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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

28 Jan 1992: Goldstone, Richard

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POM. Judge Goldstone, let's start first with a question both Patricia and I were discussing in a number of contexts, and that is in both Germany and Czechoslovakia when change came about the governments there made the security files open to the public so that the public could look up and see who was informing on them and published the nature of the information that the state had on them. What do you think will happen in South Africa when that point of the transition is reached? What would you advise the government to do, because in both Czechoslovakia and Germany it has proved to be enormously divisive?

RG. Frankly I've never given it another thought. I wonder whether, I mean looking at it from a practical point of view one should at least not get rid of the files, that sort of thing.

POM. But we talked about ...

PAT. The Security Ministry kept them.

RG. I would assume that would be the position, but in any event I would guess that the people, members of banned organisations or people who were banned, for example, would know certainly that they were being monitored and presumably there would be nothing particularly interesting in their files that they wouldn't know anyway. You know I doubt whether this would be an issue. I've never heard it raised.

PAT. The issue of the informers network, people who are on file as informers?

RG. Oh, actually as informers. I'd be very surprised if records like that would ever get out.

POM. If it became an issue, what I'm asking is what would your advice to government in that situation be? That it's better for the country?

RG. I just don't think it's a legal question. I mean I just don't think that lawyers or judges would be asked to advise on that sort of issue. It's the least political question.

POM. In the course of transition there would be a large number of changes being made, one would be the judiciary and one would expect to see more black judges. Is there a sufficient pool of qualified black advocates from whom, if necessary, a sufficient number of judges could be drawn?

RG. Well I think calling it a pool would be an exaggeration. There's a pitifully small number of qualified black lawyers, and I'm using that in a broad sense to embrace all non-white South Africans. I think there are more than most people might expect. To give an example, you know about the Violence Commission which I'm heading? One of the five members of our commission is a Pretoria Advocate Solly Sithole who lectured for some twelve years or so at the University of the North and then came to the Pretoria Bar as an advocate, as a barrister, three or four years ago. He's one of the members of the commission and the very first enquiry that I set up was into violence recently in Thokoza, a black township near Johannesburg, and he is the only Transvaal resident member of our commission and it seemed obvious to me that he was the person who should head that enquiry. And I requested him to do it. He was terribly nervous. He told me he had never been to an enquiry let alone headed one and I'd met him and talked to him, one makes these decisions quickly and he seemed to me to be intelligent, competent, tremendous personal dignity, he's a dignified man and I had little doubts, and I told him so, that he could manage it and he just blossomed. I've only had praise from all quarters, from press, from lawyers who've attended it. He's just done a great job and it was difficult for him because when I discussed it first with him, he said, "You know, you're doing a terrible thing to me. Firstly you're giving an inexperienced lawyer this job." But he said, "No black person has ever done this sort of thing in South Africa and if I make a mess", he said, "I'm letting down all the black people of South Africa." It was a tremendous - and he said it in all seriousness. Had you asked me about this question three months ago I knew nothing about Solly Sithole. I'd met him when he was at the University of the North, I'd heard that he was at the Pretoria Bar but that was all. I wouldn't have known about him and I'm sure there are other Solly Sitholes, not that many because there are not that many black lawyers. But I'm confident that within a very few years we will have a fairly representative number of black judges.

POM. Could you run through the procedure you set up when you start an enquiry into violence, whether it's into any particular area like Thokoza or whether it's like the more recent allegations that have been made by The Weekly Mail against the security forces? How is the procedure dealt with?

RG. Well the Commission is constituted under an Act of Parliament which was promulgated in July 1991, before the Peace Accord was ever discussed, and the parties to the Peace Accord and particularly the ANC decided that they could live with this Prevention of Violence and Intimidation Act, as it's still named, the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation Act, which provides for the commission to be set up. It provides that the chairman is to be a judge, provides that there will be five members, all lawyers, and it provides for the State President to set up the commission. It's appointed by the State President. And in terms of the Peace Accord the signatories to the Peace Accord, including the ANC and Inkatha, agreed to incorporate this Act on certain conditions, and the most important condition was that they would be consulted and they would have to agree to the identity of the chairman and the other four members. So it wasn't just a presidential appointment.

