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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
30 Jul 1992: Dommisse, Ebbe
POM. Mr Dommisse, let me start first with your overall analysis of the situation as it now stands with the deadlock, not a deadlock, the collapse of CODESA and the impending two day general strike, sporadic mass action to take place, has taken place over the last two weeks and will take place over the next couple of weeks. Some people saying the political advantage lies with the ANC and its allies, others saying that the government is slowly recovering the advantage that it enjoyed before Boipatong, just see that as a cut off point. What's your assessment of what was going on and what the strategies of the various players are at this point?
ED. Well I think it's clear that the Boipatong massacre really put the government back and after that the mass action campaign started. Mass action was planned, of course, months ago in case of the ANC losing touch with the grassroots and so on. The mass action programme was announced in terms which really spelt out that it couldn't succeed. The so-called Operation Exitgate which Kasrils of the Communist Party, of all people, announced had as the end result the fall of the government by the end of August. Now that's ludicrous, that cannot happen. That cannot happen in a state where the reigning government controls the security forces as they do here. So the mass action campaign is bound to collapse, will not succeed. They may carry on but come the end of August then it would be clear that the government hasn't fallen. So in that sense the government is regaining confidence, I think, and already preparing itself that everybody will return to the negotiation table.
. I think mass action is dangerous in terms of the inability of the ANC leadership to control the more violent elements, the lost generation of their youth, some elements of the Youth League, some elements of uMkhonto weSizwe, some elements of the Women's League, especially the Winnie Mandela faction. These people really still think that it is possible to overthrow the government with a violent effort but it cannot happen I think. And then the danger is that at some stage mass action could get out of hand, people could be shot, the already, I wouldn't say disappearing, but the lack of confidence of the outside world in South Africa will increase. That's the real danger of mass action.
. What can be further said about this negotiation process, I think the CODESA forum is virtually dead. Negotiations won't, I think, continue in that forum, there will be something else. It's not clear what it's going to be. Clearly there will be more bilateral negotiations between the ANC and the government and the government and Inkatha. Very little I think going on between Inkatha and the ANC. The mutual suspicion and hate and so on is just too enormous. That's towards, I suspect, say end of September beginning of October, I would say negotiations would start anew, maybe even quicker.
POM. OK let's go through the things. This time last year when I was here there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and talking about putting the National Peace Accord together and it was signed with great fanfare in September and yet in the period since it was signed - this has been the most violent year since the release of Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC. What happened to the National Peace Accord? Is it a question of did it work because violence would have been much, much greater if it were not in place, or have its structures been inadequate or not properly operated or is it just ineffective?
ED. Well it didn't work. Whether the violence would have been worse, well I think that's difficult to answer. It's not being upheld basically in the townships and I spoke about the elements that are out of hand in the ANC, I think some of these young comrades still think that they can make the country ungovernable, that they can create these so-called liberated areas. And that's actually happening in the Vaal Triangle where they virtually control six or seven townships, where no police go in, they jam the roads, they have roadblocks, they have rocks, they cut down all transport and they control whether you can go out of the township and the places are becoming a complete mess with rubbish being dumped all around. You could see that on TV and we had reports about that. These elements are out of control. The ANC can't control them. As you know Inkatha is accused of fuelling some of the revenge attacks like Boipatong. I think there's an element of truth in that. I don't think Buthelezi can control on the ground what's happening among his Inkatha members. There are also the police, I think there are still AWB, Ystergarde elements, they haven't been weeded out. With all these elements how could the police ...?
POM. So you are saying you had three major players all of whom, after a lot of negotiations, signed an Accord but none of them were in control of constituencies that could make the agreement effective.
POM. Does one not stand the risk of a similar thing happening with regard to any other arrangement between the parties with regard to that?
ED. Oh yes, I should think so. Are any of them going to uphold the agreements that they signed? I mean that's the big question as well. You see from letters in the paper, people are constantly asking, we are against the ANC, but our readers are asking, can we trust anything that they say? It's a good question.
POM. So, just to shift, how would you judge the mood of your readers. Let me put that in the context of the referendum. One, were you surprised by the extent of the vote in favour of the referendum? Secondly, what do you think white voters were voting for when they voted yes? And, third, what did the referendum do to the right wing, the Conservative Party and to the more radical elements of the right wing?
