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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

22 Aug 1991: Skhosana, Mahmola

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POM. Let me start off with a question that has been raised in the last two days while the coup was going on in the USSR, Gerrit Viljoen was quick to exploit the opening, demanding of the ANC that it ascertain where the SACP stood on the issue of the coup and in the event the ANC said nothing, didn't issue any statement one way or the other way. At least to us, seeing how it was unfolding, seeing a very clear case of the people objecting to, massing themselves against attempts in front of the Russian parliament building, people being on the streets between their parliament and the tanks and that if ever one wanted to make a call for solidarity that this is the time to do it. What do you make of the silence, the fact that simply the ANC or the SACP have not said anything at all?

MS. I think the issue was that it was not clear what was going to be the outcome, whether the leaders of the coup were eventually going to consolidate their power or whether that situation could be reversed and people were worried, I think mostly, like all of us, about the ripple effects it will have in terms of the South African process. For example, you have made an example about Viljoen. His response, like Treurnicht had a meeting in some City Hall and addressed his supporters there, it just shows the kind of political naiveté on their part that they always have this, they are still carrying this fear of communism. The difficulty there for both ANC and SACP is that they are here and issues are happening up there. If, for example, they would support the leaders of the coup then that could be misconstrued as their supporting Stalinism and Viljoen will use that in the future to try to bash them.

POM. But did it not appear to be kind of a clear case of where the people, the masses of the people were on one side? Putting yourself between a tank and a building is like putting your life directly on the line.

MS. That is what happened but the fact of the matter is the Russians were fighting the Russians. It was the same nation and they did not see themselves, I don't think even the leaders of the coup saw themselves going out there to massacre their own people. And the question you can put now, does the Nationalist Party government and their leaders have the same compassion for black people in this country? If that kind of thing happens here what would they do? They'll massacre black people. They don't have that kind of compassion. So while the western media wants to portray the coup leaders as demagogues, at least they showed some compassion the Nationalist Party don't have.

POM. I want to go back to something probably very basic and that is about the nature of the problem that the negotiators will face when they finally get around a negotiating table. Now you have a large number of different perspectives. You have those who say that the problem is a racial one, that is it is exploitation and white domination of the minority over the majority. There are those who say it's really a matter of two competing nationalisms, black nationalism and white nationalism. And you have those who say, yes there are racial differences and racial domination but within each race group you also have important ethnic differences which have potential for conflict and unless they're taken care of in the new constitution they might present a problem in the future. And you have those who might say the real problem is access to resources, that you have this mal-distribution of income and wealth, and millions who have no access to resources at all and that's the basic problem to be addressed. In your view, how would you define the basic problem that the negotiators will have to face when they sit around that table?

MS. Let's clear one or two things before. The question of ethnicity, the Nationalist Party with their social engineering policy separated people, particularly black people, and used laws to keep them separate. The issue of ethnicity is not an issue, it is brought about by the racist regime. I mean Inkathagate for example, it's clear cut where we didn't have all these problems. They are being brought up and propped up by the Nationalist Party government and I think politicians in this country are mature enough to handle that. So there's no ethnicity.

POM. It's a false issue? Red herring?

MS. It's just false, it's just red herring and it will be handled.

POM. Am I correct in saying that what you're saying is that whatever ethnic differences exist it is because they were artificially created and sustained by the government?

MS. By and large if you look at the African culture, I'm talking about the African culture, African people have got one and the same culture. They have got the same norms and values when you talk in terms of the upbringing of children, when you talk in terms of respect for their elders, when you talk in terms of marriage, of ceremonies and all that. All those kinds of norms are across African ethnic groups, so we have more in common than if that was the problem that there are white ethnic groups in this country. If you talk NGK (Kerk) you know you're talking Boer, those are the Afrikaners, if you're talking Catholics you know you're talking Portuguese or you're talking English if you talk Anglican Church, you know you are talking about English people. I mean even their church. You go to any township you will never find a church that is basically a Zulu church or that is a Xhosa church or that's a Sotho church. We don't have that. But whites are more ethnically divided than the African people in this country but they are using it as if it doesn't exist within their community. I mean there is no Jew in this country who will go and marry an Afrikaner. Now within myself I come from a family where my mother is a Masotho from Lesotholand and my father is N'debele. And things that you don't find in white communities. So to try to make ethnicity as a major stumbling block in this country, it's nonsense.

POM. So where would you place Buthelezi in this spectrum? I mean he seems to consciously promulgate Zulu nationalism at best.

MS. Buthelezi is a product of the Nationalist Party. He is no different than any other Bantustan leader. The only thing is that they found a willing tool in Buthelezi and they are exploiting that tool and as time goes on they will dump him. The very fact that they were the first to reveal that they gave him money and then later on he had to deny that he knows anything about the money. How is it possible that the minister can know that we are giving Buthelezi money and Buthelezi says, "I don't know." He's lying. So it goes to the whole thing that as the process unfolds they will dump him, his bosses will dump him one day once he becomes useless for them. You don't use a tool when it has become redundant, you throw it away; they'll dump it.

POM. Do you think that Inkatha without Buthelezi would just cease to be a significant organisation even in KwaZulu?

MS. That's what I believe. I mean Inkatha is a one-man show. It's just a one-man show. It's Buthelezi and nothing else and he is using his traditional position there. It's not a situation where he goes to a congress and so many delegates or candidates can put themselves up for the post of a President. There's nothing like that. So at his own annual congresses, if he has them, they don't even have elections. I mean he runs elections. So I can't see them impacting on the national politics.

