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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
08 Aug 1991: Riordan, Rory
POM. Rory I would like to begin first with something I call the nature of the problem, of the conflict, about the nature of the conflict, in the context of what is the problem that the negotiators will face when they finally get around a negotiating table? On the one hand you have those who say the problem is that of racial domination, of the white minority oppressing the black majority and that must be redressed; then you have those who say it's a problem between nationalisms, black nationalism and white nationalism in a broad sense; and then you have those who say, yes there are indeed racial differences but there are also ethnic differences and South Africa is in fact a divided society not only along racial lines but also along ethnic lines and that if one is to come up with durable and lasting institutional and constitutional arrangements these must be taken into account. So, there is lack of what one could call a common perceptual frame. In your view what is the nature of the problem that these negotiators will have to face?
RR. You begin with an easy one! Right, the circumstance we're in is a situation where a minority that has held political control over the territory that it has occupied for about 350 years is, or might be, losing that political control. Not a unique situation to South Africa at all but given the amount of time that the white minority has been in charge of the country and given the fact that the minority is stratified on racial lines it's almost a unique circumstance. Of the many problems that are presenting themselves, the first problem is that the governing party, the National Party which represents a chunk of the minority would certainly somehow manifest its political aspirations, doesn't actually believe that it's in the business of transferring power. It believes that it's in the business of maintaining power and it's determined to do that by one method or another, sometimes fair, sometimes anything but fair. When one meets, as you will meet a number of government ministers on this trip, have you? I want to throw a question back at you, do any of them, in your mind, look in their eyes like they believe they are going to lose their jobs in the next five years?
POM. Um. No.
RR. I don't think they even remotely consider that as a possibility, but at the same time they have commissioned a universal franchise dispensation which puts the National Party at 5.7% of adults in South Africa. So there's a paradox involved in this, isn't there? And the paradox is resolved only simply by listening to what people like De Klerk and others say when they state that they plan to be government, or a significant part of government, for the next 75 years, which is not just a lame boast like Ian Smith's "Not in a thousand years." It's actually a deliberately meant and intended strategy that they clearly and firmly believe.
. Now, how does 5.9% of the community retain, contain, control over a universal franchise political dispensation? That's the question. And I would see the National Party doing it in a number of ways. Firstly, it looks at who else there is in the game and it takes an opinion about where they are and it takes opinion about how they can beat them. The major player in the game that is on the opposite side of the fence to the National Party is plainly the African National Congress. They made their mind up about that hundreds of years ago, a long time back. It appears that they were even involved with the setting up of Inkatha in the seventies and all sorts of conservative organisations like that shows that over a very long period of time they have clearly perceived their principal opponent in the business of power to be the African National Congress, and they were right.
. In the course of our uprisings you will find that the security establishment would come in behind Black Consciousness movements in attacks on the ANC. They would support Black Consciousness movements, like they did with Buthelezi, provide them with information about where the comrades were, provide them with hand guns, provide them with immunity from prosecution most particularly. Now why would a white nationalist movement co-operate with a black nationalist movement which ideologically is as far opposed from it as anything possible? The co-operation was plainly because they believed that that black nationalist movements were a minor player and that they could then use them to attack their major political opponent, which is the African National Congress. And, as I say, they were correct in their assessment because the African National Congress plainly poses the biggest single threat to National Party continued power, domination.
. There seem to me to be two, possibly three strategies that might be at play in the National Party's mind at this stage. Strategy number one is to firstly make sure, if at all possible, that the African National Congress does not get more than 50% of all potential voters and that a constitution would be structured that would mean that if it did not get 50% of all potential voters it could not govern on its own. Now how do you keep an organisation from getting that number? Firstly, obviously, legitimately you mobilise in competition with them and you try and build your own base and you try and build other actors if necessary, anybody who will takes votes away from them you build up - sometimes that's legitimate politics, sometimes that's not legitimate politics. Where that business becomes illegitimate is where you start attacking your opponent covertly in order to make sure that they cannot make the right size that they would legitimately make under normal political circumstances. And that's where, of course, this whole low intensity warfare, involving themselves with Inkatha, physical attacks on ANC communities, blowing up ANC offices, where all of that comes into play and where it has been used so successfully. The process of destabilising the ANC has been very successful over a long period of time.
. Now at last bits and pieces of proof are beginning to emerge from within the woodwork, that they have been doing this - I don't believe for a minute they have stopped doing it. I think it is still strategy. Strategy number one is to keep the ANC under 50% of the voting community. What happens then is that in the meantime the National Party has gone on its own route and made growth of its own sort by getting people of colour and others to join the National Party on the one hand and by making alliances with other people, like Buthelezi as well, on the other hand so they would then have become a considerably bigger part of the electorate than they began with, and that's legitimate politics. You're entitled in politics to grow your own support base. You're entitled to make your alliances. In fact it's your responsibility to do so. So the vision then becomes that they keep the African National Congress by fair means or foul at under 50% of the electorate and they get themselves to the point where they are the second biggest organisation. What happens then after a legitimate election is that the African National Congress cannot govern by itself. It has to look for an alliance partner and guess who presents himself, clearly and obviously? Then comes the second part of the strategy as I would see it to be.
POM. That's the NP would present itself?
RR. Yes, as the obvious potential alliance partner. And why is it the obvious potential alliance partner? Because of the next part of the strategy, and that is to prevent, under almost any circumstances, African National Congress people egress into middle or high level positions in the bureaucracy, the security establishment, the electronic media or even the parastatals. So even if the ANC got fifty plus percent of the votes they couldn't govern because the levers of power weren't in their hands. They would have to go back to the National Party or some other organisation that had control over those structures to cobble a deal together about joint government or about the ownership or whatever else in order to be able to effectively govern the society. The National Party persistently refuses to integrate MK into the Defence Force for just that reason. They don't want it to be possible that their sole control over those levers of power will be broken. There are no African National Congress people in the bureaucracy at a higher level.
