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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

23 Jul 1990: Dhlomo, Oscar

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POM. I'm talking with Oscar, again, give me the pronunciation?

OD. Dhlomo.

POM. Dhlomo. That's much easier than it was last year from the security man downstairs who lectured us on what the pronunciation was. Oscar, last year when Patricia and I were here we talked with maybe 50 people from all sides of the situation and not one person was remotely close in anticipating what was going to happen. So my question is, one, did the speed, rapidity, and breadth of de Klerk's movement come as a surprise to you, let's say in your position in Inkatha, and secondly, what do you think motivated de Klerk to move so broadly since last year, just before the elections, every portrait of him stressed that he was conservative, that he would be slow to change?

OD. Yes, it is difficult to say. First let me say that I was not surprised by what he did. I expected that he would do these things as a result of discussions with National Party people and government people. We knew that he had to remove the obstacles. And we had detailed the obstacles: release of prisoners, Mandela, Sisulu, Robben Islanders, lifting of the emergency, unbanning of political groupings. We knew that he had to walk that road in order to unshackle politics in the country. What surprised me was the speed that he did it and the timing. I remember when, the morning of 2nd February, I got a call from a Cape Town correspondent of one newspaper who already had the speech because the newspapers were given the speech in the morning and when he mentioned what was in it I didn't even want to comment because I thought he was wrong. I didn't want to commit myself, unbanning of the Communist Party and what have you. But then I left the office and watched him on television because I still didn't believe it and there it was right in the last paragraph of his speech. Change the face of South Africa.

. And why did he do it? First thing, he became convinced, as we had always been telling him, that there would be no progress in normalising the climate in preparation for negotiations unless he did all these things. Before de Klerk, there was a belief within National Party circles that it would be possible to take Buthelezi on board and negotiate to the exclusion of the others, ANC and so on. To his credit, Buthelezi refused to do that and I think, I don't even think, I know that the National Party only became convinced that the ANC and the release of prisoners and the lifting of the emergency were prerequisites after we had repeated this to them over many times during our own talks about talks with them. I remember one day when they said, 'Well, we now accept what you say, that you won't negotiate until Mandela is released and the ANC is unbanned and so on.' So Buthelezi did help there, there is no doubt about it. If he had agreed to negotiate, of course, the government would have been pleased to keep the others banned and in jail and go ahead. Whether the product would be credible, that's another question, but they would risk it I think. Now, that's the first thing. They saw there was no movement without removing these obstacles.

. Second, I think he came face to face with reality when he became President. As leader of the National Party in the Transvaal he was concerned with safeguarding his own power base which happened to be the most conservative. And he realised that if he allowed his base to erode, then he would not be elected as President, so he would have tended to be more cautious and conservative than would normally be the case. Now the buck stops with him and he has to move.

POM. Do you think that he personally is sincere? That he personally has now made a commitment to majority rule?

OD. Yes, I think he is sincere. I don't know if he has made a personal commitment. I would rather put it this way, that he sees majority rule as inevitable. What he might be trying to do is to perhaps cushion the effects of majority rule. You know, adding certain safeguards for minorities and those kind of things. But I think he realises that there is no other way.

POM. Looking in the six months since, what has been the impact of the talks between the government and the ANC on black politics in general and on Chief Buthelezi in particular?

OD. It has been the perception rather than the reality. First, the talks between the ANC and the government were given more publicity than they deserved. In many quarters they were regarded as the beginning of negotiations when that is not the case. What the ANC has been doing with government is in fact what we did with the ANC over nine months, in 1989, talking about removing the obstacles. We identified, and certainly the same obstacles, some of them we wouldn't deal with ourselves. I mean, the release of political prisoners. We could not give the government any assurances about what the prisoners would do if they were released and who were the prisoners, in fact. So what we said to them was,' Look, those are the issues you must sort with the ANC. Talk to the ANC about that.' The exiles, once again we identified the return of exiles but we were not able to classify the exiles for the government. It was something that the government could do with the ANC. Who were the exiles? What about people who committed crimes and so on? So, the talks were given a significance which was overrated.

. Now, one understands why that was so. Here was the ANC, which had been unbanned only a few weeks before, and Mandela, who had been in jail a few weeks before, out of jail continuing from where he left off, so it should have been expected that a meeting between the government and the ANC so soon should have generated so much interest and raised many hopes. It turned out, of course, that the talks were successful and these obstacles are in the process of being removed now. So what will happen now, or what did it do to Buthelezi? Of course, the perception was that he was being sidelined or marginalised, but in actual practice, it was not so. The government themselves have always been reassuring him that they are talking about removing the obstacles. Mandela himself says so. But the public does not want to accept that this is actually what is happening. He generated so much hope that the tendency was to read more into the talks than there really was.

