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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

02 Aug 1991: Meer, Fatima

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POM. I'm talking with Professor Fatima Meer on the 2nd August. Professor Meer, Donald Horowitz, whom you may know, recently published a book called "Democratic South Africa".

FM. I've heard about it but I haven't looked at it.

POM. The first question I want to get at is, what is the nature of the problem that the negotiators will face when they sit at the negotiating table and I want to give you the opening sentence of this book, or paragraph, it's the backdrop to the way I want you to look at it and see what his thinking is. He says "There is disagreement over the extent to which the conflict is about race as opposed to being about oppression merely in regard to race, among nationalisms or groups demarcated by race or about contending claims to the same land. There is 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 in 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 is discord over what measures might be required to reduce future conflicts. There is lack of a common perceptual frame. There is conflict about the nature of the conflict." In your view, how would you assess that statement?

FM. It's a very big statement. I don't remember it all.

POM. And (b) the more important part is to state what in your view is the nature and dimension of the problem that negotiators will face at the negotiating table?

FM. That statement that you read out to me is not restricted to problems that negotiators will face at negotiating tables. It is generalising very widely about perceptions of political leaders. That statement did not appear to me to be making any statements about the perceptions of the people as a whole but rather of political leaders, political articulators, their perceptions about issues.

POM. Have you tried on studies, opinion polls? He quotes yourself on quite a number of occasions which I'll get to.

FM. So what is he saying? That the people do not have any perceptions about the conflict?

POM. He's saying, I think what he's saying, is that South Africa is a very divided society in terms of ascripted characteristics.

FM. I'm just getting at the nitty gritty of what he said. Is he saying first that the people do not have, the people are confused about what the conflicts are? The leaders are confuse?

POM. There are deep cleavages between ethnic and racial groups, whether to merely allow him to look at the problem around the racial lines and to talk about ending racial domination.

FM. In communities?

POM. Is it a bad way to look at the problem?

FM. Old and not very new. Let me just try and state what I'm understanding you to say and then let me know whether I'm wrong. Are you saying (i) that people are confused or are divided? You are saying people are divided about what the nature of the conflict is?

POM. The political leaders are divided about the nature of the conflict.

FM. Not the people. The political leaders?

POM. Also maybe the people. But more importantly the political leaders who represent them.

FM. Political leaders are divided about the nature of the conflict. And then he would say that people are also, but you are saying that he is also referring to survey so it obvious he has investigated people.

POM. That is correct. He shows attitudes

FM. And he comes to the conclusion from the surveys as well that the people are also divided about the nature of the conflict. That they see the conflict not simply in racial terms but within the race they see it also in terms of ethnic divisions.

POM. That's correct.

FM. And that the leaders do not really have any set ideas as to how to solve these conflicts.

POM. Because they have different perceptions of what the problem is. So if you would point to, on the one extreme, saying there are those, i.e. political leaders and their adherents, organisations, that hold that the problem is about ending white domination and producing a non-racial unitary South Africa and at the other end of the spectrum perhaps we would have those who are closer to the government way of thinking, that would say that South Africa is a deeply divided society along racial lines.

FM. And you need racial and ethnic solutions.

POM. Correct. And in the same way

FM. OK, fine. Let me respond to that. He is correct, you have got a very wide spectrum of political groupings. I think it needs to be emphasised that the vast majority of articulate leaders and accepted political organisations hold to the view that the major problem is one of white domination and that the solution lies in a non-racial democracy in South Africa. Only a minority of the politically articulate see solutions in ethnic terms.

POM. Maybe actually you could try to get more precise. What he would argue in his book is that sociologists, you look upon sociological studies, political science studies, behavioural surveys, that there is a mass of evidence there which says that South Africa is a society which would be characterised as very severely divided society, not only along ethnic, racial lines.

FM. I'm still trying to answer your first question. If you raise the other it will make it easier for me, and give me a copy of that negotiations (IBR survey), I think we need to look at that as well. My first answer is that you have the political groupings that feel that the solution lies in some kind of new South Africa in which there are ethnic divisions, are in the minority, they belong to structures which are already part and parcel of the apartheid structure. In other words this view would come from homeland governments, it would come from members of the so-called tricameral system, by and large from politically discredited groups. They do not have very creditable following and if they went to the polls they would have poor showings and this includes Chief Buthelezi. This observation follows directly from our survey which revealed about 2% support for Buthelezi. Even among the Zulu people of Natal, the survey showed minimal support for Buthelezi. Over 70% of Zulus in Natal supported the ANC. This reflects the viewpoint that people see white domination as the major problem and the solution a non-racial democracy.

. Our survey focused on the kind of society respondents would like to see. If you give me some time I'm just going to find the proper place in my survey to answer your question. In our survey, which I think was the largest ever done because we interviewed almost 3425 South Africans, the sample too was very rationally drawn to represent key grouping, rural, urban. We found that 91% of the Africans, 72% of Indians and 84% of coloureds supported a single unitary parliament with no minority protection as against 55% of whites. Even the whites, we found by a slight majority, supported a single unitary parliament with no minority protections. We found that 53.4% of whites wanted that, 12.8% of Africans, 33.7% of Indians and 27.5% of coloureds wanted minority protection.