. I have a list of the local highest committee of bureaucrats that meets once every two or three months here in Port Elizabeth. There are 43 of them, they range from the General in charge of the police through to the Brigadier in charge of the prison, through to the guy in charge of the Department of Education and Training and all of the civil servants' organisations, Ministry of Health; there are 43 of those people who meet and my estimation from the names, there are 41 white male Afrikaners, one white female Afrikaner and one white male English speaking South African. That's the core of the executive of the bureaucracy. That's what runs the establishment. They will not let African National Congress people near any of those levers, knowing that even if the African National Congress even gets 50% of the vote they can't govern in the face of hostility from the establishments. So they have to come back to the National Party and they have to be presented with a joint government arrangement and they have to accept it because it's the only way that they legitimately become part of a government of any sort whatsoever. And hence you end up, the National Party's theme is they end up with a joint government arrangement of some sort or another where the African National Congress has provided the voters if necessary, if they haven't been able to get there themselves, to validate the circumstance and the National Party is a joint member but the National Party continues to control the bureaucracy and the security establishment and all the rest. It governs. Right. That's the second strategy arrangement.
. The third strategy that seems to be forming in the back of my mind as it is in various other people's minds, it's even more sinister, and that is that they maintain organisations like Inkatha, and possibly Gqozo and his gang, and others like that as a potential Renamo force so that even if the African National Congress does get 51% of the vote and does try to govern they can destabilise this arrangement for long enough so that the African National Congress has to go back to the people who can control the destabilising and say, "Look, we've got to do it together", as has happened in Angola and it's happening in Mozambique at the same time.
. Now what I'm presenting you with, I'm presenting you with a profound example of an undercover range of strategies a lot of which are totally illegitimate politics that are being run by a government on the one hand that is also carrying a high moral profile, and carrying the negotiator's status, carrying the 'we are willing to do the deal status' on the other hand. I think that in your meetings and mixings with African National Congress people you will have been told roughly what I am telling you, that they simply do not trust the National Party. They do not believe they are actually clearly on the table, honestly and openly doing a deal. There is a hidden agenda, as they continually refer to. I think I have laid out what that hidden agenda is. I'm sure others would have also. But plainly there are an awful lot of us out here who believe that that's what's going on in the National Party's mind. They are not in the business of transferring power, not for a minute. You look in their eyes and you see they haven't even thought about that as a possibility. They are in the business of remaining in government by fair means or foul and the closer we get towards an election the more foul the means are likely to become. But that's the first problem that there is (a) a hidden agenda and (b) there is thereafter no trust whatsoever between the two major parties.
POM. Can I just ask you the corollary question before you move on? Can you in fact have successful negotiations if there is an absolute lack of trust between the major parties to it, and if in fact one party believes that the other party is trying to undermine it, even after negotiations themselves take place?
RR. You can come to outcomes and to conclusions in that negotiation process but you will never come to a nation where the parties will not have come together in the process, where they will not trust each other, they will not like each other, there will be a deal foisted on one of them at the end of the proceedings. And if the two will not have come together, they will not have bonded, the nation will not come together under those circumstances.
POM. And such a deal is unlikely to be durable or to be stable?
RR. Totally unendurable, totally unstable, economically inoperative, disastrous. The National Party is a dishonest and feudal institution and will remain so. It's agendas will never be open. It's dealings will always be covert. It will use whatever means are necessary to maintain National Party control of South Africa and we're seeing that. That's the book and no good faith negotiations thus far. Negotiations, yes. One then asks why is De Klerk getting into negotiations if in fact he doesn't really mean to negotiate at the end of the day? He has a conclusion that he wishes to impose upon this process. He knows exactly what he wants out of it, that is continued National Party government. He's not allowing for any other alternatives. He's formulating his strategies to make sure they don't happen. Why in fact is he bothering to go through this charade of this negotiation process? He's going through it because it legitimates the continued National Party government most particularly in the eyes of the world and whatever else.
. Let's start at the beginning: why did he get into it? He got into it because when he hit that desk as State President there were a range of pressures aligned around that desk that were becoming irresistible. He couldn't continue to govern as he was governing, as the National Party had always governed. And these pressures ranged from simple demographics, the compositions of the population. Forty years ago when the National Party took power the composition as it is now was completely different. The compositions in our cities, I mean Port Elizabeth when the National Party took power, I think in the 1951 census, the white community was the biggest single community in Port Elizabeth, I think twice the size of the coloured community and about twice the size of the African community. Today the white community is I think 15% or 16% of Port Elizabeth and the African community is 60% of Port Elizabeth. The demographics have shifted completely and making what might have been a feasible crack at a government in 1948/1950 is completely impossible now.
. The sanctions campaigns also. Whatever anybody might say of them and you'll find many people who disapprove still to this day of the sanctions campaign, I think almost anybody who is honest will admit that the National Party is obsessed about getting sanctions off, and why are they? Because plainly they hurt their power base. Things like the military sanctions showed that the military involvement in South Africa was hurting and hitting, the sports sanctions hit the man in the street. There were many sanctions that did, there were many that didn't also. In fairness to the non-sanctioneers one must say that we will probably live with the consequences of disinvestment, for instance, for an awfully long time and I don't know if those consequences are actually going to be as good as some people might hope, I don't think we really particularly need to live with that. So some sanctions were fundamentally important in breaking the will and the determination of the National Party to continue with its traditional form of government. Other sanctions were completely unhelpful. I think that's a reasonably balanced assessment of that.