POM. Now we have talked to many ordinary Zulus, particularly in the hostel camps around here and Thokoza and to a person they believe that the ANC is a Xhosa dominated organisation and that the ANC, or the Xhosas, are out to dominate the Zulus, they're the biggest tribe in South Africa and establish a one-party state. This is what they believe.

MS. It's not the belief. This is what has been propagated in the media by the regime. I mean they use radios those guys, most of them can't read or write so they don't read newspapers, they depend on the radio. Who run the radio here is the SABC, which is the state that runs the radio. That is the kind of propaganda that goes on and on in their minds and their ears, because that is what is propagated in the radio. So it's not their views. It's definitely not their views.

POM. Is there any way that you can establish reach-out programmes to hostel workers or other workers, like those who have these perceptions whether they are right or wrong?

MS. I am just from a conference in Amsterdam. I spent a week, we came back on Tuesday; we were looking at freeing the airwaves in South Africa because the SABC is dominating and we looked at a number of things and even establishing what we call community radio, a radio station that will cater for the needs of people in a particular community and using the local language. We are looking at all those kinds of options and unless we move to a situation where we can reach people at that level in terms of freeing the waves, and if the Nationalist Party government is going to cling to the monopoly of the waves then we have taken a decision that we want to approach ANC, PAC, AZAPO, NACTU and all the organisations and say to them, we want to go and pirate.

POM. Have the SABC given the liberation movement any greater access to the air waves this year than say this time last year.

MS. Not much greater access. They have reasonable access but what you have to understand is that, for example, if you look at the programme called Agenda, they bring them and what John Bishop is trying to do there is to ridicule the liberation movement, is to show his audience that these are the kind of clowns who don't even know what they are doing. John Bishop, one of their leading presenters, he is trying to be the Ted Koppel of SABC.

POM. You tell Ted Koppel that!

MS. So that he's trying to be a Ted Koppel. But also there is still manipulation of news. For example, a few months ago there were skirmishes in Soweto and a CNN journalist picked a policeman who told a group of people that tonight is the day that they can go and kill Mandela in the evening. So when CNN broadcast their news they used SABC, SABC knew about this clip, they did not put it locally. They kept it and CNN showed it out but then we never saw it. CNN people looked at it, they say that the South African news media is not carrying it. They took that video to ANC and said, play this thing and look at it. The ANC looked at it, their video department, their media department. They then confronted SABC and said, here is a video, you must show it to the people. If you don't show it we are going to take you on. It was only then that it was shown. But had the ANC not had access to this, they were not going to know about it, it was not going to be there. Now what I'm trying to show you is that we are still at the stage where SABC still manipulates news to the advantage of the government of course because that kind of a statement was embarrassing to the government. So they still manipulate news. I wouldn't say that the liberation movement have got reasonable access. I would say that they have access but the reporting which is there is always slanted. For example, there was a programme run during COSATU congress about COSATU and then immediately after that programme they put a clip on Cuba. And what was this supposed to show? It was supposed to show that all what COSATU is leading us to is the Cuban situation. At this stage you don't need it. Those are the kinds of things and the powers they have.

POM. To go back to the problem of ethnicity, how would you then define the problem?

MS. I think the problem is in more than one way. We have racial discrimination in this country and racial domination. That racial domination leads to all, it flows to all other things. It flows to denial of access of education; for example, denial of education means you are going to be denied skills and therefore you won't be marketable in the labour market. Now all the evils that we are experiencing now stem from one source and that source can be traced to racial domination and racial discrimination. Then all these evils come. The negotiators, we have to understand that there is a misinterpretation of history also here where people are assuming that racial problems in this country started in 1948 when the truth is the opposite. Before 1948, since 1652 up to 1948 there has always been racial discrimination in this country. I mean before Bantu education they used to talk about, they used to have a term which meant the education was, if you look at ...

POM. Native?

MS. Native education. What did it produce? A few doctors here and there. A lot of priests, a lot of nurses, a lot of teachers. It never produced engineer. It never produced architects. So what Bantu education did, what the Nationalist Party did, was to continue with that colonial tradition but in this case they say, OK don't teach in English, teach in the vernacular to continue to produce priests, teachers, a few lawyers there or a doctor here and nothing, and nurses. That's all. So now we are going to have to see that the negotiators must look at - we need to set ourselves a programme, short term, medium term and long term programme. In the short term we will have an impact on the medium, in the medium term we'll have an impact on the long term and to say that we are going to move now, I mean they have removed racial laws but we are moving from pigmentation discrimination to skills discrimination. If there is a job there, they want, say, a boilermaker, they need artisans and we don't have enough people with those skills. So they will take anyone with that skill and they are going to tell you, listen here, my brother, we are not discriminating against you but you don't have the skill. But that's a kind of another discrimination.

. So we need to say how do we go on a massive programme of improving the skills of people. Those who are already working. How do you improve their skills? There are those who are outside the job. How do you bring them back in the job market and with what skills will they be coming? We have a whole generation, so-called lost generation. These are youngsters who are not only unemployed but are unemployable. They don't have any academic training, they don't have any technical training. Now what do you do with those youngsters? You need a programme for those youngsters which will make them to be marketable in the labour market. So it's a whole process and it's not only that. The spin-offs of that, you have the social problems of housing problems. As you travel the country I think you must have realised that you have social welfare problems, pensions, they are not there, you have provincial hospitals, the government's programme of privatisation, medical treatment becoming more expensive. So you have a whole range of problems that you need to solve.

POM. Last year you expressed some concern that the people who might be negotiating on the liberation movement behalf might be men or women over 60 or 65 who had no real negotiating skills and you said there was every possibility that they'd get taken in and, or just strike a bad deal; they'd get out-negotiated. When they come away from that people wouldn't say they were out-negotiated, they would say they sold out. Do you feel better about that now in the light of the new National Executive and Working Group in the ANC and the composition of the negotiations quartet with Cyril Ramaphosa, Joe Slovo, Valli Moosa and Thabo Mbeki?