. And the second condition was that the government would sympathetically consider amendments to the Act which they had in mind. The five of us were chosen as a result of a long and difficult negotiation between the government and the political parties and other organisations who were party to the Peace Accord. In terms of the Act the commission has very wide powers of subpoena. People subpoenaed by the commission are required to answer questions even if they would incriminate. Incriminating answers cannot be used, however, against those persons in any other or subsequent, in any other proceeding. We also have unlimited powers to search and seize documents anywhere in South Africa with no exclusion. It would include the State President or the Commissioner of Police or anybody else for any purpose relating to any enquiry of the commission. The purpose of the commission is to investigate and enquire into what's referred to in the Act as the phenomenon of public violence and intimidation which is defined as intimidation and violence with a political aim.

POM. Is it restricted to a period in time?

RG. The Act precludes us from enquiring into violence or intimidation prior to the date of promulgation of the Act, which was July 1991. This is one of the questions, I've got a meeting of the commission on Monday night, on Tuesday we start the enquiry into The Weekly Mail allegations, and the newspapers, many of them in South Africa, have raised the issue as to what would fall within our terms of reference and they suggested that we should give them wide interpretation. I presume what I'm telling you is confidential?

POM. Sure. It won't appear for years.

RG. My own strong view, and I must say I'm thrilled with the other members of the commission, we just haven't disagreed on anything. And I'm sure they will agree with me that the test of relevance at The Weekly Mail enquiry, or any other enquiry, isn't so much the date on which anything happened, it's the relevance to current violence.

. To give you an example, one of The Weekly Mail allegations is that the military, the South African Defence Force, trained 200 KwaZulu policemen and I understand from what I've heard they are going to present evidence that some of those 200 were guilty of participating in the assassination of ANC leaders in townships. Now as far as I'm concerned if there's evidence to establish that, and if any of those 200 are still members of the KwaZulu Police we must investigate what those KwaZulu policemen are doing and the role they are now playing in the KwaZulu Police even though, as I understand it, the assassinations they're talking about ante-dated the 31st July 1991. By the same token and on the other hand if none of those 200 are still in the KwaZulu Police and nobody knows where they are, we're not going to investigate assassinations that took place two years ago where there are no influences and where there's no link to current violence. I don't think that will be frowned upon by any of the non-government parties. I think it's a proper approach. But having said that, I'm digressing a little bit, but to get back to your question, the commission is absolutely independent of government, of parliament, of any political party. We decide what to enquire, nobody can interfere, nobody tries to interfere.

POM. Have you got a secretariat?

RG. Secretariat. We've got two advocates who were on the Attorney General's staff, one of them I chose. He led the evidence for me on several occasions and is an excellent, efficient, independent, unbiased man. And we've got a second one who is equally good and we've got staff. I've got an office in Pretoria, an office in Cape Town. In addition we're entitled, the whole commission can sit and hold an enquiry, or the commission, with the concurrence of the Minister of Justice, can set up committees of enquiry which have the same power, the same wide powers. That's what we set up in Thokoza. The committee must be under the chairmanship of one of the five members of the commission and has to consist of three people. So it can consist of say three people, at least one of them has to, as chairman, be a member of the commission. We're actually requesting the government to amend the Act to give us greater flexibility. It's not sufficient. Theoretically we could have five committees. We need more. And I want the power to be able to appoint one advocate at the Cape Town Bar to go and have a two-day enquiry into some flare-up of violence in the KTC Squatter Camp and not have to set up a whole committee and get the minister's consent and the whole hullabaloo and so on. So that really I think answers the question as to how we're set up and choose the enquiries.

POM. Then do you publish a report on each case you investigate?

