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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

21 Aug 1990: Woods, Gavin and Schmidt, Peter

Click here for more information on the Interviewee - Woods

Click here for more information on the Interviewee - Schmidt

Click here for Overview of the year

POM. We're talking with Dr. Gavin Woods on the 21st of August. Gavin, I suppose one of our principle purposes is to talk with you about the violence in Natal in the last four or five years and to hear your analysis of the situation. We have exposed ourselves to a fair number of people in Inkatha. We were up yesterday with the General Secretary in Ulundi and we talked with Walter and with ...

GW. Zondi.

POM. With Zondi and with V C Gumede and now yourself. And we've also talked to people in the UDF and the ANC. And there seem to be two totally conflicting analyses of where the cause of this violence lies. So perhaps you could shed some of the confusion.

GW. Yes, we'll probably confuse you even further but let's give you our opinion. I think firstly, you refer to the Natal violence. We don't believe that can be seen in isolation, you know. We like to remind people that research in 1973 conducted around the country concluded that levels of violence in the black communities was at that point amongst the highest in the world. And was on an upward trend. But also at the end of the seventies one saw a disheartened political input featuring more and more within these levels of violence in the urban townships. And they seemed to go around the country for awhile. And we in Natal remember in the early eighties our newspapers often saying in a very smug sort of way that, you see, we've had violence, we've had black urban violence in the Transvaal, the Free State, the Western and Eastern Cape but here in Natal things are relatively, or comparatively, calm. And that refers to things like certain Zulu attributes of peaceful co-existence, the humanism, their ubuntu philosophies. It's also attributed to Dr. Buthelezi as having formalised politics in the area and to that structure and his advocating of non-violent approaches towards resolving political solutions.

. But that's not just disappeared, coming into about 1985-86 here in Natal where political imbalance reared its head here too and things took off. And as we all know, there was violence in this part of the world that since exceeded that of the other areas and not just only what's happened in the Transvaal in the last week, of course. But we feel that that historical perspective cannot be ignored. As researchers, we have any one of a number of ways of approaching this to understand it and I must say at this point, despite years of research, and I think basically we call ourselves empiricists and we place great store on our methodologies which we believe are unique in some ways towards finding out what's happening on the ground and what people are thinking on the ground, we've come up with simply too many factors which in our opinion make the violence multi-causal.

. You know, we can talk politics, we can talk a number of things. We produced a model about a year back, which I can give you a copy of, that which we feel has become doubted as we have moved more. The model indicated, it worked on the premise that people living in stable communities and stable societies which have purpose and have a lot which they could aspire to and which was realisable, those people generally, as is the universal experience, have a low propensity for violence. But that the converse was equally as true, that in communities where circumstances were very poor in terms of economic, social, or political, one was bound to see latent volatility and we believe we've been able to, especially here in Natal where most of our research has been conducted, we've been able to identify that this volatility exists in a very hardened form. And we've been able to go further and identify specifics which have contributed towards creating this volatility. Taking this volatility, we also observed, and I think we were able to substantiate fairly conclusively that the volatility exists in more hardened form amongst the youth elements of these communities than amongst older people.

. We bear in mind that, so the statistics tell us, that 50% of all blacks are youth. So we're talking about demographically a large part of that society in the urban situation as being youth. You know, I can go into a lot of detail as to what grievances youth might have, what are the circumstances that make them volatile, that make them aggressive, that have steered them on this course of violence which has subsequently produced what we can call a violent culture amongst the youth, where human values as you and I might appreciate them often are hard to even find. Whereas that might not mean much to a bunch of youth who cut off the head of a six-month old infant or to stab an old grandmother 60 times. Those sort of things can happen. But these are things that do happen quite frequently.

. But getting back to this volatility, volatility specifically amongst the youth which I'll now put to you as being fundamental to the violence. We have to look at a number of catalysts which interact with the volatility and which is created to explode violently from situation to situation within the community. The catalysts again come in many forms, as we've been able to identify them. Of course, ... is the political catalyst and there's no doubt that it exists. But it's the most captivating, it's the most topical, and it tends to dominate explanations of the violence as being the single cause of political organisations vying for power. But we believe that those political organisations wouldn't be able to mobilise or exploit or capitalise, people do what they do unless there was a psychology of volatility that really existed. In addition to the politics as a catalyst, we've seen the role of certain government agencies, we've seen the role of organised criminal elements acting on no small scale to achieve certain ends by steering people again to very dubious and violent things.

POM. When you say the role of government organisations, like, for instance?

