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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

25 Jul 1991: De Klerk, Willem

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM. I'm talking with Willem de Klerk on 25th July and Professor de Klerk you are, just for information purposes, you are a Professor of ...?

WDK. Yes I am a Professor of Political Commentation and Journalism at the Rand Afrikaans University and I was also Editor of a morning newspaper Die Transvaaler and Rapport for about 14 - 15 years.

POM. I want to go back to something very basic and that is how do you see the problems which the negotiators face when they come to the negotiating table and do you see it as a conflict of many ethnic groups, South Africa as a divided society? Do you see it as a matter of there having been white domination and perhaps you have to rectify that impression.

WDK. I would say the last. Our forced ethnic grouping in South Africa is a fact of life and I think that ethnicity must be considered, not necessarily in a constitution, but in future ethnicity will play a role. But at this moment in time I would say that it's not a question of ethnicity within the black community from the political point of view, perhaps from the cultural point of view. The basic problem is that white people must rectify the sins of apartheid and they must try to accommodate blacks on all levels of decision making, upgrading, etc., etc. I would say that's the main issue around the negotiation table.

POM. The National Party takes a different interpretation of the problem. There's far more emphasis on there being separate ethnic groups, about accommodation, government's arrangements must be such as to ...

WDK. They use the term 'power sharing' and I asked them who must share power with who. Is it white power must be shared with black power? Do you define it from an ethnic point of view? And then they're very vague on answers on this, but I believe that indications are that they have accepted the fact that ethnicity can't play a role in politics any more and that's the question of trying to maintain the rights of minorities via different procedures set down and different articles in the constitution, but they accept the fact that it must be a black majority government and not a question of a 50/50 percent kind of power sharing, 80/20 percent power sharing. Of course in the phase of transition I would say participation of whites in government, etc., will still be formidable during the transition but afterwards I think we're in for a more or less 90% black majority government.

POM. You quote the State President as saying that he had in recent times often spoken to representatives of various ethnic, including blacks, who were very concerned about their ethnic integrity in the future, not only concerned about their own ethnic culture but also about ethnic participation and decision making and then he followed that up by his perception that as long as all the whites were still united in their white domination the ethnical political awareness faded into the background and now that a new dispensation of non-ethnic politics is in the pipeline internal differences are beginning to crystallise.

WDK. Yes. I'll tell you how it is.

POM. If you meant that, what you said the formulation of the problem to be, if you have the ANC, being a primary actor, who comes to the negotiating table with a decidedly different basic understanding of what the problem is you have no common perceptual framework, so you don't think they must agree, how can they negotiate if they don't agree on what the problem to be resolved is?

WDK. Yes. I'm not worried about that. I have a feeling, nothing more than a feeling, perhaps a little bit more, that there will be a development in the country in the direction of black solidarity on the main issues. Even between Inkatha and the ANC. Inkatha's problem is the person of Mangosuthu Buthelezi. If he's removed as the leader, if there's further development within Inkatha I'm sure that on the basic issues of economic systems, of democracy, western orientated democracy, and all the main issues in our politics, that there will be consensus between the black groupings and the white groupings except the CP (Conservative Party) orientation.

POM. Except the CP orientation?

WDK. Except the CP orientation.

POM. A programme, or a comparison as you say has crept into use with regard to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and South Africa, the comparison being that it appears that communism for 40 odd years, the populations, in that their ethnic differences were submerged in that communism has lifted all these ethnic differences to the surface and the analogy would be that sheer apartheid kept all the black people in oppression so there was solidarity among them but as the oppression had been lifted their internal differences are beginning to emerge as well.

WDK. I think there will emerge internal differences but I think that's more in the medium term so I see constitution making also as a process and I think that let's say in 5, 6, 10, 12, 15 years time certain articles must be written into the constitution regarding the position of ethnicity and the whole decision making of ethnic groups, of minority groups, etc. But in the short term, for the first run of the constitution I don't think, ethnicity is such a word with negative connotations in South Africa via apartheid, but I don't think that ethnicity will play a major role in the negotiation process. And I don't think that the Nationalist Party will push for this except the whole question of minorities and minority rights and Mandela already accepted the fact, he's on record accepting the fact that, of course, the ethnic diversity and minorities from a cultural point of view must be represented in government. And that's still a very vague issue and that must sorted out at the negotiation table, but I don't think that will be major issue. That's my point of view.