ED. OK. Number one, I was an optimist about the referendum.
POM. You were?
ED. Yes, yes. We had a poll here in the building with top staff, I was the biggest optimist of the lot. There were generally saying 53% / 55% yes vote. I said 63% and I based my assessment on polls that showed that the right wing never had more than 37% or 38% and I thought they couldn't make such a big jump and even I underestimated the vote. So I was surprised because it was higher than I thought. You know with the economy being in such a terrible state I thought that many people would vote against the government because of the state of the economy, but even then I said 63% and it was much too low. Coming to your second question - just refresh my memory?
POM. What whites were voting for?
ED. Oh yes. Very definitely they were also voting not so much for a yes vote as against a no vote, because a no vote would have been a total disaster. We would have a hopeless leader like Treurnicht with all these right wing crooks virtually able to grab power because, I think I've pointed out in previous interview, if de Klerk lost the referendum he would have to go to the polls under the existing constitution and he would lose such an election, no doubt about it because if he lost the referendum by 49% to 51%, because of the loading of the rural constituencies he would lose a general election. As people realised, I mean in our editorial comment that featured very strongly. Do you really think that this government can afford a right wing regime with Terre'Blanche and people like that? That was a big put off for white voters. We couldn't vote for such a possibility, so the government did very well. They voted against the no vote as well, maybe even stronger than for a yes vote. A yes vote meant that they wanted to continue with negotiations because the alternative means civil war and you go for the reasonable option.
ED. Very strongly, yes.
POM. Six months later on what kinds of sentiments are being expressed in the mail?
ED. Let's answer your third question first about the radical elements in the right wing. The right wing is now in tatters. They don't know where to go. Their whole strategy was to force a white election and I think they are going to split even further than they already have because now people are realising, and the Koos van der Merwe people they are putting it very strongly, but there's a bigger element than the Nats and that's the ANC/Communist/COSATU alliance and maybe we should try to beat them and that is working through the right wing very strongly and apart from that the whole volkstaat idea is being ridiculed. It's not practical, there's no hope of succeeding with that and, clearly, Treurnicht is very strong on attacking the (well we have a saying in Afrikaans, puts up his own target and he shoots it down) but in setting up a practical possibility that can be agreed to. He's useless and he's an old man, he wants to retire one day. So there's no hope for the right wing to make any further conquests. The danger, of course, is that the real radical right wing might take up arms.
POM. Do you still think that's a real possibility? Where would you place Eugene Terre'Blanche in this? I mean the man's reputation ...
ED. He's a joke. A lost cause.
POM. I should stop interviewing him after what you're saying. Cross him off the list.
ED. He's not the real danger. The real danger will come from people who have been trained by the military and the police and who would take up arms and are able to use explosives and cause much damage. uMkhonto weSizwe is a joke compared to what we've been through lately and they've shown, they blew up schools and so on and they were well trained. The one was an MP of the Conservative Party.
POM. You talked a couple of minutes ago about how the three leaders are not in control of their respective constituencies. If I look at the last two years since the violence began in August 1990, look at the number of allegations that have been made against the police and the number of incidents reported of where they were on hand and did nothing or sided with Inkatha or occasionally with the ANC, leaving aside whether one can produce evidence in the strict form for did this happen or did this not happen, certainly the pure volume of them from so many different sources would lead one to suspect that the State President, being the politician that he is, would deal with the matter in some way by saying, "I will appoint a special Commission to look into these practices or in the case of a glaring omission I will suspend a Commander. I will be seen to take action. I will be seen to show that I am concerned." Because I think it's a fair argument to say that if it were blacks killing whites his reaction might have been somewhat different. Why do you think over that period of time he has never publicly been seen to take the situation in hand and do something about it?