GW. We think there has been complicity from the state in a variety of forms. You know, one that obviously, first and foremost, look at the security apparatus or the law enforcement agencies who, especially here in Natal in the first three years of violence, appeared to do no more than give a visual token presence in the areas that, by virtue of the fact that the violence continued to grow, proved that they were totally ineffective. And we never saw a really serious effort on their part. But once again we can understand this in terms of that they were never put under pressure to do their job simply because everybody was so distracted by the political dimension of the violence and the whole debate was simply on who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

PK. Do you have data that substantiates that, like the numbers of forces and those that were deployed to the townships, or is that an impression?

GW. It's an impression.

PK. Because they have data from their end, which does the opposite, obviously, and you've probably had this debate with them before.

GW. Yes. I don't think we'd have too much of a problem of substantiating that. In April this year the government appeared to take things more seriously and deploy sufficient numbers of police and army personnel in these areas and immediately we saw what they could do. And if I'm correct the statistics indicate that, as opposed to say, modern European countries where they have one policeman for every approximately 230 people in a subdued environment, we have here statistics which indicate to us, from a South African police point of view, I think it's one for every thousand and in the KwaZulu police, one for every two thousand. We're talking about far less policemen present per capita that also are against a background of situations that were extremely volatile and conflict-ridden.

. We also looked at the police themselves and our interviews came to the conclusion that they were extremely under-trained for this type of eventuality, were under-resourced. And we see more violence on TV in Europe as it happens very occasionally. We see police converging on the point of conflict in sufficient numbers and at apparently strategic formations with shields and headgear and backed by water cannons and all sorts of things. But we haven't seen that in our particular situation. We saw a little bit in the Transvaal last week but in Natal it's hardly ever appeared to be so, that police have been notified that violence has broken out and a few policemen in a van running along.

. And we try to understand the police point of view as well, often finding themselves not in a situation where they could simply walk up between the warring factions and say, stop this nonsense, and take control of the situation and then conducting investigations to bring accused or guilty parties to the courts. That hasn't happened. As a result, we see where there are political sides involved. Most of them point their fingers at the police for the same reasons, that they feel that they've had lots of people killed and the people haven't been brought to order or been dealt with from the justice system. But, you know, from the police point of view we hear the argument, too, that they believe that not only are they under-resourced but also that one of the political sides sees them as the enemy and that they lose a lot of people. So, it does help to push them sometimes perhaps to side with a particular side which they feel is less antagonistic towards them. And so we have these accusations about them acting in a partisan manner from time to time. But I'd like to contextualise those accusations and see that as a percentage of all the communities where all the South African police are responsible, or the KwaZulu police, that they are relatively few. And we might say that accusations about the KwaZulu police, we see that statements and affidavits and cases have been formulated and we believe (there are) many hard areas. Not that these have been proven yet but maybe they will in time. But thus far out of a possible 60 communities that the KwaZulu police would have responsibility for, in their communities where they place great store on that small police presence, we always cite the example of an area [Mawhinney(?)] where women who had come from the community lay down on the roads to prevent the police leaving the area once it was time for them to leave. And that told us something. So, I can go round and round and you could talk about any particular damage which you'd like to consider.

POM. Let's start with the dimension which says that the violence is, for the most part, instigated by members of Inkatha who operate with the, at least the implicit cooperation, if not overt cooperation, of the KwaZulu police or the South African police. Now, that's an opinion that we have run into across a wide spectrum of political views so this would just be ANC types. It would be academics, media people, what have you.

GW. I give this qualification up front. I'd say virtually all academics are anti-Inkatha and if you look at the individuals concerned you'll find most of them are members of the UDF. Most of those that commentate frequently on violence, such as people like John Atchison(?) who holds an executive position in the UDF.

POM. Sorry, who?

GW. John Atchison is one of the more frequently quoted academics, and people like that. From the media, too, you know, it's our perception that there is a leaning in any one or direction or the other politically speaking that is in favour of the ANC, UDF, and anti-Inkatha. The ANC/UDF control a good number of the newspapers in this country and I think it's no secret that there are journalists on some of the major papers who are very sympathetic to them and that we would say carve the perceptions.

PK. We're not talking about working journalists, you know, who are activist on the ground. We're talking about editors, publishers of newspapers, the SABC. So it's not - I understand what you're saying.