POM. With relation to that, take the violence of the last year in the townships. Now, let me start again, a book has just come out by Donald Horowitz where he advances the case that South Africa is a divided society along classical divided society lines and that government structures must take account of that and the structures are likely to follow and that looking at South Africa as a divided society there are an enormous amount of complexities to find the right government structures.

WDK. That's very true. That's why I think there will be a provisional constitution for the following. Let's say, if they can find consensus around the negotiation table from now to let's say, give it another two years and then the referendum on the broad principles and with proportional representation and that kind of thing written into the constitution, the provisional constitution, then negotiation will carry on and the final draft of the constitution will be hopefully ready, let's say in the year 2005 and there ethnicity will be definitely accommodated, but not in the initial provisional constitution. Because it's too an emotional question.

POM. So would you see then the process as a three stage process, that you have a transitional period, power sharing blacks and whites, two parties?

WDK. A kind of coalition, a coalition between the National Party, an enlarged National Party with a lot of Coloureds, Indians and even blacks into the National Party framework and the ANC, perhaps a more reduced ANC because they must shed their radical wings perhaps with the PAC, etc. And that would be the two main streams in politics for the rest of the century. A kind of coalition between the ANC and National Party. And then negotiations will continue and gradually the black dominance will emerge in phase two, that the real black majority government of course with pockets of white initiative and entrepreneurship.

POM. Just apropos of that, if the National Party in conjunction with an Indian Party, or Coloureds joining the National Party and black moderate or middle class parties were able to put together a coalition which were to give them a majority over the ANC in a transitional government, is that workable? I mean is there not some heavy expected psychology of the thing demands that the ANC cannot be left out.

WDK. I really don't believe that the coalition between, let's say, Coloureds, Indians and whites, that that will carry the day. I don't think they will have a majority. I still think that if you even count Inkatha on the list with the tricameral parties as an alliance, I would say that's my guess that they would represent more or less, you can ask Larry Schlemmer about this he has statistics available, will represent more or less 25% of the total vote. The ANC still enjoys the majority support, I would say 55% to 60%.

POM. That question's really a 'what if' question. Even if these parties did manage to put together a combination of seats that amounted to 52% within the parliament, would the disparity, the psychology of the conflict make that an unacceptable outcome?

WDK. Yes it would.

POM. No matter what happened, can you have a situation in which the ANC would not be part of a transitional government?

WDK. You can't do that. The ANC is seen by the world, the international world and by South Africans as the main actor with the National Party and you can't leave the ANC out. They must be part of the whole transitional government in phase one and in phase two I believe that the ANC will gradually be the governing party in South Africa.

POM. We can go back to the violence. You have had the violence last year and the ANC's position that the government in some manner have been behind it, the government conducting a dual agenda, destabilise the ANC on the one hand, conduct talks on the other. These accusations have become more insistent as the year has gone by not less insistent. Now you have a former Major in the SADF who says that the SADF did supply arms to Inkatha and now you have the revelations about the shovelling of money to Inkatha which makes you take a little bit more seriously the previous accusations. What can be done here, one, and two, can you really have serious negotiations if one party to the negotiations believes that the other main party is trying to undermine it?

WDK. If you can't do that, then that's really a pity, I think. I'm very ashamed about the government's actions regarding Inkatha and, hopefully, I expressed this in the press this morning, that F W de Klerk will announce somewhere next week a drastic kind of a new attitude from his point of view towards the pockets within the security services that are really trying to boycott the whole new development.

POM. Personally do you believe that there are elements in the security forces that are doing that?

WDK. I believe that.

POM. Do you personally believe that?

WDK. I believe there's a CP orientation within certain elements in the defence force and the police force. The CP orientation's there and certain leaders and divisions and that they are really sabotaging the whole process. I believe that and I think FW is also very worried about it. He didn't want to believe it, but I think that he gradually came to the insight that he must do something drastic to curb this whole situation. I hope something in this regard will be announced next week.