ED. Well I think it's not easy for him in a revolutionary situation where you need the support of the security forces. I mean when the Shah of Iran lost that he was done for. And he will move very carefully on this knowing that we may be in a pre-revolutionary situation. It's not impossible, in spite of what I pointed out, which I regard as a weakness of the mass action. But lately he has done a lot of things. He did appoint the Goldstone Commission, he called in the British expert, Waddington, to report on the Boipatong massacre and they are acting on the hostels very slowly. I hear that he was furious about the lack of action on the hostels, but that's not such an easy one to deal with anyway. Once you start dealing with the practicalities of that you realise, what do you do? Do you kick these people out of the hostels? Do you throw a ring of fencing round them and insulate them from the rest of the community? It's not such an easy one to handle in spite of what the ANC says. You see the ANC propaganda also raises the suspicion that they want to break down the security forces, all of them. He has to keep that in mind.
POM. So am I correct in hearing you say that de Klerk cannot take actions that would alienate crucial elements within the defence forces themselves because he may need them or that they can undermine him if they wish to do so?
ED. Sure. Yes. They could stage a coup.
POM. Are you saying that seriously?
ED. I don't think they will but he has to bear that in mind. The Defence Force especially, the top officers are professionals and I wouldn't think that they would think of doing that but in other countries, it's a very old African tradition for the defence force to stage a coup and he's a careful politician and he wouldn't want that to happen.
POM. So you see his hands in some ways then as being tied by his ability to manoeuvre with regard to the security forces?
ED. Whatever he does I think he does by making sure that he's taking the top echelons of police and army and whatever along with him. With this disbanding of 31 and 32 Battalion he made sure that the head of the army, everybody was in on this deal and even then he was accused of selling them out. And 32 Battalion is regarded as the best fighting force this country ever had. They are very careful about that.
POM. OK. So if de Klerk can't afford to alienate, for want of a better word, key elements in the security forces, who is it that Mandela can't afford to alienate?
ED. Well, I suspect he can't alienate the Communist Party. As I see the situation, the thinking, the administration, the day to day running of the ANC is done mainly by communists and this is something that one tries understand, to picture how he thinks and how they operate and what's the core of the ANC? If anyone can tell you that, the political scientists they can't tell you what the core of the ANC is. I can tell you what's the core of the National Party, what's the core of Inkatha, but the ANC? Is there a core? I don't even know.
POM. When you say core, you mean?
ED. The central policy making, the day to day decisions, the executive, well, call it what you may. Who are the people that really decide? The ANC is such a diverse body, take for instance their policy on the Nuremberg trials, they have at least six or seven. What's the policy? They don't know themselves, and then they say they may have a policy but once they've taken power they may have to change it. That kind of nonsense. So Mandela is in a way, it seems to me he's a captive of the Communist Party but he's clever enough, I think, to realise for a future government to have communists in there that create the image that they are actually ruling this country, that's death row. The west is not going to buy, you won't see investment, you won't see any trust in this country and I think the more realistic, the pragmatists of the ANC, like Thabo Mbeki, are well travelled people who know the world, they know that this is not a real option for the future but they can't get rid of them. It's a Siamese twin, they are intertwined and to unscramble this egg seems to be impossible and the longer they are together the worse it becomes.
POM. So with regard to Mandela you're saying that on the one hand he is a hostage to the SACP but on the other hand he understands the need that he has to find a way to distance himself from them sufficiently so that they don't appear to be the people running the next government or that an election can be cast simply in terms of it's the Communist Party taking over.
ED. Well I asked him about this and he said we must understand that we are in a way like the west with Russia during the Second World War. We were allies during the war fighting the common enemy but after the war they just drifted apart.
POM. Pretty rapidly.
ED. But now he's saying that apartheid is the common enemy. One could dispute that because apartheid has been virtually abolished. What's left of it won't be there much longer. It's basically the two chamber parliament, what's left of it and the constitution, but that's what the negotiations are all about, how do you replace that. And what you also find elsewhere in Africa, all the governments in Africa to the north have closed the book on apartheid but here it has been kept alive for political reasons, superficially or artificially it's being kept alive because it's useful propaganda for the masses. But if this is all that's keeping them together and if they are so sure that they have a majority then they must also be aware of the extremely negative impact that communism has world wide. So what don't they start splitting? They are already sitting in two parties at CODESA, but the latest is that they will go jointly into an election, they won't go in as two parties. It just raises suspicions.
POM. Of the ANC isn't even yet a political party.
ED. It's not, it's a liberation movement. It hasn't registered yet.