GW. It's contextual. Perhaps I shouldn't go too deeply into that, you've a right to make your own judgements. Yes, we've heard these accusations, we've looked at them very conscientiously and we've tried to, as I say, with everything else we contextualise it and we've often found that the issues that I refer to comprise only a small portion of the total. You know, as far as the role of the government and the police go, I would imagine it's true, in fact, I think we can prove it's true, that from time to time they have acted on one side or the other. You know, Inkatha has its grievances against the KwaZulu police, the South African police. More specifically against the South African Defence Force. I had South African Defence Force people in here this morning and we were giving them information on seven counts where they are guilty for attacking Inkatha people in concert with UDF people. But to be realistic, if they are partisan from time to time, I would think it's understandable that on balance they would side more with Inkatha. Whereas I think the Inkatha ideologically represents something that's more understandable to them. That the ANC, on the other hand, has for many years been part of their indoctrination as to who the enemy is. And there must be a quantum leap as to part of them now to step away from that perception which has existed, even though I believe the police and army are now making a sincere effort to try and get police to always act impartially. And I mustn't, to go back to what I mentioned just now, too, that the police so often feel that they are the potential victims of one particular political side.

. And a final point in this is that after the violence, this youth against communities, and one of the police very often siding more with the community, it so happens that the youth is most often aligned with the ANC-UDF side. And that would also fuel this perception which certain people have. As of everything you hear about violence, we believe everything is part of the truth. But that the total picture's a very complicated picture.

POM. Sure. But, do you present your reports and studies to conferences?

GW. Occasionally.

POM. Where do you get acceptance? I mean, the argument could easily be made that you are the Director of the Inkatha Institute, therefore any research that would come out would have a particular bias in favour of Inkatha.

GW. Yes, that accusation is often made.

POM. Yes.

GW. You're quite right.

POM. I'm trying to find out is there any forum in the country where your research and the research of others as to the causes of the violence and the manner in which it operates is accepted?

GW. Yes. Very recently there are conferences and we are grateful that we are invited to a number of these. And others won't. There are a good number of conferences which will only invite viewpoints which support the interests of one political side. But as you say, I'm included in quite a few. And I do make my viewpoints heard. I've been caught by most of the opposing viewpoints, especially from the academic side, as being the man who pleads socio-economic conditions as being the fundamental cause of all the violence. And I'm presented in that respect, even though I always hasten to put my paddle down to say, 'Yes, we do recognise there are those socio-economic conditions and exacerbating tensions and volatility'.

. But we don't stop there, we look at it from a number of other angles as well. But, yes. Often my research is not exciting. I often get into situations where conferences feel I've let them down. I can name a few of these conferences recently where I've been up there to talk on violence and where, because I didn't wave the Inkatha flag at the expense of all else, the audience felt let down in that they weren't going to see a very heated and exciting debate between myself and a representative of the other side. But from the other side I've often received a lot of recognition and credit for being fairly dispassionate and for looking at things beyond simply Inkatha being the victims of everything.

POM. So you could go through some of your findings and - Or let me throw out a couple of things to you just from members of Inkatha that we have talked to. We've gone out into some of the townships, we were taken out by a couple of people and talked to people who've been burned out, intimidated, what have you. And one, there was the running refrain of Zulus being insulted or the Chief Minister being insulted and of being willing to die for their loyalties, or at least for the Chief Minister, from 15-year-olds. Second would be that the ANC were seen as predominantly a Xhosa tribe and so, you know, the continuation of territory, territory being taken over, territory changing, or something like that. It being the thing was generational, that rural people and certain people in the community would side with Inkatha, whereas the urban young or those who come in from the countryside would tend to become supportive of the ANC.

GW. Once again, all those I believe are parts of the very large and complex picture. The rural/urban divide is a dimension. The generation factor is a dimension. On the other issues you mentioned, yes, it has been, it has long been a contentious issue from Inkatha's side, of the denigration and vilification of people like Buthelezi and other Inkatha leaders.

POM. What is it, though, in the culture that would lead people to kill because of name-calling or is it more than one thing?

GW. In my opinion, that in itself would never lead to killing. But once again, it's an exacerbating factor. The tribal reference you made I think is a more recent phenomenon. It's in this Transvaal issue, we believe, only a week ago in our observations to make ethnic divides more topical. Now we're hearing the ANC is a Xhosa-dominated organisation and an extension of that now appears to be that, and maybe their whole role this time has simply been to divide the Zulus because of the historic roots of those two major ethnic groups in this country. But that's a whole new thing that's creeping in now. And violence is a dynamic thing. It moves things and people all the time and their character changes. And shifts of changing power, and weightings of contributing factors, we can't take it at any one point in time and then use it, that photograph saying, this is it. And as you say, there's a new dimension creeping in now of ethnicity and ethnicity has a potential to change the political landscape in this country. It does things you used to get as a single ethnic view, whereas ethnic consciousness as a new nationalism arises and they start to marginalise the ANC. [and the ANC use ??? claimed in ways that they believe they've noted through the communities.]