MS. I still don't have confidence. I still don't because Cyril Ramaphosa comes from the trade unions. What, are we negotiating the trade unions? He negotiates things, collective bargaining agreement and all that. When it comes to political negotiations you are talking power here. You are not talking (bargaining) you are talking power. What does it mean? Do you have the capacity to wield the necessary fright, because in the unions you can be able to say that, listen here, if we don't get what we want we call a strike and we will not call off the strike until we've got an agreement. In this kind of negotiations what leverage do you have? Sanctions are gone. I think now we're even worse than before. Because before we had things like sanctions put in place and we could use that as a leverage to force these guys to meet some of the demands but this time round sanctions are gone. What leverage do we have?

POM. Trade unions?

MS. Trade unions? What leverage do trade unions have?

POM. General strike?

MS. General strikes for how long? We're talking power here. You see.

POM. The unions could pull out one sector after another, kind of rotate it.

MS. The unions can pull out one sector after another. We can pull a national strike for a week or so but even then in the final analysis what's going to happen? People are going to go back to work because the nature of the economy of the country is such that people in the townships cannot stay for a week without coming to get some replacement of their foodstuffs. So they are going to move out, they need the money and go to work. Now I think we are in a worse position now than we were last year, particularly with the removal of sanctions.

POM. Given that you don't appear to have very much leverage, who would best negotiate for you in those circumstances?

MS. There is no one political organisation that can say they can negotiate the best deal and get it's way. What you must understand is that no single organisation can come out and say we have negotiated the best deal because in the first place the ANC represent the interest of ANC members. There are a whole lot of people there who are not ANC. How do you say you have negotiated their best interests? So that is why, to overcome the problem, we are looking to a meeting of a Patriotic Front some time next month where the organisations will try to pool their resources together on those issues they agree on; to say that these are the things that we can push but we must also accept that whenever negotiations take place it's still going to take a process before, it will take some time before people can start seeing some results out of it and I don't get the sense that De Klerk is at the moment willing even considering sharing power. I think De Klerk is simply saying that you guys, you come along with me and you support me all the way.

POM. Just to back up to this distinction you made between the short term, the medium term and the long term, maybe before that a more pressing thing I've thought of - this question of an interim government. This has now moved to the top of the ANC's agenda and has pre-empted all other demands because it concluded that the real obstacle to negotiations is the government and they want the government to resign, cede its sovereignty and become part of an all-party interim government. Two things: one, do you see any circumstances in which this government could vote itself out of existence, and two, when you talk about the Patriotic Front you have a situation where you have the PAC and AZAPO both of whom oppose an interim government and the ANC now making it the central demand in the immediate future? How do you reconcile the second part?

MS. The second part, like I said before, the organisations will look at those issues they believe they agree on. For example, all organisations agree that we need to move to establishment of a Constituent Assembly which Constituent Assembly will have the legitimacy and the right to draft a constitution. Now how do we go towards establishment of a Constituent Assembly? It's what organisations can talk about and work towards because they agree on that. The interim government, PAC, AZAPO, does not agree with it.

POM. Where is NACTU on that?

MS. We can't see it. The ANC is talking interim government, it's not spelling it out.

POM. You can't see it you're saying?

MS. It's not going to take place in the first place and I think the ANC is doing itself a disservice by keep on making demands that De Klerk will definitely not meet. For example, they have demanded in the past that De Klerk should dismiss Vlok and Malan, Minister of Police and Minister of Defence. De Klerk refused. They set a deadline of May 19 and it's gone, nothing happened. So now eventually it was the media that actually got those two ministers out because they got hold of the documents that proved that these ministers were involved in covert activities. It was not the ANC. It was the media that did that. Now under normal circumstances there is no government that has sole control of the state political machinery that is controlling the army, controlling the police, controlling the Air Force, controlling the air waves. It must just simply say that OK we give in now and you guys can come. They're not going to do that.

POM. If even De Klerk contemplated it, do you think there'd be a coup so quickly that the military, the security apparatus, wouldn't stand for it?

MS. No I don't think De Klerk will do it. There's no pressure. He doesn't want to do it. Dr Viljoen, who I think is one of the leading, he's a former Broederbond, Chairman of the Broederbond and he's one of the leading strategists of the Nationalist Party who has said it. He has said it on a number of occasions, publicly, that ANC must stop making its demands because it's not going to be met.

POM. I'm getting at a point beyond that. If De Klerk even considered doing it would the nature of the white state with its vast security apparatus simply step in, depose him, say under no circumstances are you going to vote the state out of existence?

MS. That is a possibility. That is a real possibility. And also I think in these negotiations De Klerk wants to take the white community with him. He doesn't want to leave them behind. Now if he does that what will be his constituency. He won't have any constituency, so he wants to take his constituency with him.

POM. Do you think it's important that he does take his constituency with him?

MS. For him as a politician it's important. He is not going to move into a new situation where he is not sure whether his constituency will follow him. He's not going to do it. If he does, it will be after he's been convinced that in that new situation he will still have power and he will guarantee all the privileges for his constituency, then he's going to do it. But so long as he doesn't have any guarantees and he's not clear what's going to happen, because the issue here, like you have just correctly stated, the role of the police and the army, who's going to control them in that interim government? Who are they going to be loyal to in that interim government? Definitely they will not be loyal to the ANC. They can't be loyal to De Klerk if he is part of that. So they can, it's a possibility. And I think it's part of the reason why De Klerk has been refusing to sack Minister of Defence, Malan, because Malan comes from the generation of PW Botha, he's a PW man basically. So De Klerk I think has been reluctant to sack him because the army, I think, still has respect for Malan. De Klerk is an academic, he's not a soldier.