POM. If the situation continues with this accusation, counter-accusation, particularly with regard to the encouragement of violence, there really can't be serious negotiations?

WDK. Definitely not. So this is a severe crisis within the South African political process. I spoke to Thabo Mbeki this morning and he also, it was my understanding that he said "Well if FW doesn't come to the fore with real convincing, not convincing rhetoric, but convincing (I can't get this English word) convincing new measures, that the negotiation process will be delayed for six months to a year." So I'm very worried about this but luckily I think he's also very worried about it.

POM. With what obstacles will it stand, I mean if he now accepts that there are these pockets within the security forces in particular with a CP orientation, what obstacles lie in his way of dealing with the problem comprehensively?

WDK. Well as a politician I think he's worried about white support and it's dangerous to be too drastic with people like Magnus Malan and Adriaan Vlok. I think that's one reserve. The second is that he tries to persuade people to the new direction and I would say that's the second obstacle: he doesn't want to be too, he doesn't want to be seen as somebody that is estranging the whole police force and so on. So that's the two obstacles I would say.

POM. Is there a concern that if he moved against elements in the security forces he could lose the security forces as such?

WDK. I won't say 'as such' but the revolution to the right, the white, the whole white resistance, that that can be furthered by being too drastic in his shifts regarding the defence force.

POM. Do you think Mandela is aware of the fact, do you think there's a difference between some of the ANC's public rhetoric and their understanding that it literally requires more process to control this kind of action by the defence force?

WDK. And you ask me whether I think he's aware of that? Yes, I think Mandela's rhetoric behind closed doors is that, my experience and also with the government's experience behind closed doors during the negotiations, there's another rhetoric of the ANC and the public rhetoric is part of trying to consolidate their power base. But I really don't believe that Mandela and company, that they are that radical if you, they're not so radical as reflected in their public rhetoric.

POM. You talked about facing the evolution in the thinking of the National Party, their going to a position where there must be consultation with blacks and blacks must have some say in decision making, there should be sharing of the power with blacks, to where are they now in terms of the evolution of their upper thinking?

WDK. I would say, in the National Party, I would say in power sharing they are crossing the bridge to acceptance of black majority.

POM. So, would it be correct to say that they envisage first of all a period of time where there would be the sharing of power between a party like the ANC and the National Party where the National Party would be the junior partner but would have significant base to stay in government and after a period of time moving to a position or you would have an ANC government in which there would be a majority of blacks although there might be some whites who would be members of the ANC as a political party?

WDK. Yes definitely that's my point of view and I think that that's the reasoning within the National Party too, I would say the more, I don't want to speak of the left wing, refer to the left wing or the right wing of the National Party, I don't think there's such a thing now, but the more liberal minded Nationalists within the Cabinet and on the ground floor, on the grassroots level, that they accept that the white man, the National Party will have a meaningful say in government in the transitional phase but that will be phased out during the next ten years and we will get a real black majority government. We accept the fact.

POM. On two things the government did appear to be firm, one is on the question of a Constituent Assembly, the other is on an interim government along the lines being suggested by the ANC. Do you see either of those positions changing?

WDK. I think that they will find a compromise, especially on the interim government issue. Mandela is also on record saying he won't be difficult, it was last week somewhere in the paper about the interim government situation, if the government can accommodate black co-responsibility and black representation at Cabinet level, etc., etc., not via co-option but via agreement. That must be the first point at the negotiation table, how to restructure the present government into something with a profile of an interim government. I think there they will find a compromise. I don't think the ANC is very uncompromising over that and I think that the National Party is very open-minded in the knowledge that they must restructure themselves into an interim government with black participation. So I think there will be a solution on this point.

POM. How about the Constituent Assembly?

WDK. The Constituent Assembly, I think that's still a very hard nut to crack. There's still very, very antagonistic rhetoric on this and polarisation on this. There's no consensus at all, but I don't think that the National Party will give in on this and after a period of discussions and negotiations hopefully there will also be something of a compromise on that.