. Other factors, economic factors, apartheid was just too expensive to run. The growth of the Human Rights Movement in South Africa, the massive black resistance that had developed through the period of the UDF, the growth of the ANC in exile, the armed struggle, albeit a pinprick in terms of military intrusions, was psychologically very important. There was this whole range of facts and international pressures. There's no doubt that the international governments, even those that were basically sympathetic like the Reagan administration and the Thatcher administration, as they were then, they were saying, "You've got to do something about this."
. So when De Klerk hit his desk as leader of the National Party and later State President, there was just this row of people coming in from the British Ambassador saying, "You've got to do something about this"; to Danie Craven saying, "You can't get rugby tours together. You've got to do something about this"; to the Chairman of the Reserve Bank saying, "We've got no foreign exchange, we can't raise loans overseas, you've got to do something about it." His desk was filled with these people and he looked around and he knew he had to do something about it.
. What I'm saying is, the National Party did not move into a negotiation framework because they suddenly had a change of heart or a born again warmth towards black people. They got there because they had no bloody option. There was no way they could continue as they were then. No good faith again. Black people know it. White people tend to hide themselves from the fact. They think that De Klerk is just a wonderful guy and he's reached reality and he's understood the circumstances and therefore he's negotiated. The fact is he had no option and he was pushed into it and there he is with a no good faith entry into the process and a no good faith conclusion he wishes to impose upon it, therefore a no good faith process. That's our problem.
POM. I've got three things to ask you about the violence. One is the ethnicity and I'm asking that in the light of a book recently published in the United States.
POM. Yes. And which makes the case for South Africa being classically a divided society rather than the problem being just racial. What's your view on that using maybe the violence in the Transvaal as the framework in which to look at it?
RR. Yes, I don't think the violence in the Transvaal was ethnic and I don't think the violence in Natal was ethnic. I think there are ethnic factors within our society. There is no doubt about that. We are a deeply divided society with great ethnic chasms which turn around languages and all sorts of things. We have in South Africa, if I'm correct, nine languages each spoken as home languages, each by more than 2% of the population. So we have a very big cleavage, and some of those languages relate not at all to the others. What you might loosely call Western European derived languages, English and Afrikaans, differ massively from the Nguni languages of Xhosa and Zulu which in turn differ massively from the Sotho languages. So there's no question about it, we have a very, in that sense, divided society. Ethnicity will be a factor in our society if two organisations become stronger and more dominant because they are at this stage the principal sources of potential ethnic conflict. They are of course the Conservative Party, or the Afrikaans right which is a plainly ethnic grouping, and the other one is Inkatha which again is a plainly ethnic grouping while attempting not to be. If the Conservative Party begins to dominate white politics over and above the National Party and others in white politics who will be coming more ethnic rather than less ethnic in our problems and our policies and if Inkatha somehow begins to dominate the African National Congress we will again be returning to problems of ethnicity there.
. If it goes the other way round ethnicity will be less of an issue. The violence in Natal, I don't think there was any sensible commentator who said that the violence in Natal isn't Zulu/Zulu. There is no ethnic issue there. The violence in the Transvaal, there are many different interpretations, it is a very nuanced business. There are lots of issues at stake from the fact that the hostel dwellers who have in fact - a survey that has just come to me now from Lawrence Schlemmer, who you might well know from the Centre for Policy Studies at Wits, now Lawrence Schlemmer is a very good social scientist and he's a conservative one and I don't mean that conservative in a sinister sense but he has a middle aged, white, middle class attitude to life and he does very good work at the same time. He's Director of the Inkatha Institute. He was the Secretary of the Buthelezi Commission in the seventies. He has been very close to those arrangements. I think that one would expect him to have an understanding of ethnicity and its complexities that many others might wish not to have a part of. Now this survey, I'll just read the title, "Black Township Residents Amidst Protect, Negotiation and Violence - an empirical study by Lawrence Schlemmer. Research Report No. 18. 15th May 1991. Centre for Policy Studies, University of the Witwatersrand." Now if I can just find where he was writing about ethnicity here. But in the section on ethnicity or tribalism, now he surveyed a number of black people's political attitudes on a number of issues including the causes of the violence.
. "Ethnicity: Recent patterns of violence have given rise to fears of a slide towards political polarisation along tribal lines. The results of this study show consistent differences between ethnic groups but not all contrasts are large or politically significant. At the same time, however, the results give some support to the popular stereotype of the Xhosa speaking people being more progressive in orientation than the more conservative Zulu speakers. The stereotype is over simple however. The political consciousness among Zulu speakers is rather similar to that amongst Sotho speakers, while Tswana speakers and Xhosa speakers have somewhat similar attitudes. At this stage, however, the extent of differences do not outweigh many common orientations and a shared consciousness on many issues; no more than the seeds of ethnic polarisation are present at the moment. Only if political power play, violence and economic privation continue for a long time is one likely to witness the emergence of the kind of tribal factionalism which has destabilised countries like Nigeria and Zimbabwe in the past."
. I would agree with that entirely. I don't think we're in ethnic circumstances in this violence at all. There are a whole range of causes that have caused it. There might have been thereafter an ethnic mobilisation pattern but the causes were not the ethnic differences in the first place.