POM. You just talked about how you think de Klerk has accepted the inevitability of majority rule yet de Klerk has given this undertaking that he would go back to the white electorate with any new constitutional dispensation. He can't do that, can he?

OD. I think now he won't do it. When he said, it perhaps he seriously believed it. Now that his popularity is beginning to spread across racial boundaries, I think he would rather prefer an open non-racial referendum than a white one because he might lose a white one.

POM. There are three scenarios that have been put to us as to what might happen as this process unfolds. One is the one in which negotiations start between the ANC and the government, other parties are brought in, and that all the parties' representatives of all the various strata reach a consensus on a constitution and the government and a constitution emerge from that process. The second one is the Constituent Assembly route. The third one is a variation of the first. It's more parties are brought in but you have an interim government for a period between the total surrender of power by de Klerk's government. Which of the three do you think is the more likely?

OD. OK, I would link the two. The Constituent Assembly/interim government one. Because according to the ANC's own vision, they link those two. The interim government the government won't buy. They don't want that. I think they want to manage the negotiation process as far as they can and they might feel that they would lose the momentum if they were subjected to an interim government which would need, if it was democratic, to be predominantly black. I don't know that the ANC, some people in the ANC talk about an interim government but I don't think they have thought about its composition. It's simply a principle, as far as I can see. There is a danger with an interim government as far as the ANC is concerned as well that they might tarnish their purity, their political purity.

POM. They would be seen as co-opted?

OD. Co-opted, co-operating when the government has not, in fact, dismantled all apartheid. They might find themselves being partners in implementing apartheid laws, sustaining an apartheid state, and so on and so on.

POM. Where do you see the government drawing the line? Are there some things that the ANC might ask for, i.e., like an interim government, where the government will simply say, That's out of the question, we regard ourselves as being a legitimate government in a legitimate state?

OD. I think the government might reconsider the question of an interim government, but after negotiations, not before. An interim government that would fulfil the proper purpose of transition to a new situation. How long? That could be open to debate. The Constituent Assembly, so far, the government doesn't want that. One understands it. The way it is being sold by the ANC is not attractive to the government. The ANC wants a non-racial one-person, one-vote election.

POM. A majority, first past the post ...?

OD. Yes, in other words they want majority rule before negotiations take place.

PK. But in the Constituent Assembly election, aren't they accepting proportional representation?

OD. Not yet. Not yet. In fact, I pointed that out in one paper I wrote on their demands. I said what is amazing is that they don't even propose proportional representation. Even if they did, that did not guarantee that de Klerk would be there, because of the overwhelming numbers of black people. In fact, I say that such elections might remove de Klerk and bring in Treurnicht who is not about to negotiate about anything except the boundaries of a Boerestaat. Now, the ANC is also not saying there should be an election confined to blacks, Indians, and Coloureds, let's say, leaving out the whites. Now if they said that, I would think the government might consider that, under pressure, they might consider that. Now, unfortunately they are saying everyone must go through an election and you can't expect that de Klerk, who claims that he has a mandate to do what he is doing and who is very much under pressure from the white right wing, to subject himself to another election. So, if the ANC were to rethink their strategies and say, OK, we'll leave you, National Party, in place, but let us have an election covering whites, blacks, Coloureds, maybe government would consider that. But at the moment the ANC is saying, n, we don't want an ethnic election. We want national, non-racial elections. That is the only scenario, I think, that would have a chance.

POM. In the last couple of minutes, you've just said "the ANC and the government" in a way that it would be easy to interpret it as the ANC are the only people who are going to be part of this negotiating process.

OD. No, I suppose I have been indoctrinated by the press.

POM. How do you see the process itself unfolding?

OD. Well, I see the process as being multi-lateral, certainly not bi-lateral. No party in this country, including the ANC, expects that there will be two parties to the table, or that the table will have only two sides. They accept that other parties will have to be there. What seems to baffle everybody at the moment is how you choose, identify the people to be there. Once you have identified them, what weights do you give to their votes if there will be any voting at the negotiations, and how do you arrive at decisions? By consensus, in which case the strength of the delegation wouldn't matter? Or is it by majority rule? In which case you would need to have gone through a process to sort out who will have how many votes on the table. So, there are still a lot of decisions around the process itself.

POM. Who in your view should be at the table?