. We then even asked questions: should the government ban all racially based institutions? We found that most people felt that they should be free to have the kind of institutions they wanted. The Africans, however, 58% wanted racial institutions banned, but the majority of coloureds, Indians and whites were not in favour of banning racially designated institutions. 72.6% of whites, 62.5% of Indian and 63.4% of coloureds, against 42% of the Africans, wanted freedom to have racially exclusive residential areas and schools. So when it comes to extra-parliamentary social groupings there is greater support for allowing people freedom to structure their schools and their neighbourhoods the way they want it.

POM. Can I put the question now? His argument is that when you look at the body of socio-political studies that have been carried out, when you look at South Africa and the data regarding other divided societies, whether it's Malaysia or Northern Ireland or Cyprus, other places in Africa like Nigeria, that the evidence points conclusively in one direction and that is that there is the fear of ethnic cleavages and that government structures if they are to work must take cognisance of those ethnic cleavages and design structures that will deal with them, so that to deny the problem

FM. I understand what you are saying and I don't think anybody is denying the problem. As far as South Africa is concerned I think the ANC itself is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that there are racial or ethnic problems, and this is underlined by the fact that the ANC has succeeded up to now in obtaining the support from the majority of the Africans, but not the majority of Indians and coloureds and it has minimal support from whites.

POM. Yes. But he would argue as much as white, Indian and Coloured, that within the African community itself there are deep divisions, ethnic divisions between them and that these also must be taken into account. For example he quotes, he interprets your data, uses some of your data to support a point he's looking at. It's this paragraph here which says he looks at your data and the data of others and says many, many political scientists or sociologists who are at odds over other issues regard "that the Xhosa and Zulu heartlands anchor two ends of the spectrum".

FM. Our research does not find this, so I don't know what he is referring to. In our survey we had asked the question, "Do you think it is necessary, apart from universal franchise, to lay down a minimum number of seats per racial group in parliament to ensure minority representation?" I've already given you the response we got to that. The next question we asked was, if you considered necessary also to ensure tribal representation like Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho, etc? 63% said no, 81% of Africans said no, 37% of Whites, 49% of Coloureds and 57% of Indians said no. These tribal differences concern Africans; it is significant that 81.1% of the respondents thought it was not necessary to have tribal representation. Right? You've got this?

POM. No. So you're disagreeing?

FM. No. I'm disagreeing with it. I think my other research, in fact our surveys all along have shown that the African people do not want any kind of formal tribal structuring of the South African society, that there is a very small minority that would support that.

POM. Let me ask you to comment on just, I wouldn't call it a phenomenon but certainly a trend that I've noticed, that when I take up this issue with political scientists and sociologists around South Africa a peculiar pattern has emerged and that is white academics will invariably say that there is an ethnic factor and that it's not politically correct to refer to the ethnic factor because to do so makes you appear to be supporting the line of the government, you know the kind of thing, that the government was right but they've got the wrong solution. So that it does not come out in academic debate in the way it would in other debate. Now to move across the political spectrum I find that among Coloured, Indian and African academics there is far less of any kind of tendency or denial of the importance of the ethnic factor, saying either religious or

FM. It's more pronounced among white academics and less pronounced among black academics, is that it?

POM. That's right.

FM. Well I would expect that because it's white academics who have a vested interest in projecting and feeling and perceiving ethnicity as a problem and black academics don't have any vested interest in perceiving ethnicity as a problem.

POM. Yes, but when you say 'vested interest' you kind of suggest that they are not objective academics.

FM. I don't think any academic is objective. All right? I mean we must operate from that premise. When we do a survey like this one then of course we are objective because we have no control over the survey. You send a body of researchers to do this survey, we must have sent a body of over 100 researchers of all races on to the field and they come back with their answers and we have no control over what happens in a survey like this. Our control is restricted to the methodology. An academic basically speculates, expresses opinions, and these are derived as much from his and other academics' studies as it is on his opining historically inbred attitudes, and these attitudes are expressed in his findings.

POM. Could you just - that paragraph, on page 59, let me just read it because I would like to know whether you consider it to be a fair interpretation or an objective interpretation. Could you just pick it up from there?

FM. But he is not saying who he interviewed. He's talking here that Zulu heartland and Xhosa heartland, but he is not saying that in the first place he's talking about people whom he talked about and their response but he's not giving us the response direct. But in the second, he then suddenly talks about ethnic heartlands.

POM. But he refers to the studies that

FM. Yes. I think he is over-generalising. I mean even those studies. I do not see what we find in our studies reflected in that second paragraph.

POM. So you would regard the use of the data from your study to be misused or not correctly used

FM. Not correctly used. He's using it to pursue his own line of reasoning. This paragraph

POM. The paragraph on page 59?

FM. Yes it's a very, very dangerous paragraph. It really is not taking seriously into consideration the findings of numerous surveys. I mean I took issue with Lawrence Schlemmer's first survey which was actually financed by an American group, I forget now which grouping it was, and the whole thrust of that survey, and it was published at a point in time when the finance corporations wanted to continue their involvement in South Africa. Lawrence Schlemmer was then paid to carry out the survey and I did a crit of his survey that all his questions were so heavily laden that they got the response that was sought.

POM. Could you, offhand at the end of our interview, get me the name of his study and maybe your response to it? I would appreciate that.