POM. I want to go back to the question I usually pose about South Africa being a divided society and the very great problem in trying to develop structures that protect minorities in a true democracy in such societies. There are some figures one is actually since 1967 power has never passed from one elected government to another in Africa. Rather than turn the power over to another party, governments voted to institute one party states, or either have regimes that were single party regimes or ... like Botswana or ... Why do you believe that South Africa might be different?

WDK. Well I think that in the first place the white settlement, if you can refer to the whites as a white settlement in South Africa is a very, very meaningful part of the very important part of the whole South African scene. Our input, referring to whites now, and the tradition of something of democracy, apartheid was also something of a kind of a democracy, that we built here and the whole economic system and so on that you can't shunt us out, so that is my first answer. My second answer is that after the history, history changes, the whole framework of history changed with the collapse of Eastern Europe. So we're not in the Africa of Ian Smith and Kaunda and when the Portuguese left Southern Africa. We're in a new historic era of democracy in the whole world. Do you agree with me on that?

POM. Oh I agree, but there's still a lot of work.

WDK. It's a new global scene I would say, and that's why I'm very optimistic that black people can't do what they like to do in South Africa when the politics are also internationalised and democracy is now the field of political philosophy and political strategy in the rest of the world.

POM. But the other side of, the collapse of totalitarianism is to Europe, is of course the rise of minority nationalism and nationalist ...

WDK. I know and I expect that but not now. I expect that in five years time.

POM. I found your statement in your book about the fact that the National Party has never said that apartheid was evil to be a very open question. You don't think at some point the party will have to acknowledge that guilt, that there must be some kind of a cleansing process before real trust can develop and new accommodations made.

WDK. I still believe that that's necessary and I know that that specific point in my book was a very irritating paragraph for the State President and his Cabinet but I firmly believe that that is necessary. The psychology of the whole development in South Africa is such that FW de Klerk must stand up in parliament and he must clearly admit that the whole apartheid era is now over for ever and that we're really sorry about it. I think that he must do that.

POM. What obstacles are in the way of doing that? I cannot relate that to statements you made about how Afrikaner tribalism in which one of the tenets of belief is that no one group or institution should dominate another, so you appear to have the practice of Afrikaner tribalism and the religious belief, in a way, at complete variance with each other.

WDK. Yes, yes, to a certain extent yes but I think that one of the obstacles for FW is that that's not the way a politician goes around the thing. Any politicians in the world are not willing easily to admit their faults and their errors in the past. But I think gradually he will become more and more aware of the fact, also from his very deeply religious concepts, that he must do this kind of thing for the reconciliation process.

POM. Again I quote, and we've covered some of it but I want you to elaborate a little on it, you said that the NP's stated policy is power sharing in essence. This seems to imply that white power is to be shared with black power, thus once again a matter of racial groups. Who will be sharing power with whom, the notion of sharing black power with white power runs counter to the concept of a non-racial democracy.

WDK. Yes that's still my point of view.

POM. That is still your point of view. So I want to tease you out a little. Have the National Party, are the National Party still there or have they actually in terms of their stated policy moved beyond that, understanding that power sharing in that way is a transitional kind of a power sharing and that the next stage is inevitably black majority rule.

WDK. That's more or less, as you probably know, that was the book of Larry Schlemmer and ... a kind of a dualism that during the transition there must be a kind of a "black power" in the white parliament and in a kind of a coalition with each other. I believe that National Party thinking now is that in the transition it must be power sharing between black and white groupings, but that recognise the fact that that can't be the final solution. It will be unacceptable for the ANC. The ANC wants power. The ANC works with the majority principle and we haven't any hope at all from the point of view of numbers to be an equal partner as white people with the black groupings in the future in the medium and long term.

POM. Not to belabour the point, but that may well be the understanding within the National Party but I don't think I have seen any statements by senior members of the National Party who actually have moved beyond that point of power sharing as a transitional step to ...

