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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
03 Aug 1992: Eglin, Colin
POM. Colin, maybe you could give a bird's eye view of what you think is happening at this point in time, particularly around the recent negotiations at CODESA where you had, and I must say I was surprised, the ANC offering a veto threshold of 75% and 70% on a Bill of Rights and a constitution respectively and the offer being turned down, so to speak, by the government. What were the politics involved in both the offer and the turning down?
CE. Well over five months the negotiation process took the ANC increasingly into the orbit of the government's plan. Whether it moves away from a Constituent Assembly which would be the big bang, the moment of liberation, it would draw up both the constitution and in effect set the basis for an interim government, to a situation that's, on the last week of negotiations, the Constituent Assembly was going to be the lower house in a bicameral legislature in a new interim constitution which would have been drawn up by CODESA and in terms of constitution making its only function would be to amend that constitution over a period of time, subject to very, very severe constraints and restrictions. And so the ANC found itself in a position which meshed in with its view that the government, from the ANC's point of view, was not showing signs of facing up to the consequences of the full democratisation of South Africa. They were seeking means of using the concept of protecting minorities, to give minority political parties veto rights over the majority. That combined with this new fact that you'd have a long, drawn out process of transition under your constitution drawn up by CODESA, I think the ANC felt that the negotiating team of the ANC, and that includes Mandela, would probably not have got a mandate from its constituency. In other words, at that moment the National Party or the government had won almost everything, everything, and the ANC hadn't won anything. But I think there was a fairly desperate attempt in the last week from the ANC to get the government to make some major concession so that they could at least say, "Well we also won something." In the end, not having won anything in a sense in terms of where they started off from, the ANC said, "Well look we're going to have to call it off and we're going to have to review our position and place demands on the government so that we can restart the process on a different basis."
POM. So you see that negotiating period as being one in which the government had clearly out-negotiated the ANC.
CE. Well it shifted it from a position in which the Constituent Assembly, which was marching on parliament, down with the racist parliament, we demand a Constituent Assembly now, it was the focus of political liberation. In the end it was going to be in terms of the deal having been concluded, it would have been one of the houses of a bicameral legislature in a constitution drawn up by CODESA. Any Constitution has to amend itself in due course, subject to those various special majorities. So from their point of view the whole scene was, the driving force was not going to be the Constituent Assembly it was going to be CODESA. The time frame instead of being the Constituent Assembly getting on and drawing up a constitution, it was now already locked in to a constitution which it could amend over a period of time.
POM. Yet at this point the ANC then makes an offer of giving?
CE. They didn't make an offer at all. I proposed a certain thing and the two parties went back and looked at it. So the ANC said, "Right you are, we'll agree to up it from two thirds to 70%." There were so many complicated proposals around that I said let's cut through all of this, there's nothing sacrosanct about percentages, it depends on where you start and all the rest of it. The PAC if they'd been there, their document says 70%. So I said, let's forget all the nonsense, I put 70%. If you want 75% for a Bill of Rights you can have it, but the 70% was the key thing. And the ANC said, yes they would come back, they'd have 70%, but they wanted a time frame on it. And the government said they wanted 75%.
POM. With no time frame?
CE. With no time frame. The point is this, the ANC had come to the view that the government hasn't acknowledged the implications that the democratisation of South Africa will involve a significant transfer of power. I don't like Mandela using the word as he did last night 'to the masses'. I saw him on Friday and he didn't use that word, he used 'to the people of South Africa', which is what is going to happen. And both in terms of not facing up to this as a concept and trying to protract the process of transfer for too long, the ANC had to try to get some concession from the government and in the end the government didn't make a concession.
POM. But even if the government had made that concession, people I've talked to in the ANC say they would have had real problems selling it.
