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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
05 Aug 1991: Gumede, Archie
POM. I want to go back to one or two things that I was a bit unsure of and this was, first on the question of whether or not the government has a double agenda. Do you think that when Mr Mandela says that the government has a double agenda, on the one hand holding out the olive branch and on the other working with security forces or special intelligence units or whatever to undermine the ANC in its own community, do you think sufficient evidence has now emerged to say that that analysis is correct?
AG. Well if you look at what has emerged in the last few days it becomes quite clear to us that things have not always been what they seem to be and when one hears reports of incidents that are occurring fairly often one cannot say that it is not something that happens with the knowledge of the people who are in government service.
POM. So, your answer is you do believe?
AG. I do believe, you see the thing is this, I couldn't say how far up it goes, but I can say that there are people in government service who are opposed to the ANC and to the policies of the ANC and would like to undermine it.
POM. So what you're saying is that, one, that there are elements within the security forces that ...?
AG. Yes, especially in the security forces.
POM. - that may be operating in this regard. Two, that there may be elements within the government? Would that also be correct?
AG. Yes, yes it is.
POM. But that it is not official government policy. I mean, do you think Mr de Klerk ...?
AG. I wouldn't call it official government policy but I could say that this is happening to the knowledge of people in government service.
POM. Do you think that Mr de Klerk himself probably has knowledge of these goings on?
AG. Well actually I wouldn't say that. Why I say I won't say that is because when I look at what is taking place in the black communities, one finds that things are happening which the leadership, even the ANC leadership, knows nothing about.
POM. Knows nothing about?
AG. Yes. Well, for instance the leadership has come out with the statement that there must be no violence but incidents occur where it's quite clear that the people who may or may not be members of the ANC have resorted to violence. For instance you will hear of incidents where people have been killed on the accusation that they are either informants or they are practising witchcraft. Now that is not policy of the ANC that such people should be killed, but one just finds it somehow or other there is a report that somebody has been killed.
POM. So are you saying that on the one hand there are elements within the security forces that operate independently of the government.
POM. The same way that on the other hand there are elements in the ANC who carry out actions that would be totally reprehensible to the leadership.
AG. Exactly so, yes.
POM. OK. You bring up an interesting point because a lot was being made last year that there was a large number of disaffected youth who had been brought up in a culture of militancy and had learnt to behave intolerantly and that it might be very difficult to bring these young people, or some of them not so young, back under discipline and control.
AG. I wish, of course it's so difficult for a person like you to see some of the things that we have to contend with unfortunately. So you see we are flying - I think if you had seen them these things wouldn't happen. I'm quite aware that, well even yesterday I was having a difficult time trying to persuade some young people with the result that they just walked away from where I was because they could see that I was not in favour of what they wanted to do.
POM. Does this remain a problem for the liberation movement as a whole that there are youth who don't hold themselves accountable or responsible to anyone?
AG. Well, who are challenging the leadership actually and saying that the leadership is not doing what it ought to be doing in regard to things like that.
POM. In regard to things like?
AG. Like dealing with people who practise witchcraft or who are going to punish others by sentencing them to receive 250 lashes. This morning I got a call from one of the youths and he was telling me that he had been given 250 lashes last night. He said he could hardly walk.
POM. It's a wonder he's alive! 250 lashes! [So there are to a certain extent still the operation ...?]
AG. Although the ANC has said that such things are not to happen. So you see on both sides, as far as I'm concerned, that is happening.
POM. Do you think as a result of all these revelations in the last couple of weeks that they have reinforced the perception that there were elements of the government involved in destabilising the ANC? Do you think the climate, or the beginning of trust that appeared to be there last August when the Pretoria Minute was signed and the ANC suspended the armed struggle, do you think that climate of trust has been dissipated, has been destroyed?
AG. Well I'll put it this way, as far as the leadership is concerned it does not want that trust to be destroyed. It will do the best it can to get negotiations on. There is a realisation on both sides that without peace, now when I say without peace I mean while there is violence, there is just no hope of any kind of meaningful future being achieved in this country. It will just descend into a vortex of violence. So that it's not a matter just of liking it to be so but realising that without this what is wanted cannot be obtained.
