this type of thing, within a two year period you can displace a racialistic, hierarchical culture with a non-racial, democratic culture inside a business unit. Now that's quite remarkable rapid change.

. One of the more dramatic examples that I'd like to use is in one company which in 1986/87 was really badly hit by strikes. This year now, 1990, a few years later, we started the programme beginning 1988, they have now gone so far that when a manager has to be appointed the candidates are interviewed by the directors who they will report to. They are interviewed by the group who will report to them, the employees who will report to them, and they are interviewed by the shop stewards from the trade union. Those three groups then, the directors, the employees who are reporting, the shop stewards together decide on the appointment. I think that is to a certain extent a pretty advanced level of workplace democracy. In that same company the latest wage negotiations took them a sum total of five hours and they are unionised by one of the most militant unions in the country. So you can get major, major shifts inside a modern institution such as business, I think churches, universities, are all modern institutions.

POM. What form is this threat taking?

CN. I think the threat will be one in which the white community remains uneducated; politically, socially and economically uneducated. They therefore start seeing things not within a context and the media plays a very important and at this stage very irresponsible role in the process by only blowing up, which I suppose is media throughout the world, but by only blowing up the negative aspects that are occurring. We will go into the next two, three years because of increasing poverty, increasing urbanisation, the history rhythms of the last 30 40 years would indicate that we will go into an increasing period of violence now. You will get probably not such deeply rooted violence as we had in 1984/85/86 but I think sporadically much broader violence breaking out in townships, etc., and that violence I think, again, will create a fear within the white society.

. Because the white society is being asked to relinquish their past and aspire to a new vision, contrary to the black society which is saying overcome your past and strive towards the vision that you inherently want, so that the white society is having to strive towards a vision they've never heard about and that vision isn't being clearly spelt out to them so I think in that sense you will get an atrophy setting, a type of an immobilised fear for the majority and that sort of freeze reaction. There will be for a minority a flight reaction and there will be for a minority a fight reaction. So that flight/fight freeze is going to be the dynamic. I don't see a major white backlash in terms of sufficient majority to, for instance, orchestrate a coup. I would suggest that that is probably not likely but definitely falls short.

POM. How strong is Afrikaner nationalism?

CN. Again Afrikaner nationalism is buffeted from all sides at the moment. Being the skunk of the world has not been easy for Afrikaners and I think there, I see it in my own family because my entire family are Afrikaners, it's a whole question of, well where do we fit? And because they don't find a place to fit there is a tendency at this stage to grab back to old symbols, not only in the sense of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweggings (AWB) grabbing back to a different flag and stuff like that, but a paranoiac grabbing back to church and language and culture. Culture is always put forward. When you start exposing them and asking a person what does he mean by culture they don't know and that is part of the Afrikaners' very real dilemma at this stage, that Afrikaner nationalism has been defined over the last forty years, and we've got to keep in mind that the first Afrikaans books were only published seventy years ago. So it's a very, very youthful nationalism in its own right. It has very often been defined in terms of what it is not.

POM. I was just going to ask you that, is it a negative nationalism?

CN. Yes, it's a negative nationalism. It's - you are not black, you are not communist, you are against this and that, and also it's tended to be subjugated to race. So the other supportive areas of a strong flexible nationalism, language, religion, culture, music, literature and whatever else, have tended to be subjugated to this overarching concept of race.

POM. Do you think the will to fight is there or do you think there could be some form of alliance between more radical right wing elements and elements in the security system, the police and the army?

CN. I think there could be that alliance, but again there are certain checks and balances I suppose, psychological checks and balances. The one is a very strong, still now, traditional paternalism, hierarchical paternalism in the Afrikaner society. You listen to your master, you listen to your boss and you don't readily counter your elders, go against them. It's to a certain extent shown at the moment in the sense that on the right at latest count there are now something like 52 or 57 right wing splinter groups are now identified. So they don't necessarily have a strong coalescing at this stage. But mainly, again, I suppose it's because they are seeking their identity in terms of what they are not as opposed to what they are for and can't agree on unifying symbols. To a certain extent the unifying symbols that would be there, the SA flag, the anthem, etc., are at this stage still the property, if you want, of mainstream politics. Nobody's been able to capture that. Although there have been attempts to capture the mainstream symbols they haven't succeeded. Again, the mainstream symbols haven't been such heart-wrenching symbols like Stars & Stripes and all the others.

POM. In your view you wouldn't take the threat to fight very seriously? It's a possibility but not a probability?

CN. A possibility and I would say the probability is in, which perhaps is more dangerous in the long term, is in a type of subversive terrorism process. It will be interesting to see whether that fades rapidly once a new constitution is fait accompli. It could.

POM. What emphasis would be put on the by-election in Randburg? We talked just now to Andries Beyers who said a victory for them would be going from what they got before, 700 votes, to 2100 votes and a defeat would be getting less than 1500 votes. How would you read the situation? What do you think they can call a legitimate success and what for them would be a setback?

CN. I tend to go along with that. They would have to more than double what they got last time. What it undoubtedly will show, one would imagine, is the final demise of the DP. If there was ever a group that hasn't understood politics or the role of symbols, nationalism and so on, it's the DP unfortunately.  They would need to, in a constituency such as Randburg, get probably 30% of the cast votes to be able to claim a victory. Anything less than 30% is going to be problematic for them for that type of constituency.

POM. Assuming they get that, does that translate into anything of particular political significance? Will it slow the process? Will it make De Klerk more cautious or is there a process that is inevitable going on that really can't be slowed very much on a day to day basis?