CE. Of course they would have had problems. They could at least say we've now won something and the 75% isn't there and the Senate, the blocking power of the Senate that isn't there. They also wanted a time frame. They could have said we want a time frame of two months, six months, whatever it was. So they could have attained something. I think they would have still been trouble because I don't see how they could overcome the problem if you're going to have a Constituent Assembly drawing up a constitution which is separate from the government you're going to have a very ad hoc government. You could even have the present government expanded at the executive level, but as soon as you accept that the body, the Constituent Assembly is going to be a fully elected parliament and it will determine who the executives are going to be, then you actually have to draw up a constitution to constrain that fully elected parliament because they will be fully elected. They will then say but we're not going to have a Bill of Rights or we're not going to separate powers. Once they accepted that the Constituent Assembly was going to be an integral part of government they were in a position where they would have to have a constitution to absorb that Constituent Assembly. And therefore that Constituent Assembly couldn't draw it up, somebody else would have to draw it up. The only person around in town happened to be CODESA. So instead of the concept being that CODESA would come with some general principles and the Constituent Assembly would draw up a constitution based on those principles, CODESA was going to draw up those principles and the constitution.
POM. And then the Constituent Assembly would be?
CE. It would then operate within that constitution, but it would have the right that any parliament has to amend the constitution but in the way in which has been determined by CODESA.
POM. It would also be a legislative body?
CE. It would be legislative as well.
POM. OK. This contradiction at the core was not appreciated?
CE. It rises from the basic fact that they don't believe that the government accepts fully the consequences of democracy in this country. And therefore the government although it doesn't accept it conceptually and it's trying to make the process so long, to protract the process. Whereas the ANC says that in fact democracy means an elected body should draw up the new constitution and that the transfer from one constitution should be relatively short, period.
POM. So, take the moment from when the talks deadlocked and you still had de Klerk and Mandela putting the best face on it, saying the problems weren't insuperable, to a situation where six weeks later you had the collapse of the talks.
CE. Less than six weeks. It was two weeks, ten days later the ANC had its policy conference, that was the 27th May, so the thing collapsed on the 16th. It was ten days later they had their four day conference and at that conference they said in view of the fact that there wasn't a total package agreement they're going back to their pre-negotiation position.
POM. But they also walked out of CODESA?
CE. That's what I'm saying, that's when they did walk out.
POM. They had a shift.
CE. Then they said this is what our new position is going to be. Then you had Boipatong and then they said we're now going to set up a set of demands and when you have responded to those demands in a satisfactory way we'll consider re-entering the negotiations.
POM. What were the dynamics in the ANC itself?
CE. You must ask the ANC that. I've just told you I think the people who negotiated would have had great difficulty getting a mandate, sorry, getting approval of that negotiated deal because it looked, on analysis, as if it had gone overwhelmingly in the direction of the government and overwhelmingly away from the ANC. I think they were in difficulties even selling the 70%, they have gone back to sixty six and two thirds percent, but if they also had to sell that the constitution is going to be drawn up by CODESA it would be more difficult.
POM. So now with the stayaway, what are the politics of that? What are the politics in terms of the perceptions of who is the winner and who is the loser?
CE. People will have to wait and see what the government, what shifts it's going to do. If the government doesn't shift at all then the ANC will have gained nothing in terms of negotiation. It might be stronger amongst the people or it may be weaker amongst the people. So far I don't believe that the negotiations have broken down. They are negotiating by correspondence, but I look at their various positions. Each time they write a letter to the other there's an adjustment of the position. So it depends, nobody knows what the government's latest position is because they won't let anyone know. And the government has been much more conciliatory in its statement. It said that, when you read the second response to the ANC, that we think they've got some points which we must take seriously. And then when they finished their three day think tank they said they don't believe that the difference between the ANC's proposal and theirs is unbridgeable. Well that wasn't their first response. Their first response was saying your demands are ridiculous.
. So I must assume there's going to be some movement and the question is whether that movement is adequate for the ANC to say to its supporters, we have also won. But when you have a freak situation, I mean you really have to go back to the history of this and that is that here was a country 2½ years ago in a state of low intensity civil war with things starting to escalate, with increasing external pressure, with people conditioned for conflict and confrontation on both sides. And suddenly, an ethnic Afrikaner sitting in Tuynhuys saying, "I'll negotiate before I've lost". The black leader sitting in prison said, "I'll negotiate before I'm gone." So at the top level there's a total commitment to negotiate. But the support base hasn't been conditioned to negotiate. And then those elites meet behind closed doors, they've got to be extraordinarily careful that the deals that they might strike behind closed doors which aren't known to their supporters, that when they're revealed they're going to readily accepted.
