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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

30 Jul 1991: Naudé, Beyers

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM. We're talking with the Reverend Beyers Naudé on the 30th July. I'll read this statement first and then I'd like you to react to it and what I'm after is the perceptions of different people about the nature of the problem that the negotiators will be sitting down at the table to negotiate and a recent book characterises it this way: it said there is disagreement over the extent to which the conflict is about race as opposed to being about oppression merely in the guise of race or among nationalisms between groups demarcated by race or about contending to change to the same land. There's disagreement over the identification and even the names of the racial categories and there is disagreement over the extent to which the conflict also involves ethnic differences within each of the racial categories. There is no consensus whether a future South Africa might also be divided along racial and ethnic lines and if so how severe such divisions might become and there's discord over what measures might be required to reduce future conflicts. In short there is a lack of a common perceptual flame, there is conflict about the nature of the conflict. In your view, what is the nature of the conflict that negotiators would be sitting at a table to reach an accommodation over?

BN. Basically I wish to agree with that analysis which you have just read.

POM. You would agree with it?

BN. I would agree with it because I believe that the basic and the fundamental differences in approach they are much deeper than first of all your western nations realise. They are also much deeper than the Afrikaners, the white Afrikaners in South Africa realise. I think they are to be seen and to be understood only if you are able to follow and to analyse properly the long nature of oppression, of a system of political and economic and social and education injustice which has been inflicted for more than a century on the black community. But if I could summarise it I would say that on the other hand it is true that both the major parties, namely the ANC on the one hand and the government on the other hand, are aware of the fact that this conflict has to be reconciled, not necessarily fully solved because I do not believe it can be fully solved in 15, 20 or 25 years. Even if a new political dispensation came about, even if there is a democratic government on a non-racial basis, the underlying strains and tensions of that conflict will continue for many, many decades as you see for instance continue also in the United States.

POM. Do you think that they have to take cognisance of that while they are negotiating and that it will require the setting up of special kinds of government structures to reduce the potential for such conflicts in the future.

BN. They will have to take cognisance of the major points of difference, there's no doubt about that. Those major points, I think if I could summarise them it would be, number one, what is the nature of the democracy, of the concept of democracy which de Klerk has in his mind and which Nelson Mandela has in his mind. Secondly, what is the nature of the minority rights insistence which the government has on the one hand and of the concept of the protection of certain minority rights which the ANC has agreed to, that has not yet been resolved. Thirdly, there will have be to a much clearer understanding on the process which has to be followed in order to move to a fully democratic rule where there are serious and fundamental differences of how we're going to achieve them and these have not been resolved and I think it's going to take a substantially long period before they can be.

POM. So would I be correct in saying that in your understanding there is at this point a fundamental difference in the concepts of democracy as espoused by the ANC and the concept of democracy as espoused by the government?

BN. Well this is how I deduct it. My problem is that the government has not spelt out in any document the nature of the democracy that it is wishing to present. It is vaguely talking of minority rights, of the rights of ethnic groups to be, and language and other rights to be protected, but has not spelt it out. But on the surface of it, it seems to me that there is a serious conflict in that regard. It will depend on what de Klerk and Gerrit Viljoen will come out with eventually when the process of negotiation starts.

POM. Do you believe in line with that analysis that I read out that South Africa is what would be called a severely divided society, a divided society in the sense in which it's used with regard to such societies as Northern Ireland, as Cyprus, where there are deep cleavages between people of different ethnic origins or different religions where one has dominated the other or seeks to dominate the other? What I'm getting at is, is the ANC totally opposed to recognising possible ethnic dimensions to the conflict because to recognise in any way ethnic dimensions to the conflict seems to suggest the government was right, that the government who had created apartheid and the whole theory of separate development was right but got the solution wrong?