. But I would then move onto a political point which is related on the name-calling and this and that. One of Inkatha's arguments, which they don't refute, is that the ANC, as is well-documented in their publications, have for many years called for the marginalisation of Inkatha. They've become increasingly vocal about this in the new political process. [That before, while the ANC were the government in exile, made calls to van der Merwe to take the ???.] To Inkatha, it is very clear. There are lots of people that say that is the sum total of the violence. The whole explanation that the whole anti-collaborationist conspiracy theory of the ANC is what it's all about. We've no doubt that is an important factor in exacerbating tensions in our community. But once again, we can't in all honesty try and make political points by pinning it all down to that.

POM. Do you do surveys, opinion surveys, among members of Inkatha as to attitudes towards different things, or perceptions of different things?

GW. We do, we do, yes.

POM. What would be the prevalent perception of the ordinary Inkatha member towards the violence that's taking place?

GW. I think, in that they have political feelings, one sees perhaps a similar situation on the Inkatha side as one sees on the ANC/UDF side, that response to questions on violence is always either defensive or an attack one, why they are not to blame, that's why the other side is to blame. It's always a point-scoring response and with a very plausible reason as to why.

POM. Let me give you what we have found to be the prevalent attitude from a number of members of Inkatha that we've talked to. It's not a large sample but it's very significant.

GW. I'd be very interested.

POM. It's skewed in favour of the top.

GW. Do you mind if we smoke?

POM. Not at all.

GW. Thank you. Do you smoke?

POM. No, thank you. It would be that the ANC are a violent organisation that believes in the armed struggle, that Inkatha is a non-violent organisation and believes in the settlement of issues through negotiations. That then the ANC has turned its armour on Inkatha because Inkatha is the strongest opposition that stands in its way, that stands in the way of the ANC becoming a one-party state. And that essentially the ANC wants to wipe out organisations and take control of the government.

GW. Yes. You know, once again, there's a fair part of truth in that but I would say that's too simplistic.

[PS. ??? representational perception of you to say, if that were the dominant perception, or it were a dominant perception, I would ??? quite certainly as being, there is a plausible number of people who certainly have very strong feelings on this.]

GW. We never said in certain townships there is an armed struggle mentality amongst youth. Their graffiti, their sloganeering, and what they say bears it down. They're part of the armed struggle against the collaborationist system of which Inkatha is a part. So if that exists, it's not everywhere in emphasis. Certain events of violence, one sees that as being decisive. And other parts not.

POM. I suppose what I'm asking is if I put that statement to the average member of Inkatha, will that member agree? But agree weakly? Agree strongly?

PS. I'd say agree strongly.

GW. Agree strongly because the whole game now is speaking to people of representation, representatives from organisations as to a plausible, give a plausible reason which is more plausible than in any marketing from the other side. And there are many plausible theories. From the UDF side, one time we were able to see they documented 13 plausible reasons as to why a party would abandon the violence, but amongst themselves were often contradictory. Fundamentally contradictory.

POM. Like?

GW. Well, you know, some related specifically to Buthelezi leading it, leading the violence and that it is all engineered and planned by him. And others that came from exactly the opposite end, that it's because all these tribes or peasant types in Inkatha simply are very barbaric. And in that argument, Buthelezi hasn't engineered it but he hasn't stopped it. Others would blame the KwaZulu government and its inability to set up certain infrastructure, its pure failings and incompetence. It just comes from many directions, the accusations. There're all sorts of conspiracy theories in addition to this. But, you know, documentation is very easy and accessible. I've no doubt you've had your hands on it.

POM. From your research, can you draw a profile of a community in which this kind of violence is most likely to occur?

GW. Let me see. Well, firstly, we observe that almost all the violence until very recently has been urban, going on to the period, we would say the typical communities would be at that stage of development. Now, you know, I really couldn't. I really couldn't. One sees the tribal chiefs feature and one sees other community leaders feature, one sees the common factors being strong somewhat more than others, one sees it in more formalised black townships, one sees it in what we call the squatters' settlements which some people might call the slum or ghetto societies or communities. You know, we're often mesmerized by how complex it all is. And our research is by no stretch of the imagination conclusive. But we try to show people how many dimensions there are. And I think for this reason, even though we're not here to take political positions, we would support Buthelezi's trying to shift the emphasis on a top-down approach from the top. That from a political dimension, that the leaders can tolerate, can accept each other's rights to associate with whatever political ideology. They want to know or be talking to each other in the common interest and the national interest. Hopefully, once that's been demonstrated, if that can be nurtured in a way that filters down to the ground. They're trying to, in an ad hoc way, in an incident by incident way, to try and resolve conflict on the ground. It's proved to be futile and a waste of time and it tends to often further exacerbate, polarise and antagonise the situation as it exists.

PK. I find something, I wondered if you could comment on this, a little contradictory in the positioning of Inkatha in the peaceful work within the process, non-violent approach, and at the same time, what appears to be, and maybe this is a misperception on my part, the personality of the Zulu nation as a military, strong, forceful population. Is there not a contradiction in those two?