. And I think what could have happened to Mandela is what nearly happened to de Klerk. When he lost his Potchefstroom by-election in February he didn't know whether he had a mandate from the white voters and he actually went in for mass action. He said mass action for voters is to call off CODESA for a few weeks and have a referendum and I want to see whether I have a mandate, I want to get more public involvement in the process and I want to be stronger at the negotiating table. Now strategically this is what the ANC, or Mandela, is doing. I want to get a mandate to continue negotiating. I want to let the people feel that they are participating, it's not just elitist, and I want to be stronger at the negotiating table.
. Whether it's going to succeed or not I don't know. I am going to assume that the government is going to shift quite significantly. That's my assumption. There are two aspects, one is on the issue of the handling of violence. Whatever they say it won't be satisfactory, but I think it will be possible for the ANC to say, "Well we've managed to force the government to address the issue of violence", even to the extent that I think foreign observers coming here, in other words you can feel that you've won on that one and you've got operations, Battalion 32 has gone and the hostels are fenced in. That's the one issue. And the issue of setting up of an elected body to draw up a constitution which must lead to a majoritarian kind of result and not a minoritarian result, I think the government is going to say, let's do that. But I don't think they are going to insist that that body must be an integral part of a new constitution. Those two will still be separate. On that strength the ANC will say, "We have won our points and we can go back to the table." But if the government just says, "We stand where we were", they won't go back to the table.
POM. What do you think will lead the government in the direction of ...?
CE. I think the illogicality of their previous position. I don't think they're going to be afraid in a sense because of the physical actions of the ANC. In fact the ANC runs a very severe risk. I think it's already at a disadvantage because of mass action. I think the international community doesn't quite understand why they called off negotiations in this way. And internally if mass action of a totally voluntary kind assumes such mammoth proportions as it did in Hungary and in Germany in order to be decisive, but if the only way you can make mass action look big is by coercing people into it, then in fact you're moving into an electoral situation, you're aiming at the very electorate that you want to vote for you. So while coerciveness is an appropriate strategy for liberation struggles if you should need to coerce people on to your side, it's not an appropriate strategy for a party entering an election. If what we see here is a natural up-welling of people's feelings and they come in their thousands without being told to come then the ANC will be politically stronger. If in fact you can only get people to comply by blocking the train routes and burning tyres in the streets, the people who are then trapped in the townships are going to become angry. It's a high risk strategy, both in respect of whether you promote negotiation or not. And a high risk strategy as to whether it will promote the ANC or not.
POM. Some people have suggested to me that when de Klerk faced his Waterloo with the whites' only referendum, Mandela gave him the space, the ANC stood aside and said what they said previously that a whites' only election, we'll let that one go ahead. They understood the need for de Klerk to take his constituency with him. And they're saying that de Klerk isn't as understanding of Mandela's need to take his constituency with him.
CE. Yes, but he should understand. Whether he does or not I don't know.
POM. What I'm getting at is that with the referendum, and you look at the figures and you see 70/30 winner/loser, no doubt about it. With something like mass action it's all insinuation, there will be some incidents of violence.
CE. You've got no absolute numbers, there's no absolute test. It depends on the government, the danger to the government of mass action continuing and Mandela not succeeding and by succeeding I mean not getting something from the government, because that's what it's about, you will both shift the centre of gravity within the ANC away from what I call the negotiators towards the confronters. So there will be a shift there if the negotiation doesn't shift the other way. The other one in a more general sense, it will intensify populist politics in South Africa which when you spill over into an electoral situation you will then get populist leaders in office not able to resist the demands from their popular fronts. So the more your populist, the rabble, the mass, all the rest of it dictating the terms on the basis of those words and things, the greater the risk is when you get your first democratic election that in fact the government won't be able to have what I call sensible economic and social policies because they'll be driven by this new wave of populism. It doesn't help either Mandela or de Klerk for this process to continue for too long without Mandela having some success. I hope the government understands this.
POM. Is Mandela, in your view, by Mandela I mean the ANC's leadership, in control of his own movement or is there disaffection with what's going on?
CE. I don't know what one means by 'in control'. Is Mandela going to be ousted at the next conference? No.
POM. But can he control?
CE. He can dictate, it's different from control. He could not come along and say, "Well I've now agreed to a 75% majority, you'd better support it." In other words I think he is very sensitive to the fact that he's a leader of people and therefore people are a factor in his decision making.