POM. For an election it would have to register as a political party. It's constitution would have to say whether it could even provide for somebody belonging to two different parties simultaneously or whatever. OK. Buthelezi. Who is he hostage to?
ED. He's a hostage of his own personality. He's egotistic to a degree and he's also paranoiac. He has a powerful tool which he plays quite well and it is Zulu nationalism and that's why he keeps on about getting the King into CODESA because he knows the King is more powerful than Buthelezi, he has a bigger hold over his followers and the story one hears is that if the King would say that his honour has been trampled upon, he would call upon the Zulus to defend his honour and they would do it. There are eight million Zulus.
POM. So there's a Zulu card?
ED. Oh yes, a very powerful one.
POM. The question is whether that card is played or not played, but the threat of it is a very real one.
ED. Cogent one.
POM. Just taking cards and the card of mass action, I want to begin by leading up to it by a series of questions. You had the CODESA 2 deadlock, Mandela and de Klerk put the best face on it, that there were problems there but they weren't insuperable. First, were you surprised that the ANC went so far as to offer a 75% veto threshold on a Bill of Rights and a 70% threshold on items for inclusion in the constitution?
ED. Well for me that wasn't the real issue. The real issue was the deadlock breaking mechanism. That was the real catch I think because they said that a Constituent Assembly would have to sit for six months and then a 50% vote would secure a new constitution to be ratified by a referendum. Now that I thought was very silly because it meant that they could sit around for six months, put their constitution on the table, have a vote, go to the people and with intimidation, I see for many years still intimidation in elections won't be stopped, there won't be free and fair elections as you understand it in the west, and then they could have their constitution. Quite surely the government couldn't fall for that. If they hadn't put that, that rider,. that's a long way, 70%.
POM. Yet the government weeks afterwards said it would go for the 70%?
ED. Yes, but not for the Constituent Assembly with it's mere majority vote.
POM. Did it have that rider in?
ED. The ANC threw that in.
POM. I know, but then the government turned it down and in the course of the correspondence between de Klerk and Mandela, de Klerk accepted the 70%, is still willing to accept a 70% threshold. Why wouldn't he have been willing to accept it then?
ED. Because of the rider.
POM. And bargain on the rider?
ED. Well he didn't want to bargain.
POM. He didn't want to bargain?
ED. No. They gave Tertius Delport twenty minutes to decide on that. By then they had decided themselves. My reading of it is by then the ANC had decided that they had become so alienated from the grassroots support and the COSATU and the militant threat became so strong that at that stage they thought they were going to abort the proceedings. And they admitted that. Chris Hani, as you know, said that if they accepted that the ANC would have been split apart.
POM. Well the government should have been very clever and accepted it and then they would have split the ANC apart.
ED. No, but then they could have come back on the Constituent Assembly. They couldn't accept because then they would have been caught on the Constituent Assembly.
POM. OK. So you see the ANC realising that they had, for a number of reasons, that they were getting increasingly out of touch with their grassroots, more militant sounds were coming from the ground to abort the affair. OK, that takes us to the deadlock.
ED. I do agree with you that I think 70%, I think two thirds is enough. That's worldwide. Take two thirds. They should have settled there I think.
POM. You do?
ED. Yes, sure, it would have split them apart.
POM. Let's get back to that, but for a moment the deadlock, you have said de Klerk and Mandela were putting the best face on it, within a month you have the collapse, the ANC walks out, you have 14 new demands that must be met before the ANC will consider going back, you have an announcement of the details of what is to be the mother of all mass mobilisations and you have Mandela making very direct and personal attacks on de Klerk. And of course you had Boipatong right there in the middle. What do you think were the dynamics of the movement from deadlock to confrontation?
ED. From deadlock to confrontation, what are the dynamics?
POM. What led the ANC to move down that path? What was going on within the movement itself? Had there been a shift in the balance of power from the Mbekis and the Zumas? What's your analysis of what's been going on internally to have the alliance move in this direction?