POM. That the alternatives are so awful to contemplate it makes people negotiate with each other even in the absence of trust?
AG. So awful to contemplate! Yes.
POM. Some people say that before you can have successful negotiations you must establish an element of trust between both sides. Do you think that since negotiations are really about enemies talking to each other, essentially, that you can have successful negotiations even if that trust doesn't exist?
AG. Well you must be trusting some or other body which is going to see to it that whatever agreement is arrived at will be enforced. So now when you are talking about the conflict between employers and employees it's not a question of whether they trust one another but what they are after is seeing that if they arrive at an agreement, that agreement will be kept. Now what is the mechanism for keeping that agreement? In this situation as far as I'm concerned, I can't speak for other people, the pressures that have been exerted by the outside world may compel both sides to toe the line which they have accepted. Only that hope.
POM. When I talked to you last week we had talked about the violence in the Transvaal and I was saying that at least internationally there was a strong propensity to say that a lot of the violence was ethnically motivated, that it was Zulus versus Xhosas, say historical animosity for one reason or another. Comparisons were made like to the Serbs and the Croatians in Yugoslavia at the moment who are at each others neck. Do you think that is a false analysis or a correct analysis?
AG. Well superficially speaking it is not a false analysis.
POM. Sorry, superficially it's not a false analysis?
AG. But when you come now into the situation itself you find that the conflict is between groups of people irrespective of their race. Now some are living in the hostels and some are living outside the hostel. Those who are living in the hostels are regarded by people outside the hostels as people who are their enemies and the people in the hostel regard people outside the hostel as their enemies, because some of them have been killed when they were outside or they have been robbed, that is the most common thing. And then on the other hand when one of these robbers has been killed then people don't look at the robbery they just look at the killing and then they attack the hostel dwellers for killing. So you see you are having that community conflict rather than, not because the Xhosa ... For instance if you look at what took place on the trains you will find that the people who committed the massacre did not ask people whether they were Inkatha or ANC or Xhosa or Zulu. They just went in there and shot people. They came in with pangas, they just went in there and cut people down. So it's not possible to conclude from those facts that this is something that is to do entirely with ethnicity. But the fact that in the hostels by and large most of the people resident are people from Natal, associating in particular hostels, now they would be Zulu speaking regardless of their political affiliation and also being, say now there is a strong Inkatha presence in that particular hostel, then it's not safe for people who are not Inkatha to acclaim the fact. And then whoever they are they also then identify with the majority in that hostel, come out as supporters of that particular group, not because they want to support that group but because circumstances identify them with that group so they have got to find their safety in the numbers.
POM. It's a matter of survival.
AG. A matter of survival.
POM. What have all these revelations in the last couple of weeks done to Gatsha Buthelezi?
AG. Well for one thing his leadership among many people has now got a question mark which it did not have in the past. You see people did suspect that he was an agent of the apartheid regime and they told others that he was an agent of the apartheid regime, but there was nothing that they could use to substantiate their suspicions, except of course that he said what de Klerk said about the armed struggle, about sanctions, about townships in KwaZulu and to extend KwaZulu boundaries and so forth and extending the authority of the government in KwaZulu into other areas.
POM. When you look at his career, what do you believe? Where do you see him? I mean you would have observed him over a period of over 30 years.
AG. Well, well, actually he did not come into prominence until about 1975/1976. Let's see, no, no, 1966/1967 when Chief Luthuli died he became popular and looking at him over this period what I see is that he was impressed to obtain a powerful position in the country because I think, as he always said, that he was for negotiation and not for armed struggle. Now he wanted to get to a position where he could influence the course of any negotiations and he apparently decided not to incur the enmity of the government. And at the same time he refused to go 100% on apartheid policy by refusing independence. So he was following a middle course between the opposing forces and it seemed to me that he was rather, how should I say, misled into imagining that the white minority would remain in possession of power eternally. He didn't seem to and therefore he had to try to see to it that he did not go too far in opposing this white minority. So whereas, as far as I'm concerned, the minority was white and it was powerful, but what he did not take into account was that we were dealing here not with a static society. The black society is not static, it is very dynamic and being dynamic it is adjusting to modern conditions far more rapidly than he himself appreciated. And now to him it appeared that the only way in which the development could take place was through the people being led along the path chosen by the white minority. They couldn't understand that following that path led into a situation where the white minority would remain in power eternally. Whereas apparently, in my mind, the fact that the black community was having a process of informal education through participation in agriculture, participation in industry, participation in mining industry and therefore acquiring skills. They may not be 100% skilled, and being introduced to technology, were in fact not remaining the people they were.