POM. Is CODESA the wrong - has it got the wrong structure for negotiations insofar as the structure ...?
CE. CODESA was supposed merely to launch the process. Look at it's mandate, "We hereby declare that we wish to start the process which will lead to the enacting of a new constitution." And if that's all it is then that's fine. But if as it happens along the route that it was following it was now going to be the body to draw up an interim constitution, yes, then it is the wrong structure because basically what we want to do is find a body that will help South Africa to escape from the present apartheid constitution. And overwhelmingly the bodies represented there have their power base in the present apartheid constitution. So is it appropriate that organisations who derive their power from the present constitution should be the organisations to help you to escape from it? And I think this is the essential contradiction of CODESA. It was overcome in a pragmatic and I think sensible way, it said CODESA is not the body to draw up the constitution but at least it can launch us by the finding of parameters of the principles so we can all get on with it. But once it is also going to be the body to draw up an interim constitution, which could be the final one, then it is entirely inappropriate. In other words it's never seen, nor should it be, as a constitution making body. It's a body to initiate the process of drawing up a constitution. And that's it's terms of reference. I was on Working Group 2, (i) our terms of reference were to identify and to consider general constitutional principles which should be enshrined and not contradicted in a new constitution; (ii) to consider and agree upon a constitution making body and a constitution making process. But nowhere was it deemed that it could be the body that would draw up a constitution.
POM. Here you have a government that considers, with its allies, it could garner 30% of the vote, gets an offer of a veto on the constitution of 70% and says no. To me it sounds as though they turned down the best offer they would ever get.
CE. Have you seen their latest offer? I think they're back to 70%.
POM. Then the government said, "Now we will accept 70%", but the ANC have said, no, we're back to sixty six and two thirds percent.
CE. The ANC agreed to 70% plus a very clear time frame. The government said 70% but 75% for regional matters and we will abandon our Senate but then there must be a commitment now to have a new Senate in the new constitution and that Senate should have power, co-equal powers to protect the constitution. Well, most countries have constitutions with that kind of set up, but what they suddenly said is you must agree to that principle in advance. And the ANC said we haven't agreed to the other principles, how can we at the last minute suddenly agree to this principle? The government made a concession but it did it in such an ungenerous way that it actually looked as if it was getting tougher rather than weaker.
. I had a one-on-one with de Klerk three days after CODESA and I said I'm speaking to you because you're not at CODESA yet you're a key actor in the CODESA process and I would say the same thing to Mandela. His impression of what is happening in the minds of the other people is all conveyed to him second hand by his interlocutors, his representatives. And I said to de Klerk they may be right but I may be right and it may be useful to hear an assessment. And mine was that when you are in politics it's clever to win everything. When you're in negotiation it isn't clever and unless each side can face themselves and face their constituents and seek their support because they also want, they will withdraw from the process. And I said the reality is, without arguing the merits of it or how it got there, by not making a major concession towards the end which the ANC could say we have also won, you created a situation where I said, say to you now, they are going to withdraw. In fact I was proved right. He said "Oh, well, we abandoned the Senate". And I said, "You abandoned the Senate but you raised the ante on the percentages so that that has now become the focal point because nobody's realised that you might have abandoned something else because your high profile is this other thing." And the result of that is that there's no way they could go back to their constituency.
. So I think this is going to be ironic. I actually sense that things that the government should have conceded then, they're going to concede now. If they had been generous at that stage they would have got more than they're going to get by not being generous. If I look at their first response they've already shifted. They were to have had a very fancy Senate in which minorities, people who lost elections, would be equal to people who won elections. They've now abandoned that. If they had abandoned that before it would have changed the climate immediately. Then you could have said the area of difference is much smaller but when you said we're going to have a Senate which will have the final say as the upper house under a new constitution and that Senate is nominated by minorities, you now say it's going to be elected by proportional representation, it would have changed that climate in that area. So it was one of these things where, quite frankly, it went almost too easily and too well for the government.