POM. I talked to Schlemmer about this last year. The way I put the question to him was: is ethnicity a factor but a factor that can't really be publicly acknowledged by progressive whites because if they were to say, well I think there's an ethnic dimension here, they were not really looking at, somehow they would appear to be apologists for the government. They are really saying the government had it partly right they just got the wrong solution. Now I know in Boston in the mid 1970s when they used forced bussing to integrate schools a lot of people disagreed with it, disagreed with the forced aspect of it, found themselves keeping their mouths closed because they didn't want to appear to be racist. Do you think there's any - ?
RR. Yes, there's no question about that. I mean it's very difficult to ask a question like, 'are black people on average stupider than white people?' in company, because it's not the sort of question people ask any more because there are sensitivities about that. Likewise there are sensitivities about asking a question in South Africa, like ethnic questions. There's no doubt because of the way the National Party has conducted our politics which has been a deliberate attempt to foster ethnicity many others have rejected it so completely that they don't even wish to consider it as part of the daily bread of our politics, like racialism. They don't want to know anything about it all and therefore they reject even the thought of it. There can be no doubt that we have an ethnically fractured population. Horowitz brings together a lot of market research that shows different attitudes on a whole variety of issues between different language groups.
POM. Did you read the book?
RR. I've read the first chunk of it. Yes, it seems to me to be a scholarly book and I'm sure one must take into cognisance a lot of what has been said within it. There is I'm sure, and Horowitz has showed us, a considerable body of evidence to show what Schlemmer mentioned that maybe Zulu speakers are more conservative on certain issues and maybe Xhosa speaking South Africans are less. We know for a fact that the attitudes of English speaking South Africans are much more liberal than the attitudes of Afrikaans speaking South Africans on the broad average, but of course the individual differences between one and other people are different. So what I'm saying is that a certain amount of ethnic language and a certain amount of ethnic explanation is perfectly justified but huge ethnic stereotypes do not hold under any circumstances. To say that all Afrikaners are conservative is a sort of generalisation that could only be made by a person, it could never refer to Beyers Naudé or Allan Boesak or Van Zyl Slabbert or Jakes Gerwel or a whole range of Afrikaans speaking South Africans who are anything but conservative. So, it depends on which generalisation you wish to use and how you wish to mobilise it. Sometimes the ethnic one works, sometimes it's just simply false in the instance, wrong in the particular and insulting to boot.
POM. Inkathagate. What do you think is the political fallout? Who are the winners, who are the losers and in particular what does it do to Buthelezi?
RR. A couple of things here. The one is unquestionably of Mandela and the African National Congress, although their victory is not as absolute as some might think it to be. The biggest loser is, ought to be, De Klerk's reputation and the National Party's reputation on the one hand and Buthelezi and Inkatha's reputation on the other. But of course politics is never what ought sensibly to the case, it's very often what turns out to be the case. Buthelezi has been, I think, massively hurt in terms of his ego and in terms of the international reputation that he cherishes in order to be able to walk into the White House and No. 10 Downing Street as a man of massive political following and a man of massive political substance. That has taken a blow.
. What has not taken a blow has been that his executive in Inkatha or in the KwaZulu Government will quit or leave or break in any way because they have nowhere to go. That will not happen. What will also not happen is that his mobilisation techniques will not have been changed or altered either. He can still pack 100,000 people into a stadium tomorrow if necessary. In fact he got a good crowd at Jan Smuts Airport. One asks why? And I think that some of the reasons why that will be the case is because he has the reins of the KwaZulu government firmly in his hands, which receives R2 billion a year or more from the central exchequer which is then used to employ teachers and nurses and civil servants and all sorts of people and particularly to appoint and pay Chiefs in the KwaZulu homeland, all of whom, I will not say are coerced to join Inkatha, what I will say is, all of whom understand a certain interest is best prosecuted by being associated with Inkatha.
. The Chiefs in turn, I understand, have control over the land and they have the ability to dispense land to people who have families and young men who have children and so on. The Chiefs are appointed and paid by Ulundi and they dispense the land to each and every male of the community and part of the cost of that is that the men must be available for mobilisation when mobilisation is necessary. There is a massive, almost tribal, fiefdom which has been created at great expense by the central government which will allow Buthelezi, as long as he can control the KwaZulu government to continue to mobilise as he always has mobilised.
. So those things will not change. He will still have that structure. He will still be dealing with that grouping of people. His ability to walk into the big number places around the world will be tarnished. His reputation certainly in terms of vis-à-vis Mandela will be tarnished and his ability to mobilise white people and people of other colours which had become part of the profile of the Inkatha Freedom Party will be diminished also. To what extent it will be diminished only time will tell.
POM. But there was a tendency, abroad at least, particular since he had his meeting with Mandela to talk about the triumvirate that Buthelezi was one of the three leaders who would be crucial to the resolution of the problem. That you think has been tarnished now?
RR. Now the battle will be around the triumvirate. Mandela has already said that from now on (I understand he said this - I was told this morning) that from now on he will treat the National Party and Inkatha as the same organisation. So he is collapsing the triumvirate unilaterally whereas on the other hand Buthelezi and De Klerk will desperately try to recreate the triumvirate because it gives them control over the negotiation process.
POM. So would you see at a negotiating table the NP on one side, the ANC on the other side and Inkatha kind of taking a corner, not aligning itself with one or the other, not appearing to be on one side ?
RR. The attempt will be made by the government and by Inkatha that it will be a three-cornered thing with each corner having the same rights. The ANC believes that what they have now proof of, they have always known it of course but now it has been widely publicised and documentary proof has been made available, of the fact that Inkatha is in fact a wholly owned subsidiary of the South African security establishment and therefore is part of the National Party's delegation and that's it as far as they are concerned. The tussle will be around that now, to see how that works out. I don't think at this stage one can predict how that will work out. I know how I believe it ought to work out and that is that what we're really talking about is the transfer of power from the National Party to the African National Congress. But there's no doubt that the National Party has a very strong vested interest in keeping Inkatha separate, and big, at the negotiation process.