POM. When they were in a rural area.
AG. There were not of these. To my mind he simply ignored the role of informal education in the process of development of our people.
POM. The government talks about democracy. The government talks about one man one vote. At the end of 18 months have you any better understanding of what the government means by democracy than what de Klerk meant when he made his speech of February 2nd 1990?
AG. Well I will say that I have not seen that being translated into action. It has remained in that stage.
POM. What do you think the government means by democracy? What I'm getting at is, is the government's definition and meaning of democracy very different from what the ANC's and the liberation movement's definition and meaning of democracy is?
AG. Well I cannot say what the government means when they talk about one person one vote. When there is such a level of inequality and the possibilities for support are as big as they are, the people who have got money can through the use of their money and the control they have over the lives of other people achieve what people who don't have money do not achieve. So that we also have the other problem that without adequate literacy in the black community, communication of ideas to the black community becomes a laborious process and by virtue of that it is difficult to see how parity can be reached in understanding the current political issues.
POM. What you seem to be saying is that if black education, black skills and black housing and the whole quality of the lives of blacks is to be brought up to parity that you would have to have an enormous redistribution of resources?
AG. Well that goes without saying.
POM. But it seems to me that the ANC more and more play down that distribution element. I mean they say, yes there has to be redistribution but that nothing will happen right away. How long does a black government have to start changing the quality of life of black people once a black government assumes power?
AG. You are assuming that a black government will assume power.
POM. I'm making that assumption.
AG. But without a campaign for educating the people and obtaining their co-operation in finding support for the formation of a black government, I personally do not see that that is something that can happen in the near future.
POM. Sorry, you were saying that it's not realistic to assume that there will be a black government in the near future.
AG. Yes, unless there is a deliberate campaign.
POM. Sorry, we were talking about you didn't think it was realistic that there would be a black majority government in the near future without, you were going to say ?
AG. Unless it is a campaign which involves people who have the confidence of the people in all these areas. Now looking at the way in which organisation has taken place, particularly in Natal, I can say that for instance the UDF had tremendous support from the Indian community, Coloured community and from the people in the various townships. But the people who were the main actors in those areas, I'm thinking now particularly of members of the Indian community, who do have the contact with the Indian communities and the religious bodies and educational bodies, don't appear to be regarded as of that relevance that the leadership should go out to try to get their co-operation to win the support of the Indian community.
POM. You were saying that members of the UDF made no great effort to reach out to accepted community leaders in the Indian and the Coloured communities.
AG. You see if you look at the Executive of the ANC you will find that most of the people are people who have been in, up to about the beginning of last year, either in prison or in exile, and the few who have not been in prison or in exile have been people who have been either in Cape Town or Johannesburg, maybe one or two in the Eastern Cape. Now these people are not known to the public, Indian public, Coloured public, black public, in Durban say, or Pietermaritzburg for that matter. So that one person who has got tremendous pull is Mandela. When he is supposed to be at a particular place he can draw immense crowds.
POM. But when you say it's not realistic to think that there will be a black government, a majority black government in the near future, what do you mean by the near future?
AG. Well, say, by the time negotiations end.
POM. Well if there was an election at the end of negotiations, what kind of government do you think will emerge.
AG. I really would say that if things go as they are going now then what would happen would be that a large number of the Indian people may not feel happy to be under a black government, the same with the Coloured people and the same with white people so that they may opt for choosing people other than black leaders. When you come to the black leaders you will find that there are those who have opposed the ANC, even among the black people for instance, people in Inkatha. We don't say much about these organisations like UCASA and so forth because UCASA for instance was not anti-ANC and there were those elements who were opposed to ANC. (UCASA - United Community Council or United Municipal Councils or something like that) Now the argument also used against the ANC in a way which does have some impact is that the sanctions have caused many people to lose their employment and to suffer through the depression. So with that climate, taking into account the divisions in the black community, I am satisfied that quite a number of the black people will also vote for organisations other than the ANC. The black organisations among themselves may not want to work together, AZAPO, PAC.