. Now the other thing is that de Klerk, after winning the referendum, instead of saying, well now I haven't got to worry about the Conservative Party I can be more generous in a sense at the negotiating table, got such an injection of confidence that he became less generous. I think that added to the tremendous flurry of accolades that he got from abroad. He said, "Well the pressures aren't on me now". Let's face it, all negotiation anywhere is basically a resolution of pressures from one side or the other, especially if you want to do a deal on a house. It's a pressure of somebody wants that house and the other body wants some money. So you have the pressure. In fact in the end of nobody needs the money and nobody needs the house you don't do the deal. It's only when there's a need on both sides, and I think what happened after the referendum was that the need from de Klerk's side became less than it was before. They, therefore, putting pressure in a negative sense, I think pressure is a creative factor at the negotiating table. This is an attempt by Mandela to reapply or to regain some pressure at the negotiating table.
POM. And de Klerk must be generous.
CE. Well I think he should have been generous before then we wouldn't have had all this nonsense but I don't know. My reading is that there are going to be, I think, I may be wrong, sufficient concessions for the ANC to say it's possible to re-commence. I don't think they should recommence at CODESA level, they've first got to have some bilaterals and they've actually got to sit down and rekindle some trust between those two parties.
POM. You're saying that de Klerk was getting his feedback of what was going on through his interlocutors and Mandela had been in the same position. Do you think there's a need for both of them to be more actively involved in the process?
CE. Well yes, yes I think yes. I think they did not appreciate this. I don't think their interlocutors appreciated what was going on. If I look to the Nationalist side of it, it was we're going to win, that's what we're going for. There wasn't a sensitivity of the attitude of the other side, of the dynamics of the politics of the other side.
POM. Just in terms of the skills involved, I hear you saying that the government opted at the last moment, so to speak, so the thing kind of collapsed but it out-manoeuvred and out-negotiated the ANC where they got one concession after another giving virtually nothing back and that what they really misplayed was their final card?
CE. They were just too greedy. It was too easy. I don't blame people, you could also say the ANC was too soft. So if you ask me there should have been a hiccup within CODESA earlier.
POM. Because you had this great dichotomy, you have the public face of the ANC talking about an interim government within six months and an election within twelve months and nothing short of that for a Constituent Assembly and they will have nothing short of that. And you have a negotiating team that was simply not up to the job.
CE. Well negotiating is something else, but I mean if there had been ongoing trust between the ANC and the government, the ANC might have been able to accept this themselves but they came to a conclusion that the government had not come to the place in its process of change of actually facing up to what I call the democratisation of South Africa. They thought you could either get something less in the long run or you could make something less operate for quite a while. I see it from both sides. If I had been denied any say in government for 100 years I'd want it now. If I had been enjoying the flesh pots for 45 years I'd want it longer. You must actually see this whole process from these two perspectives, call it the haves and the have-nots, top dog and the oppressed. I think at best de Klerk sees this process as a fairly kind of benign extension of democracy through the medium of a generous and understanding government. He said we are doing this. But I say this is an intense struggle for liberation against an oppressive and illegal regime. Actually from their point of view they're both right. From de Klerk's point of view his perception of what he's doing is right. From the fellow who has been oppressed politically for the last 100 years what he sees as his right, and therefore it is important that each should see how the other sees it and I don't think that the government at any stage sees how the other side perceives it, I don't think the government really sees it. They see this as a fairly generous extension of privilege.
POM. This comes back to the referendum and to the reports I saw on the referendum whether it was in the international media or even through the two clipping services that I subscribe to in South Africa, that talked about it in terms of it being a process involving the sharing of power with blacks which would bring equality to everybody but sharing of power was used over and over and over and over again. When whites voted yes what were they voting yes to?
CE. I think the majority of whites voted yes because they were persuaded that not voting yes would be too terrible. I don't think they were voting for anything. They were voting against returning to the bad old days of sanctions, etc., etc. De Klerk, this is one of my grievances, did not sell reform as an exciting new thing. He sold not having reform as a disaster. In other words you could choose between danger and disaster but there was never anything positive. To the extent that he was chided off, that it's a blank cheque, he was very naughty. He went back to his September of last year proposals and in a sense put them out saying I'm not asking for a blank cheque, I'm asking for this. And in that there was this kind of power sharing but with a significant, almost a dominant position of minorities. People who voted for this, the democratic voters said they were voting for a genuine democracy with all the risks that there were. Some people were voting for this partial democracy that he was thinking of and a hell of a lot of people were just voting because they didn't want to be out of the Olympic Games or want sanctions or whatever.