OD. Well, if I have my way, I would say all the political parties. People should be there on the basis of their party political affiliation.

PK. You would see the ANC, the PAC?

OD. Right, it would have to be a political party. I wouldn't expect the government, either, to be there. I would expect the National Party.

PK. How do you distinguish between the National Party and the government? Because when they sit at the table, I would assume you would have the members of the National Party who are in government.

OD. Well, the way you do it, you close your eyes and become an idealist. And say that the South African government, the state, the National Party is the majority party and the ruling party in that government. That the police, the civil service, and other things don't belong to the National Party, they belong to the South African government. So you would have de Klerk there not as President but as leader and chief of the National Party.

PK. But every day that he is seen at the table, he is also making decisions that determine the security interests of the state, the economic interests of the state, when he leaves that room. Is that right? Are you suggesting he should resign in order to participate?

OD. If that was possible, yes. That would be the ideal situation, but it's not possible. That's where, again, your idea of an interim government comes in. But again, who will be the interim government? It will be the very same players at the negotiating table. You have a problem there. The other view, of course, is that there should be either a council, independent, not part of government, that would manage and oversee the negotiation process and insure that all parties enjoy equal status. If de Klerk is not the chairman but he's a player, he's on equal basis with the others. But you can suspend the government, too. Although that's not on, the government seems to be insisting that all structures must remain in place until transition. They don't even want to dismantle homelands now. They will dismantle them when the new constitution demands that they be dismantled.

POM. Just as it pops into my head before I forget it. We saw General Holomisa and we forgot to ask him an obvious question, because, again, he was stressing that the Transkei was an independent state and what that meant, whatever. But afterwards it struck us that if, say, Transkei, or Ciskei or any one of the independent homelands, had passed laws unbanning the ANC and the Communist Party, welcomed them back there to set up headquarters, or whatever that they had done in Lusaka, what, if the South African government interfered to stop that, they would be violating, at least technically ...

OD. Actually, Transkei has done that.

POM. Well, they've done that now. They didn't do it until South Africa - they did it afterwards. A state could be independent but not that independent.

OD. Well, the South African government would find a diplomatic way of preventing them from doing that. There are these networks of agreements between South Africa and the independent homelands. One of them is that one state should not harbour elements that are hostile to the other. They would have told you that is the situation.

POM. But did the manner in which this process started, that is, government and ANC, has it created dissension in the black political community because of the ANC's failure so far to consult other parties, and for it to be exclusive rather than inclusive?

OD. Yes, it has that potential, I think, because the PAC, for instance, is not happy that the ANC appears to play a leading role. I'm sure Inkatha are not happy. But the PAC is playing a wait and see sort of game in the hope that it will present itself as being more militant. And then the militant faction of the ANC will think the ANC is selling out and then they will join the PAC. But I don't think that would work because the climate today is so much in favour of negotiations, both internally and internationally, that anyone who consciously and deliberately wrecks the process won't get sympathy anywhere. If he thinks he will continue the armed struggle, he won't get weapons, not even from the Soviet Union, because all these interests now want a political solution to the problem.

PK. Is that the next step in this process? If you take what you were saying before, that Inkatha was talking to the government in '89 and now the government is talking to the ANC, do you think they go to the next stage with the PAC?

OD. I suspect so if the PAC were to give an indication that they want to talk. I think, deliberately, there is a PR exercise. They will demand that they also hold a meeting, you know, for half a day or so with the government.

PK. Now they have another whole set of preconditions of their own. Do you think the government will start it out?

OD. No, that won't work, I don't think they would succeed, that is too much. And if the government has the ANC and the other parties on board, the PAC will be under tremendous pressure to play ball. They just want to wreck the negotiations.

POM. What do you see as the major - I want you look at both communities - the major obstacles or the major mines that lie in the way of the black community as it inches its way forward in these negotiations? What are the likely things to derail the process? What potential sources of division could make it derail?

OD. Yes. I think that if the process were perceived to be b-lateral and not multilateral, that would derail it. If the black groups were unprepared for the process and they would go there and make wild and unscientific demands which couldn't be entertained by any sane person, then, of course, again, this would derail the process. Three, if there are any parties that wanted to veto the discussions by using the walk-out strategy, for instance, each time there is something they don't agree with, that, too, would be dangerous. Fourthly, this applies more to the National Party now, if the right wing remained antagonistic towards the process and stepped up their sabotage and things, that, too, might derail the process.

POM. How do you assess the strength of the right wing, the white right wing? Is it something that was inevitable but eventually will dissipate, as people get used to the process, or is it something that would increase and grow?