RG. One of the changes that certainly I know the ANC and other parties want, in terms of the Act we report to the State President and he has a discretion as to whether to make the report public in whole or in part. The ANC and the other parties want that changed to make it obligatory for my reports to go through the signatories to the Peace Accord and they together would decide whether to publish and what to publish. I don't think it matters from a practical point. I think the Act should be amended but I'm not terribly excited from a practical point of view because having regard to the identity of the members of the commission and the present political situation in South Africa, I don't believe it's politically possible for the State President to hide the report. I'm putting in one report this week simply summarising what we've done and not making any recommendations. I'm putting in a second report next week arising out of the Mooi River enquiry where we will be making some fairly important recommendations about policing in the area. But in both cases I'm going to issue a media statement saying that I have handed over a report to the State President dealing with such and such a subject. I mean if he doesn't make it public pretty quickly he's going to have not only the press but the other signatories to the Peace Accord, particularly the ANC, saying "Well where's the commission's report?" I think from a practical point of view he's going to have to make public the reports we put in.

POM. But in the case of, say, a report of the violence in Thokoza, that would follow the same pattern?

RG. The same pattern. If that committee reports to the commission and we can accept their report, we can send the matter back to the committee and we then report on the report, as it were, to the State President.

POM. What I'm getting at is that here's a community going under enormous stress, does an investigation into the cause of the violence there, but hypothetically under the law they need never learn of who was responsible for the violence, since the report goes to the State President he can choose to publish it or not?

RG. Absolutely. In strict law that's correct, but as I say, politically I just don't think that's on for a number of reasons. Firstly, the whole Peace Accord would come tumbling down and secondly Judge Goldstone wouldn't continue to head the commission, certainly if I thought that there was any attempt to stifle what obviously the public had a right to know.

POM. The Harms Commission took a lot of flak for not being broad in its interpretation.

RG. And also I think for simply stopping, said enough, I'm not going any further. I think it stopped short by reason of Judge Harms' interpretation of his mandate but also he just got to a point where he said, "Well I'm not investigating any further."

POM. But your approach is really quite different in the sense that ...

RG. Oh absolutely. As far as I'm concerned we're looking for the proof in relation to violence and we'll go on investigating until we've finished the job.

POM. It's one of my standard questions since the violence broke out, to everybody that I've interviewed, so I ask you, but I'm asking it of you not in your capacity as chairman of the commission but really what would have been your own thoughts before this commission was established. We were here that August it began in the Transvaal and first it was called Inkatha and ANC and then it was called Xhosa and Zulu and then we had the allegations of a third force, then you had it moving to the point where Mandela has insisted in the last year that the government is itself a party to the violence though not personally pointing a finger at de Klerk. Which is slightly more than saying there are rogue elements in the security forces because among the security forces, people that I've talked to, there's a willingness to admit that, that there are elements out there that would do these things. The question is twofold: as you've watched this evolve, what are your own thoughts in regard to where responsibility lies, particularly - I'll make this a second question, how much a part do you think the ethnic factor plays in it? And I want to ask you some subsequent questions on ethnicity so don't get hung up on that at the moment.

RG. I don't think I know a great deal more since I've become chairman of the commission than I did before because we're really at the beginning. The commission has been going just over two months, it started in November. My own feeling, and it's nothing more than that, is that there isn't a third force. I think there are third forces. I would be surprised if there weren't right wing policemen involved in undercover violence operations. It wouldn't surprise me if they had middle to senior police officers who may know about it, or not know, or may turn a blind eye to it, especially in the rural areas. I've had no evidence of it. I'm really speculating. In addition it wouldn't surprise me if both Inkatha and the ANC had supporters who for political gain were not using violence to intimidate people to join with them, or certainly not to join the opposition. I think the right wing obviously would be a prime candidate in my book for committing acts of violence for political purposes and in particular to try and wreck the whole peace negotiation of the government. I think it's one of the horrors of the South African situation. It could be rational and logical for people from the far right and the far left to participate in violence and in exactly the same violence. I mean the assassination of the ANC leader in Thokoza, which is one of the issues that the Sithole committee is looking into, could equally logically and rationally be the result of white right wing assassins or black right wing assassins, anti-ANC or for that matter Inkatha. There are all of these possibilities and I don't think that any evidence has yet come to light, certainly not brought to my knowledge indicating which if any of these possibilities are there.