WDK. Well I think that's part of the strategy for negotiation. That everyone wants to come with his plan A to negotiation. I think the plan A that the National Party will put on the table will be a more or less equal power sharing of white and black, of political parties then, political parties with the National Party representing more or less the whites and that's their plan A. But I think they're willing to compromise on this and to say let's do this during the transition and let's carry on with negotiations and let it be a provisional constitution for the next 5 - 10 years and let's get things developing. I think that will be their compromise.

POM. Last year there was a lot of emphasis always put on Mandela regarding the State President as a man of integrity and whenever a crisis arose Mandela would invariably be asked, or the ANC would be asked, whether Mandela still regarded FW as a man of integrity. One notices that that is no longer heard and you have senior people within the ANC, Chris Hani for example, who say we no longer regard FW de Klerk as a man of integrity. What do you think accounts for that, or do you think that's a correct assessment and if it is what would account for the change?

WDK. Well I would say that there was a very close relationship between Mandela and FW de Klerk which has collapsed over heated expectations from Mandela's point of view from FW de Klerk, not from the National Party as such itself. And gradually there was a kind of a strained, they developed a strained kind of relationship between them with a lot of misunderstandings and so on and Mandela is an old-fashioned politician, he's very, kind of an adamant man, and he felt that he's not respected enough by FW de Klerk. So it was a personal thing and they talked it out, I know that, and afterwards everything was settled. And I think that they, the ANC and Mandela, etc., etc., and that they still believe in the integrity of FW de Klerk. I believe in his integrity but that is not, they don't want to push this thing. It's also part of their negotiation strategy and to be seen by their power base as not too near FW de Klerk. I think it's a question of strategy. I think in the inner circles of the ANC they still believe that he's a man of integrity, he's a man of his word and that there's no double agenda, at least in his head, and that they can do business with him.

POM. But you, just there, you draw a distinction between their belief that there is a double agenda in terms of the destabilisation but that it's not necessarily the double agenda of FW. When we look at the performance of the ANC over the last year, I know from where we saw it in Boston and Washington, you seemed to have the ANC on a zigzag course, first they insisted that the government was being the instigator of the violence in the townships, then they called for the resignation of Vlok and Malan and then their change of heart on that. They seemed to zig one way and zag the other. What do you think accounts for that zigzagging?

WDK. Well I think that it's first of all an organisational problem and I think it's a communication problem within their own ranks and after their congress now in July they received a specific mandate and chose new leadership and I think they will settle down now and there will be more consistency in their public pronouncements.

POM. Do you think they're yet at a point where they are ready to enter into negotiations or that they need another few years?

WDK. No, I think that they're ready for negotiations and I think that they're very, very eager to start negotiations sooner than later. So I think they're ready to negotiate and this whole Inkatha thing, that's a delay and it all depends on how the government will handle this thing. It all depends on FW stating ...

POM. Just, since you mentioned Inkatha, and I notice some of the newspapers here are called the recent crisis "Inkathagate", who are the winners and losers and what is the political fall-out?

WDK. The whole Inkatha thing.

POM. Inkatha is the loser?

WDK. Inkatha is the loser, yes. I would say Inkatha's influence and, well it only amounts to a 7% support, but Inkatha's standing in South African politics, it received a severe blow with this whole thing and I think Inkatha was the loser.

POM. How about the Government?

WDK. The government? Yes, and the credibility of the government is very tarnished at this point in time. If FW sat and perhaps announced a lot of drastic measures and so on regarding secret, the secret funding and so on, I think it's possible for him to restore the credibility.

POM. But in the absence of his taking drastic measures this could become a serious obstacle to negotiations.

WDK. A serious obstacle to negotiations. A very serious obstacle.

POM. Again going to one of your quotes,. you say that, "War and violence will always be with us. They were in our blood, the very air we breathe. At no point in our history have we been free of them nor shall we ever be free. South Africa too is a land of violence. We shall simply have to live with that violence as part of our national tradition." Would you elaborate on that?

WDK. Very outspoken point of view. Yes, I would say that we've had wars from the beginning, from Jan Van Riebeeck's time and there is a kind of a violent way to find solutions for problems that start off the tradition within the Afrikaner ranks, within the black community. Violence is really part of solution-solving in South Africa history and we will always have that awful question of class, the question of the problem of unemployment, the problem of education, the black masses. It will take years and years to re-educate black people, I don't want to generalise but let's say the masses of black people, to re-educate them in democratic methods of solving problems.