CN. I tend to say at this stage, taking De Klerk and Viljoen, I think one's got to increasingly not only talk about De Klerk because there are a couple of key influences around him, Viljoen, and to a slightly lesser extent maybe at this stage Barend du Plessis, Stoffel van der Merwe, and then there are the younger echelon people like Roelf Meyer, who is Viljoen's deputy, those type of people have got an influence, Dawie de Villiers in the Cape. So I would say that they are saying go for it. It does appear as if De Klerk at this stage understands that momentum is of all importance, that if he slows the momentum he's in trouble. If he slows the momentum then the ANC can legitimately back off. So there's that whole context as well. He can't afford that the ANC backs off or he can't afford to give the ANC excuses to be able to back off. So he understands, I am sure at this stage, the concept of momentum.

. What something like that, and if I had to be cynical about it I would say that I wouldn't personally mind say a 40% - 45% return for the CP in somewhere like Randburg, because if anything what it will do, it will emphasise the extreme need for a programme of national sensitisation and that is the one wild card which has not been consolidated yet, namely what I term modern institutions, business, church, universities, civil service and radio and television. The thing about modern institutions is that they either have a physical daily presence of people or they have an outreach like television has daily to people. They are not at this stage being brought into the process. The government is to a large extent, unfortunately, and I've never been an NP supporter, but in looking at it from a dynamics point of view they are being expected to run the race by themselves. They can't. As a political party they just don't have sufficient day-to-day reinforcing access to enough people.

. Now hopefully something like that is capable of creating a sufficient sense of crisis and urgency as opposed to the post 2nd February euphoria because the one thing that has been very negative in the change process is that after PW Botha, Genghis Khan would have been a happy alternative. People had got sick and tired of his bullying and very bad mannered tactics. Along comes FW de Klerk and everyone says, "Alleluia, here we go!" Along comes the ANC, and I suppose the average citizen works in sort of a month to two-month time frame if anything, and when everything doesn't start coming right within the first quarter then very much like the stock market people start reacting positively and negatively. There is not a sufficient appreciation for the depth of the psychological crisis that also has to be managed and overcome in this transition period. So something like that could be a major catalyst for it.

POM. I want to go back for a minute to the ANC's economic policies and COSATU. I suppose my reading of the situation would be that the ANC, particularly Mandela, has become far less hard-line in terms of what you see its future economic structure and they tend to avoid the word 'nationalisation' or to use it in a re-defined context, whereas COSATU's philosophy is a socialist philosophy, the redistribution of wealth, empowering their own people. Is there the making of a conflict here between the two on economic strategy?

CN. Again I think we've got to differentiate between rhetoric and policy and if you look at as far as sophistication of economic policy goes then COSATU under the auspices of the Economic Trends Group with people like Alec Erwin and others, have probably got more sophisticated development of economic policy at this stage than the ANC although now there's so much sharing that it's difficult to really differentiate. COSATU is harder on rhetoric but then again they tend to be much more in day-to-day conflict than the ANC is being a labour group as opposed to a political group; that their rhetoric is more radical doesn't concern me all that much. When you're up at the leadership levels in COSATU there's less of a split, if you want, what I can see, between them and the ANC's type of economic thinking and I would rather think that one is getting towards a slow merging of interests as opposed to a split. It doesn't appear as if there's a desire to create a split between the ANC and COSATU at this stage. The overriding desire rather would be one of creating commonality.

POM. Finally, in the ANC itself are there philosophic differences between younger Turks and the older generation?

CN. Yes.  That goes for the trade unions as well. One of the problems that we've seen is that you've got, not necessarily just the older generation, but let's call it the first tier leadership right at the top, are much more ready at this stage to get into bilateral and multi-lateral co-operative ventures and participate in discussions and debates than the second and third tier leadership ranks. In the trade unions that's even more difficult. You sometimes find that right at the top the guys are willing to talk but when you get down to regional and local areas then that willingness tends to break down. There's a certain sense of old guard/Young Turks in it but it's more tiers of leadership and, again, part of the problem is that your tradition has been this tradition of resistance, rhetoric and militancy with badly, badly disempowered infrastructures. The result is that people such as your second and third tier structures invariably are in a classic over-promoted, under-experienced position and I think that again is something that we tend to dismiss or not give sufficient attention to, that when you've got a disempowered structure perhaps the first thing that flies out of the window is strategy because strategy requires flexibility, it requires quick and ready access to data, it requires that new data and information gets worked into the current data base and that your current data then is caused to shift. Well here you've got a society or a group which lacks strategic depth and so they tend to become overly dependent upon rhetoric. Now what we are finding is that the senior levels are the ones that are being exposed more readily and they are being exposed while the second and third tier groups are still hanging on to a large extent to their only safe haven, rhetoric, because they haven't yet got the luxury of information, data, infrastructure, the typical thing.

. I'm focusing on it a bit because I think in terms of the dynamics that are going to unfold, and I think from something like the National Democratic Endowments, it's very crucial that if we don't saturate the structures with information and infrastructural capacity then the structures will remain rhetorically and ideologically dogmatic. Somehow one has to create a flexibility through the infrastructure and through capacity. That is part of the reason why you often would find this split between the so-called old guard and the Young Turks or more so first tier, second tier, third tier leadership structures.

POM. Thank you very, very much. You're extremely articulate. It's a pleasure just listening to 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.