FM. Yes. I will try. I think, have we got a copy of that? The Natal survey probably would refer to that. That yellow book there. We'll look at it later on. We've been working in this area for so long it's not possible for me to just remember. It gets worse as you get older. Yes it must have been in 1985 or something like that. 1985 I think that survey was. I had a copy of that survey lying around. As I recall, responses to disinvestment were measured against desirability of working in American corporations. Now our papers generally say that if you want to compare any foreign group to the South African white group the foreign group always is better in the popular perception because of the hostility against white racism and white racists. So most of the questions in the survey, if I remember correctly, were really asking whether they preferred the Americans or whether they preferred the South Africans. Obviously the people preferred the Americans. And from that the conclusion was drawn that the people want American investment.

POM. To go back to what you said about vested interests. Abroad, in the United States and in Britain for that matter, over the last year that the violence has continued there has been an increasing propensity to describe it along ethnic lines as being between Xhosa and Zulu and indeed The Economist said in an editorial just two weeks ago, and I quote "The violence in the townships is violence between Xhosa and Zulu and is not really much different from the violence between Serbs and Croatians". Would you take issue with that?

FM. Absolutely. Our survey shows that is not how our respondents saw it. We asked what the violence was about, the people didn't perceive it in ethnic terms. The violence started in 1985 in Natal. It was instigated, that is my historical recollection, it was instigated by Inkatha, it was by Zulus and it was against Zulus. The ethnic factor was not there at all. Subsequent to Inkatha becoming a Freedom Party and becoming a political party and it began canvassing membership on the Reef, the violence spread to the Reef and that is from last August. The two factors coincided: the announcement of the political party and the violence. We always said that the hand of the system and the police was heavily involved in this violence. And this has subsequently been proved.

POM. Just to go back on the ethnic question, we have talked to a wide number of Zulus in and around Johannesburg in various townships and gone out into some of the townships here last year, just into squatter camps at random and talked to people and invariably the response we would get from them was that they saw the violence, particularly on the Reef, as being violence by a Xhosa dominated ANC against the Zulu people, ANC against Inkatha.

FM. I don't know who you were talking to. I would consider the people to whom you were talking as highly suspect. I don't know who you were talking to. I would like you to give me a list of their names and then I would follow up the organisations to which they belonged and then we would have the story.

PAT. They were definitely Inkatha people.

FM. Oh, then if they were Inkatha people, then you must get that story. But what support does Inkatha have? All surveys show negligible support. Our survey shows negligible support even among Zulus.

POM. OK. What do you think the government means by democracy and what does the ANC means by democracy and are they really antithetical?

FM. I won't say they're antithetical. I think that on the semantics of it they mean the same things and they express it in the same words so they sound very similar and that is one reason why all of us were so euphoric when De Klerk made his first statements two years ago. The Nationalists are not going to go back on universal adult franchise. They are certainly not going to go back on one parliament. These two things they have agreed on, they have accepted that that is the political future structure of the country. But then they want to control representation in that parliament by ensuring that the white people in particular, and then of course the Indians and Coloureds would also get a spin off from this, have substantial representation in parliament. So in other words they want to preserve a parliament which substantially reflects their interests; secures the accumulated white benefits. And so they will be wanting to negotiate a structure whereby you will have proportional representation, not in the sense that the ANC talks about, but proportional representation in the context of racial divisions. And my guess is that in this  they will have Indian and Coloured support.

POM. If you look at the last year have you seen any evolution in the government's positions on such things as majority rule, protection of minorities and power sharing?

FM. Not evolution in the process. There are all the signs of coercion. The potential electorate is being coerced to fear change by the internal township violence, and that township violence in turn is also coercing the capitalist communities outside South Africa against the ANC.

POM. When the National Party uses over and over again, or the government uses the phrase 'power sharing', what do you understand they mean by that?

FM. Well they mean that they are now open to blacks, to the disenfranchised peoples coming in and sharing power with them. It remains opposed to blacks coming in and dominating the political scene.

POM. So when they say, very crudely on the one hand, the government talks about the sharing of power, we talked to a member of the ANC's National Executive last week and he said "Putting it very crudely this is not about sharing power. This is about stripping whites of power. We know it and they know it."

FM. The ANC said that?

POM. Yes.

FM. That their agenda was to strip whites of power?

POM. He said "If I'm going to put it very crudely", one person who said that.

FM. Yes. What did he say? Oh he says the ANC wants to strip the whites of power.

POM. Just a transfer of power, not a sharing of power.

FM. A transfer of power.

POM. So when the government said we don't want to transfer power or won't transfer power, we want to share power, essentially they've got it wrong. That what you are talking about at the end of the day is the transfer of power. Do you think that's a reality?

FM. That's a reality yes.

POM. That's a reality. A reality with which the government has not yet come to grips with.

FM. They'll never come to grips with that. They'll never come to grips with that. It will have to be coerced into that position.

POM. Since 1967 if you look at Africa as a whole with one exception, and again I'm quoting from Horowitz, he says that there's been no case of where power has passed from one elected government to another elected government in terms of going from a position of the party in power to a party that was in opposition and now becomes the government.

FM. Which is the exception?

PAT. The election in Cape Verde. The former Portuguese colony?  It's an African country that had an election in which the existing party which had been in government was defeated.

FM. Oh I see, the new independent government was defeated and replaced by another. Oh what you're saying in other words there is that since independence in Africa the party that won independence initially is the party that continues to be in control. That's what you're saying.