BN. I am basing my answer on the pronouncements which have been made by the ANC in which the ANC has said from the beginning that it recognises the differences, the ethnic, language, religious, cultural differences which there are and it does in no way wish to move away from those differences or the existence thereof. These are recognised and as far as your religious and certain other freedoms are concerned the ANC has stated very clearly that it will equally also protect them. But it is on the basis of ethnic representation in a future political structure where the ANC has said: here we are not prepared to make any concession. Because once that in principle is agreed to by the ANC it means that apartheid in another form is then being in fact incorporated into a future constitution of South Africa. And that the ANC wants to prevent at all costs.

POM. So when a periodical like The Economist of London, which is a very influential periodical both in Europe and in the United States, when it says as it said recently in an editorial that the violence between, in the townships, they characterise as being violence between the Xhosa and the Zulus which they said for the most part was not dissimilar from the violence between Serbs and Croatians at the moment in Yugoslavia. Would you find that analogy appropriate or inappropriate?

BN. No I do not think that that is a proper analogy. I am not denying the tensions, the historic and traditional tensions between the Xhosas and the Zulus. This is a reality which we have got to acknowledge. But I would dispute that these historic and traditional tensions are the cause of the violence. They are being used by certain powers within the government, within the security force, within Inkatha, within the whole group of your secret operations to exploit those traditional feelings of tension which there were, for their own political ends. And we've seen this very clearly now in their relations which have come out, of the way in which the government has funded Inkatha, and the way in which people in fact, certain specific people are exploiting those feelings in order to promote their own political views.

POM. Is there any doubt in your mind at this point that the government has in fact been pursuing this double agenda, on the one hand holding out the olive branch for talks and on the other hand undertaking operations deliberately designed to undermine the ANC?

BN. There's no doubt in my mind. I mean we in the churches have been following this very carefully and critically and it was our conviction already a long time ago that this was happening. The only problem was we could not prove it. And now the government was forced to come out with this admission of what has been happening.

POM. Do you think sufficient proof has emerged at this point to prove conclusively that this was an orchestrated campaign undertaken by the government?

BN. Oh there is no doubt in my mind that this has been proved and I'm convinced that what will come out further will more and more convince us of it.

POM. Where does this put de Klerk? I mean on the one hand he either knew about it, in which case he was part of it and by no means a man of integrity, or on the other hand ...

BN. I'm not saying that he knew everything. I mean, you know much better than I do how a government operates and he allows and he gives the necessary authority to ministers and others under him who have a large measure of freedom to operate with the necessary reporting to him. I do not believe that he orchestrated it. I do not believe that he knew the extent to which this was being done. I believe that he knew in principle that they have, for instance, decided to support the anti-sanctions or the anti-sanctions campaign, the pro-sanctions campaign, anti-sanctions campaign of Inkatha and the others, he approved of that, there's no doubt in my mind. But I do not believe that he was aware of in actual fact the kind of actions which were being undertaken.

POM. Yet Mr. Mandela himself over the course of the past year must have gone to Mr. de Klerk on numerous occasions bringing with him evidence in specific cases of collusion between the SAP and Inkatha and yet on every occasion Mr. de Klerk seemed to reject the evidence that was being presented to him.

BN. I think I should, if there is any misunderstanding from my answer, let me put it this way by saying that I do not believe that he knew right in the beginning what was happening. But there is no doubt about it that with the evidence which Nelson Mandela and the ANC provided him with after the May summit in Groote Schuur, the August summit in Pretoria, and other ones, he knew in fact what was happening. He could not for a single moment ever state that he was unaware of that. And our problem was to what degree was he part of it and to what degree was he in a certain sense a victim of it that he, in view of the powerful positions of Malan and of Vlok and of the others, that he dare not move in case this may lead possibly to a military coup or to a bi-election where in the climate, the white climate in which we find ourselves in South Africa, it would not have been impossible for the Conservative Party to gain a substantial increase in votes.

POM. Did you ...?

BN. As the fact, the fact that last night now he demoted Malan and Vlok is to me an indication of his indirect response and reply to these gentlemen and to their actions by saying, this is my way in which I'm saying I do not approve of the ways in which this has been done.