POM. In that sense there is a fundamental difference between the ANC and the National Party, or the government, on what these negotiations are about. To the government they are about 'power sharing' whatever they mean by that. To the ANC they are about the 'transfer of power'. They're not very compatible.
RR. No. Not at all.
POM. In that context, because I've posed this question to a number of people, if after a Constituent Assembly and a new constitution being drawn up there is an election and if part of the understanding between the National Party and the government is that the National Party would continue to retain a number of portfolios in a subsequent government where the ANC would be the senior partner and the National Party junior, but nevertheless part of the alliance and some talk about it as being kind of an interim measure, maybe for five to ten years, on the way to black majority rule. The National Party talk about it being a permanent part of the settlement. Do you think an outcome like that would be acceptable to blacks?
RR. I don't think it would be acceptable and I don't think it would be desirable. We saw that in Zimbabwe didn't we, where the white community had a guaranteed number of seats for a ten year period despite the fact that the number of seats was much greater than their proportion of the population in terms of universal franchise.
POM. But they didn't have power at the executive authority? And here we're talking about real power.
RR. What happened in Zimbabwe was that white people just continued not to be willing to associate with Mugabe's government. I think at this stage there is still a major polarisation between the white community in its conservative attitude and the Mugabe government on the other side and I think that's been fundamentally bad in the business of building a nation. I think the interesting time - I'm not quite answering your question but I hope I'll come around to it - I think the interesting moment in South Africa's politics, the most interesting of all possible moments, will be when it suddenly starts filtering through to the National Party that they might lose power in this process. Then you will see the shredding machines arriving at the police stations as the records will begin to disappear and you will find the bureaucracy will start burning their papers as well and all sorts of things will start disappearing. What will also happen, it will create massive tensions within the National Party, it will probably cause it to break and only at that stage, when they finally conceive of the fact that they are going to lose power will the decent people in the National Party break away from it.
. What is likely to happen is a broader, non-racial, democratic movement, centred around the ANC unquestionably, absorbing, I hope also, chunks of the Democratic Party and chunks of the National Party and even some chunks of Inkatha and other organisations, I don't know. I think it would have to be the African National Congress. I don't think it could survive as some sort of broader alliance, but plainly there would be different people involved who would dilute the African National Congress's traditional profile, change it a lot and change the profile of our future government. I think that is a possibility. I've listened to Popo Molefe in Port Elizabeth last week, after the Inkathagate thing, and he said in answer to a question that if they became the government of South Africa they would give Buthelezi a Cabinet post. Now I've never heard that before. That was quite remarkable and it was after the Inkathagate scandal, it wasn't before, it was last week. So plainly there, if that is the policy although I haven't heard it from other sources, if that is the policy there is a willingness there to attempt to bind the nation together, to make it work as one nation if they are going to be the governing party.
POM. This is a question I think the ANC addressed at their own conference, which was their lack of success in the Indian community and the coloured community and for that matter the white community and it becoming increasingly perceived as an urban African party more than anything else. This is a problem?
RR. It's a very big problem.
POM. It's a big problem.
RR. Since the ANC was unbanned early 1990 and Mandela came out of jail many things have happened but they have articulated consistently and clearly the language and interests of the disfranchised and the dispossessed and they have to a certain degree consolidated that constituency but they have at the same time alienated the possessed and the franchised, and that is not just the white people. That is also the bourgeois within the coloured community, who are very bourgeois by African standards, and the Asian community as well. So those minority communities have moved away from the ANC for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that there's been no consistent attempt to mobilise them. In fact their interests appear to have been threatened by the African National Congress's programmes and statements rather than in some way accommodated. The African National Congress faced that point clearly at their congress, there's no doubt about it. They realised that this is a problem and they stated it clearly and they said they are now going to form strategies to try and attempt to alter that. It's late to do that but I hope it is not too late. I don't think it is too late and I think that if it looks like they are heading towards power that will give them an attraction, to many people in those minority communities, that they might lack when it doesn't look like they are heading towards power. And that will, like almost all aphrodisiacs, stimulate a certain interest.
POM. Before we leave this whole question of what is loosely called Inkathagate, there's no doubt from what you said that you believe, and believe it has been proven, that the government has had this double agenda.
RR. Yes. No question.
POM. Do you believe this has been part of government policy, thought out government policy? Do you think that De Klerk himself gave approval to that policy and that he knew of it, or even if he did not give approval to it that he let it happen without knowledge of the details?
RR. Let me just say a few words about De Klerk. Firstly, I want to tell you that I think there are around De Klerk a couple of things going, one of which is that, I've seen this in a number of my ex-National Party friends who have in their maturity seen the light and moved away from the National Party and become opponents of it, and others who might still remain loyal to the National Party and elsewhere, that those people in their twenties or thirties have come to realise that what the National Party has done has been wrong, morally, and has been deeply psychologically and physically hurtful to the black population and could, under those circumstances, be described as evil. They have come to realise that and it has very often been a very shattering psychological moment for the individual concerned when they come to realise that because their whole livelihood, having grown up in National Party circles, what their parents have told them, what their favourite grandparents and uncles have told them, what their teachers have been telling them, what their Dominees have been telling them, their whole milieu has proved to be wrong and possibly even evil and it's a really shattering circumstance for anybody to find themselves in. Those people have very often left the National Party and become quite vociferous critics of it because they know it better than most others do.