POM. Are you talking about the country as a whole or just Natal?
AG. No I'm talking about the country as a whole.
POM. So if at the end of negotiations there was an election and if the result of that election was, let's say, a government in which the ANC, or the ANC with the PAC held a majority of positions but was also a government in which the National Party held a number of government portfolios, say a National Party member was Minister for Finance, another was Minister for Agriculture, another was Minister for Industry, would that be an acceptable outcome to you of what the struggle of your entire life has been about?
AG. I would say yes. That doesn't mean that I don't think that ethnicity should come into determining the merits of an individual who handles issues as experience does come into it and knowledge also does come into it, qualities which make a person suitable to perform certain tasks.
POM. So this government would be more like a coalition government where the ANC and PAC would be the senior partner and the National Party would be the junior party so to speak?
AG. I think that would be just about the best thing that would happen because you would then have the Nationalist Party working with the ANC, would show that there is an acceptance by both that co-operation is the best answer to their problem. So that now you can then persuade people who belong to the far right that they are very wrong in taking that position because their interests are not going to be made to suffer merely on account of their colour but that they are also welcome to take part.
POM. If you talked to hard-line people in the ANC they'll say, some of them have said to me, when you strip it down what we're talking about here is a transfer of power not a sharing of power. But do you believe that a sharing of power in the manner that I've described would be an outcome that would be acceptable to the majority of black people?
AG. I do, I do. You see now, say I get into a motor car, I feel safer when I know that the driver is qualified to drive, whether they know anything, I have no reason to believe that he is able to drive.
POM. Can I just ask you one last question and that is you mentioned the right wing. At this time last year there was an awful lot of concern that the Conservative Party was gaining a lot of strength and there was a by-election in Umlazi where the Conservative Party did very well and people said that if there was an election again among whites only that the Conservative Party might win a majority of seats in a white Parliament. This year they seem to have collapsed. Is the Conservative Party relevant any longer or is it just being swept by the tides of history?
AG. Yes, well I will say that is correct. The only concern I have regarding the right wing is that it is going to try to resort to violence to achieve its goals and it's a hopeless struggle.
POM. It's a hopeless struggle?
AG. Struggle, on their part. You see they don't have the sympathy of anybody in the world except in America you have those Conservatives, I don't want to call their Conservatives ...
POM. Ku Klux Klan.
AG. The Ku Klux Klan, yes, but even that is ...
POM. But even a majority of white people, do you think a majority of white people or even a significant number of white people would support an armed white struggle?
AG. I don't think that the majority of them would do that for the simple reason that they know they don't have the sympathy of the people who have the weaponry for engaging in such a struggle.
POM. That is who?
AG. Britain. They know that Britain is not going to supply them. They know definitely they won't get arms. And they know that as long as there is a black Senator they are not going to get arms from the American government. They may get arms from groups in the United States but they won't get the support that they would need for engaging in such a struggle.
POM. So, for the next year are you optimistic? Do you think these hurdles can be overcome?
AG. Well I think circumstances are such that everybody is going to be optimistic.
POM. Everybody's going to be optimistic.
AG. I mean that Mr Vorster used a very apt phrase when he said, the alternative is too ghastly to contemplate. And it is a reality.
POM. OK. Thanks very much.
AG. Ah, it's a reality.
POM. Thank you. You were talking about how things changed so quickly, you were saying about an interim government?
AG. Nobody thought that there would be a possibility of an interim government being accepted by the Nationalist Party. Then with this scandal, this Inkathagate, things have changed, perceptions have changed and people are beginning to accept that they can't be player and referee at the same time. That has been the point that the ANC has been making. Now it is shown by what has happened that the government is biased towards Inkatha. [one of the ... and how much more biased than in favour of the Nationalist Party.]
POM. Sure. OK. I could be here all day.