POM. Also there's been a certain violation of trust. Many people have said to us in the last week that Nelson Mandela would not easily again refer to Mr. de Klerk as a man of integrity.

BN. And de Klerk will have to prove it from now onwards much more clearly than he has done.

POM. So a lot more, from my question, is if there is to be a climate that is conducive to negotiations and that climate will have to build on some level of mutual trust and whatever mutual trust existed last year seems to have been severely eroded by the events of the last year.

BN. That is quite correct. I agree with that.

POM. So what other steps do you think will be necessary for Mr. de Klerk to take in order to start rebuilding that climate of trust again?

BN. Well, first of all, the government will have to come clean, come into the open with regard to all the major covert financial support that they've given to other organisations. Not only what has been admitted but also the others, the major ones. I don't think it's ever possible to come out with everything, but that will have to be done. The ANC will have to be assured from the government that before it starts the process of negotiation that there is no major hidden agenda which is still being operated by the government and therefore the government will have to bring this forward. Secondly I believe it would be essential that the people who have been guilty of these kinds of actions that they should be charged. There should be actions taken against them otherwise there will be very little hope of any meaningful process of negotiation.

POM. And the violence itself doesn't seem to have been brought under any significant degree of control yet. As distinct from your hope, is it your belief that this Peace Conference that is now meeting periodically to draw up a code of conduct for the police, etc., do you think it will be successful in bringing the violence under control as distinct from just alleviating it slightly or is the violence itself a symptom of this divided society?

BN. That's very difficult to answer that question for me. I believe that eventually the violence will be brought under control but it will take much longer than either the ANC on the one hand, or those within the government who wish to see that the violence should be eliminated, it will take much longer than either of them wish to have because they are dealing with people, individuals and with small groups within the security force, namely the army and the police, who have got their own agenda and they've got their own ways of acting and many of them are very strong supporters of either the Conservative Party policy or of the AWB and they are the ones who despite any resolution taken and agreement reached between the ANC and the government on the other hand, will still continue to do their own thing.

POM. Do you think that the right wing, i.e. the Conservative Party, has grown stronger or weaker over the last year? A number of people have said to us that they are on the verge of becoming irrelevant unless they come into the process?

BN. As a political force in negotiating the future of the country they are making themselves more irrelevant by their refusal or unwillingness to come into the process of debate and discussion. But as a force from which uncontrolled forms of violence could emanate because of the stand that they take and their total refusal to adhere to certain of these processes, there they could be definitely be a source of very, very serious embarrassment and also of conflict between the government on the one hand, or between the ANC on the one hand and those AWB members on the other hand. Who is going to control them? I mean if the army and the police don't take action against them and it is their closest friends, one must never forget, all your members of the Conservative Party, the AWB, they are the ones from whom the ranks of the Police Force was built up here in the past number of years. It's only in the last 2 or 3 years that with the blacks coming in and others there is a new balance of power within the Police Force, but one should not under-estimate their insistence on acting violently.

POM. When you look at the fallout from what is possibly loosely called Inkathagate, who in your view are the main political winners and who are the main political losers and what overall impact do you think it will have on the ongoing negotiating process?

BN. Sorry, you mean if I look at the government on the one hand?

POM. Well if you look at, you've got the government, you've got the ANC and you've got Inkatha and Buthelezi. Who has won here, who has lost and what do you think will be the overall impact of it with regard to whatever structure of negotiations emerge?