GW. Yes, there is. Buthelezi, at the start of the violence, I remember he was interviewed, saying, 'You know, if this violence gets out of hand I stand to lose a lot of international credibility and even credibility that I believe is important to be amongst all population groups in the country.' Because our non-violent approach and policy tends to be discredited, he was extremely anxious about that. But on the other hand, we see him as being totally involved here in Natal with violence. On the other hand there are contradictions which we try to marry. Our whole society is riddled with contradictions and these are all contradictions we believe have to be addressed by politicians and making a comprehensive, inviting comprehensive solutions and processes towards a future that might work.

PS. I think it is a contradiction. I mean, there is a fundamental conflict where one could see this aspect as necessarily between a Zulu militarism, which has a long history, and the ubuntu philosophy which is a deeply humanistic philosophy. Now, how do you marry that? Well, it is married in reality. It's a question of circumstances. So the fact that if one looks at, before the ANC was formed in 1912, the last act of aggression against white colonialists was done by the rebellion, which was a Zulu military rebellion against white rule. Now, thereafter, when the ANC was formed, we had a long period of dominance anyway, where the policy was peaceful co-existence. Let's incrementally work towards something else. That's really a long time before, almost half a century, before we got to the armed struggle from there. So how that contradiction resolved itself throughout that fifty year period would have been this question of what one saw as the strategy to achieve the end. And they tried military when it failed, and then they tried the non-military one. It also failed up to 1960. So, it is married together. Maybe it's uneasy at times and it breaks down in terms of localised issues on the ground which always come into play. But there's not a fundamental contradiction, really, at the top. It appears that, I think that aspect of the Zulus is always latent and can emerge in given situations, given different issues, as it appears to have done in the Transvaal.

POM. What about Zulu nationalism? Is there such as thing? How does it manifest itself? And then secondly, the Zulu sense of identity. Is theirs a sense of primarily as Zulus and then of South Africans, or South Africans who happen to be Zulus?

PS. I'd say that's another contradiction. Buthelezi, in refusing to take independence for KwaZulu, an independent country, and in doing that, saying, we see ourselves as South Africans. And we think we're entitled to participate within the whole of South Africa, whatever happens. But yes, the underlying - once again, there is a latency that in my opinion, yes, there is something called a Zulu nationalism. It's a very deep-rooted identity and consciousness they have about their ethnic origins. There's a pride, there's a dignity, there's a historical perspective they hold very clear, which they talk about and which they don't forget. There is something very special to the Zulu about being a Zulu. I think this exists in other ethnic groups in South Africa but I think it would be common wisdom that would tell us it's more so amongst the Zulus than any other.

POM. Do you see any similarities between the manner in which Afrikaners perceive themselves and the manner in which Zulus do?

PS. Yes and a few academics have produced this in the past, that there's a comparison. Except that one sees one's identity has been brought about largely as a group seeing themselves under threat and believing that their unity is more important to their survival. And I don't think that's endemic in the system of the Zulus. If you take American society, the whole melting pot philosophy, it takes two or three generations, often particularly the integration patterns tend to be localised in areas and ghettos and whatever before the second or third generation move out. But their identity stays a long time. I mean, your Scots often still see themselves as Scots or your Welshman as Welshmen. Certainly in Northern Ireland they see themselves very much as different from the South.

. What I mean is, the whole point is that, in this country, there's a fundamental contradiction between political idealism and political reality. And that is one of the contradictions which manifests itself in political differences as well. And, again, going back to the ANC, when they were formed, it was formed very much with the express purpose of transcending tribalism. Tribalism was recognised as having been one of the reasons why they failed to ... insofar as the typical colonial attitude of divide and rule. And it worked. So the ANC were formed in order to counter that counter-tribalism, which was seen in a negative light. And, of course, the whole emphasis of a non-racial society, non-ethnic society, non-group-based society is partly a recognition of that.

. But even in the Freedom Charter, it talks about the national identity of groups being recognised, the right of each group to pursue its own language and culture and so on. Even within normalisation, which by that stage had 50 years of espousing total non-racialism, non-ethnicity, was itself, 50 years later, starting to recognise that the reality is that people see themselves in a certain way. And now we're up to 30 years later after that, they find that that's no good. We still have to face this reality. And I think we look at the experience of countries like Namibia, where the largest tribe ... They at least see themselves as Vendas though they had something like a 98% turn-out in the election, of which 97% voted for one party. If you look at the Shona and N'debele in Zimbabwe, voting strictly tribalistic. Now that's how it will happen here or won't happen here. But I think this country should be aware that the reality is that somewhere along the line on the ground there is a degree of ethnicity which exists. To what extent people ferment it or play upon it is another issue altogether.