OD. Well, it can increase, there are possibilities. It can also disappear, there are possibilities. It depends on what happens. If negotiations take place and they seem to be succeeding, then, of course, the right wing will be rendered irrelevant. But if negotiations don't take place, if they are derailed, then I think the right will gain more support. I would say the right wing are simply waiting to feed on the carcass of failed negotiations. That is what would nourish them and make them strong. Successful negotiations would kill them off.

POM. Do you think if there were an election today, I'm talking about white elections, that the Conservative Party would win a majority of the votes, the majority of the seats?

OD. I don't think so. At best, they could come close to getting a hung Parliament. I don't see them getting the majority because, as you can see at the moment, the Democratic Party support is defecting almost in bulk to the National Party and, of course, the National Party is still holding its own in most of the urban and pre-urban constituencies. I don't see that they would be in the next government.

POM. What if this process hasn't worked itself out by 1994 when another round of tricameral elections are due?

OD. I don't think they will hold to any government and will not have another white election.

POM. There will not be.

OD. No. If the new constitution is not ready by then, I suppose they will find a way. But they will not go to the white electorate again. At least, that is what they are saying themselves.

POM. What do you think whites are most afraid of?

OD. They are afraid of, well, first, their insecurity and a lack of knowledge of what is going to happen. The future is so uncertain, no one is spelling out the options clearly, not even the government. The only person who is spelling out the options, which are a nightmare is, Andries Treurnicht of the CP. They are also afraid of what they call a black majority government. They tell themselves that blacks will vote as an ethnic block. That it is skin power, not common ideology, that will determine the voting patterns. And then they look north of us and say, 'Oh my God, there is another Mozambique coming, another Zambia', and so on. They are scared of the economic policies, more especially since Mandela mentioned the spectre of nationalisation. Now, in this regard, you are talking not only of white voters but also of business. But they realise that there doesn't appear to be a choice. If they hold on, then the stranglehold continues, international isolation, sanctions.

POM. Do you think that de Klerk will try to reassure the white community with a set of guarantees, particularly with regard to the economy?

OD. If he can, I'm sure he would like to do it.

POM. Do you see him trying to get the constitution to include provisions that would give a special place to free market economics, mention certain kinds of nationalisation that can't be undertaken?

OD. I'm sure he will put that on the table, but whether it will be ...

POM. But would you see differences here between constituents of various black parties, for example Chief Buthelezi would be much more of an advocate of a free market economy than would the ANC.

OD. Yes, most probably. But the latest economic policy of Inkatha comes closer to the ANC in the sense that it now calls for a mixed economy. They made statements to the fact that Inkatha is not prepared to rule out nationalisation of certain sectors of the economy. So they are not all as free and enterprising as they used to be.

POM. Do you think that, in a sense, that differences over economic structures regarding the redistribution of wealth and the economic infrastructure might be more acrimonious than the discussions about the political institutions?

OD. Yes, they have that potential. But it depends on how it is handled. If you look at these issues more closely, it is a question of the phrases, I would say. There are code words like nationalisation, redistribution, which arouse fears amongst the other side. But the government themselves are not against redistribution. They realise that this must happen, where it must begin to transfer to areas of greater need. The government's own budget, the very last budget, was a budget that was attempting to promote redistribution in their own way. But if you phrase it the way that the militant black mass socialists vote, that was, you know - nationalization is another problem. Wise people accept that there is need for redistribution of sorts. The debate will rather be on the mechanisms for redistribution rather than on redistribution itself.

POM. Well, also the amounts.

OD. Yes, they are. And the extent, I mean, of this redistribution.

POM. Tell me if I'm wrong, but it would seem to me that given the absolutely enormous disparities between any kind of expenditure by the government on whites and any kind of expenditure on blacks, if tomorrow morning you had a black majority government it wouldn't be able to redistribute financial resources, at least, at its disposal in any way that would make a meaningful difference to the average black person.

OD. No, and that is what the black political parties would have to learn to say very soon. That we won't have a canon overnight. That aspirations, black aspirations, must be made more realistic because, as you say, it won't change overnight.

POM. Are expectations very high?

OD. In some sectors, yes, expectations are very high with people thinking that there will be a lot of investors coming back, there will be jobs for everybody, the economy will manage to pay higher wages and what have you, more than are paid now. But I think that's the right purpose of political leaders, which is to try and tell their people what is possible and what is not.

POM. How important right now do you think is the PAC?