. But what De Klerk has done, De Klerk has come back into this world and he has in some way appeared to look like he can morally revalidate that tradition. He can make it moral again and suddenly he adopts a psychological profile that is much bigger than the politician. He becomes a very important psychological vehicle for a tremendous number of Afrikaans speaking South Africans to revalidate the morality of their parents and their teachers and their beloved Dominees and all the rest of it from their youth. By doing the right thing now he can somehow make that tradition morally respectable. So they desperately need De Klerk to succeed and they are absolutely unwilling to see criticism of him stick. Right, that's the first point.
. The second point about De Klerk is that De Klerk incontestably became a member of the South African Cabinet in 1978. Since 1978 we have destabilised Angola and Mozambique to the point where it is estimated 1.5 million of their citizens have died in the destabilisation programme and half of those countries have become homeless through that programme. We have attempted to destabilise Zambia and Zimbabwe. We have land-locked and clobbered Lesotho to the point where its government changed. The army has developed the CCB, the police force developed Vlakplaas death squads. When Wendy Orr's affidavits were lodged on the Security Police here for torture in Port Elizabeth, Crossroads was razed within a couple of kilometres of parliament, the Natal war was ongoing, he sat on the Cabinet through all of that, through every minute of it as one of the governors of our country. Did he know nothing about it? What can he pretend? Where is he in this matter? If I, or you, were director of a corporation and you find that one of your subsidiaries is burning down your opponents' buildings and shooting their salesmen, you ask questions for God's sake, if you're a sensible director of that organisation. You find out what's going on. It's your job. His best explanation of his present behaviour is that he didn't know about it then. Nonsense. He knew about all that. It was part of the policy that he framed and he was party to. He arrives on the 2nd February 1990 with more than his share of blood on his hands. Why should he have changed? When has he changed? His brother wrote in his book that he had had a Damascus type conversion but he rejected that totally in response to that book.
POM. There was another quote, which I had in a notebook which I lost last night, but it was a wonderful quote about De Klerk saying that throughout his entire political career he took National Party policy as he found it and that he followed it rather than his convictions and that he didn't analyse it but implemented it to the letter.
POM. Which doesn't sound like a man who's suddenly gone through a Damascus type conversion.
RR. He was operating in that sense. That's man existing in a moral vacuum, pretending that morality does not impinge upon his politics. Why should he have changed? Why should he have changed? What I want is evidence of this change, right? And evidence is not what Gerrit Viljoen tells me is they are doing and what De Klerk plainly is attempting to do and that is to suggest that they are going to put this matter right without apologising about it. I want to see that they are genuinely sorry for what they have done. Not that they say they are sorry but that they genuinely have come to terms in their own mind about the evil of what their party has done to black people in South Africa. When I can see in their eyes that that has happened then I will apply my trust in this man. In the meantime I will remember that he was part of that destabilisation programme of our neighbouring countries and our local political organisations and I will trust him not an inch.
POM. On the question of an interim government it would seem to me that the revelation that the government had been funding the DTA in Namibia during an election process for which it was supposed to be the overseer -
RR. Yes. And to which it had committed to the United Nations that it would not do.
POM. - strengthens the case made by the ANC for an interim government. Do you see any circumstances under which this government would resign as a government and become part of a new multi-party interim government?
RR. I think what might happen is that it might happen as a process rather than a big bang event like you are talking about where there's resignation of the one and the emergence of another. Plainly what we're into now is the two big parties that we've spoken of, the National Party and the African National Congress, both trying to dominate the process. That's probably legitimate politics. When you get into a union/management debate both parties try to dominate the process there too. Here the National Party is trying to dominate the process and the African National Congress is trying to dominate it on the other hand. The National Party wants to dominate the process to remain in government throughout the process of the negotiation of the new constitution on the one side of the equation, and on the other side running up, co-ordinating a multiparty conference where all parties with constituencies are invited, but it's at their invitation, in their rooms, with their civil service handling it and all the rest of it, so in fact they can dominate the process through a whole variety of spiky ways, by bringing in their Buthelezis and their Brigadier Gqozos and all the rest of it too. That's their agenda.
. The African National Congress's agenda is equally simple. They also want to dominate the process and they believe they can dominate the process by having an election because they believe they've got the numbers. Whether they are right or wrong I don't know, but they believe that. And they want a Constituent Assembly to draft the constitution because they believe they will have the numbers to dominate that process. They want an interim government and plainly they would have a hand in that, on the one side. They have been quite generous in their description of that interim government. I think Mandela has used the phrase that it would be a government that would be constituted to the satisfaction of the major political party actors in South Africa. It's not an elected government necessarily, not one they would dominate but one that the parties feel they could live with in a negotiation agreement.
. Now those were the two paradigms that we were facing until quite recently. This Inkatha thing has broken that, there can be no doubt about that. I heard Gerrit Viljoen again on the same platform as Popo Molefe and for the first time ever Gerrit Viljoen said that the business of constructing a new constitution would not be done by this present all-party conference, but would be done by a separate organisation, a constitutional conference, the rules for which would be made by this present all-party conference. So all the people who've been talked about, coming together now, would just be creating the rules for the constitutional conference. Previously they have always treated that as one process. The presently constructed all-party conference would roll on and make the constitution. So they've now moved into a two-phase operation which is what the African National Congress has always said, also they want this two-phase operation. They want an all-party conference to create the rules to the election and the election to create the Constitutional Assembly.