BN. Well first of all I would like to say that the individual and the group which has lost most is Inkatha. There is no doubt in my mind, and it's quite ironic to see and to perceive now that the very same body which supported Inkatha so strongly and so unreservedly and I would like to say also almost unconditionally, that same body unwittingly is now the main force which is undermining, or has undermined, the acceptability and the public image of its own leader, namely Buthelezi. I think Inkatha is the body which is definitely going to lose most. The body which has gained from what has happened is the ANC. There's no doubt about it that the ANC at the present moment is able to stand on a much higher moral ground despite serious failings and weaknesses on the part of the ANC. Much will depend on the way in which the ANC will respond to what is happening. I was struck by the fact that within the ANC despite the fact that they could put serious allegations against the government, it was done in a restrained, in a responsible manner. And I think it is because the ANC realise that despite all these problems the process of negotiation must go ahead. The ANC also realises if de Klerk is not there as the leader with whom this process has to be promoted and to be taken further, if another person has to take his place, Treurnicht or even somebody else in the Nationalist Party, the process of negotiation will be much more difficult to achieve. There is, therefore, a political realism in the leadership of the ANC that this is the way in which to handle the matter.

POM. So to that extent you still see de Klerk as being an indispensable element in this whole process.

BN. Oh yes.

POM. Recently there was a poll, or before I go on to that I'll finish off on one stream of thought. Since 1967 with one exception there have been no cases in Africa of where power has passed from one elected government to another. Either the countries have become one party states or one party has so dominated other parties that elections are meaningless in the sense of there being a transfer of power. Why do you think it might be different in South Africa?

BN. There are a number of reasons, sorry could I just interrupt myself by saying, please have a cup of coffee otherwise it's getting cold? There are a number of reasons why South Africa is different. First of all the proportion of black to white in our country is substantially different from any other country in Africa. Secondly, the major role which the whites have played in politically building up the country and its future both politically and economically is vastly different from that of any other African country. And thirdly, because I believe that the religious forces especially emanating from the churches in South Africa have played here a much more important and decisive role than they have played in any other African country. And with the active role which the churches have taken and are taking in the struggle for social justice this is a force which plays a very important influence, also in reconciling people from different races and cultures as we have seen for instance happening here in the past number of months.

POM. Just apropos that, do you think the fact that the churches here have historically played a major role in the liberation movement and given the basic Christianity of millions of Africans that this undermines, would result in there not being a real base of support for the Communist Party?

BN. You know I would rather start by saying, where in Africa has communism been a success? I think the major problem is that within your African society, African community, their belief in a Supreme Being is so deep and so strong, their belief in a God, their concept of God is so strong that no communist approach which emphasises, for instance, the need for an atheistic approach will ever be able to make any meaningful impact on the African mind as it is at the present moment. And secondly, I believe that the strong presence and influence of the Christian faith has made an indirect contribution in keeping that sense of the being of God, the rule of God alive, especially because you've had committed Christians who have equally struggled for social justice alongside of communists. On the other hand I think one must be very careful not to over-emphasise that because the government itself, the government can only blame itself for the fact that it has given an authority and has given an image of credibility to the Communist Party and an influence which I think the Communist Party itself would never on its own have been able to establish. Because every person who was against apartheid was deemed or stated or declared a communist. Now that was the best advertisement which the Communist Party or the communist ideology could ever get. So the government can only blame itself if the Communist Party is strong. Nobody else.

POM. Last year we had talked about majority rule and whether you thought that at this time last year the government had conceded on the issue of majority rule and as I recall your response was that they had not conceded in the sense of one man one vote resulting.

BN. No, not yet. Not yet. Because I may be wrong, there are many pronouncements that you don't get, but my question is; where do we have a statement from the government at this point in time of what they would like to propose when they enter the process of negotiation with regard to the issue of one man one vote, with regard to the issue of what kind of a democracy would they wish to have? They have not made any clear statements in this regard. Will they continue, for instance, to insist that the homeland structure should remain? Will they continue to say that there should be a guarantee for the political minority groups built into the constitution? We don't know. And because that reply does not come very clear, it's very difficult to know then what to expect in this regard. My impression is that time and again when the government is put under pressure it makes a small concession in this regard. I've read in the Sowetan yesterday that now for the first time Gerrit Viljoen has indicated that there could be now a discussion with regard to the whole question of ethnic minorities and ethnic rights. Now he is not very clear in what he is saying, but my impression is that the government may have its own mind but it's not willing to reveal that before they enter into the process of negotiation. And that's part I think of the problem. If it were to be much clearer then one could go ahead.