POM. So it's like Malan would understand why he had to be demoted but he would be outraged if he was kicked out of the Cabinet altogether?

MS. It will anger the Generals in the army. It will anger the Generals. And if you look at Vlok, Vlok represents one of the important constituencies, Verwoerdberg, it's named after the late Dr Verwoerd, there are lots of conservatives there. Now De Klerk can't afford to keep those people out. You see the problem is we are making demands which we cannot force on De Klerk, force him to meet them. Like he has said right away, I am not interested in the interim government. We don't have any leverage.

POM. To follow up on that: you mentioned that the ANC made some demands and then the deadlines for the demand comes and goes or they modify the demand, do you think that what the government learned from this is that the ANC is weak when it comes to negotiation, that they don't know how to do it, that they are put into absurd situations where they make demands they know won't be met and then have to back down?

MS. I think it's a deliberate strategy on the ANC, on the government. I'll tell you why, if you look at the struggle in Zimbabwe, the mysticism and the euphoria that is caused by the absence of the leaders, the leaders are not there, they only come back at the time when there are elections, they usually screen the votes and take the votes. That's what happened in Zimbabwe. In Namibia the same thing happened. Sam Nujoma came into the country the last and they were running a few weeks now to elections and everybody had said so much and they were starting to repeat themselves and his absence from the country created such a big mysticism and euphoria that he swung the votes for SWAPO. But in this country what they did, they applied a different strategy. They decided to unban the organisation, let us allow those exiles to come back, let us release those who are in prison and bring them out, to kill the mysticism and the euphoria. There are no elections in sight. So as these things unfold, as the process unfolds, they become part of us so that by the time you are preparing for elections you already have your own constituency within the black community.

. For example, at the moment De Klerk is also establishing the Nationalist Party in the black townships, they already have a branch of the Nationalist Party. I am convinced that if they called elections tomorrow in this country there are going to be people who vote for De Klerk. It's a process that they are doing so that they must weaken the liberation movement and the longer the negotiation process takes the better for the Nationalist Party because that will be a way of hammering the liberation, and that's not only aimed at the ANC and the Communist Party. It is aimed at PAC as well, Black Consciousness, COSATU, NACTU, SACP, all these things because what happened during that Inkatha problem, people will just be moved to ... and people will start fighting in the townships, then the army comes in and separates them. Now who becomes the peacemaker? It becomes De Klerk. He is the one person who must get a Nobel Peace Prize, so it's a strategy and it seems to me at this stage it's working well for them.

. The liberation movement is at a stage where they must remember what Lenin said in 1905 when he was telling his comrades that the Tsar is still strong and you guys you have to work within his structures. And I think De Klerk is pushing ANC where he will say, you have no alternative but these are the conditions I am giving you and it's a given situation so you guys you must come in. And that is not only for ANC. ANC is the biggest political organisation, black political organisation, no doubt about it, you see. And if you can weaken the ANC the others will fall by the wayside. So that is why the aim is always to attack and weaken the ANC and once the ANC is weak then you expect others to follow.

POM. Do you think the government is pursuing a strategy in which it actually believes that it can put together a coalition of forces of itself and Inkatha and maybe a couple of other, the homelands, maybe some pockets of the Indian vote and the coloured vote and the black vote, and actually win?

MS. I think that's what they are looking at. That's true I think, that's what they are seeing. Buthelezi is not going to have an alliance with ANC or PAC. He is going to go to the Nationalist Party. That is the reason why I said I think people in Soweto will vote De Klerk. The coloured conservative community and the Indian conservatives and our own conservatives in the townships are going to vote for De Klerk. So that he what he's looking for.

POM. Who would fall into the category of conservative in the township? Is it class related or just ...?

MS. Not really class related but these will be elderly people, older people, who in terms of tradition in our pursuance of the struggle we have alienated them. For example, you have youngsters in the township stopping people from going to work. Elderly people don't take kindly to that. Elderly people can't come to a meeting and they are asked questions by youngsters, it doesn't happen. It's tradition. Now like in Soweto you have the Soffa-Songa? Party. These are the old people who have always been there within the civic politics, they've been councillors and all that. They are running Soweto now, the Soffa-Songa Party. They are running Soweto's Council. It's a number of years now. These are quite elderly people and because of the harassment of the councillors by all of us, demanding them to resign, boycotting them, in some instances ugly things happen where councillors even lose their lives and all that. Those people are not going to vote with us. Some of them already recently, the new things that most councillors within the PWV area have started joining Inkatha. Now those are sure votes for De Klerk and he is dealing already, doing that, not only that but they are also going to set up a number of parties. The Inkathagate scandal revealed that, that there were certain parties that had to be funded and all those parties are taking the vote to De Klerk.

POM. How about the followers of the Zionist Church? We went up to visit Bishop Lekganjani last year; at one level it was like hundreds of thousands of people drawn from every ethnic group, this is truly multi-ethnic, but one gets the impression they are very conservative and they are almost told that getting involved in politics is not really something that you ought to be doing, you ought to pay more attention to your spiritual life or whatever. PW Botha went to address them four or five years ago and was enthusiastically received. Are they, I won't say apprised, potential voters, but are they a constituency that could be targeted by the National Party and wooed, particularly with the ANC's connection to the SACP?

MS. I think that is what they would like to see happening, but logistically it is not going to happen because those people come as millions, hundreds of thousands to one particular event, and from there they spread all over the country. So they will try to get hold of that. They will be happy to get the votes of those people because definitely with those votes they will be assured of the majority.