. So straight after the Inkathagate scandal Gerrit Viljoen moved to a model of a profile that was closer towards the ANC thing. At the same time he said, and De Klerk said at the press conference, that absolute National Party control of this process wasn't necessary at all. "Come to the all-party conference, we will negotiate on this matter." So, again, they had broken, the profile had weakened and the possibility of some sort of transition mechanisms, transitional overseeing, etc., becomes possible. They didn't offer it because they don't want to offer one set point more than they have to offer. They want to try to negotiate the least that they can. The arrangements can vary from a total surrender of power on the one hand to the total retention of power by the National Party on the other and in between there are things like monitoring, there are transitional arrangements, the co-option of a couple of ANC people into the system, the joint government with everybody having a fair share, to ANC dominated government on some sort of election. There are a whole range of things that can happen now in terms of the transition and I think you will find that we will start slipping into new types of transitional arrangements whereby maybe monitoring groups will be formed to monitor the SABC and maybe the security forces will come under a certain degree of extra-parliamentary supervision or international supervision or whatever. I think that we are moving towards the ANC's paradigm away from the National Party's paradigm and I think the Inkatha scandal helped.
POM. So in that case the Inkatha scandal has been like one of the major turning points in the last year?
RR. Fundamentally, yes. That was the best spent R250,000 the National Party have ever spent. If it was only R250,000!
POM. Out of this process then you see a Constituent Assembly as kind of an inevitability?
RR. You know, I had many reservations about the Constituent Assembly elections initially, but quite honestly I think time is proving me to be wrong and I think that might be the only way we can go now, and I think the fundamental dishonesty of the hidden agenda makes it necessary for us, somehow, come clearly together with a Constituent Assembly that is properly formed along democratic lines, rather than one that the National Party can juggle and fiddle rather better than that.
POM. But if one is constructed along fair and proper lines it more or less marginalises the National Party given the size of them, even if it puts together a coalition, so the game in a way is over.
RR. That's the point. The game is over. They turn their faces to the wall. Then it faces the reality I spoke to you about where it has to look in the mirror and say, we're going to lose power. Then it will break. Then the good guys will come out of it and join the better politics of South Africa and the bad guys - I mean they can't go away, we're going to have to watch them like crazy, but at least it will make for a big and impressive central coalition. You know the reasons I've had against Constituent Assembly elections previously, and I felt them to be valid, are that our levels of violence have been too high to tolerate an election, that an election would lead to an enormous amount of bloodshed and how can you found a nation under such circumstances. It would be a hopeless arrangement. I'm afraid that is a great fear still in the back of my mind that we would have in places in Natal, maybe in the Transvaal, if the security forces can't be controlled and Buthelezi can't be controlled by them, then we would have an appalling circumstance develop. Other things that might happen would be that if that Constituent Assembly election, an international body came out smaller than the Conservative Party in the white community, that would be a hell of a powerful blow for the process to continue. We would have a problem there too. There are problems about that. It's not a perfect, easy arrangement but I'm afraid that the Inkatha scandal has shown that goodwill on the National Party side is still fundamentally lacking, that that becomes a more credible alternative.
POM. Talking about the right, I remember this time last year when I was talking to people the Conservative Party was talked of in terms of it being a big threat. Many people were saying that if an election were held that the Conservative Party could easily get a majority of the white vote. Yet this year I don't find that. I find that this threat has atrophied somehow.
RR. In people's thinking? It has been so. It's interesting. Firstly, two things have happened there. The white right has been fantastically split so far. There must be 350 organisations all involved. The Conservative Party is the biggest one by far, but there are Boereaksievolk and Boere this and Afrikaner that, there are thousands of those things. They have developed a fractiousness amongst themselves which has kept them from becoming a significant issue in that sense.
. The other thing that has happened is the thing that always ought to have happened and that is that people are beginning to see politics not in terms of the four million white people in this country, or two million white voters, they are actually starting to see the broad picture in which case that white right becomes a very insignificant political player because of its numbers. Where of course it is a very significant player is in terms of its potential for disrupting our society and there's no doubt that it's a very significant player there. When I interviewed people like Robert van Tonder and others they have assured me that they believe that their people run the power stations, run the railways, run the airways. Robert van Tonder and he's the leader of the Boerestaat Party, one of the Afrikaner right wing parties, when he says 'their people' he's talking about the white right. There's no doubt that a tremendous amount of white blue collar workers have been put into jobs as an affirmative action programme over the years and they are Conservative Party people now and their potential for disrupting our society is massive. And we live with that one. It's been restrained so far by a combination of fractiousness and the fact that they focus their energies on other things.
POM. Would you make a distinction between the Conservative Party and the more militant right wing?
RR. Yes. Well you see the Conservative Party is trapped. It's a parliamentary organisation trapped into the green baize of parliament and the suits and the lounges and the respectability that is necessary to do that job. To appeal to blocks of voters you've got to be respectable and all the rest of it. It's stuck between that and its very history, partners and associates on the white right, and it's stuck between its willingness to negotiate on the one hand and its determination not to on the other. It will break, probably next year it will break as the negotiation process begins. There are unquestionably people in the Conservative Party who are so basically, genuinely political that they will thump to be in that process. There will be such a desire to be part of that process, whereas the party will say it can't be because it's just handing power over to the ANC. It will break then I'm sure.
POM. Do you think there's any perception on the part, even of conservative whites, that as far as they can emotionally see the Conservative Party as an outlet, they know that what it proposes, a white homeland, is so impractical, so unrealistic, that in their saner moments they realise that it's not a political option.