POM. But go back to the issue of the ANC being perceived or not being perceived as a representative of the Xhosa tribe. Is that widespread?

PS. The ANC obviously don't wish to make that an issue and nor does Inkatha. I think it's only in the last week or two that one hears of chanting mobs saying the ANC's the cause of organisation. And I think that does put the ANC in somewhat of a spot because of the fact itself that its entire upper leadership, with the exception of one or two, Joe Slovo is white, and all the rest are all Xhosas. They have all the major decisions. And to make an awareness of that now could have enormous implications for constituency alignments. I think that if you look at Inkatha's 15-year history, I can't recall a single occasion where it has ever accused the ANC of being dominated in the way it is. Or ever having tried to make an issue of it. I think Inkatha's position has, despite the fact that it's called a Zulu organisation, it was nearly banned in 1977 by the government, a lot of Black Consciousness organisations ... and it refused to restrict itself to new membership. And there was a massive fight on that issue.

POM. What proportion of its members today would be Zulu?

PS. Oh, an overwhelming majority, I would assume. Eighty percent, maybe.

POM. Eighty percent, yes.

PS. I mean, that's partly an accident of history, partly a mobilising tactic, partly a variety of factors. But the point is, ideologically, they were Zulus particularly. And Inkatha as a movement has always stressed that it saw itself as a black movement in general. It so happened that being based even here, it happened to work that way. But one could have just as well said the same thing about the PAC and its history also, as being strongly Xhosa or whatever. But I think all parties have deliberately not tried to emphasise ethnicity as a negative factor in terms of denigrating others on those grounds. Except the ANC has, with Inkatha.

POM. What about Inkatha membership? I mean, again, one hears that in the urban areas it's losing members to the ANC/UDF and that there was some recent survey by a market research outfit here, it was quoted in The Weekly Mail last week, which said only 2% of people outside Natal were supporters of Inkatha. Do you have breakdowns of, like, is the organisation growing? Has it stabilised? Is it growing outside of Natal? Has it any significant membership?

GW. You know, there's no clear basis or information to prove or disprove that. Now there is a lot of speculation from one particular political viewpoint that Inkatha is losing membership. And to what extent that is true we don't know.

PS. I'd say it's something, that it must be true, that five years of virtual civil war has resulted in Inkatha suffering losses in this area. I think it's difficult to deny that.

GW. I think black politics at this point in our history are very euphoric, especially since the release of people like Mr. Mandela and the unbanning of certain political organisations. There is great celebration and there's great expectation as a result. And I tend to agree with Peter that, if that's what he's saying, in the short-term anyway it is going to serve ANC interests and not Inkatha's, once again especially amongst the youth. And Inkatha, sitting on this dead centre of the political spectrum as we see it here in South Africa, finds it very difficult to present itself as an exciting organisation at this time. And it's very easily presented by the other side as being very staid and stick-in-the-mud and not modern. You know, the newspaper headlines are generated to the detriment of Inkatha and to the point where a lot of people, especially internationally, they see politics in South Africa in a very bad kind of way, the South African government and the ANC. So Inkatha has a difficult time, just at this point. But what is counting against it, could be costing it support, could actually turn the other way if the ANC is unable to perpetuate this emotion, this euphoria. And in fact, at the end of the day, it's seen in the calm light of day, and is unable to deliver against the expectations that accompany this euphoria. So, I don't have too much, I don't know how much reads into this. You know, Inkatha recently opened up as a political party as opposed to being a liberation movement which it has been for all its life. And there's a surge of new members coming in. Is that a surge which will peter out or is it a surge which will continue to escalate? It's too early to tell. But it's interesting to note that most of the new membership comes from other parts of the country, from a variety of sources here. And a variety of race classifications. Inkatha feels that, Inkatha has quite recently - I've sensed a buoyancy of Inkatha.

PS. If I may say one thing, I was going to qualify the point I made, though. [When I said ... that one sees it, I think I have to qualify that, because...] The qualification is that the townships, the formalised localised townships, are very often dominated by a group. Even Inkatha, they dominate one area, UDF dominate one area, whatever. And the result of the conflict has been that whoever holds the upper hand in terms of being better at certain strategies to achieve control, the others go down. They go underground. So, that whereas Inkatha, if we go back to 1988, it was very strong in some of these townships here. And now one doesn't see Inkatha operating. My contention is that it doesn't mean there're no longer Inkatha. All it means is that they're not prepared to just being necklaced or have their houses bombed in order to operate. That I think there's a lot of support which ANC, because it's a UDF activity in a township, that it's presumed that the whole township is therefore now UDF and that all those who were Inkatha are now UDF. And I think that's a misconception.