POM. But do you think that, not that they were trying to get them, but they stand a chance of getting them? That's what I'm really asking.

MS. It also depends how we play our cards. For example, if the liberation movement as well as the SACC start showing respect for these Bishops, like the Bishop of Zion Christian Church, they show respect if De Klerk goes and address the meeting there, they don't condemn the guy. They go there and they talk to him respectfully and say to him, listen, these are some of things that you don't know about us, what we actually mean, we mean well. And talk to a person with respect. He might not say, yes I agree with you entirely. He doesn't have to agree with them. But once he gets to understand that these people respect him and these people also mean well he is bound to tell his people, his congregation to say that, listen we've got these two evils here and you better make up your minds which is the better evil. The other evil came here and said this, this other evil came here and said this, but both evils respect me and both evils want me to support each of them and I'm not, as a Bishop, I'm not willing to support any of these evils. Then he leaves the people with a free choice and that is the only route I think we should do. But if they are going to be childish and just because De Klerk has gone to one church service and start condemning the guys I think that's a mistake.

POM. De Klerk wouldn't go and start condemning them.

MS. De Klerk will go but you are driving the people to De Klerk, so don't condemn. I mean, congratulate the guy that you are doing a good work, giving the State President, recognise you and respects you. We are willing to come, we want to come and talk to you. I think you have to be soft and talk with these guys because in the final analysis as a politician you need them. It doesn't help to condemn them.

POM. So what would you suggest? What I'm hearing from you is that the sanctions were the last big lever that you had and you haven't said it but many people have said going back to the armed struggle is simply not realistic, so given that how do you develop a negotiating strategy that would be productive?

MS. We are in a difficult situation. I would also agree with people that returning to the armed struggle is logistically impossible because I don't think the front line states will agree to that in the first place and what has happened in the Soviet Union now has put the last coffin in the kind of armed struggle that we can think of. And it has strengthened the process of democratisation world-wide. It has strengthened that. What we are going to be looking at is to look at the Patriotic Front. We are looking at it. If it succeeds then we will be able to engage in a number of activities. For example, we can try to put pressure, call off things like consumer boycotts. You cannot get a national consumer boycott, it's politically not possible. But you can move it from one part of the country to another and target specific areas of that consumer boycott which will be disruptive. We can disrupt production, people going to work for three days and all that, but that has got its own ramifications because that's the other thing that we are concerned about in the unions, that's why we have to go to the Patriotic Front. Who calls the stayaway? Is it the politicians or the unions? Because you run into a number of problems there. If you ask ordinary workers where is the office of ANC or PAC or AZAPO, I don't think many of them know those offices are. But if you ask them the head offices of their trade unions, in fact they go to an extent where you ask a person which union do you belong to, he will say COSATU or NACTU and we are federations and you will find that the guy is a member of a Steel Union ... with a federation of their unions.

. Where we are going to call now, because political organisations are there, we are going to call strikes. We should not expect sympathy from management that's a fact. Management is going to be very hard, they are not going to sympathise, so people will lose their jobs, people will be disciplined, companies will threaten to leave South Africa to go, say, to Namibia. Mercedes Benz made that threat which they are willing to carry out. They will say, we will go to Namibia if you guys are messing things, or they will say we will go to Botswana or whatever. So we have to calculate how far can you push these guys and in the process De Klerk also has to prove that he is democratic, he is willing to move and meet certain demands that the people will want to be met. And I don't think our people are concerned only with that, that vote must have a value, it must change the quality of their life. People have voted in Africa and they became worse off after the vote than before, so we know those things. Now what is the value of a vote? What are the politicians going to deliver? [We are not interested in the number of ...] We are interested in the quality of life for ordinary people. Now all those impact on economic programmes that are going to be set up and we have to accept that for the first time we might not end up with a ZANU type of a government or a SWAPO type of government in South Africa. We might end up with a coalition government and I would prefer that kind of a situation. If we end up with a coalition government we will be better off. I would prefer that we end up with a coalition government. I think that would be better for the country.

POM. So that would be a coalition basically between the ANC and the NP with the PAC?

MS. With the PAC and AZAPO, even the Conservative Party and DP for example. If we can end up with a coalition government we will be better off.

POM. A number of political surveys seem to consistently show that the majority of the people would find such an outcome acceptable. What strikes me about it, and maybe you could provide me with some insight, is that here you have a situation of where you have been brutally repressed for 40 years and repressed before that for centuries, and after enormous struggle you are working your way towards freedom and in the act of gaining that freedom you are turning towards your oppressor and saying join us in running the government. I mean it seems an extraordinary act of forgiveness and it's hard to understand when you turn to your oppressor and say stand up on the platform and let's do things together.

MS. Let me start by making this example. I walked in Harare and here came Smith, the former Prime Minister, he was walking along, he had no security with him and I did not believe my eyes. When I asked the guy next to me and said, "Is this Ian Smith?" he said, "Yes it's Ian Smith." I followed him for two blocks and he went into a building. I then left. I met Smith again, I saw him at the airport, he was queuing like everybody for a certain time. Now you will ask yourself that this guy should have been hanged or something like that, but at times you have to make a human being out of an animal. It's my culture. You don't bear grudges for forty years that those people committed a crime for forty years, you still hang them. It's not going to resolve the problem. You have this guy Terre'Blanche who's an outright, almost an animal in his racism. If you kill him you make a martyr out of him but you have to kill Terre'Blanche while he's still alive. You have to leave him there. He must bark like a mad dog until nobody takes care of him. That is the thing.