POM. We went out to Thokoza and talked to the hostel dwellers and to other people in the community, but we've been struck among the hostel dwellers by the way in which they interpret this in an ethnic way. They talk about Xhosa-speaking people, they say that the ANC is a Xhosa organisation, that it's out to establish a one-party state and the only thing that stands in its way is ... to destroy the Zulu nation. And I suppose, when I asked different people about ethnicity their answers vary almost in line with their ideology. If they're in the ANC it doesn't exist, if it did exist it was created by apartheid. Then you move over and I get to white liberals, academics who will say, yes, it's a factor but it's not talked about because if you raised it you would be seen somehow as being an apologist for the regime, would be suggesting that their analysis of the problem was right but their prescriptions were wrong. What's your own view? Do you think the ethnic factor is a real factor and a factor that must be discussed and taken into account in the formulation of government arrangements and that if it's not, then new governance arrangements may just be open to violence in the future or to division in the future?

RG. Well it's a very real factor to be taken into account. I have absolutely no doubt. The evidence is overwhelming that the ethnic factor is important.

POM. What kind of evidence would you point to?

RG. In particular the Zulu support for Inkatha is evidence of the Zulu ethnicity being used successfully to mobilise and what is portrayed certainly by the Inkatha leaders, and particularly by Buthelezi, as a proud nation, a proud warrior nation. His support from the evidence that I've read and heard about is predominantly from less educated members of the Zulu nation to whom that sort of thing would appeal. The more educated Zulus and the urban Zulus are more likely to support the ANC than Inkatha, but like any generalisation there are as many exceptions as there are adherents to the rule. But take Mooi River, Mooi River is interesting because they are all Zulus. I mean tremendous fighting went on there. The incident that we enquired into took place over one night on the 3rd and 4th of December and there were months of violence between.

POM. This is in Natal?

RG. In Natal, Natal Midlands. A hostel of 1000 single men, completely Inkatha controlled, snap bang in the middle of a black township of about 10,000, the township absolutely ANC controlled. ANC people with AK47s shooting at people in the hostel and the hostel dwellers eventually breaking out on the 2nd and 3rd of December and the estimates vary from between 600 to 1000 men pouring into the township with spears, assegais and sticks and murdering 19 township dwellers including women and old men and one child of 10, sticking spears through them. It's an interesting example because that wasn't ethnic. They were Zulus and Zulus, but the divide was ANC and Inkatha. Now I don't know, but I would be surprised if in that hostel there weren't ANC supporters and I've no doubt in the town there were Inkatha supporters but the control was such that anybody who said some pro-ANC something in the hostel wouldn't have lived very long and anybody in the township that would have said something pro-Inkatha probably would have had his house burnt down. There's this tremendous rivalry for political power and I think this is going on throughout Natal. So I think one can exaggerate ethnicity, if these hadn't been Xhosa/Zulu people, would have blamed it on their ethnic roots. But here's a non-ethnic situation having exactly the same effect.

POM. Just as we're talking about ethnicity, it brings me to groups and I believe you had government's insistence for a period of time that there would have to be protection of group rights.

RG. That's been abandoned.

POM. Do you now think they've moved from that to a position of accepting that the protection of individual rights in a Bill of Rights, in a justicial Bill of Rights is sufficient?

RG. The government certainly saw some sort of joy in a group rights idea and when - have you met Judge Olivier?

POM. He went to the Boston course.

RG. Of course, I put you on to him. Judge Olivier was appointed by the government those years ago to investigate a Bill of Rights and his mandate expressly referred to group rights and Theo Olivier was an academic, a legal academic at the University of the Orange Free State, a friend of the Minister of Justice, and I've no doubt the government expected him to come out with the report approving group rights. And Theo Olivier, who I've got to know well over the years, I didn't know him then, is a man, I think of tremendous intellectual honesty, he's a good academic, he's a clever man, and he was driven by sheer logic to reject the whole question of group rights so I think the person the government had hoped would deliver the goods, not only he didn't deliver the goods but he persuaded sufficient people in government that it was a bad idea. And he certainly persuaded the whole Law Commission. So it happened in that strange way. Had it been a lesser person than Theo Olivier it may well have been a different story.