ED. COSATU and the cabal, the white communists, the Indians, the Indians are a very interesting factor within the ANC because for such a small minority group as they are they are completely over-represented both in COSATU and in the Executive of the ANC. They are playing, to my mind, a very dangerous role because Indians in Africa are always in a very dangerous position and they are exposing themselves and in moving to the barricades unbelievably, like Naidoo does within COSATU. But they are setting the pace now, the cabal, white communists, Indians, Cronin, Slovo, Gill Marcus, Naidoo and so on, and I think they are setting the pace right now. And Ramaphosa is helping that along. Ramaphosa became very militant and actually accused de Klerk of being a murderer in Boipatong. That was way over the top for somebody supposedly sophisticated and modernised and what not. He went way beyond what I thought was prudent for a politician in his position.
. Anyway, I think Mandela realised that they had grown out of touch and maybe they should give it some air and of course there's a theory that the pragmatists thought, well let them have their way, it's like the Nats who tried apartheid who had to see that it didn't work before they abolished it or abandoned it. Let them have mass action, it can't work because they do not have control of the security apparatus. Let it go. Already it's not really succeeding. Last time they had mock trials on the Parade here, two years ago they had 30,000, this time they had 1,500 and it was a farce really and they are not succeeding with the mass action right now. Next week it will be pretty clear whether it is going to work or not. I would say it won't work, but let's hold that until we see that. And then once it has failed, what's the alternative? Go back to negotiations, start anew and tell the radicals that we tried it and it failed, so what do you do now? Are you going to have civil war which you will lose even further or are we going to negotiate and get the best deal? Some people say now that the National Party will now get a better deal than before the mass action, which is possible.
POM. You have the Zulu card and the threat of the Zulu card as a powerful thing to concentrate on, to bear in mind. The ANC's trump card has been the threat of mass mobilisation and what this might do, but threatening to play a card is always far better than actually playing it. So now they play it and it fizzles, so in fact they are forced back to the table and the government has recovered whatever ground it lost at Boipatong.
ED. Well of course there's another factor and that's the international community which is now involved and the message is, from east to west, go back to negotiations. There's the thing about violence, but it's constant, go back to negotiations. It was also in the Security Council resolution.
POM. So your reading would be that there will be not the old CODESA forum but a new forum established. Two questions: one, what are the lessons to be learned from the CODESA process itself? Was it set up in a way in which it really was flawed to an extent that in the end it couldn't work?
ED. It was cumbersome. There were too many people there. I think for negotiations to succeed the group should be smaller. The real key players should be less I think. All these silly little parties like the NIC, TIC and so on and Indian parties they are really part of the ANC and some of the homeland parties, they are so insignificant that they really meant nothing. The major players which are basically government, NP and Inkatha and ANC, I think there should be contact between them. Buthelezi is very difficult. He's so suspicious and paranoid and so on. Maybe they should work the King in somewhere to make it work. Then the question comes ...
POM. Maybe they should let the King in?
ED. Yes maybe, but then of course what about the other traditional leaders, the Paramount Chiefs of Transkei, Ciskei, the Rain Queen of Eastern Transvaal, Mujaji, what about her? All kinds of things like that.
POM. I've asked you before if Buthelezi can be a spoiler. He's on record as saying in the KwaZulu legislature that the Zulu people will not be a party to any agreement reached between other parties in which they had no role. And his major speeches have been full of threats of war and of having to defend the honour of the people. Do you think that he can make, at least in his part of the world, any arrangement between the ANC and the government simply inoperable, that he could turn parts of Natal into a war zone where you can't have elections, where there's endemic civil strife? Can he do that or does the government say, we're taking all your resources away, no money from us. If you take the central government's money away you take most of his power away.
ED. I think the present government is very reluctant to do that. His strongest threat is probably secession, which brings him into difficulty with the OAU because of the old policy of the colonial borders should stay. That's his last card that he could play. But I think the government thinking is now concentrated that federalism is the answer for South Africa, regional structures and then of course Buthelezi would have a very strong say. The way they've divided this development, or whatever division takes place, and it seems common sense that you cannot govern the Western Cape like you govern Natal, and you cannot govern the Eastern Cape like you govern the Northern Transvaal or the Rand area. Even the ANC, they have ten regions now, one being of course the Xhosa homeland which is tribally based which I find very funny for people who say they don't want ethnicity and all that. But still let them have it if they are satisfied with that. So regional structures in a federal system would fit Buthelezi I think and I think he would probably go along with that, but he does have very strong possibilities of wrecking any deal. He does have that.