RR. They will tell you that when you talk quietly and off the record with them. Again, their trap is total because they say they can't move away from the present proposed land dispensation, the Verwoerdian one, which is 87% white, 13% black, because if they move away from that, as they say, do we then say that the Cape Province isn't going to be white any more? We've got no voters left in the Cape Province immediately. If they want to get votes from across the broad spread of white South African society they have to pretend that they still stand for the old land division. Whereas anybody who talks to them immediately works out they don't stand for that any more. They'll take a more humble arrangement, but not humble enough. They still believe that they can keep the manor house and the crown jewels, surrender the servant's lodge. So their partition thing doesn't work. If they were willing to do what Carel Boshoff has possibly suggested, which is to accept 15% of the land of South Africa and a humble part of that 15%, not the gold and platinum mines and nothing else, and go off and do their thing, that would be I think a politically very inexpensive way of rooting out that problem. I don't think they want that. I think they still want their farms and they still want their urbanisation and they still want their Pretoria and all of those things and there's a legitimate contest that has developed over the last while.
POM. What of the PAC? Again there was some talk last year of there being this huge militant youth element that could look upon this cease-fire or suspension of the armed struggle as a sell out. They were fodder for the PAC. But it too seems to have -
RR. It's too intellectualised and those people, if we're talking about militant, half-educated young people, they are not going to be mobilised by intellectual dream or intellectual argument. They are going to be mobilised by traditional third world methods of political mobilisation, namely big names, freedom songs, flags, images, military uniforms, charismatic personalities. The ANC has got all of that, ten to one compared with the PAC. And regular publicity in the ordinary media. The ANC has got all of that. It simply has to be a hundred to one better at mobilising that constituency than the PAC ever could, and it's got the resources and it's got the money. Can you imagine the value of Mandela's name in mobilising that constituency? Just the name. It doesn't matter what the issues are. What a valuable asset that must be. And what a valuable asset it is. And it is proving to be so. If you plastered the names of PAC people to half of the constituency we're talking about, they won't know any of them. No, the ANC's got it stumped in terms of numbers, in terms of appeal, in terms of resources, in terms of everything.
POM. The SACP/ANC alliance, is this proving to be a stumbling block for the ANC?
RR. Oh undoubtedly. I've no doubt about that at all. In terms of its ability to mobilise minorities. Every person who is attracted by the alliance has been in the ANC for years, but there are many people who are not going to the ANC because of that alliance now. It's become a genuine mobilisation problem, I don't doubt that at all. Not even only white people, there are many others also. I spoke this week to Van Zyl Slabbert and Helen Suzman and I said, "Look, how do you see this organisation, the ANC? Could you think of joining it?" They both instantly said, "Communists." Not that they're communists, but the relationship between the ANC and the Communist Party is not open, it is not honest, there is an agenda operating there that nobody quite knows what it is, whether the ANC people do and the Communist Party people do that might be something different. But the rest of us don't. We don't trust this arrangement at all. It's a very big problem in mobilising in the minority communities and might even be so in the African community.
POM. That's very interesting. Is the process at this point irreversible?
RR. No question. It has always been irreversible. From the late 1960s when John Vorster decided that we would send a unified sports team to the Olympic Games if the Olympic Games would have us again and that the All Blacks could come to South Africa and pick their own team as opposed to leaving the Maoris at home, which was what Verwoerd had told them they had to do. From the moment they did that the process was irreversible. The time span isn't determined but the process is irreversible.
POM. I'm seeing the Minister for Justice next week, Kobie Coetsee.
RR. He's actually a very nice person.
POM. I want you to give me five questions. If I were him, what five questions would you ask me?
RR. First, I'm thinking as I talk, the first part would be around the fact that does he realise the suffering and the insult that his party's policies over the last forty years have given to black South Africans? Does he understand that dimension? And if he answers yes, why doesn't he do something publicly to say that he understands that language in order to recreate the trust that is necessary for our process to continue. I'd be most interested to hear his reply to that. If you could send it to me I'd be deeply grateful. The second question would be around the hidden agenda. It has become plain that whatever the truth is that the ANC not only believes that there is a hidden agenda but they now believe they have proof that there is a hidden agenda also. What is the truth about the matter and what is the government going to do to diminish this perception? And thirdly, when does the process begin? The big bang process, not the little process. You see the negotiations are not just the big bang table. I mean negotiations are going on all the time in hundreds of different organisations and levels and peace committees here and in Port Elizabeth the white municipality taking over the supply of electricity to the black houses and the black township and the ANC signing. It's going on everywhere all the time because it is irreversible and because we have to move in that direction. There are forces that neither side can control, that are just driving them along in this process. That's incontestable, but it can go slower and it can go faster. It would be nice if it went faster.
POM. OK. Thank you very much.
RR. I hope I've been of some use to you. Are my attitudes and answers similar to other people's? What sort of other people?
POM. Just read it out.
RR. This is Gerrit Viljoen in Journal of Democracy which is an American journal put out by one government agency or the other where they have a whole section on South Africa's future, and this is an article by Gerrit Viljoen speaking on behalf of the National Party in this instance. And he writes about the protection of minority rights in the cultural as well as the political sense and he speaks of all possible systems of checks and balances which would include :
1.. The recognition of minorities on the basis of a new generally acceptable and non-racial set of guidelines;
2.. A Charter of Human Rights; (which we can't fault)
3.. Constitutional provisions ensuring for minorities both representation and effective participation in political decision making on certain vital issues specified through negotiation; (Questionable)
4.. A measure of autonomy for minorities as well as for geographical regions. "
. Autonomy for minorities? Now what are we getting at here? And now we get suspicious again don't we? I don't know, he'd probably have a very wordy explanation of what he means by that, but that was an interesting one.