POM. That brings me to what this process is about. When we talk to the ANC, for example, I use them because they are the main black group, the main liberation organisation, they make it very clear that what they consider this process about is a transfer of power. The day is coming when the majority is taking over and that's that. When you talk to people on the government side they, like every other sentence, bring in about the sharing of power. This is the process that's going to result in an equitable sharing of power with no one dominating the other. But conceptually they're two quite different things. What do you think it's about? What do you think the process itself is going to lead to?

RG. I've got no doubt that the black majority isn't going to settle for less than a democratic, non-racial society and it seems to be that that carries with it necessarily that the majority is going to rule. I think the most that any minority, I was going to say minority group but it's really irrelevant, I think the most that any individual can hope for and is entitled to would be some rights protected in an internationally acceptable Bill of Rights. And that's it.

POM. That's very far from what I would find any government minister saying.

RG. That may be, but I'd be surprised in their heart of hearts if they really expect that there's going to be anything different. They may, at best I would guess, looking at it from their point of view, have some sort of interim arrangement. But at the end of the day I don't see any alternative that would or should be acceptable to the majority other than majority rule.

POM. Do you think that the National Party itself is at a point where it accepts the inevitability of majority rule? By that I really mean black majority rule, not exclusively black government.

RG. I really don't know. I'm perhaps happy to say I know very few people in government. I've had more dealings with the Minister of Justice in the last two months than I've had in the rest of my life. I know one other Cabinet minister because he used to brief me at the Bar and that's Roelf Meyer who's now Minister of Defence. I've met Pik Botha once I think at a very large party and that's the sum total. I've spent ten minutes with the State President when I accepted the appointment as chairman of the commission and that was a sort of formal fancy session, but apart from that I really don't have anything to do with government.

POM. Well let's say from among your own colleagues and the people with whom you mix socially and professionally, where do you think they're at in terms of how they see the future?

RG. I think the people I mix with will accept the inevitability fairly soon of a non-racial democratic society, hopefully. I mean the alternative is far worse I think for everybody regardless of the colour of your skin in South Africa. The alternative is some police state, black or white.

POM. Is there a large degree to which this transition is connected to the question of economics and what a new government will be expected to do, either the expectations are abnormally high and when you look at these huge inequities between social spending on blacks and whites. Even the Minister of Education, de Beer, said that to bring expenditure on blacks and whites to parity would take up 40% of the total budget so these things can't be done. What kinds of things do you think a new government must do in the short term to show the majority of the people that having a franchise actually makes a difference to their lives?

RG. I think if I can get back to the commission I believe this is not the policy of the commission because we haven't discussed it at least in the stark terms I'm going to say, but we have discussed it. I believe the single most important function of this commission, we've been appointed for three years, I believe that the most important function is to be the catalyst in bring about democratic, acceptable police and security forces. I think if we had a police force that was truly representative of all the people and had the confidence of all the people, then I think its a sine qua non for putting an end to violence, which I think is very much the work of the commission. But I think that above all it must be tremendously important to the black people of South Africa and that's something that would affect them in their daily lives. I think it would be important. For the rest I think economics is obviously important. I mean the government's already gone a fair way in bringing services to many millions of black people, electricity, sewerage, water and all the rest of it. I think any new government's got to make the majority of the people they represent feel that the government's doing something.

POM. How about things like affirmative action? What is the legal community's position on that? It has been a matter of great controversy in the States.