POM. When you talk about federalism are you talking about the maximum devolution of power with the powers of the regions entrenched in the federal constitution, something which the ANC is adamantly opposed to at this point? I shouldn't use the word 'adamantly', but at least at the moment opposed to.
ED. Yes, but then they grumble and then they concede that the government should come closer to the people and the federal structure is the ideal instrument to do that. I think they are moving on that. They have moved away from a really strong centralist position. Further moves would be welcome but they haven't moved as far as one should think would be the ideal for South Africa. On the other hand, if they do have a strong central government and they have a rebellion in Natal, which they could avert by granting them a good degree of self-government shouldn't they go for it? I think they should. Mugabe taught them a few lessons.
POM. Mugabe taught them a few lessons?
ED. On Shona, Matabele tribalism. That word is not used any more, the ethnic factor or whatever.
POM. That was my question last year. I ask 120 people their impression about it and they said it broke down on race.
ED. On race? Not on ethnic?
POM. No it broke down that whites to a person believed there was a strong ethnic dimension to the whole conflict and so did Inkatha supporters. Other than that all of the blacks responded that it was not a factor, it was a creation of whites.
ED. And every time there is an election in Africa they more or less vote on ethnic lines.
POM. That happened totally in Namibia, the elections were exactly on ethnic lines. So your scenario would be, taking the ANC side, that they have lost touch with their grassroots, they had to find a way to abort CODESA. They did. I'll throw in my two cents and see whether you agree with what would be part of my next step in this scenario, that Boipatong served as a catalyst, that it in fact came at a very convenient time and they were able to use it to pull together disparate and fractious elements within their own constituency to make the organisation and its parts cohesive at least in the short term. You have the militants gain the upper hand, the radicals. They go for this programme of mass action. This starts getting scaled back almost as soon as it's announced and may in fact fizzle out. Do you at that point see the pragmatists, moderates, then being able to reassert their position?
ED. That's what one should hope for but of course one should take into account that the tensions within the ANC alliance, I think the tensions are immense and you constantly hear of people criticising each other, of almost unbearable relationships between them and also the very fact that the ANC does not want to move quickly to move away from being a liberation movement and become a political party. I think they use that because they want to win the first election. All over Africa the liberation movement won. It's going to awfully difficult to beat them in an election that I'm sure of. But they will keep that as long as possible and remain, I think as Mandela terms it, a broad church. He doesn't talk about it as a political party, he talks about a broad church, which they are. The elements in there, the pragmatists they realise that a free market economy and a democratic system that's the success formula. All kinds of nationalisation, socialism is dead. We see next door now, in Mozambique, in Zimbabwe, in Zambia, they had to move to a capitalist system. Even China, they're entertaining the communist Chinese here right now. The coastal zones of China are capitalist strongholds. The pragmatists realise that but the old hard liners don't. You find Stalinists like Gwala and so on.
POM. They're a dying breed. Do you see them as being representative of anything other than themselves?
ED. Well he was elected in the Natal Midlands and he won. He even beat Zuma didn't he? As I recollect he beat him in some sort of a leadership struggle. So in some senses the communists in South Africa are proving the old adage that South Africa is twenty years behind the times.
POM. What about the government? When you say that you would find a two thirds threshold acceptable I assume you do so in the belief that the government and its allies would be able to put together 33%, 34%?
ED. I don't know. Under the constitution that we have there was a two thirds majority for entrenched clauses and that's worldwide more or less the case except in Germany where press freedom, for instance, you need an even higher majority to override press freedom. Now if you have a Bill of Rights which entrenches - oh, for the Bill of Rights I think you need a higher majority there. 75% or 70%, it doesn't really matter. But once you start tinkering with basic rights, what comes up is whatever government it is, except if it's a complete one party dictatorship, a government like that has to recognise the international complications of tinkering with basic freedoms and then a two thirds majority is sufficient because you have to conceive of a government in which there is some common sense, [where they cannot rely on ... and the dominating thinking in the world today.]
POM. OK, I think we're talking about two different things. You would be talking about a two thirds threshold in a situation where the interim constitution was thrashed out in a negotiating forum. So you're talking about amendments to that constitution?