POM. So in your view there has been no evolution in your understanding of what the government policy on majority rule was last year or this year?

BN. I think that evolution has taken place behind the scenes. I believe that there is a very serious discussion and debate going on within the government, especially your leading government figures, of where they would like to go, but they have not made it known yet. They're keeping this back I suppose, until they enter into the process of negotiation. And I think that's part of the reason why in your black community there is so little trust in the government because they say we do not know clearly, definitely what the government has in mind.

POM. On the question of a Constituent Assembly the ANC have reiterated their demands for this on innumerable occasions and given that is there any way that they could back away from requiring a Constituent Assembly to be the medium that would draw up a new constitution?

BN. I would say that depending on other concessions and agreements and understandings which could be reached, theoretically it could happen that if the decision, the final decision, the crucial decision will depend on whether the ANC will make a concession in that regard, if the ANC believes that that could help them on the way to their eventual goal even though it may take longer, I would not be surprised if a concession could be made there in some or other way. But it seems to me that what is now emerging is first of all the whole idea of the Multi-Party Conference. And then out of the Multi-Party Conference some way in which there will be a kind of an agreement between the ANC on the one hand and the government on the other hand to move in such a way that neither the government nor the ANC loses too much and they can both then sell their policy. But the one point which I think may well be the major conflict is where the government perhaps may still have in mind the fact that they eventually want to be in control, in political control, there is no way in which this could happen eventually.

POM. They want to be the referee and a player at the same time.

BN. It's not possible. But, therefore, I think in this whole tussle and this situation of conflict, the debate and the discussion and negotiation could take much longer than anybody at the present moment here may realise. That's why when people say we'll have everything ready within a year or so, I just can't see it happening. I just can't see it. Because the government will have to refer back to its constituency, the ANC will have to refer back, they will have to discuss and debate, the trade unions will be involved, the civic bodies will be involved, the women will be involved. The whole process through which the ANC negotiates, as you've seen, for instance, also at the national conference where the representation was a wide representation on a very strong democratic model of the country. And where the ANC have learnt the lesson from the previous Consultative Conference where it had moved ahead too fast and not consulted enough with its groups at the grass roots local and regional level and therefore you had the very strong reaction at the Consultative Conference where they had to tell Thabo Mbeki and the others, sorry, we are not going to support you, for instance, with regard to this matter of sanctions. And Thabo Mbeki had to withdraw and I think that lesson has been learnt by the ANC, but the ANC will also have to build up its network of communication between itself and on the national, regional and local level much more than it's done in the past. If that process is there then I think there will be a regular flow of communication within the ANC which will enable the leadership to know much more clearly what the feelings are of its own people at the grass roots.

POM. Do you think the ANC is, they brought this up at their conference, that the ANC is in danger of becoming an urban African party as distinct from a broad-based party drawing its constituency from blacks, sorry from Africans, from Indians from Coloureds and from whites?

BN. I think that danger did start to develop but what has happened since then in the way in which, for instance, there has been this active discussion with your homeland leaders and with the traditional chiefs in which they bring them in in the constant discussion, that will certainly eliminate that. I believe the ANC is fully aware of the fact that if it really wishes to be a political party in the real sense of the word it has to involve much more meaningfully and regularly its people in the rural areas in the homelands. And from everything that I hear the ANC is concentrating on ensuring there should not be that gap which arises between your rural communities on the one hand and the urban community of the ANC on the other hand.

POM. But was this perception last year given the composition of the leadership of the ANC that it was perhaps predominantly a Xhosa oriented organisation? Do you think it has taken steps since then to diffuse that situation?