POM. But we're kind of going in a circle because we can also acknowledge that attempting to get democratic measures to resolve that conflict in divided societies has been extraordinarily difficult and then probably only successful, or half successful, in very few. So if I read you correctly you are saying that for a long to come violence will be part of the South African landscape.

WDK. Yes, I think so.

POM. Now in relationship to that you have a business community, an economist was saying that that the salvation of the economy lies in the attraction of foreign investment and that in turn depends upon there being a climate of stability and order and you suggest that kind of stability and order will not be there.

WDK. Well it all depends what is, there's degrees of violence that if we have violence that we experienced the last six months I think that will simmer down if once Mandela, Buthelezi, de Klerk can find accord, if the interim government, or the profile of the interim government is instituted then I think there will be a simmering down of violence but it will always be a potent force in South African society and that's the worrying factor, that's the worrying factor for the economy that people abroad want to see stability and people abroad are very sceptical about black rule, that's also after their experience in Africa, and that's the worrying factor for us. And luckily the blacks accept the fact that people abroad are not really very optimistic that they can run the show really in South Africa and that therefore they must form a transition that is seen by the people abroad as accommodating white decisions and white participation in government.

POM. There are just two more questions I'll need. I don't want to overdo it but I think it's central in some way if not now in the future, even now in a sense, two things struck me as similar to lining up who talks about the ethnic dimension in South Africa and academics who do the research on this, it's invariably white academics who lay far more stress on ethnicity and South Africa being a classically divided society than do black academics. Now quite a number of people including Larry Schlemmer, whether even in quite liberal circles there would kind of be a taboo about saying 'Well I think the problem here is that there may be many ethnic groups potentially in conflict'. Now in adopting that position they seem to be adopting, at least suggesting in some way, that the analysis by the government was correct because they got the answer to it, the answer to it was incorrect. Do you think there's an element of doubt that?

WDK. I think so yes. I want to admit that ethnic awareness and ethnic fears for the future development that's really in all societies in South Africa. I want to admit that definitely but I think that within black and white opinion formers that there's also the acknowledgement, I want to analyse it, also the acknowledgement that for the first phase we will come nowhere with anything based on ethnicity. It won't be accepted.

POM. That's because the ANC?

WDK. As a kind of a camouflaged apartheid.

POM. I think I've covered this but I have been a bit confused. You were talking about, you see I will admit there that the movement did not pave the way for radical or separate development. It would be a good deal later towards the end of 1988, towards acceptance of the fact that a black majority government was inevitable and need not spell disaster. That was dictated by PW Botha's fall. At that stage FW had not accepted his point of view but he was on the threshold of a breakthrough. In a discussion he intimated that he realised that power should be shared with blacks and that the black majority should certainly be presented with a counter poll, namely joint decision making and the safeguarding of minorities. Now am I correct in saying that he has essentially gone beyond that point to the acceptance of the inevitability of black majority rule.

WDK. I would say that. If you are in South Africa and follow the papers every day, you will see that they don't use the words 'power sharing' any more.

POM. They don't?

WDK. They're very, very cautious. Here and there. But FW, the words 'power sharing' are played down, the concept of power sharing. So it is now, a non-racial democracy and with the protection of minority rights via the different mechanisms such as proportional representation and a higher House and that kind of thing.

POM. Just a little paragraph where you talk about the enlightened movement and you say that Calvinism has an age-old principle of defined sovereignty within one's own sphere and the concept of how we valued the Calvinist idea of freedom, the individual, the Church, the family, the State, the institutions of State, each would have its own rights and duties. No institution will dominate another. The entire practice of apartheid would be a denial of the very essence of Calvinism.

WDK. Yes, that's my true belief. They want to say apartheid is a child of Calvinistic philosophy but that's not true. There's no sharing as in Calvinism. That's the basic philosophy of Calvinism is that paragraph that you've looked at.

POM. So how would you explain it?

WDK. I don't blame Calvinism for apartheid.