POM. I was using it in the sense of distinguishing between that and a situation where you would have an election for, a la Namibia, a Constituent Assembly that would actually draw up the constitution. Would you make a distinction between the two?
ED. You know this Constituent Assembly, how it is constituted is of course going to be, I think, one of the big problems that lies ahead. The present thinking is that OK we can have that, it's an elected Constituent Assembly and it will concentrate only on drawing up a new constitution while the rest of the governing of the country goes on and if it needs it a change of the present constitution. For that Constituent Assembly to be created you need an amendment of the present constitution. I think that's clear. Now what that amendment says is going to be, I think, that's where the big haggle is going to be because if it says that all agreements in that Assembly have to be met by a certain percentage, if the present constitution demands that, that's where the deal is going to be struck or not. Then you come into - is this Assembly going to acknowledge regional powers, regional structures, devolution of power and a two-chamber parliament or whatever?
POM. This is what the government wants?
ED. I think the government will want the bargaining about that.
POM. Done before?
ED. Before. Otherwise if the Constituent Assembly can decide just on its own, and a Bill of Rights, before it takes place, if a Constituent Assembly can just go on its own we can have a simple majoritarian government which will fail in a deeply divided society.
POM. That's the distinction I was trying to make between when you are for a two thirds threshold you were applying it as an amending mechanism to the constitution that would already be drawn up, would in fact be drawn up in terms of there being a federal state where the powers are entrenched and a Bill of Rights is in place. But you would not be for the two thirds quotient if you had an election a la Namibia for a Constituent Assembly that would write the constitution from scratch?
ED. If it's written from scratch then a two thirds majority, well they accepted it in Namibia and because of the minority representation there were a lot of deals struck and it was very quickly, I think within a week or so and it was all over.
POM. Would you trust that process here? Would you trust an election for a Constituent Assembly? It's essentially what the ANC wants, an election for a Constituent Assembly and a two thirds threshold?
ED. I wouldn't trust it.
POM. You wouldn't trust it?
ED. No. Because there won't be free and fair elections.
POM. You can't have free and fair elections because of the level of violence and because of the possibilities of intimidation? This is like the chicken and the egg. How do you bring the violence under control? If you can't have elections until you bring the violence under control how do you bring the violence under control?
ED. With an interim government. We all know what an interim government of national reconciliation means, Inkatha, ANC, government, all three of them in it. They have to crack down on violence like they never have before. Their joint responsibility, that's the only solution.
POM. They have done that. You are now ready for an election for a Constituent Assembly. In that situation would you be trusting enough to go for a two thirds threshold?
ED. For acceptance of the constitution?
POM. For the writing of the constitution.
ED. If there are a few things in place, and that's really hoping for the impossible, if they accept beforehand the Bill of Rights, which I think can be done, if they accept regional government, language clauses, that will be crucially important.
POM. Regional government with powers already defined beforehand or with powers to be determined by the constitution?
ED. Well I think one has to be flexible about it.
POM. So regional government, language.
ED. Yes language, Bill of Rights, fundamental rights and of course acceptance of the normal division of power, independent courts, effective parliamentary democracy.
POM. You and the ANC aren't far apart.
ED. I know.
POM. I never thought I would hear you make that statement. That's a breakthrough from two years ago.
ED. Yes, but coming back, what's the core of the ANC? Do the communists accept a free market type of economy or don't they? There are many other things that count, affirmative action for one. This country does not have the economic capability to deal with that. The economic system, can that be defined constitutionally and perhaps agreed on constitutionally? Free press is another one.
POM. Is that going to make you wary?
ED. Sure, very much. We don't trust them at all about that. Already they have lain siege to those newspapers who don't agree with what they say editorially. There's a lot to worry about.
POM. Basically you seem to be, for all of that, far more - I don't know whether the word is 'upbeat' but certainly you see the possibilities of a future working relationship.