GW. I think that's a very important point Peter makes and it answers probably a question about typifying communities early on. Here in Natal it's definitely almost all communities, urban black communities, have either an Inkatha or UDF label pasted over them. And everybody knows. You know, there's no dispute about which ones have which label on. But I refer to ... when you've been able to go out to those areas, and there're both labels, and do surveys in a very subtle way. In our methodologies, our strong point, we've found that we can go into an area and ask a question one way and get a totally different answer, the exact opposite answer to the question. But on this particular issue of these labels what I've found is that the universal yardstick, which suggests that maybe 80% of people in any given community are apolitical or politically apathetic, exists here, too.

. So how does one say this is an Inkatha area or a UDF area? One finds, generally speaking, that UDF areas would be UDF areas because they are controlled by a very strong and purposeful clique of people, usually in the form of what we call comrades on the UDF side. They're so forceful in their control that people know that if they step out of line or disagree or make any particular utterances which are contradictory to what they stand for, they'll get their hands a bit [rapping sound] so the whole community allows itself to become subjugated to the controlling force. But the same is true on Inkatha's side. And we hear stories about warlords. So you get an Inkatha guy who will say, 'Look, we must take control of this community before it gets out of hand.' And that warlord with his bunch of strong men will exercise essential control and some sort of vigilance over his area to attain that particular label. But underneath, as I say, as much as 80% of the people don't give a damn about politics. And even people involved in politics and involved in the party don't know much about the political organisations or the organisations they came to fight for. Intimidation is a feature of black politics in Africa. And it exists here, too. Intimidation is a major dynamic.

POM. I suppose one thing that puzzles me is that you had a situation where for years Chief Buthelezi campaigned for the release of Nelson Mandela, that he would not enter into negotiations until the ANC and SACP were unbanned, until political prisoners were released. So, at one level, he was a staunch ally of the ANC and particularly in relationship to his own position on negotiations. What, then, accounts for what seems to be a fierce level of animosity between supporters of the ANC and Inkatha?

GW. Firstly, there was a tacit suggestion by Mandela that when he one day got out of jail that one of the first people he was going to see was Buthelezi himself. This came through people that had visited him in jail from time to time, very high-level people like, Suzman and the Archbishop from the United Kingdom and - I can't recall, but there were a few others. Buthelezi was always under the impression that they would get together once they came out and then devise a front without necessarily accepting the finer details of each other's ideologies. And Buthelezi was hanging onto that point, despite the violence that had started to come about. But that hasn't happened. I don't know if that's really answering your question?

PS. It won't now because of the current animosity. If it continues, they will never win.

POM. Current animosity in their history?

PS. Yes, this is built on the existing animosity. Buthelezi was hoping that within a month, they'd have come together. This would help to solve some of their issues on the ground and their differences, that together they could do something. But now Mandela's out and we believe that in principle he would still like to meet with Buthelezi. And, you know, he almost said as much although it isn't really a view, that other parties, very strong parties in the leadership of ANC, have restrained him from doing that. That has exacerbated it as opposed to what we believe would have subdued the violence. I could add to that, actually. I think perhaps part of the answer to your question lies in getting back to the common perception that Inkatha is heavily Zulu and ANC is Xhosa.

POM. Total dominance.

PS. Total dominance. But one of the fundamental problems that maybe the ANC had with Inkatha is that they wanted us to assure that a party doesn't get more prominent than it deserves. Which means that the more you marginalise the movement, that is the way it's been, and of course one of the less structured parts of marginalising is make sure that he, Buthelezi, and he, Mandela, don't get together. I know Sisulu is in effect saying the same thing since last week. They want to keep Buthelezi in a corner, even restricted to his home base, but make sure he doesn't get beyond that. And I think there's a lot of resentment on the ground against that. A lot of resentment. And one finds that when the ANC renounced the armed struggle, that their advertisement following up justified that to its own supporters, in the sense that, attacking, again, Inkatha. People on the ground are not really following political organisations, to be quite honest.

. But what does it take to start off something very violent? And partly there's that. And that's a whole situation of political intolerance, pluralism, and to what extent in this society of ours are political organisations able to compete on a non-violent level? Because we look at political competition in any institutionalised way in a society where there are rules which are followed. That doesn't apply here. [And there's a part of Inkatha that feels about the ANC, at least, we've said that it does. AZAPO has, I don't know if you've spoken to AZAPO people, people like Strini Moodley and his fellows, they'll tell you exactly the same story that Inkatha does: that for the last 10 years, they've worn the ... of ANC against them since, what? Since 1983.]