OD. I'm not sure. I think it's a bit more important than it used to be when it was operating in exile. And I would not say it is about to overtake, let's say, ANC support, at this stage. It has policies that are not easy to sell. They can't say today that white people have no role in the liberation struggle and say that is South Africa, while there are many white people who have contributed, as many black people have, in the struggle. So that depends.

POM. Could you see a situation in which the PAC continues to sit on the sidelines and cries sell out, and then, in time, there being an ANC-dominated government or an ANC government, which, because of economic realities, just can't deliver very much in terms of improving the quality of people's lives. Where the PAC would say, I told you so, sell out, and that there could be, over a period of time, a defection of support to the PAC as being the alternative?

OD. Well, yes, that's a possibility, a probability, but I don't think the PAC can survive boycotting the negotiation process and remain intact. I don't see that succeeding here. And if an ANC-dominated government fails to impress after five years, I'm hoping they won't start a one-party state, if there is a change of government, I expect that it will be a social democratic kind of government, not downright socialistic.

POM. Again, going back to structures of political institutions, do you think it is more likely that a federal system will emerge than the standard unitary state?

OD. Yes, I think that, in fact, that will be the point of convergence when various parties begin to make compromises, provided the federation has units which are geographic.

POM. Like what a federation has?

OD. Yes, not units that are arbitrary, which are not ethnic, yes. I think the ANC would buy that. They have indicated that they would study it carefully as a geographic federation not an ethnic one.

POM. I want to talk about three things in relation to KwaZulu. One is, let us assume that the elections were held, and that the National Party and Inkatha between them commanded sufficient votes to form a coalition government. What do you think would be the impact of that on the ANC in the townships?

OD. Well, I think that if they lost in a free and fair election, they would become a very strong and helpful opposition to the Inkatha/National Party coalition government.

POM. Do you think such a coalition is a probability?

POM. There is a probability that Inkatha and the National Party could form an alliance if the National Party puts its apartheid house in order. But I am not able to say how strong that alliance would be. I am not able, either, to say that it would be the future government. The best scenario would be Inkatha, ANC, National Party together. That would be a strong stable government. Some people are beginning to say more and more that, in fact, the ANC and the National Party might form an alliance and they are saying that there are people already within the National Party who are saying, 'Let's ditch Inkatha and go with the ANC.'

POM. Sorry, let's ditch ...?

OD. Let's ditch Inkatha. So, if that happened, it would be unhelpful because I think Buthelezi has a potential, never mind his national support, but he would have a potential to destabilise this region, at least. So they don't want to throw him overboard.

POM. Let's talk about that, and related to the violence here I would think that of all the people that we have spoken to, and we have spoken across the political spectrum, that possibly only members of the Conservative Party have a good word to say about Buthelezi.

OD. That's a bad omen.

POM. One, why do you think that may be so? And two, again, almost across the board when we talk about the violence in the Natal, far more people will ascribe blame to Inkatha rather than to the UDF/ANC. Could you talk about both of those things?

OD. Yeah, if I can. It's difficult.

POM. I remember at this time last year one of the things you had said to us was that you and the ANC were going to have peace talks about ending the violence. It has just got a lot worse in the twelve months.

OD. Yes, we did, in fact, have those peace talks, that were very successful and we produced a joint peace proposal which was never implemented. OK, about Buthelezi, I don't know whom you have seen, of course. If you have seen UDF/COSATU/ANC they will ...

POM. No, we've seen National Party people, DP people, journalists, church people.

OD. Yes, he has, how can I put it? He tends to generate dislike amongst people because of his personality, I would think. He comes out as a very sensitive person, rather competitive, aggressive, and overly sensitive to what he thinks is criticism. He's extremely defensive, some people say arrogant, not down-to-earth and friendly and able. And he has a flair for manufacturing enemies where there aren't any, because of his insecurity. If you disagree with him, he doesn't want you to differ with him at all, if you do, then, oh, you are now an adversary, not a friend. If you agree with him, you must go the whole hog. You must say he doesn't do anything wrong, he is infallible. Oh, what a wonderful leader he is. And don't tell him things that he will not like. That is, I mean he has no, he doesn't, he is not able to disagree in a way that is acceptable. I don't know how to put it.

POM. That's pretty good.

OD. But put in a socially acceptable way. If he disagrees, first he will personalise it and he will use language that a man of his stature and position should not use. Then he will not listen to any other thing that you say, no matter how helpful and constructive, because you once said or did so-and-so to him. So I think that is why he is not able to get along with people. It is just a personality problem. On the fact that Inkatha is being blamed, now what I think has happened is that Inkatha has lost the propaganda war. I mean, more and more in his speeches, it's even more now personalising Inkatha, like it's no longer a liberation movement, it's a personal property to safeguard his integrity and prestige and status.