RG. There are no laws at all. Personally, I have no doubt that we need a massive affirmative action policy in South Africa. My own view, and I did some research on it when I was at Harvard in 1989 and I've read widely on affirmative action, I believe that we shouldn't make the mistake that other countries, and particularly the United States, has made in having affirmative action benefits dependent on race. I think it would be fatal in South Africa. I think if we could find, especially in education and in employment, if we could find non-racial criteria the result of which would be to benefit 99.9% of black people. Let me give you examples: I think for people to benefit from an affirmative action policy in education they must be able to prove, they should be required to prove prejudicial education in the past, that they went to a government Bantu education school, and/or that they came from a poor economic background, that they didn't have proper studying conditions, the sorts of prejudice that black people have suffered as a result of apartheid and segregation. Why it's important is I believe that there are a fair number of blacks who wouldn't qualify under those criteria. There are sons and daughters of wealthy black middle and upper middle class who have been to private schools, some of them have had Rhodes Scholarships and gone to Oxford. There's no basis on which they should come back to South Africa from Oxford and get the benefit of some affirmative action policy in the employment field. They are in a position where they should compete on merit. And I think they would want to compete on merit and not feel that they have been given a job because they are black, rather because they've qualified for the job. It would also I think carry with it it's own death knell, at least in theory, as more and more black South Africans get decent education and are no longer discriminated against by law at least. So fewer people would qualify and you wouldn't have the effect that you have in the United States, as I understand it, that it's really the middle and upper class blacks who have benefited from affirmative action. There's really been very little trickle down to the people who really need it. So I think we can learn from that sort of error.

. But having said that there's no question, I think the black South Africans, and also incidentally if you have racial criteria in South Africa you'll need a Population Registration Act, because what about Indians, Asians, Chinese, Coloureds? Are they black for the purpose of affirmative action or are they not black? I think again if you've got objective criteria it doesn't matter what the colour of a person's skin was. But I think having said that there's no question that blacks are entitled not to be doubly prejudiced, a black person who would qualify on the criteria I'm suggesting who came to a university and the university said, "We're not letting you in because you haven't had a decent school education", is punishing the man twice. He's been deprived of a good school education and now, even though he may have the potential to succeed at university, you're excluding him.

POM. One thing we found, kind of a second part of this study runs in parallel, is to look at a number of individual families ranging from rich conservative whites to poor squatter dwelling blacks and interview them in depth, all members of the family, mothers, fathers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, whatever. But one of the things that has emerged, and it's a small sample, but from the black families that we've talked to when we put a question to them of whether they would like to send their children to a school where there are whites which might involve some form of transportation into a suburb or whatever, or whether they would prefer to have their own schools of equal quality but in their own communities, the answer invariably comes back that they want their own schools in their own communities. So that one senses that, at least what I get is that people want to be equal but separate. They don't see things in terms of the integration of the two.

RG. I think Theo Olivier's had a, I don't think it's in his report, but he once put an idea to me which I must say appeals to me and that is the ticket system for education. Do you know how that works? Everybody has a coupon worth X rand which the government pays to every child regardless of colour and if people want private schools they can organise them themselves and they can use that coupon to pay towards the cost of that school. If it costs more than the coupon then the parents have to cough up. But that coupon would entitle a child to free education in a government school which is non-racial, that has to admit everybody. In other words you couldn't have a government sponsored school that's segregated but people would be entitled, if they wanted to, to get together and have a Xhosa school or a Jewish school or a Catholic school.

POM. When you look at the legal community what are the major areas of restructuring that you think would be in need of immediate attention?

RG. Do you mean subjects?

POM. Subjects and ...

RG. You mean in a future law school?

POM. No I mean you have a body of the law out there administering the law of the country and now you have a new government coming in, what are the major areas do you think in which the laws ...?

RG. Politically I think the most important single area would be to outlaw and to put a stop to public discrimination. I just don't think it's enough to do away with racial legislation. I think one needs positive legislation to stop public and even semi-public discrimination. I think people have to be forced if necessary not to discriminate. And until that happens I think black people are going to be discriminated against regardless. In other words I think the sort of Civil Rights Act that you have in the USA to stop clubs discriminating.

POM. To go back to the question of violence again, do you think if the level of violence continues at the average level it's been at over the last 18 months that there can in fact be a successful transition?

RG. That if it continues?

POM. If it continues at the average level it's been at for the last 18 months.

RG. I think so because the violence there has been hasn't stopped people talking. It's certainly impeding the negotiating process because I think it's diverting people's attention from what they should be concentrating on to other matters. I don't believe that if the violence isn't curbed that there won't be a successful negotiation. I think it would facilitate the negotiations if there were less violence.