PAT. Unless it's replaced by a coup.

FM. Yes, but you've got so many coups.

PAT. But you don't have a transfer of power in a democratic way.

FM. You don't have the electoral system operating. So what about that?

POM. Well what do you think would make South Africa different, why that would not happen in South Africa?

FM. Well I think what would make South Africa different would be the fact that although it is contained within the white sector we have a tradition of parliament, we have a tradition of multi-party democracy and the ANC's whole struggle has been to be incorporated into that system. The ANC has never at any point said that it wanted another kind of governmental system. It has always fought for its presence, it's right to be present in that multi-party democracy, and it hasn't moved away from that demand. Even now it talks very strongly of wanting to be part of the existing multi-party democracy. It's not saying that it wants to set up another kind of political structure. So I think that in itself, the fact that the ANC itself is very heavily imbued with the Westminster system, ensures against a one party dictatorship. What you've got there is essentially a bit of liberalism, they may talk socialist, they may talk nationalism, you may find it overburdened with members of the South African Communist Party, but what the party means, what Marxism means to them that's a different story. Essentially if you dig deep enough you're going to find a lot of liberal souls in that ANC.

POM. When we talked to you last year, I think it was the end of July was it? I don't think it was yet August, the violence hadn't broken out on the Reef. Looking at the violence there during the past year, what do you think are the prime motivators of the violence.

FM. Oh, it looks to me that the government having unbanned the ANC has realised that it  now faces a very heavy political contest for power with the ANC and it is doing everything conceivable to preserve its own power and to extend it in the black electorates which would mean African, Indian and Coloured. One of its strategies has been to get hold of an existing sympathetic black party with some kind of historical presence, that is Inkatha, to support it and instigate it into violence against its major opponent and of course Inkatha has its own ambitions and the fact that the ambitions of the two anti-ANC parties coincide makes the violence all that more successful. Whatever you might say of the ANC it didn't have arms, it couldn't defend its communities in the townships and the Inkatha was allowed to invade those territories and literally butcher people there. And I think Inkathagate has now revealed that the government was very heavily involved in all this.

POM. I'll come back to that in a moment. So when the ANC accuse the government of having a double agenda or pursuing a double agenda on the one hand and this campaign of violence in the townships on the other, the orchestration of it, there's no doubt in your mind that the ANC analysis is correct?

FM. Yes, it was my analysis even before I heard the ANC saying it because I have been, you see my organisation has been monitoring this violence from the time that it broke out, so I could see this. To me it was quite obvious.

POM. So do you think that this was a concerted plan on the part of the government?

FM. Absolutely.

POM. And that De Klerk himself had knowledge of the plan?

FM. De Klerk himself had knowledge of the plan. Of course, yes. Of course. I'm not saying that De Klerk knew of every little expenditure account but the overall plan, as a matter of fact there was a statement that was made, I have a paper in which I refer to that. It was presented at a graduation ceremony and I'll ask Ramesh to pull it out for you. But there I refer to a statement that was made, got a lot of prominence in this country where I think it was the Constitutional Development Minister who said so in so many words; that they were now out to win influence among the disenfranchised. And opening of the Nationalist Party to all race groups is part of that strategy. If you are contesting political power then obviously you must resort to every conceivable means and once this is the rationale on which you operate you cease to draw a distinction between what is legitimate and what is not legitimate. Power defines its own legitimacy you see and the government has operated on those lines.

POM. What I'm getting at is that Mr Mandela on a number of occasions went to Mr de Klerk, provided what he thought was sufficient evidence to move the government to do something and the government didn't. And the question is when he went to Mr. de Klerk, was De Klerk aware that there was this plan formulated by the government or elements within the government, and with his knowledge, that they would promote destabilisation in the townships, either instigating Inkatha or by supporting Inkatha openly in attacks on townships.

FM. That was part and parcel of the strategy.

POM. Must have known.

FM. Of course.

POM. But what does this do?

FM. If you are looking at politicians in any country, then politicians will use whatever tactics they can use in order to obtain their ends.

POM. But here is a man of whom Mr Mandela said, "Now Mr de Klerk is a man of integrity. I can trust him." Did that turn out to be a misplaced trust?

FM. Not altogether, I don't think so. I think what you're looking at is a situation where you have to talk and to decide whether the body that wants to talk with you can be trusted. Mr Mandela sitting in his prison had to work out in his own mind whether this man could be trusted to negotiate and he came to the conclusion, no, this is a man with whom I can talk. This is a personal observation and it is an observation about the personality. Now in private life politicians can be very upright, very honest and their dealings with their families, their children and their relatives and their immediate employees and all the rest of it, will be very honest and very upright. But when they are involved in the whole party process then of course they become cogs in party wheels. And Mr Mandela, I remember when he was still in prison and I went to meet him and he told me that he had met Mr de Klerk and he had come to the conclusion that Mr de Klerk was an honest man and then immediately he said that, "But of course I don't know about the Nationalist Party. That is something else." And my response to Mr Mandela at that time had been "Yes I'm sure that that was exactly the impression that Mr de Klerk left with concerning yourself." He must have left with the impression that Mr Mandela is a man with whom I can talk, but the ANC that I don't know. Do you see? There are personalities and there are parties and Mr Mandela was very aware of Mr de Klerk's party pressures. So it would be simplistic to say that Mr Mandela's faith in Mr de Klerk was misplaced. He saw a good man and he said "I saw a good man". But he did say immediately "I don't know about his party".