. In this country we've got this culture of pluralism. The world has become small. I have travelled to quite a number of countries and I still have to go to a country where you just find only white people, only white people. I don't know, maybe there are other parts of the world where I will still find that but where I have travelled so far in Europe, small countries in Europe, in all these countries you find a lot of black people so there is no way we're going to find exclusively these kind of people. People are all over the world, the world has become small. What we have to try to avoid is that the crimes that have been committed in the past are not repeated by anyone in the future and in that respect we are simply saying that it's not a weakness on our part but I think it's a strength that we are saying that to make human beings and culturalise these people in a humanistic way is to say that we can live together in this country. This country is big enough. There's a lot of enormous work in terms of the people of this country and in terms of the resources of this country.

. So what we want to do, we want to make a home for everybody and it can be done. I think, in my view, if you have one group of people running the country you run into problems. Have a coalition government. That will strengthen democracy in this country because one way I pride myself with this country is that there's a lot of diversity and whether you are Mandela or whether you are Buthelezi or De Klerk or whoever, you know that we are living in a society where one man's hero or revolutionary is one man's sell-out. Now that balances issues and we might come with a strong democracy after that. We acknowledge these guys have committed serious crimes but if we have a Nuremberg type of a trial where does that take us? Does it resolve the problem? Where does it take us? I think we should say to these guys that we have not forgotten the crimes you have committed but we are simply forgiving you and we need to start getting the country out of the morass and all of us can live happily. Twenty years down the line and people will be laughing about these things and people will say we were stupid, we should have thought about these things earlier. When a lot of these issues which are still a tension, for example things like pensions, things like loss of employment, things like housing, when we have got rid of all those things, the issue where women can walk the streets at whatever hour without the fear or threat of being attacked, those are the goals we have to set ourselves, those are the goals we should see we have achieved. You don't achieve anything by sending anyone to prison.

POM. Would you see a kind of a three-pronged, three phase settlement process where the first phase would be an all-party alliance, an all-party government and then slowly that all-party government ...?

MS. It will have also opposition members within that parliament. There will then be those, the CP or whatever, there will be those who will be the opposition. We will tolerate them, they should be there.

POM. So there will be an alliance of parties who want to be in an alliance of parties and there will be in opposition parties who want to be in opposition. And then after a period of time you would move to majority rule or would you continue with this coalition process for a substantial number of years?

MS. When we talk majority here in South Africa we are not talking pigmentation, we are talking a political majority. Now in that coalition how is it going to come about? It is going to come about because the forces will be looking at the political constituency, that political constituency, in such a way that we have to come together. For example, right now what happens here is we find that if there's a by-election between the NP, DP and CP, what is happening recently is that the NP and the DP will say let's not split our vote. So either the DP person will say, "OK I'm giving my voters to vote NP in this area so that we can defeat the CP." And the CP has lost a number of constituencies in that fashion. Now it does not mean that the DP and NP agree in everything but it's in their interest that the CP don't come to power, it's in their interest. Now you look at that political majority, depending on the events, depending on the first coalition government what it delivers to people, a new party might emerge and outvote them when the unions say these politicians are too old, we don't want them, we'll form a Workers' Party, we outvote them and we become government. You see? But it will depend what they have delivered because as the other issues become issues in the process it will depend now what are the issues that are going to be looked at.

. For example, in Britain and America you will find that the Labour Party in Britain and the Democrats in America will be looking at social issues internally while the Republicans concentrate more on foreign policy and getting the market out there. Democrats will be worried about the standard of living of people who are suffering there. So it will depend on the issues but I do not believe we should allow a situation where you don't have opposition parties within parliament. If the opposition can also form their own coalition against you in power they have the right to do so and we must also allow other people if they feel that what is happening in that parliament is disorderly because other people get fed up with the discussions or with the policies and the laws that are made and move out and form their own parties. But the party must be representative. It must not be formed on the basis of race.

POM. So how do you think the process will unfold from this point? We're at the point where there's the Patriotic Front coming up and on the one hand we've got the ANC's demand for an interim government and you've got the government calling for an all-party conference. It looks pretty good that there will be an all-party conference at this point does it?

MS. Yes I think every politician, people are strategising and the ANC is demanding this but knowing the ANC, and I've read some article in the press that Hani was saying at some stage that if the government does not like the word 'interim' government they can call it any name but an arrangement should be made. If we get to a situation where the arrangement is being made also becomes acceptable to other political parties, they might support it. All this is geared to one thing, it's aimed at one thing. It's aimed at pushing a situation where we will have elections for a Constituent Assembly. The ANC does not want the interim government to rule the country. It wants to remove the government for some time, let us prepare and get to elections where we can draft a constitution and take it to the people. All this is aimed at that. So even when you throw the water out you have to check that you don't throw it with the baby, but all of this is aimed at moving to that Constituent Assembly.

POM. Do you believe too, part of what I hear you saying is that if the first government was a coalition government, it makes it easier to start tackling the enormous economic and social problems in the country?

MS. I think so, I agree with it, I think so.

POM. Now in that regard do you think that there has to be agreement beforehand on the broad principles of economic restructuring?

MS. There have to be. For example, people are pretending that sanctions were responsible for a great mass of unemployment in the country and yet South African big business itself has been responsible for disinvestment in this country in the sense that over the years they have been buying companies outside South Africa, in Australia, Europe, Latin America and other parts of Africa and we have watched in Johannesburg here or Cape Town or wherever and you see there are always new buildings coming up so they are not investing in the manufacturing industry where they can create employment, they are investing in buildings which is what the investment has been all along. So we need to agree, like we are proposing in NACTU now, on an economic policy which we are still working on, that we need what we call in NACTU a National Investment Board which would consist of trade unions, government and employers so that we can discuss and decide where to invest and who invests where and what is going to happen with taxing the profits. Do foreign companies take all their profits out of the country or do we tax foreign companies and say X% of their profits will be used for this project or that? You cannot allow a situation of democratic government, you cannot allow a government that is taking our money to buy guns.