POM. When you look at Mandela and de Klerk, again using them as the two major actors, what obstacles do you see in the way of both of each trying to bring their own communities with them towards settlement?

RG. I think the biggest are Mr de Klerk's having to take into account the fears and prejudices of the white constituency and I would guess the majority of the white constituency, Afrikaans and English speaking whites, so I think he has a constituency seat to his right that he has to take into account in that he doesn't want to go down in history as the man who tried and failed. By the same token, and I think the other side of that coin, Mandela's problem is that he has a huge constituency who have benefited not at all during the almost two years that he's been released. And here with his release were tremendous expectations and what do they have to show for it? Unemployment, a few squatter camps, coming to the cities expecting pots of gold to suddenly appear before them and they're not there. I'm really sympathetic to the problems both of them have in public statements they make in having to be talking not to each other but to other people out there who are equally disaffected.

POM. On the question of the referendum, and this is a question that we asked just about everybody two years ago in 1990 just after he made the promise to go back to his constituency, and the feeling then was pretty substantial among whites that he was honour bound to go back, that if he didn't he would lost his legitimacy. And among blacks of course they felt this was absurd, that the days of the whites having a veto were over. Do you think he's honour bound to go back and how if you had to advise him, if you were an advisor ...?

RG. I don't see how he can get out of it. It's a solemn promise he's made repeatedly. How does he get out of it without causing tremendous disaffection and possibly fuelling some sort of civil war?

POM. Do you think it could, that it brings up the threat of the right? Do you think the threat of the right is a really serious threat?

RG. It depends what threat you mean. I think the AWB sort of right, I don't believe it poses a tremendous political threat. I think it poses a threat in the sense that it takes very few people to cause chaos in the country if they have enough bombs and hand grenades. But from a non-violent political point of view I don't believe there's a great threat. But in any event I think the government is more likely than not to win a referendum, I think they will probably take their chances. As I understand what they are doing, they're not going to run a white only referendum on its own, they're going to have a national referendum. One of the problems they've got is that it's no longer a white party. The government party is now a non-racial party and has non-white members. It's difficult to know how a non-racial party with non-white members has a white referendum. Say there's an advisory sort of thing, but I think it may be a narrow squeak but I think the government would probably be well advised to do it on a national basis and say, well there are 40 million people in South Africa, 38 million have voted in favour of this constitution. It so happens that 2 million out of 4 ½ million whites hadn't really, how important is that when you've got 37 ½ million people voting for it?

POM. When you said that, when I asked you about the threat of the right, was it a serious threat, you said it would depend on what kind of threat you were talking about. What kind of threat do you think is a real threat? I mean do you see any situation in which the right could, where violence could become more organised?

RG. I don't think so. One doesn't know. I don't know enough about it. The contacts I've had with the police and the conduct of the police thus far, it would be very, very successful if there was a - for the right to have a successful coup they'd obviously need the police and/or the army, large chunks of it to be with them and I don't think that's on in this country. It's a well disciplined army and police force. Over 50% of the police force are blacks anyway and I mean today's arrests of AWB leaders, the whole leadership, in a 4 am raid, our police are insomniacs. They always do things between midnight and 3 am.

POM. This alignment of the SACP with the ANC, a year ago we ran into lot of concern about it, again among white liberal types, but less so now. Is that just something that's withering away or do people still think in terms of SACP alignment, nationalisation, the economy going down the drain? Is communism in some form still alive and well at least in the minds of South Africans in the way that it's no longer alive and well in the minds of other countries?

RG. I don't think so. I don't mix, unfortunately, and this was the interesting thing, I envy you talking to all sorts of people, but one thing I've learnt whether I'm living in South Africa or visiting the USA, one really lives in a very small community and for the sort of people I mix with I don't think that the SACP is particularly perceived as a threat. I think they'd feel far more comfortable with an ANC that didn't have the SACP connections but I don't think it goes further than that. I don't think that they'd feel that the SACP controls the ANC and even if it did, what power is there today of a communist party? It's not getting its instructions from Moscow or Peking or anywhere else.

POM. Do you think when it comes to the constitution, do you think that the government will look for some form of protection of economic rights in that constitution?