POM. But one can say look at the framework of the violence and the government connection to it in two ways. One would be that it was a plan by and large approved by the government as a government. Two would be that it was the plan executed by right wing and renegade elements of the security forces.

FM. Now look, let me put it to you this way. I must stick with that address to the Graduates. Let me put it to you this way. The party has an overall plan to campaign in the disenfranchised sector, to minimise the power of the ANC. They are all agreed on this. Then of course it is left to specific bureaucrats to work out the nitty gritty of those plans and those plans will then be implemented on many fronts, the security police being one of the fronts, the police itself being another front, the army being a third front. do you see? I don't expect Mr de Klerk with his very busy schedule to know the details of what is going on in the security police, the army. There would be, I suppose, the briefing sessions where they would have the overall discussions. I think that is how one must see this overall scene.

POM. You mentioned the recent revelations about what is now loosely called 'Inkathagate'. Do you think this is one of the turning points, as it were, in the path on the road to negotiations and who do you think are the political winners, political losers and in particular what does it do to Dr Buthelezi?

FM. I don't think it's a turning point at all. I think the whole world understands that political games are played on this sort of basis. I mean Reagan didn't fall because of the Contra issue. Watergate of course was too big in terms of the Americans, the popular perception of American morality it was too big and Nixon had to go. But I think we are living in a situation today in world politics where we understand this.

POM. Well the political winners and losers?

FM. Up to now since the unbanning of the ANC we have been watching who is on top and who is second the context is in the form of a kind of public debate that is going on. And if you are looking at it in terms of a public debate then I would say that right now the government is embarrassed and the ANC, as a result of the government's embarrassment, is in a better position. A little while back De Klerk was succeeding in getting everybody to withdraw sanctions so the government was seen as being in the upper position, the ANC in the lower position. So this goes, this interchangeable position between the two major dialoguing parties will continue.

POM. From abroad this last year, the reports coming in from South Africa from a variety of sources suggested that the ANC was pursuing a kind of zigzag course. It would make a demand, put a deadline, the deadline would come, the demand wouldn't be met, they would modify the demand, put another deadline on it. It would zigzag, so it appears that the government for the most part was maintaining the initiative. One, do you think that's an accurate characterisation of the performance of the ANC in the past year and if so why was it behaving in that way?

FM. You are giving me the process that was happening. You are saying that the ANC would make a demand, the government wouldn't meet it, the ANC would then say, if you don't meet the demand we're not going to talk to you. You mean that kind of thing?

POM. Then it would modify the demand or not follow up and not talking.

FM. Yes, well I suppose they have their weaknesses in the ANC and that's why we are saying that sometimes the ANC are at the bottom and the government on top and so on. The ANC has not always performed very well. The ANC has its own weaknesses and I think part of the weaknesses were due to the fact that it had not yet emerged as a popularly, legitimated organisation. We had a leadership but the leadership had not been elected. You see?

POM. You think those weaknesses are now a thing of the past?

FM. Well I think the ANC has less excuse for any weaknesses now. I'm not saying that all the weaknesses have been overcome. It doesn't have the same excuses any more.

POM. What does, again, the Inkatha revelations do to Buthelezi?

FM. Nothing much. Everybody has said now this is going to demolish him. But I think he never was an important political factor. He was always placed there of an important political factor by the Nationalists and the Nationalists still subscribe to his importance, so it's done nothing to Inkatha. If anything the government's attitude seems to be to be apologetic towards Inkatha for having allowed its bungled financial support to it to come out in the open like this.

POM. Does it aggravate the cleavage between the ANC and Inkatha which at least superficially seemed to have been bridged when, at least superficially, when Mr Mandela and Buthelezi met?

FM. I don't think the disparities between them have ever been bridged. Those who  said once Mandela and Buthelezi meet the violence will disappear were very, very naive. If Mr Mandela had bounced out of prison and gone and met Buthelezi, he then at that point would have had a strong chance of integrating Inkatha into the ANC. But the more that was delayed the worse the chances of any rapprochement between Inkatha and Buthelezi became.

POM. Between Inkatha and the ANC?

FM. Between Inkatha and the ANC, the chances became weaker and weaker. At this point you had the conference where Buthelezi was invited, he didn't come. It was very clear that his ally was the Nationalist Party, his ally was not the ANC. Now this situation has not changed whatsoever and what has happened in Inkathagate is not likely to change that situation.

POM. Just to go back one moment to the government and the ANC. At the time of the signing of the Pretoria Minute just about a year ago there seemed to be a optimistic atmosphere that the ANC had suspended the armed struggle, that the government and the ANC were going to get down to serious negotiations. People felt generally good.

FM. Yes, that's true.

POM. This last year has seen an erosion of the trust that existed at that time to a very low level. It would appear at the present moment to be where you have one major player saying this other major playing is trying to destroy me before we sit and bargain across the table. If negotiations are to be successful they must be built on some kind of mature trust.

FM. Do you think so? You think that's necessary?

POM. Well I'm asking you, I'm asking you is that necessary?

FM. It's not essential at all.

POM. It's not essential at all.