POM. Would it also require you to prioritise problems in order of importance, like if I asked you now which is the single most important problem that must be immediately addressed by a post-apartheid government?

MS. I think education is the first thing because we cannot improve the quality of life if we have not wiped out ignorance. You are not going to develop the country.

POM. What I'm getting at is, must it be known before everything is signed, sealed and delivered? Must it be made clear, established that huge chunks of resources are going to go to education and that you have to reach parity in expenditure very quickly, not in five years or another ten years, you've got to say we've got to do this in a year or two, that's all the time we have?

MS. Not exactly because you are talking millions of people there but you've got to say in five years time this we should have done, but between now and five years, in two years time we must be able to show results about this group or this generation. For example, I am talking about the millions of youngsters. If we can start there and say let's equip these youngsters, put them in a programme of two years or eighteen months and then we run a lot of programmes that in two years time we can pause and review and see how far is the process or where have we gone wrong so that you can start restructuring and doing that towards five years, we need to do that. And also the other thing that we need to do immediately is that I don't believe that we must promise people things we won't deliver. The voters know. 80% of black homes in the townships don't have electricity, now if we electrify those homes, because ESCOM has the capacity to do so, if we electrify those homes we are immediately changing the quality of life of those people and we are also creating a conducive condition to study for children, for study, children can be able to study because you don't expect the child to study with a candle. So immediately the child can switch on a light and read and does the homework easily, boil water and have coffee or something like that, or tea or whatever, you are improving the quality of life. Now in the process of improving that quality of life of children and their parents of course people are seeing results of the vote. We have to start there. And of course we have to look at the question of investment in the country. How do we bring back investment in the country? The investment that has left South Africa, except for a few companies, has been largely capital intensive.

POM. Has been capital intensive?

MS. Capital intensive. They have not been labour intensive. What does that mean? The likelihood is that even those companies that are going to come back to South Africa will be more capital intensive than labour intensive. We are still stuck with millions of people out there. You look at the question of agriculture, agriculture in South Africa is highly mechanised. We cannot think of agriculture as a labour intensive sector now. And the shacks that are around Johannesburg, Soweto, all the places that you have seen, come as a result not because people want houses in urban areas but because of poverty in the rural areas so they come here looking for jobs because now in the process of looking for a job you need to stay somewhere and the shacks come up. We need a viable realistic programme of improving the quality of life in the rural areas, rural development programmes. You need resettlement, release land for people. People can live on subsistence farming. But you also need a mechanism where we are saying that if you grow your produce we will guarantee good prices for that. So you must go and buy that produce so that they can earn a living by staying there and then you go and find a market for their produce. So it's a number of things that need to be done. I also think the poverty in the rural areas needs to be attended to immediately because if you want to get rid of shacks you are not going to drive people out but make life acceptable in the rural areas then you don't have a problem, much of a problem, because the housing needs of the country we are not going to meet in five years or ten years. So my prioritising, I would say, education first, creation of employment second and thirdly will be rural development.

POM. Electrification would come where?

MS. Electrification of houses goes with education because if we are to teach youngsters about a common future you need electricity. We have to start moving away from a simple academic education. I think we need academics but with the millions of youngsters who have lost out we cannot think you can teach these youngsters mathematics. We need to start with technical schools, put them in some technical colleges where they will learn to do something with their hands and which will assist absorbing them in the economy, like in the small development. You've got small industries that are developing in South Africa now so they can filter into those and their products can find the market. Electricity will help because you need to electrify those schools. If you are going to teach science you have to have electricity, you've got to have a well equipped laboratory.

POM. One last thing, which is talking about the right. Last year there was a lot of speculation about the strength of the Conservative Party and how if there was a white only election they would possibly get more than 50% of the vote. One hasn't heard so much of that kind of talk this year. I think the white right really only came up with Ventersdorp which was an incident more than a precursor of the future. What's your assessment of the Conservative Party and the non-militant right?

MS. I think the problem the conservatives have is that they are not united about the strategy that they want to do. The only organised group within that is the Conservative Party which is already in parliament. The other groups are just small fringe groups which Treurnicht does not want to openly associate himself with, the wild things that they are doing. They still have a large majority within small towns, conservative towns, and I think the working class Afrikaner, they still have a large majority there. But even if they can come to power, the events in the Soviet Union have proved that you can't switch the clock back. It's one thing which is very clear that even if they can take power, the events they are quite clear, you can't switch the clock back nor can they switch the clock back here. When President Bush announced the lifting of sanctions one of the people who congratulated that decision was Treurnicht. Now if he wants the country to get out of this economic morass he's got to behave himself and he'll do it. I don't think anyone, even if they can assassinate De Klerk, I don't think there's anyone who can reverse this process. I don't think so.

POM. The process, you say, is irreversible?

MS. I think so, and that is why I'm saying that the NP strategists are no longer looking only at a white vote. That is why now they are going after the coloured communities, they are going to the Indian communities, to African communities to say you vote for us. For example, I was toying with this idea, I was taking a walk, I went to some office ... if De Klerk can pull a stunt on us and stage a sort of a coup the likelihood is that there will be African people in this country who will demand De Klerk and that will knock the steam out of any black organisation. I'm definitely sure, I was thinking ...

POM. The kind of strategy that the Soviet Union and Gorbachev ...?