BN. I can't prove what I'm saying but my feeling is that very intense discussion and debate is taking place within the leadership of the ANC and that they have taken a number of steps including, for instance, here you think of the leading position of Jacob Zuma and of others, that they have taken active steps in order to as it were even out that balance in so far as it is possible for them. One of the major problems is that many of their supporters within the Zulu community are afraid to come out openly in support of the ANC because of the tremendous pressures there were from Inkatha. But I think after these events of the last two weeks Inkatha will find itself in a much more weakened position, that there will be many, many more of your people coming forward. You've seen that, for instance, with Prince Makozini(?) who has been elected on to the Executive of the ANC, who is a leading Zulu and that also increasingly undermines the power and the influence of Buthelezi.

POM. What about Coloureds and Indians?

BN. The ANC I think has seriously neglected the Coloured community. I don't think it was wilful, I think it was simply they were so overwhelmed by the problems that they had to face that they did not take enough into cognisance the feelings of fear on the part of the Coloured community. But from everything that I hear the ANC is very much aware of what has happened in that regard and they are doing their very best in order to rectify that. As far as the Indians are concerned I do not have enough information of what has happened there. Before this Inkathagate scandal I think the Indians would have given much more active support to de Klerk. There is no doubt about that. But with what has emerged now I believe also that many of them will be very, very cautious in not giving any clear and open or public support to de Klerk.

POM. If you looked at the performance of the ANC over the last year, how do you evaluate it? And I would preface that by saying from abroad it appeared that the ANC very often was following a zigzag course, that it laid down for example a date for the release of all political prisoners, that they wouldn't negotiate after that point, that it came and went, they were still in the process, they called for the resignation of Vlok and Malan and another date the 5th May I think and again the date came and went and it seems uneven or it seems from abroad in an uneven problem.

BN. Yes. I think your perception was correct.

POM. And that many commentators abroad would have said that the government maintained the initiative. I know things may have changed now, but ...

BN. But up till then your perception is correct. There is no doubt in my mind and I've also said this to some of the leaders of the ANC when I discussed this with them that they should be aware of the fact that without any doubt the government did gain and grasp and use the initiative. There's no doubt about that. I do not think it was, that the ANC was not aware of that, but I think they had to put their own house in order with regard to their whole organisational structure, their financial position and their whole way of relating much more meaningfully to their people at the grass roots. But two events I think reflect another development now. The first is the conference of the ANC, the national conference of the ANC in Durban. That reflected very clearly a very, very strong disciplined way in which the ANC had operated and it conducted this very successfully with the full support of the people at the grass roots. And secondly, the developments with regard to Inkathagate which have strengthened the ANC's position.

POM. Do you think this Inkathagate as we call it, is a crucial turning point?

BN. You mean for the ANC?

POM. Well for the whole process of negotiation.

BN. I am cautious to make a statement which may sound too categorical, but this is my impression: that both psychologically and emotionally and also indirectly politically it has been a crucial development which has favoured not only the image but also the credibility of the ANC but it will depend on the way in which the ANC is going to use it. If there is enough wisdom and realism and political pragmatism on the part of the ANC not to grab these games and use them purely for their own party political ends but to place it in the framework of a real statesmanlike development then it could very, very strongly help the ANC.

. I also wish to say, although you did not refer to that, that the ANC did not utilise the opportunity of many leading Afrikaners in the academic and in the business and in other fields, to utilise the availability and the support of leading Afrikaners to help the ANC. I think the ANC has discovered that, has acknowledged that and is trying to do its very best also to incorporate much more in different levels the willingness of leading Afrikaners to help the ANC with regard to the future.

. But all in all I would say the ANC has been the major party to gain and to benefit out of this. Inkatha has been the major party here to suffer and it will have to, I think, undertake a tremendous action before its credibility can again be established. And as far as the government is concerned it will depend largely on the leadership of de Klerk, of how he's going to handle this matter further. Funnily, I find in my discussions which I have with our black community that there is a wish and a longing on behalf of many of them that they want active, meaningful support of the white community. That is different with the PAC because the PAC I think is much more Black Consciousness in their strength and their approach in which they say; we simply don't trust anything coming from the white side. I understand it. One must understand it. They've got, I think, many, many valid reasons for feeling that way but the ANC has passed through that phase and they realise that the ideal solution would be where you can get an active involvement of both black and white in order to build a future South Africa and it will only depend on what de Klerk has in mind. If de Klerk feels that he wants to maintain political and military control at all costs he may do this in the short run, he may succeed in the short run, he will lose in the long run. There is no doubt in my mind.