POM. The question was, just so we get it on the tape, was whether you divorce Buthelezi ...?

PK. What do you do to divorce Buthelezi from Inkatha? Oscar's saying, no, that that's not possible and that once Inkatha is becoming more personalised, he is more personalised.

OD. Now, there is a second one ...

POM. He said that they've lost the propaganda war.

OD. Yes, Inkatha has lost the propaganda war, unfairly I would hasten to say, because both sides are equally to blame in the violence. Once again, it gets back to Buthelezi's personality. He makes statements that help people who want to blame him as the sole cause do it with ease.

POM. You talked about the talks last year between Inkatha and the ANC where a peace formula was in fact put together but never implemented. What happened there?

OD. Well, the Inkatha Central Committee had reservations about some aspects of the proposal. I would say that perhaps they were reasonable reservations. For instance, we were proposing a conference of the presidents of the four organisations and the representation to that conference was ten delegates each. And these organisations were ANC, COSATU, UDF, Inkatha. And Buthelezi's argument was: these three are, in fact, ANC. Now that was reasonable, ANC/COSATU/UDF, that's one alliance. So, if you give them ten, ten, ten there will be thirty against ten of Inkatha. OK. But we tried to say, look there won't be voting there. No, that was unacceptable. Now, I don't blame him for that. That was a reasonable, logical reservation which we managed to solve with COSATU/UDF because then we came up with a suggestion that the delegations should not be earmarked as coming from a specific organisation. People could bring as many delegates as they felt would be useful. The other one we couldn't succeed with him was, a spate of pamphlets that were distributed sort of discrediting the peace talks we were having, purportedly coming from COSATU/UDF but most probably distributed by the security police, saying, 'Well, we must use these talks, as if it's COSATU/UDF speaking, use these talks to finish off Inkatha and come to peace with the Mandelas. We must first talk friendly to Inkatha people, but those who don't want to follow us, we must murder them', and so on and so on. And then there was another pamphlet from ANC taking on SACTU which was more - it looked very genuine, letterhead printed from London.

POM. What was the name of it again?

OD. SACTU, South African Congress of Trade Unions. And once again that was interpreted as the UDF/ANC/COSATU not being serious about the talks. Then there was a speech by Thabo Mbeki in Copenhagen when he was - well, it wasn't even a speech, it was question time. He was asked about Buthelezi and how Buthelezi is part of the system of government, South African government system. And Mbeki unfortunately said that several weeks after our peace talks had started and the ANC was aware that we were talking. In fact, they had praised the talks in their radio broadcasts. Oh, again, Buthelezi felt Mbeki must apologise and without that, we won't go on. So all these prompted the Central Committee of Inkatha to say the other side is not serious about talks, they continue to vilify us, and until there are prospects for talks to succeed, we must declare a moratorium. And that is how it came about. Whilst the moratorium was in place the local church leaders went to Ulundi to see Buthelezi and during the discussions one of them asked if he wouldn't allow the talks to go on, even on an informal basis. The suggestion was two people a side should continue the talks, two Inkatha, two COSATU/UDF/ANC. And readily he agreed, so the talks resumed, two people each side, and they have been going on. I think they haven't met since I left. They were due to meet last week and some hitches developed. I haven't been able to talk to both sides to find out what really happened. Each side is blaming the other.

. So then, of course, there was this opportunity for the two of them, Mandela, Buthelezi, to meet in Maritzburg. That didn't materialize. Once again, each side blaming the other. Mandela said he never agreed on the date, on the venue. What he said to Buthelezi was that he should contact me and then with the COSATU side we could arrange a venue and so on. Now, if that is true, Buthelezi never told us. He conducted the negotiations himself over the phone. Sometimes he sends his secretary to do it and so what Mandela says happens, Buthelezi denies, and no one was there to act as a referee of sorts. And now it appears that Mandela's own comrades don't want Buthelezi to meet him and there is this complaint by COSATU/ANC to isolate him, to strip him of his power as Minister of Police, and to disband the military police. So we are further, I think, from a solution than we were a few months ago.

POM. A couple of people mentioned to us, and most people gave at least three or four different levels of causes for the violence, a few have suggested that it's, in one sense, a battle about territory. That on the one hand you have the traditional Zulus giving their authority to the tribe, tribal chiefs, and have a certain hierarchical system, its own value system, which they want to preserve. And that the UDF/ANC/COSATU represent another tribe, in a sense. That most of the ANC leaders come from Transkei so that there is a tribal component to this and different value systems represented by different tribes and different aspirations in life are competing against each other. Do you think there is any validity to that?