FM. I don't think it's essential. Negotiation is always between enemies and it is always at a point when it seems that the continuing vendetta between these enemies can no longer continue and the solution lies in resolving hostilities and they attempted to do so. The very designation of enemies implies that these two people never trusted each other. They were at each other for years, in this case for 300 years. Now if we are saying that trust is necessary for them to come to some resolution then we would have no negotiation. Negotiation implies that you have to get together despite the fact that you don't trust each other, despite the fact that you are still enemies, despite the fact that you still have distinct and different interests, because the time has come in your history where it is impossible for either side to cling to those interests and it is in the interests of both sides to try and work out a compromise.

POM. Just a few quick final questions. One is the right. A year ago when we came here last July there was a lot of speculation about the strength of the Conservative Party and it could perhaps win more seats than the National Party if an election among whites were held at that time, and if there's a threat even the electoral right, the non-militant right, that was taken seriously, seems to have simply vanished.

FM. The Conservative Party.

POM. Yes. Do you think that's true?

FM. Well you see in the last election the Conservative Party came out fairly strongly. I'm not so sure whether they came out more strongly than they had expected or less strongly than expected. I think less strongly than expected, but nonetheless they replaced, even before the elections, they had replaced the Democratic Party as the main opposition to the government. So because they were proceeding in strength there was this expectation that they would strengthen even further.

POM. That negotiations have changed?

FM. And the whole situation into which the country was driven between 1986 and now has clearly indicated to the white electorate itself that the solution does not lie in conservatism, that it lies in following the sort of more liberal stance that De Klerk is taking. And in fact De Klerk's popularity has risen as our survey showed very clearly. The support for the conservatives has dwindled remarkably. Now our survey of July showed that support for the CP had dwindled remarkably, and white support for De Klerk strengthened.

POM. Did support for De Klerk among blacks increase too?

FM. Decidedly. It is quite clear in the survey.

POM. Let me ask you in the light of that and your analysis of the subsequent year where again De Klerk I think in opinion polls as recently as last March or April, De Klerk was showing a surprising degree of support amongst the black community. Do you think that part of that may have resulted from this dual strategy the government was pursuing, i.e. by undermining the ANC, showing the ANC to be incapable of defending its own community and here you have the government - ?

FM. No, no. Not that at all. I think that among blacks there was a widespread perception that the government was involved in the Inkatha attacks, so if anything that was destroying the government's image. No it was more the positive statements made by De Klerk and the dismantling, the abolishing of apartheid laws. It was more that. And in the last year in South Africa, what we have previously referred to as 'petty apartheid', apartheid in the social sphere, that disappeared. Then of course the whole protest movement, you were now able to protest, you were now able to say what you wanted to say, you were now able to hold your meetings. There was an observable atmosphere of freedom and the Nationalist government was seen as responsible for creating that atmosphere of freedom. The police were not there, looking over your shoulders all the time. All these sort of things, the intimidatory behaviour of the police and all that disappeared to a large extent. So confidence in De Klerk was due to positive reasons among blacks.

POM. We get, from the ANC, two slightly contradictory messages. On the one hand there is a pretty frank admission that negotiations are the only game in town. It's the only option that the armed struggle is no longer a practical alternative. On the other hand they are saying we won't enter into negotiations until we're satisfied at this point, at that point and the other point. They say let's get on with it. We have to negotiate.

FM. But aren't you talking about statements made prior to the ANC Conference? Is this post-conference statements?

POM. This would be up to the point of the conference I suppose.

FM. Yes, well up to the point of the conference there were problems. You had a leadership that had not been legitimated. Nobody had elected that leadership. In a sense you would say that the electorate was burdened with a leadership which was partly made up of people who had been in exile and who hadn't even lived with the people, didn't really know what the people were all about. Now there they were playing, you might say, power politics within that non-legitimated leadership and each one was in a sense expressing perceptions that he had gained from the so-called grass roots. Some were hearing the grass roots saying "Don't negotiate with this government. You can't trust this government." So they were taking a very militant stance. Others again were taking a far more diplomatic stance. That was what was happening. But now I think you're going to hear one voice in the ANC leadership.

POM. Would you think that quick negotiations are in the best interests of the ANC?

FM. I think so.

POM. Because the longer the time goes by without there being negotiations the less hope for it, less favourable outcomes.

FM. I mean surely, apart from anything else, the quicker we have a government that is representative of the people the better. You need a government that begins now to go ahead with the social restructuring of the country.

POM. In the terms of strategy the longer this process drags out without there being real negotiations, the less politically positioned the ANC is, that it might start losing support to the PAC, factors in the townships, the youth. It's just, many people say what's happening?

FM. I won't say that, that seems to suggest that the longer you leave it the more time the ANC will have to hang itself. That's the sort of statement you are making now. That's not the position. It's not that the ANC is such a bad organisation, it's just for the people to discover.

POM. I didn't mean bad, nothing bad or weak. I'm just saying that

FM. Their incapabilities.

POM. People will say nothing is happening here. We thought there were going to be negotiations, there are no negotiations happening. The PAC comes along and says 'We told you so. We told you that this process wouldn't work.' And people become disillusioned and as they become disillusioned they became less supportive of the ANC itself.

FM. When do they become less supportive of the ANC? None of them showed that they are less supportive.

POM. Let's say that they are, but if negotiations time drags on do you think that

FM. You think they're going to blame the ANC for it?