POM. Just talking of the PAC where do you see them at the present moment? If they continue to stay outside the negotiating process do you think they too ...?

BN. They will come in eventually.

POM. They will?

BN. They will eventually come in in some or other way because if they do not come in then they make themselves an irrelevant and a lost cause because they're not organised strongly enough. They're not, both with regard to their organisational structure, with regard to their background, with regard to the active support that they have or that they did not build up, I do not think that, therefore, they are a political force strong enough in order to stand outside.

POM. This time last year too we talked about the lack of political tolerance in South Africa. Is there any, particularly among young people who have been used to being at the forefront of a cultural militancy, do you think anything has happened within the last year that suggests that that intolerance is decreasing or is that intolerance still there in its full form?

BN. You're referring to the black youths?

POM. Yes.

BN. I can only give you my impressions. In the conference of the ANC in Durban the number of young people who were represented, they had different regions in their groups, was very, very high. It was a conference of a younger generation with the exception of the acknowledged leadership. And there the very pragmatic way in which they responded in the debates and the discussions gave me the impression that also there has been a political process of re-thinking and re-evaluating their position where they realise two things; number one, the armed struggle, however many of them wish to see that this is taken up if all else fails, many of them realise it is not possible. Not because they may not feel that it is needed but simply because they realise well enough there is very little hope that they will be able to get the necessary support. The second is that they have realised that there is a growing number of people within the white community who have accepted the fact that your black community will take the leadership, both political and educational in the future of the country. And therefore, because of the difference in attitude and approach on the part of many whites towards them on the local and the regional level a change in attitude has come about where I discerned a much lesser militancy than you had before. And I think if the whites continue in increasing their regular daily contacts with also your young radical blacks on all levels, then I believe that much of that militancy will be steered into more positive directions.

POM. Just two last questions and they both involve, I suppose, a religious factor of a kind. There has been no formal acknowledgement at any time by de Klerk or other members of the government that apartheid was wrong and no apology to the people who were so oppressed for so long. What do you think precludes de Klerk from making that kind of acknowledgement? Or again, can there be a real healing in the absence of such an admission and acknowledgement?

BN. Could I answer your second question first. I do not believe there can be any meaningful healing except if such an admission is made more clearly than Leon Wessels has made. Because he was the only one who made it in that sense. Koornhof, with regard to the question of the removal of the people, he also made that admission two or three days ago. But on the whole if such an admission is not made I do not believe that there could be any meaningful process of healing. And this is a point that we have conveyed to the white Dutch Reformed Church, very strongly, when we also said to them even their admission of apartheid as a sin is a qualified admission and except if they come out unequivocally, clearly to say 'Yes we agree to that', there will also not be healing between the black Dutch Reformed Churches and the white Dutch Reformed Church. it cannot come about. If you ask why is it that de Klerk has not been willing to come forward, my impression is that from the viewpoint of his own church analysis, his own religious analysis, of the three white Dutch Reformed Churches that church itself has not yet seen it or is not willing to make that admission as a church, because they still believe, to my mind totally wrongly, that apartheid in itself was not an evil system. It was well intended, it was well established and it was the misuse and the misapplication of that which made it eventually fail.

POM. That I think almost gets back to my very first question on the nature of the conflict, is that do you still essentially have a National Party which believes that the original analysis back in 1948 was right but that the way that they went about it and executed it was wrong?

BN. That is the impression that I have. But in all fairness towards members of the Nationalist Party, including possibly Cabinet Ministers, there are those who individually when they talk privately to people will say, we know that it was wrong from its inception and it was born out of an unwitting and spirit and attitude of racism which was so deeply rooted in the minds of the Afrikaner people and in their church that they themselves were blind to it. They themselves were not aware of how deep racism in fact permeated and filled their own vision of life and their understanding.