OD. Not originally, maybe now, because this conflict has been cast in a mixed tribal mode, which wasn't the case before. And that becomes even more dangerous now, because instead of a ideological conflict, you will soon have an ethnic one.

POM. The ethnic conflict being?

OD. Zulu, Xhosa.

POM. Xhosa being associated with the ANC?

OD. That's right, and that would be a very unwelcome development, I see, I say. It won't help matters at all, as it happens.

POM. What accounts for the almost stunning, what's the word I'm looking for, viciousness of it? Reports say that being on one side or being on the other is not the worst place to be, that the worst place to be is to be on neither side. What do you think of that?

OD. Yes. I think that you have a situation, there has been violence all over the country. There's no sense of political tolerance in black politics, I'm afraid.

POM. No sense of political tolerance.

OD. Yes, right across the board. The difference here is that the violence has been sustained longer. It's more ferocious. But before this violence, there was violence in the Cape between AZAPO and the ANC/UDF, where the necklace was used for the first time. That's where we were introduced to the phenomenon of the necklace. From there, the violence shifted to the Transvaal. Again AZAPO, UDF. And at each of these incidents UDF literally wiped out AZAPO, even from the Eastern Province which was the Black Consciousness stronghold. Then it came to Natal. So I come to your question, why it is so fierce? I think that the two sides are very close to evenly balanced and there's not going to be any clear winner, at least not in the near future. Some of us think there won't be any military victor at all. What must happen is liquidation and tolerance. Perhaps that's why it's so vicious here. Both sides are very, very strong. Neither is prepared to lie down and be trampled.

POM. You just said that there's no political tolerance in black politics. Do you now think in a way that's just precisely what whites are afraid of?

OD. Yes, if I were one of them I would be. Because imagine these people who settle their ideological differences physically now ruling the country, carrying their conflicts with them into post-apartheid South Africa. It's not a very positive scenario.

POM. Would you be apprehensive about it yourself? Would you see that as a real possibility?

OD. Right, yes, I am so apprehensive that I am trying to start a project which will do three things in this country. Promote multiparty democracy, I think you call it pluralism, promote national reconciliation right across the board, because that, too, we don't have. We don't have a shared vision, we don't have common national symbols, and so on. And promote conflict resolution. I feel that we need those efforts vitally at this time because otherwise we won't have the kind of democracy we think we would want.

POM. How long a time span is there for a negotiation process to play itself out?

OD. I would say, start in the beginning of 1991 up to 1994-95. That is the projected time span. I think even the government expects it to last about that long.

POM. If this kind of, what you called lack of tolerance for political matters in the black community persists, do you think that if violence starts to appear at different levels, not only in Natal but in other areas, too, between the ANC and the, say, PAC or whatever, do you think the violence itself could derail the process?

OD. Yes, if you had said pre-Natal is repeated, then the other provinces -yes, it would be different. That's why we still have a state of emergency in Natal which, in itself, might delay negotiations because the lifting of the state of emergency was one important obstacle which we all wanted removed. The government did remove it but left it in place here because, they claim, because of the violence.

POM. Where would Mandela stand on something like that? Here is a man who puts himself forward as a reconciliator, he is kind of the symbol of the black nation, if anyone is the symbol of the black nation, and he must have been briefed when he called upon the people of Natal to throw their spears and knives into the sea and was ignored. I mean, surely he has some kind of understanding of the complexity of the situation there, again, the intensity of the violence.

OD. Well, he toured the troubled spots. He's knows exactly what's happening.

POM. Why would he not, then, say, we understand why the state of emergency has to continue in Natal? Because he can't say it for political reasons or that he simply is ...?

OD. I think it's for political reasons. See, I think it's for political reasons. He goes on to say, though, that the state of emergency, he claims, has been used against support of his movement. Not Inkatha supporters. Therefore, he doesn't think it will help.

POM. In America, he made a point to say when he was asked about it, time and again he said the government was to blame. That the government could, the government stopped violence in other places when it wanted to, and he was, I think, really saying was that the government was using the violence in Natal to wipe out, or allowing it to happen, to wipe out the ANC.

OD. Yes, he said that. That is not helpful to say because there are two sides to any conflict and you are not going to end the violence which you blame on Inkatha by excluding Inkatha and talking to the government.