GW. The Black Consciousness Movement and the PAC also issued statements along those lines. There's been something like, I think, 15 recorded clashes between PAC and ANC this year. And so one starts to have another plausible theory: ANC is the common factor in violence against opposing political groups all around the country. Intolerance, wanting to be dominant. One can hear it in the way they talk about themselves as being the future government without accepting there are any other outcomes. And they are just ensuring their position of dominance. I don't go along totally with that, but I think, you know, the ANC in itself is a wide spread of people. And there are people which you would describe as being political democrats. But there are other people that you would describe as, what? Being ...

PS. Stalinists.

GW. Stalinists.

PS. And everything in between.

GW. And everything in between. So, it is difficult to typecast them as being just one thing.

PS. I think, pompously, that is the understandable thing and it's very easy when parties are in conflict to denigrate the other as the bad guys and you're the good guy. And I think if one reads ANC history in a sympathetic light, one sees a very noble aim. I mean the unity of black people, literally referring to black people, to vote ethnic divides in order to confront a common white minority rule regime. And then slowly moving into other membership. Coloureds and Indians played a prominent part in a unified campaign and so on and moving to white membership. It's a really noble aim. This question of them and us and it's their quest versus the apartheid regime. And this whole nationalist movement, for 50 years, there was no competition to the ANC. It embraced everybody within itself. Once the PAC broke away, there was conflict there. [Once the ANC was... The damn thing about South African politics... ??? ??? in the Black Consciousness Movement, Black Peoples Convention and so on. Initially, the ANC was a little bit cautious, but then that conspiracy by 1983.] By 1985 the ANC said at its conference that these guys would not allow anyone to confront us or to be seen to be usurping us. So, they've had a long, long history of being the voice of black South Africa, and suddenly you've got the other splinter groups who are asserting their independence and saying, 'Well, we want to mobilise around our banner as well.' And so I think part of it is the genuine desire on the part of people, like Mandela to actually just want to represent a group of everybody. But there are others who tend to view it in a far more power-based thing, that it's them or us. And if we give them a chance, then we will lose out of it. Get rid of them. And that mentality is very dangerous.

GW. I think one must look at the events of 1979 where, up until then, there had been communication between organisations and meetings and Buthelezi actually took self-government of the homeland only after discussions and agreement with the ANC. In 1979 the ANC in exile demanded certain things of Buthelezi and Inkatha. Inkatha had been around for some four years and then had a membership of some, I think, 350,000 people. So it was becoming a factor. When Buthelezi rejected the requests that he brings the ANC armed struggle into the country by using Inkatha people and also, he didn't like the idea of sanctions, there was a parting of ways. And the animosity came in almost overnight. One can see it in from 1981, that all of a sudden, as opposed to being an ally, Inkatha and Buthelezi were now suddenly opponents who had an organised constituency and it was growing inside the country. So, Inkatha was suddenly a threat. So the whole collaborationist label was suddenly put on Buthelezi and the whole rhetoric started and the antagonisms. And I think that was a very important point in the history of the relationship between these organisations that one has to take note of.

POM. I have one final question. That is, when Mandela was overseas and he was asked about the violence in Natal he always answered by saying that the government could bring an end to it, that the blame for the violence was squarely placed on the government. Do you agree with that?

GW. Not necessarily. I would say they could do a better job of controlling it but I believe the issues as we've been discussing it here take more than an elected government. I think there has to be certain consensus between the black competing organisations themselves. You know, people often ask, what are the solutions to violence? Up until recently, I've always answered that question in three parts. That there are three ways you can approach it, there must be a three-way approach. Firstly, the government must play a more prominent role in controlling the situation by the forces or agencies that it has. The government needs to have its emphasis on where it spends its money and suddenly attend to upgrading the black communities where the violence takes place, because we believe that if things started to happen there, it could alleviate tensions and put a bit of purpose into peoples' lives if the financial aid came in the form of creating jobs and of, where we have 73% of youth in this area unemployed, use that, that the government could just build houses or where they could do something about education because education is a very contentious issue and there is a resentment amongst people. That could be the government role, number one.

. Number two could be a national campaign which Buthelezi, in fact, tried to start recently, where he tried to create a national awareness about the violence and a national disgust and chaining of the violence, where it had to be a combined effort from serving the interests of our society in the new year, the church groups, the politicians, the government, everybody talking about the irrationality and counter-productive nature of violence, of what it means to take peoples' lives, and to try to bring people back to thinking about what they're doing, to nip this violent culture that's forming in the bud.

. The first approach is basically law and socio-economic. The second is awareness. And the third is the political one, which we've being touched on. Where the political leaders themselves come together and demonstrate to their followers they're serious about tolerance, they're serious about each other's right to exist, to mobilise, to function as political entities.

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.