POM. How did the culture rationalise this? How did it decide that? Religion preached one thing and it's political practices indulged another. They found a way to reconcile the two.

WDK. That was the kind of idealistic thing that we are a nation, the Afrikaner, and from our Calvinistic point of view that was it. From our Calvinistic point of view of reasoning we have a right of existence, we must maintain our own traditions, etc., etc. That was more or less the way people reasoned, but then not, you can still reason like that but then not by subjecting others to your authority via the ways of apartheid. Do you understand that?

POM. Yes, I understand. I was asked Dr Heyns last year in fact, that question of how the church had never said apartheid was evil and he said well the church had said that it was wrong but I felt that was not a very good answer quite frankly. It was a long way short of saying that it was evil.

WDK. The essence of the whole thing is that I think from the Calvinistic point of view the Afrikaner people were really sinners in the whole apartheid philosophy and policy.

POM. Do you think that, again we're back to the question of acknowledgement of an apartheid debt, do you think that the Afrikaner community in particular can be brought to a point of acknowledging that it was evil, that out of that acknowledgement would come a greater willingness to sacrifice their standard of life so that the country as a whole can be healed and better off?

WDK. I believe that. I think all Afrikaners, especially the upper classes, intellectuals and the middle class, yes, I believe that there will have to be acknowledgement. We must acknowledge the fact that it was evil and it's necessary for us to build the new South Africa and to sacrifice in building the new South Africa.

POM. Just a couple of last questions, we have taken enough of your time. How would you assess the last year in terms of progress? Has it exceeded your expectations, are things just about where you thought they would be this time last year? Or has the whole process got slowed down a bit?

WDK. Well I think the process got slowed down a bit but from the beginning, initially I was not so optimistic that we can progress any faster. I foresee, and many others with me, that the year 1991 will be a very difficult year. There's not clarity on a lot of issues, we're still in the pre-negotiation stage and that the real breakthrough will come if everything goes according to plan, call it a green light scenario, if everything goes according to plan, willingness to compromise, etc., etc., and that the real breakthrough will be somewhere during the first half of 1992. That was my initial forecast, so to say. And so I'm not very worried about this year. I think there were a lot of things happened. It was a year of first of all giving the government the opportunity to set the record straight regarding all the apartheid legislation and so on. It was a year of intense negotiations behind the scenes. It's still part of tidying up the old regime before we can progress, have progress in the negotiations. So it's a typical year of transition.

POM. Not to make comparisons but in Northern Ireland they have attempted peace talks some months ago and the talks broke down. They really never got beyond procedural points. What do you think has kept the process on track here despite some very large and very serious difficulties?

WDK. I would say because there is the acknowledgement of the fact that there's no other option to solve South Africa's problems. The only option is negotiation and compromise and I think that the culture of compromise and negotiation really is growing and growing in South Africa and it is perceived as really the only option.

POM. Last year there was a lot of talk about the Conservative Party and the threat of right wing violence, where do you see the threat of right wing violence and where do you see the Conservative Party, has it peaked? Is it becoming stronger or is it becoming increasingly irrelevant?

WDK. Well I would say it's becoming increasingly irrelevant. I will motivate that: there's two lines of thought also in academic circles. I think Lawrence Schlemmer, for instance, is much more worried about the Conservative Party than I am. I think that the Conservative Party may represent more or less 25% to 30% of the white vote. But I believe I know that there's a lot of supporters of the Conservative Party that's not really convinced and hard core CP conservatives. I think there's a floating vote within the Conservative Party and it will, if negotiations succeed and if the atmosphere in the country can be that of acceptance of black majority, that more or less 10% of the CP support will flow back to the National Party. So I'm not worried even if in the total vote they represent more or less 4%.

POM. More or less 4%?

WDK. 4% of the total South African vote. But yes, they can't delay the process, they can't derail the process or delay the process but I think that they like terrorism and violence from the right wing, white right wing, that we must accept that and that's going to be a nuisance. They've got nuisance value but they can't derail or they can't destabilise the country, they can't derail it and they can't delay it.