RG. Maybe property rights, yes. In fact I've little doubt that would be the case from not only the government but from the point of view of the overwhelming majority of whites. They wouldn't want private property confiscated without compensation.

POM. Just in that vein you have the NP's proposals. There's the qualification for local elections which struck me really as ironic at the time since it was just a property qualification that was the most important issue when Northern Ireland fell apart in 1968. That would be held, would it, in any constitution in which you ...?

RG. To have a property qualification?

POM. Yes.

RG. How dare anyone suggest it and how stupid would any black be to accept it?

POM. They did. Finally, just on as you see the future yourself, do you see it as being a relatively quick transition? Do you think it has been on course? Do you think that the progress has been more than one could reasonably have expected two years ago? I say that because I've picked up one of the, I think it's The Star in Johannesburg this morning, and it had a column about how both The Guardian and The Times were sounding so pessimistic about the way things were going and the obstacles.

RG. Well I think it's gone unbelievably well. I wouldn't have dreamt that we would be at the beginning of 1992 where we are. Absolutely not. I don't think any sane, rational person would have conceived it possible. I think we're more than on course. I don't underestimate the problems but having gone this far I think it would be overly pessimistic. I'm moderately optimistic and I think there's an awful lot that can go wrong but I'm optimistic not only because of where we've got but I've always been optimistic because I think the miracle of South Africa is the patience and goodwill of black South Africans and I say it having had a fair experience. I'm sure we discussed it when we last met, the experiences I had with the detainees over a 3-year period and just the amazing goodwill which I personally encountered on every one, well over 3000 visits to angry disaffected, mainly young black men and a fair amount of young black women. It couldn't but make me optimistic for the future.

POM. You put your finger on one of the things that puzzles me and something to which I've got no good answer, or received no good answer, and that is that you have a white community that has oppressed blacks for 40 years ...

RG. No, 300 years.

POM. Or at criminal levels for 40 years and there's this remarkable lack of bitterness. Yet there is this ferocious violence that goes on mainly within the black community itself where rather than be angry at the white man their anger seems turned inward upon themselves. What do you think accounts for that?

RG. I think it's a black political vacuum. I mean black people haven't been able to organise politically for over 300 years and certainly not in the last 40 years and, well I suppose over 300 years they were in a way but it was irrelevant, it wasn't in their orbit and all of a sudden you've got people vying for real power and I really don't know the answer there. I'm sure you need to speak to a psychologist, psychiatrist or sociologist to find out. I really haven't heard or read of an acceptable explanation for the violence but that's my opinion.

POM. In Bloemfontein at the 80th anniversary of the ANC's founding, they said that there would be an interim government in six months and an election for a Constituent Assembly. Do you think they are being overly optimistic?

RG. Absolutely.

POM. How would you see time frames?

RG. I think the government would wish to have some sort of finality before it's forced to have another election, which is another 2½ years. That seems to me to be the present time frame. But I think we could well see another government within the next twelve months. The government now seems to have accepted the idea, as I understand de Klerk's speech at the opening of parliament he's thinking of some interim new parliament which will have black representation. If it's on an interim basis I don't know whether the ANC would accept it or wouldn't accept it. I foresee difficulties in a way.

POM. Whereas it again seems to involve separate representation by race. It's difficult to see the ANC accepting that.

RG. You know I just don't accept, I'm surprised, people don't learn not only from their own mistakes but from other people's mistakes. I would have thought the worst possible scenario for whites in South Africa would be to have some special dispensation. The worst possible thing I think for the whites in Zimbabwe were the twenty seats they had for ten yeas. If anything was calculated to cause blacks to discriminate against whites it's that sort of thing and I think the miracle of Mandela and the ANC is their absolute consistency over the decades notwithstanding the most tremendous frustration and reasons to the contrary, never have wavered from their non-racialism and they're not going to now. And I just think that white South Africans are far better off being South Africans and taking their chances with a decent Bill of Rights and the goodwill generally of the majority than in looking for special rights.

POM. There's an optimistic note to end on. Thanks.

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.