POM. The last is a quote from Willem de Klerk's book on his brother, it's the quote where he talks about Calvinism and he says "Calvinism has an age-old principle to find a sovereignty within one's own sphere, a concept embracing the highly valued Calvinist idea of freedom, the individual, the church, the family, the state, institutions, the nation, each has its own rights and duties, no institution may dominate another." But Afrikaner practice appears to be the complete antithesis of that.

BN. Well that's exactly the problem that we have with that statement of Wimpie de Klerk. And that is the problem that I have with the Gereformeerde Kerk, you know the Dopper Church, the small church to which de Klerk belongs in Potchefstroom, and that is the problem that I have with the theology which has grown out of that concept of Calvinism because that concept of Calvinism was brought here and transferred to South Africa by people like Kuiper and others and instilled into the minds of the Afrikaners. And that forms what Wimpie de Klerk says there, that statement, is basically in conflict with what eventually then developed in the whole policy of apartheid. Now if de Klerk is willing to go one step further to say: we deeply appreciate those truths which were reflected in Calvinism but we distorted them, we exploited them, we wittingly or unwittingly misused them for the sake of our own dominant position because we were afraid to lose our language, our culture, our identity, our politics, and we felt that we had to take control over everything and in that process we developed a system which was evil. If de Klerk is willing to do that then we're on our way to a new South Africa. But unless and until that happens we will always have problems with that.

. And that is why it is so important that within your Reformed Churches that debate should go ahead. And that is why I feed it with my fellow ministers in the black Dutch Reformed Church to say it is our responsibility to challenge these men on these religious, Calvinistic concepts. We must clear that, except if we clear that we cannot really go ahead. And one must also not forget that Professor Heyns, who was the Moderator of the NGK but his theological thinking was groomed, was moulded in Potchefstroom where he got his Doctorate. His whole thinking is deeply influenced by that concept of Calvinism. That is where the basic difference between me, for instance, and them, whether that stands. And I hope that they will be willing to come to a meaningful discussion and debate because once we've cleared that then we help de Klerk, the State President, also to understand where those religious concepts have seriously contributed to the situation of political injustice in our country.

POM. Thank you ever so much for the time and I think this will be any easy one to transcribe. The acoustics are much better.

BN. I'm very glad. I'm very glad.

POM. Because sometimes when the walls are thin or whatever and it bounces off the table and it's hard to pick up the intonations.

BN. I know from experience and especially if you sit, for instance, in Dr. Kissinger's office, I've said that to him, the sounds coming through from outside also are much more dominant. But the basic problem is here because of this corner, you know the noise in the street sometimes reverberates and then it re-echoes here in the office. Well I hope that you have a series of interviews.

POM. After you have a democracy?

BN. That's right and those problems cannot be resolved only by the government which has taken over, the economic problems. The whole question, for instance, of training, of education, of housing, of jobs, providing jobs, building up the country. How, suppose the ANC comes into the power, how can the ANC undertake them without the active support of your white community, your business community, your people in Inkatha, the white Afrikaners? It cannot be done in isolation. It's not possible.

POM. There was one last question now I recall that I want to ask you and that is, and I asked you last year, has the process reached a point where it is irreversible?

BN. You mean the process of change?

POM. Yes.

BN. Yes, I believe it is at that point where it is irreversible. Neither the government nor the ANC nor Inkatha nor any other either political or other group in South Africa can stem the tide and can prevent this process. It has gained a momentum of its own. It has not yet gained the speed which I believe is needed in order to help us, that we must understand, but there is no way in which either de Klerk or Nelson Mandela or Mangosuthu Buthelezi or any other person can stem the fact, the direction in which the process is going and the need for fundamental political and social and education and economic change.

POM. OK. Let's get down to the business of the rest of the day.

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.