MS. I was just thinking, I was looking at newspaper posters and De Klerk came to this and if he can pull a stunt I'm definitely sure, I might be proved wrong, but I don't want to say there won't be people in the townships who will scream for De Klerk. The process is now at a stage whoever can try to reverse it will be temporary but you can't turn the clock back. Never. Opposite this building, when we came in here in this building, there were also whites who had offices. They are all gone. Opposite here is flats. Those flats, it was only white people. They are not there now. Then take a walk through the Johannesburg Sun to the Carlton and just look at who is there. You can go with all those between figures, between forty and fifty thousand black people living in Hillbrow and all this. You can't change that. You are not going to tell me that I must go and look for what we used to call a reference book. I'm not going to do it. I'm going to tell you, listen here I'm not interested. Thousands of people will say we do not want to tell you those things, you must take us to prison.

. I don't think anyone, even the conservatives, they were a threat before but I think De Klerk has outsmarted them. I mean all the international links that he has opened. Pan Am will be flying here perhaps some time next year, Qantas from Australia will be flying into the country and a whole lot of countries, eastern European countries, the Soviets, have an office here. They have ditched ANC, they have ditched the Communist Party, they have got a mission here, South African Mission is right inside Soviet Union. How do you change the situation? You can't. You definitely cannot change the situation. It's going to take a long time to get where we want it to get to but it has started and it is going to continue. There will be hitches on the way of course, even a plane on a dozen flights gets to some air pockets. It looks like you find some potholes up there and you become uncomfortable but I think, I am optimistic, that eventually we'll get there. I know there's going to be Inkathagate will come, this will happen, that will happen, assassinations will happen and all that but this process is there. It's on and everybody in the country is geared to this and the conservatives eventually they'll get used to it. Nobody likes change, especially change that might cause you some discomfort. And the reason why you can also understand is that we are all moving into a future which we are not sure of, particularly whites in this country. You can imagine if a white is charged, I'm going to be rude here, for rape and here is a black prosecutor who is going to be asking questions. Those things - but what you have to understand is that's the culture we're going to see. There's going to be a judge there and you are going to appear in front of this judge as a black person. He's not going to be looking at your pigmentation, he's going to be looking at the law, he's going to be looking at the crime you have committed and he is going to say the law of this country forces me to sentence you to six years effective imprisonment. And you are not looking at him as a black, he's not black, he's a judge. Here they've got black magistrates, anybody appears, white, black, all of them, they deal with traffic offences, black, white, all of you, you get it, R200, you pay or you will go to prison. All of us. There's such a lot of us.

POM. Talking of this, we have probably more parking tickets accumulated in the past couple of weeks ...

MS. I'll tell you, you know those guys every year the annual report, they make a report about it, I'll tell you they have never reported less than ten million.

PAT. I've got one question for you. It takes you back to the first point we were talking about, the SACP, who needs who more? Does the SACP need the ANC more or does the ANC need the SACP and will there be a division at some point and what will be the cause of it?

MS. I think, what I've always said here, that it's difficult to say who needs who more, but if you look at the SACP personnel and you look at all the positions, most ANC positions they're held by the SACP guys. So I would say that on the question of strategy the ANC needs the SACP guys more. On the question of going to the people the SACP needs the ANC but I think in the final analysis it's going to cost the ANC in the sense that the people will not know who to vote for between the two. I know that my parents will not vote and people of their age and that age group will not vote for the Communist Party.

POM. Would you think that before an election is set for a Constituent Assembly, would you think at that point the ANC would have to declare it had become a political party and members would have to say whether they belonged to the SACP or the ANC political party?

MS. I think they are going to because, for example, Slovo made mistakes here. One of the mistakes he made was for him to openly go on television and say that he's atheist. Now I know that Christianity is dominating in this country. It was brought by missionaries but before the missionaries came in this country African people in Africa had always had some form of worship, some form of knowledge of God although their interpretation of God was different from the missionaries. Now to our parents, you cannot tell our parents that you don't believe in the existence of God and expect them to vote for you because they will tell you that the man who's not - people have this concept that you need a leader who fears God. Now a godless leader cannot lead and I think the SACP is going to pick up lots of problems there. It has, I think, already. People will not vote for them because they are not going to vote for a guy who's got no respect about what he does. I was baptised and I will baptise my children. My mother comes and takes my child, go and baptise. Strong tradition in South Africa. Now you don't come and say these things are just useless. They might be in terms of Marxist/Leninism but even when the South African newspapers show pictures and on the TV newsreel where you see the Russian Orthodox Church baptising people because they are saying we are now free to cater for spiritual groups, you don't survive here to say that you don't believe in God.

. But in the final analysis I think if the ANC does not separate with the SACP it will cause them a problem. It might cost them a lot and I think Mandela in the final analysis, he's in charge now, he will teach them, he will separate them. He has made it clear that the ANC is not the Communist Party. When the Communist Party was launched I was there. Mandela said, "We are separate from the Communist Part'". We don't have to accept their policies and I think that's what he's going to do. And if you look at people who have supported Mandela, like Bishop Tutu, they have been critical of communism long before and these are not going to start supporting the SACP especially when they tell people that God is not important. And the church in this country, particularly the Christian church, played a very important role in waging the struggle, a very important role in waging the struggle, so people remember what the church did for them when they were oppressed in this country. You don't come to be where people have never seen you for more than so many years. I think that was a mistake. But the SACP I think is also well organised, don't underestimate it, on their own, outside the ANC because they are setting up their own branches. They are well organised. They are not going to be a mass party, that's not what Slovo wants. They are not going to be a mass party, they are going to be a small organised party with disciplined cadres and an organised minority. So you don't have to underestimate them. They have to be a minority but a well organised minority which might end up ruling this country.

POM. Well on that provocative note we'll leave it.

MS. This is why I don't think they should be written off.

POM. OK, thank you ever so much. That's very stimulating.

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.