POM. That the black

FM. Why should they blame the ANC?

POM. That the black community might just become less favourably disposed towards the ANC. They will say 'nothing is happening'.

FM. Why should they blame the ANC for that. No I don't understand that reasoning. I can understand that the country requires a new government, a government which represents the people. I can understand that we need massive social reconstruction work and that won't be done until we have a new government representative of the people. For these reasons it is important that the sooner we get a new government the better.

POM. Do you believe that the - ?

FM. I don't think that because negotiation drags on the ANC in particular is going to be at a disadvantage.

POM. Do you think the government will be at a disadvantage?

FM. The government may be at a disadvantage. I don't know.

POM. Do you think the government will reach some compromise on the issue of an interim government? That it will make a compromise on an interim government. The ANC are calling for an interim government.

FM. Well the government has already said that it is considering an interim government. That's how I read it.

POM. Well, my understanding, and I may be utterly wrong, is that the government is saying: we are prepared to invite members of the ANC or other political organisations to become part of the government where they would have government portfolios, but we still

FM. That is what they were saying before and that is what was rejected but since the Inkathagate De Klerk has made another pronouncement which is closer to what the ANC has been asking for. That's how I understand it. Have you not been reading the papers?

POM. I have. I didn't understand him to say that we will cease to be the sovereign government. We are being the government of a sovereign state and we are not going to resign, we will not resign to be replaced by a government of national unity.

FM. No. But then when do you expect them to resign? And have the ANC expected them to resign?

POM. Well my understanding is that the ANC would expect this government to end and a new government of national unity to be installed.

FM. I must say I don't know, on this issue I don't know what the ANC's expectations are.

POM. I'll end with one last quote from yourself, Horowitz using you again, we'll see if he uses you properly this time. He says, OK, this is on page 84.

FM. Just read this paragraph here. You might find it useful.

POM. He says, Horowitz, "The judgement seemed inescapable that the unrest of the mid-1980's produced in Fatima Meer's words 'a radicalisation of the African, political sentiment and a marked shift towards Conservatism on the part of Coloured and particularly Indian people.'"

FM. Where did I say this, 134?

POM. Page 84.

FM. Sample survey.  You know I don't know what this one is.  You see this is the only sample survey.  Now he talks about the Meer and Reynolds sample.

PAT. You wrote that one for South.  You remember I told you that this book was quoting South.  Africa South, the magazine.

FM. How do you know that was Africa South?  Have you seen that, do you have that article?

PAT. . No I don't.  Remember we spoke about it.

FM. We spoke about it but I never saw it.

PAT. No we don't have the article.  We have it on disk we don't have the magazine.

FM. And I don't think I've seen that article.

PAT. Not from South.  No, we never got that South.

FM. I don't think I've even seen the completed article.  So I really don't know, but just call Alan here.  This quotation, do you remember that quotation where it comes from?  Or did I make that quotation?  Is that from something that I said?

PAT. Yes, that's it.

FM. It's my quotation?

PAT. Several places.  Let me look there see what he says.

FM. No he doesn't give us any - it would be difficult to say really whether the Coloureds and Africans were more radical before.  Let's start off like that.  Where, what yardstick am I using when I'm saying that the Indians and Coloureds have become more conservative now?  I wouldn't have any yardstick to measure their conservativeness.  In this book, I don't know whether you have this book?

POM. No.  Can we buy that?

FM. Yes, I think so.  We have a number of surveys here and I think what we should do is look at the Indian and Coloured responses and compare it with this one to see whether they have become any more conservative.  But Coloureds and Indians are of course more conservative, they are less radical than the Africans and every survey establishes it.  One thing I would agree with, that since the Nationalist Party has gone liberal, the support for the Nationalist Party has increased.  Even in surveys, long ago surveys, it was in this book.  He may be referring to this survey because this is Fatima Meer and Alan Reynolds analysed by - you see?  I don't know whether he isn't referring to this one because that he says is analysed by the two of us and that's Alan just now that you saw here.  You see now, look for this, choice of South African leader, Botha, Coloured, and this is in 1985, 31% of Coloureds supported Botha and 53.4% of Indians supported Botha as the leader that they would like.  You see 25% Coloured, 11.2% Indians.

POM. Did those results surprise you?

FM. Well of course it surprised me at the time.  This is our survey, it's not anybody else's survey.  It's not what we wanted to see at all.  Now you see as a matter of fact, comparing that to this, Indians and Coloureds have become more radical because at this stage, let me show you the support for Mandela, Africans 66.7%, whites 18.7%, Coloureds 19.0%, Indians 29.8%.  So there's more support for Mandela, there was more support last year than there was in 1985 both among Coloureds and Indians.

POM. How does De Klerk ?

FM. De Klerk 10.4% African, 37.2, whites, 58.3% Coloureds and 32.2%, Indians.  The Coloured shows conservatism, you see.  But you see Botha had more support among Indians in 1985 than De Klerk reflected now.

POM. Is there a 'Don't know' category there for people? They did make a choice ?

FM. You see when we asked this question we simply said who would you like to see as the first Prime Minister of a new South Africa?  So there was no reason for them to have a 'don't know' category.  I think everybody said somebody or other.  We've got here the complete list.  All these people were mentioned, even Winnie Mandela was mentioned.  Even I was mentioned.  So, you know, very small, but everybody that was mentioned, that was chosen, Colin Eglin was chosen.