POM. A few people last year, I made an analogy between the Council of Northern Ireland and the Afrikaners, the Protestants of Ulster were outraged by the Anglo/Irish Agreement of 1985 and took all kind of actions to destroy it, including militancy. But because they became part of a psychology, these are the people of law and order, always talk about law and order and respect for the law, their paramilitary groups never really gained any small public acceptance. Do you think that Afrikaners, that their psychology is to abide to the law and order and there will never be a significant number who would turn to militancy?

WDK. I think that's typical of the Afrikaner. We are not a militant people. That's the exception to the rule. We accept, Afrikaners are very adaptable, that's part of our history. We adapt to circumstances and we want to survive and we're very level headed, really. The typical Afrikaner is very level headed, pragmatic kind of a man. I think the ultra right wing attracts more or less fringe lunatics and extremists and so on but that's not part of Afrikaner.

POM. Thank you very much.

WDK. Do you believe what I've told you?

POM. When we come back this time next year where do you think things will be at that point?

WDK. Well I would say that the All-Party Conference will be under way and they will draft a kind of a broad declaration of intent and there will be a closer relationship, even in opposition, between the ANC and the government and that they will begin to prepare for the referendum during the end of 1993/beginning 1994.

POM. So they're in the peculiar position of being mutually dependant upon each other?

WDK. Definitely, yes. That's very true. They need each other. They need each other desperately and I'm also not worried about Mandela's so-called shadow Cabinet, the 25 people of the ANC. They're all people that one can deal with, even Chris Hani and Cyril Ramaphosa. They're very strong persons, strong personalities, strong convictions, more or less radical but one can do business with a strong leader as much as a weak leader. And I'm not worried about Cyril Ramaphosa, Thabo Mbeki and they're actually the new leadership in the ANC. Mandela is an outgoing figure but he's essential for the next two years. He's the authority within the ANC but the next line of leadership in the ANC, I mean I'm very happy with it.

PAT. The distinction between the government party and the National Party, who needs each other when you say they need each other? Are you talking about the ANC and the government or the ANC and the National Party? Many people in the National Party and some in the government go at length to get us to understand that one wants to separate the National Party from the government as it proceeds down this track. Is that a convention that is going to be easy with you to make that separation, it's difficult for me.

WDK. I don't think that's possible. The government and National Party are one thing.

PAT. And the President receives his mandate from?

WDK. From the National Party, yes. But I don't think you can separate the National Party from the government. I would say that the National Party needs the consensus of the ANC to govern and perhaps assess and to find reconciliation. They can't do it without the ANC. And the ANC can't do it without the National Party. Because I think the National Party is representative of all the whites, except the CP people. Never mind the DP, a liberal party, they also accept FW de Klerk as more or less their leader.

POM. So you couldn't envisage a situation where the National Party would send a team of negotiators to the negotiating table and these negotiators would not be members of the government or belong to another political party, that they would hammer out an agreement with the other parties around the table for example on procedure, the declaration of intention or whatever, that they would then go back to the government and say here's what we, all the parties at this table agree to this. Now would the government still have a veto over it?

WDK. Well I would say the government would have a veto formally being the government but I don't think they would use the veto. I think the government would accept the recommendations of the negotiation forum, but I think that it would be very unwise of the negotiating forum by consensus on any issue to reject it. So I would say the outcome of the negotiations will be accepted by the government.

POM. Last, last, last question! Where does the South African Communist Party fit in this whole scheme?

WDK. I'm not very worried about the South African Communist Party you know. There were a lot of hard line communists within the Communist Party but their support on grassroots level is really not that high. Of course the ANC is orientated in the direction of socialism but they're definitely not communists. I would say their first priority, their first loyalty even of black people is that have a dual membership of the ANC. I would say that the SACP uses the ANC at this moment for support and the ANC is loyal to the SACP because that was their friend in hard times, their sponsor. But I think they will gradually separate and next year July, there will be a separate Communist Party, perhaps in alliance with the ANC but I don't think they have really very many supporters. I'm not worried about them. They've got very able people, for instance Joe Slovo, but the ANC will also accept the fact that they must kind of get their distance from the SACP.

POM. OK. Thank you ever so much.

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.