PK. Do you think the state of emergency should continue, is it your personal thinking it should continue?

OD. No, no.

PK. You think it should be ...?

OD. No, not until I am persuaded to accept that the police and the South African Defence Force, whosoever is dealing with the violence, is assisted by the state of emergency. My assessment, which I've not thoroughly researched, is that they have not used the provisions of the state of emergency in Natal with regard to the violence. That they do have provisions already in existing security legislation to address most of the security problems related to violence. Unless they were going to use it thoroughly and effectively , for instance impose a curfew on these trouble spots from six to six, which they are not doing, then I don't see why they think that the state of security can help them where the national security laws have not. But, of course, I wait to be persuaded. They are using it and it has extraordinary powers that are not available through security laws, violence in the state.

POM. How would you, on Mandela in general, how would you assess his performance since he has been released? Has he lived up to your expectations?

OD. No, he has not. He has not.

POM. On Mandela, you said he hasn't lived up to your expectations?

OD. Oh, yes. He hasn't. Perhaps I was idealistic. I used to write, before he was released, that I would expect him to come out as a reconciler, that he would best do this if he was above party politics. We know he is an ANC person but if he was able to act like he was above politics - that he hasn't been able to do. And he has now become, as he himself said, what does he say? In a way I am a follower the ANC, a disciplined and loyal member of the ANC. And more and more he is now a party leader. And he is losing that potential as a unifier and reconciler. He has not appeared to me to lead from the front in some issues.

POM. Like?

OD. Well, the idea, for instance, of a meeting between him and Buthelezi to talk about violence. He said himself that what he suggested was to comment on the strategy but we don't know his story. I would have expected that if he was genuinely concerned about the violence, he should have exercised his prerogative as leader for a good cause to meet and do something about ending the violence.

POM. Do you see him as being the, how do I say, as following, in a sense, the collective decision-making process of the ANC or as being able to impose his will on for the most part?

OD. So far, he doesn't seem to be imposing any will. Of course, he has the advantage of being respected by his own constituency. But it looks to me like he is not taking advantage of that for the good of everybody in the country. He seems to subject himself too much to the collective will. And he takes time to reprimand, if that's the right word, people who clearly seem to be stepping out of line. One of them is Chris Hani down there in Umtata, who is saying things that are not helpful to what the ANC itself is trying to do while we have negotiations. We had ... before Hani, who said we will negotiate with our AK47s. Except for Terror Lekota, who said he does not get the policy. He didn't say anything about that. Perhaps he would begin to be on the driving seat after their conference in December where they formally represent him as President. I don't know.

PK. On that, the way in which you describe him and the way in which you describe Buthelezi, here you have two men who are in many respects leaders, who can talk with de Klerk, talk with what they would describe as the oppressor. You have Buthelezi calling for Mandela's release from prison - but they can't talk together.

OD. Yes, that's amazing, isn't it? That's how I say it myself, they are able to talk to de Klerk but they can't talk to themselves.

PK. Does that mean the prescription for the future, that it's important that de Klerk stay in control of this process?

OD. Yes, but confidentially I suggested to de Klerk that he must bring the two together. And he would begin to do so, I think, he would only do so if he were sure an initiative would succeed.

PK. I want to talk to you a little bit about your project but I know you want to do a projection for the year here.

POM. When we're having this conversation this time next year, where do you think the process will be?

OD. Next year?

POM. Yes, this time next year.

OD. That would be July 1991. Negotiations will just have started.

POM. Negotiations with?

OD. Six months, five months down the line.

POM. And they'll include Buthelezi and ...?

OD. Yes, he will be there. Buthelezi, PAC, ANC.

PK. You think the PAC will be in them, too?

OD. Yes, they will be there.

POM. How about the CP?

OD. The CP will be there. I think they will be there. They have slightly changed, actually, now. They're saying they won't negotiate as long as the ANC doesn't abandon the armed struggle. Now that's no longer a pipedream. I understand they are meeting today and tomorrow and they will say they are at least suspending it. So they will be there. They will be there.

POM. So, the negotiations will just be formally underway?

OD. I think so. Unless there's a serious development which I can't think of at the moment. They will be in place.

POM. It's all yours.

PK. Do you see yourself?

OD. No. It's for party politicians.

PK. But you are part of the super council, maybe, that's going to have to ...

OD. No, there has been speculation on that, but the government has not said anything along those lines. If I'm asked, I would assist. So far, I mean, confidential again, so far, what the government has asked me to do is to consult for them on the process. That I will do, if they pay.

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.