PAT. It's kind of like an open-ended question.

FM. It was a totally open-ended question.  In fact we asked a lot of open-ended questions deliberately.

POM. Well, thank you.

PAT. Can I ask one question about your survey work which we talked about at the very beginning of this discussion.  Other than racial identity as a characteristic of some authenticity have you ever asked questions about how people ethnically identified themselves?  I mean is there question when one starts a survey which says - ?

FM. Yes we do.  all our surveys first of all ask, categorise them.  You will see it in this survey too.  The first thing we do is to categorise who they are.  Look here too, you see.  It follows, there's African, there's Indian, there's Coloured.

POM. No I don't mean in African, Indian, Coloured.  I mean in terms of ethnic identity.  I'm Irish and I'm from a certain part of Ireland, Southern Ireland.

FM. So would people identify themselves as Xhosa, Zulu, Peddie?

PAT. In the United States whites identify themselves as German, Jewish, Irish.

FM. Yes of course they do.

PAT. And in any survey people identify themselves.

FM. We know that they identify themselves.  We don't even think it's important for us to do that.

PAT. In terms of data corrections if there was any analysis based on that

FM. On how people identify themselves.  We have never done it.

PAT. And if there's a question relative to that, then it has to do with the ANC's characterisation of being a non-racial movement as well as establishing a non-racial democracy.  Do you think that is more of a transitional phase and how does one fit in here now looking at that, look at what is happening in say Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union where once communism existed, ethnic expression comes to the fore and becomes a predominant factor by which people are forming their political associations.

FM. Is that so?  So how do they - ?

PAT. How do people here, I mean if one acknowledges which everyone does -

FM. But in Germany how do they ?

PAT. I'm not sure about Germany, in Czechoslovakia, in Hungary in Rumania.

FM. What do they say?

PAT. They say they're Hungarian, they say they're Slovaks

FM. But these are national groupings.

PAT. Groupings.  That's right.  And my point now is -

FM. But Hungary is a country, it's not

PAT. Hungary is a country.  Let's take Czechoslovakia.  It's one country which is being broken up by Slovaks and Czechs.

FM. So now they say they are Slovaks or Czechs.

PAT. They are Slovaks before they are Czechoslovakians and many of us want our own nation, or we want an autonomous role within a nation state.  And my point is not to try and transfer what's going on there, here in the current situation, but whether or not that realisation of people who have taken positions like you have, to look at what's going on there  in the long term.

FM. In the long term.  I don't know.  In the long term it could happen, but right now you see they have been so sickened by this cheating way in which they have been ethnicised in the interests of white domination that right now they don't want anything of it.  That's a generality of people.  Of course the homeland leaders would still like to keep their little empires because once their little empires go they themselves go.  But these are now personal interests we are looking at.  When you are looking at group interests people want to see one united South Africa.  That comes out very clearly in the survey as well.  Because we asked them.  What happens in the future?

PAT. I think what Patrick was saying earlier is that white academics that you might call liberals, this is part of the identification of the problem, say, that you cannot put that on the agenda now because it is an excuse for apartheid and say a non-racial democracy, a unitary state, whatever that means, will be a strategy or the solution which one pursues now but the issue is that -

FM. But that's not the reason why they're not putting it on the agenda.  They are not not putting it on the agenda because it will sound like apartheid, put it in because they people won't want it and they won't support it .

PAT. I think what happens is that we talk about ethnic identity and we don't mean racial identity.  We don't mean Coloureds, Indians, Blacks, Whites.  We mean, in the United States we mean when you look at a group of white people and you say Germans -

FM. That's what the Nationalist Party do.  When the African people were in fact moving towards African nationalism they tried to reverse the whole situation by creating these homelands and the homelands were extraordinarily unpopular, there was no support for these homelands.  There was no support for these. You are proud of your ethnic identity but you don't necessarily want to be isolated into a political category.  So people are very sensitive to that.

PAT. That's right, but at some point you look for an excuse to cover your ethnic identity.  I mean if it comes out that you're Libyan or Russian, if you put aside the recent revelation there is in the formulation of political parties an ethnic base.  It can be extended by ... and in some ways that is the basis for what one would call one party democracy.

FM. You see our politics, the problem of South African politics is that the  politics, particularly the urban position, the rural position is not articulated to the same extent largely because the rural area is mainly an area of women.  That's where the women are concentrated, the men as migrant labourers are all in the urban areas.  25% of males are in the rural areas.  So our politics are then urban and in the urban areas there has been a lot of mixing and political grouping in the black community particularly among the Africans and politics has never been based on ethnic lines.  If you go back into the rural areas there will probably be a greater awareness of ethnicity, but then the men are in the urban areas anyway.  But I was trying to just look for - do you want to buy this?

POM. Oh yes I do.  Thank you ever so much. This is from your address?

FM. No, no I'll give them this one. I'm just trying to mark the one I wanted them to read.  Yes, this is the one.  I'd like you to look at Minister Viljoen's, he outlined the Nationalist vision in which he says whites will become part of a majority alliance that would attract ANC supporters.  And I think that's enough.  After that anything can happen.  I wouldn't criticise him for doing that.  We ought to be doing that, he ought to be doing that.

POM. Thank you very much for the time.


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.