ED. Well I'll come back to what I said last time. For this country to be successful if the ANC governs they will have to pull in knowledgeable white people and whether they have come so far as to see that I don't know. I think the interim government that's proposed, that is going to be crucial to rebuild confidence and stability in this country. If that works, and they have all kinds of fancy sunset clauses, I think the National Party in its heart of hearts does not believe in the power sharing formula that they've put forward. How can it work? But if it's part of the deal to get the country going, to build confidence and phase it out, what better mechanism to put people at rest because right now lots of whites are talking about emigration and in fact are emigrating and these are the people that we need most, doctors, engineers and so on.
POM. That will bring me to my last question which is what is the mood of your readers now? What concerns are reflected in the mail today vis-à-vis six months ago after the referendum?
ED. Well complete lack of confidence in the ANC. I would say a feeling of distrust that they have the competence to govern this country because of what they've done in CODESA and afterwards with the mass action. These totally inflammatory speeches by Naidoo and Ramaphosa, also the, shall I call it, Mandela's role. The personal attacks on de Klerk who he doesn't call 'President', he calls him 'de Klerk', and accusing him of murder and so on. That raises the question that if you are saying this about a man whom you wish to place in the position of governing with you in an interim government, how are you going to go about it? Calling him a murderer, you're calling him corrupt, he's not in control of anything in the country and then you expect people with any kind of credibility that he should be co-governing with you. How does that work? And the ANC hasn't got its act together there and they're not thinking about the consequences, nor are they showing a solid, unified front. They have mixed signals coming all the time, all the time.
POM. One thing seems more than obvious, certainly different than last year, is that COSATU has moved centre stage in a big way. Do you think it's part of the power struggle going on within?
ED. I think it's part of that and, secondly, I think it's because COSATU suspects that an ANC government will crack down on trade unions in a big way and they want to flex their muscles and feel very strong and physical.
POM. If one looks at the ANC's recent economic policy documents which were endorsed by Business Day as pragmatic and open-ended, it hardly fits in with what COSATU has been preaching for the last ten years.
ED. COSATU is always open to the accusation that they care a lot about higher wages but they don't give a damn about the unemployed, which is very true. They do nothing about them. In fact they increase unemployment and how can you tell an employer, if these people don't turn up for work, and he decides to fire them because he's losing money and he cannot pay them, how can you tell him to take them back? He won't take them back and nobody can force him to. The business community's response is no work no pay and that's very strong. That's our policy. And we don't expect people not to turn up, by the way. In one of our plants, the magazine plant, we've had some trouble there but otherwise not.
POM. In this building, will this be an empty building on Monday?
ED. No. It's never been. If one of the editorial staff tried it, he's out because as a newspaper he has to cover the news whatever day it is and that's that.
POM. So you are reasonably optimistic?
ED. You see I would be more optimistic if I had the confidence that Mandela, Mandela is a key figure, if he is the statesman that he should be. But there's trouble with the wife, sometimes I think he's hammering the government because of his anger at his wife.
POM. He's hammering the government because of his anger at Winnie? It's a projection?
ED. He's quite easily influenced by the person to whom he last spoke. Even his own people are saying that. There's one thing that I would say in his defence and that is I think it was a mistake of de Klerk at CODESA 1 not to warn him about what he was going to say about uMkhonto, and then Mandela went completely overboard with that outburst and right now relations between de Klerk and Mandela are very bad. They don't speak to each other as far as I know. I know for a fact that de Klerk doesn't accept his phone calls personally. But people are working at getting them together again and that could be - you know if they start going through the country together with Buthelezi saying the violence has to stop. I think the major factor in this country is that the goodwill between ordinary people is still a much higher degree than you find in similar situations elsewhere, maybe in Northern Ireland.
POM. Is Mandela also key in the sense that if he were to suddenly die, is he the glue that holds this alliance together and if you take him out of it there is no unifying force?
ED. I would think so. It's a very old relationship with Slovo and the old guard of the ANC and so on and the UDF people are really now in control, but he is still the unifying force because of the international admiration for him, which has come down of course, but he is still able to - I mean look at the Olympic Games. He moves around like he is the leader of South Africa. And that can of course generate some money which they need very badly.
POM. They've run out of money too?
ED. Oh yes. You know what they pay their top people? R3000 to R5000 to people in the National Executive. R3000 to R5000 a month. That's what we pay ordinary reporters. They don't have a lot of money.
POM. On that note, thank you ever so much.