. But the fact is that the ANC is - you can't quantify it, I think they're marginally correct that the government still feels that you can find a formula which will give minorities, but in particular them, a greater share of political power than you would normally give to minorities in a constitution. And what's more they don't argue that the minorities should be based on race because they say there should be no racial provisions in the constitution, they say it should not be language or culture or religion because the Bill of Rights in specific terms should deal with that and the civil society should cater for it. And they don't talk about you should give special rights to minority groups, they're talking of minority political parties. Now what are we actually talking about? In what society do minority political parties, when they lose elections, be made co-equal with majority political parties? I don't know. If you said the Afrikaner must have something I can understand it, or you can say the Jews, but when you deny all of those things and just say minority political parties must have equal rights with the majorities, well then you question, are we really facing up to the consequences of the change? The fact is that the ANC in general started to mistrust the government and its intentions for democracy and this was aggravated by the fact that they had slipped too far into the format that had been developed by the NP and on the basis of the mistrust slipping into the format and the mayhem that was taking place in the townships, there was very little possibility of taking their constituency with them.
POM. What happened to that special relationship between de Klerk and Mandela? On my first visit everyone talked about it as being so ...
CE. I don't know any more than you know about that. Is it good?
POM. Well it certainly isn't good now.
CE. Well it's deteriorated over a number of issues, but I don't think there's any one thing that's caused it.
POM. Do you think that ultimately it comes down to those two being able to strike a deal?
CE. No, as I said earlier, negotiations will not go multi-lateral until you've had a bilateral between the government and the ANC. If you want to say between de Klerk and Mandela you can but I'm talking of two institutions represented by two people. Yes, they've got to sort it out and they've got to say we differ on details.
POM. How does this all fit with the violence?
CE. Well I'm saying that there was the attitude towards the government, there was the slow progress, there was the mayhem that was taking place. If things were going well in the townships and the standard of living of the ordinary black was improving, Mandela could have got away with more concessions but when they're not achieving anything and you're talking to the devil and you see the devil, you believe the devil's police are helping to kill you, it becomes more difficult to see the package.
POM. When Mandela accuses the government of being either directly or indirectly involved, they're saying directly at this point, in the violence in the township, do you think that analysis is by and large correct?
CE. I don't believe it's a deliberate part of de Klerk's strategy. I don't think violence is put into his intelligence service computer that says including violence, this is what it is. I don't think de Klerk wants violence but he's certainly been very inactive dealing with getting rid of violence. There must be some rogue elements within the security forces who are violent people and aggravate it. If you look at the Commission, Goldstone, the Waddington report, the police aren't conditioned emotionally to deal with the new South Africa so they are still trying to resolve the violence thing on the basis of their own traditional approach to this and they are ill-equipped so you've just got a mixture of a whole lot of factors.
. Added to this you have got the Inkatha/ANC/government factor and that is that the ANC and Inkatha are at daggers drawn, to use a metaphorical word. And for many years the security forces, when the liberation struggle was on, had Inkatha police and Inkatha government as their declared allies against the terrorists, the ANC. It has a legacy both in relation to the ANC, there's a legacy in relationship which can't be suspended overnight. I don't think it will come right but I don't accept, I don't believe that de Klerk sees violence or deliberately provokes or allows violence to continue as part of his strategy.
. Having said that, there's a great degree of incompetence on the part of the state in combating violence. But there's one thing, states combat violence and societies cause it. It's all very well to say you must combat violence but combat only comes after it's been caused. I think, therefore, many people should be looking at the causes of violence rather than looking at combating it. If I just have police in my townships, they combat violence but they don't cause it. Somebody causes a feeling, the raping and the murder, I'm talking about non-political violence and therefore just to say the only problem about the violence is that the police are ineffective is a very superficial way of looking at the problem of violence. You can talk about apartheid historically as one of the causes but I think you've got to look right at causes now. The ANC will say the government is the cause, they're the cause in the sense that they're helpless in combating it and they may be the cause because they want it. I don't share that point of view.
POM. What would you identify as the cause?
CE. When you go into the causes, the Goldstone Commission is basically right I would say. There's a whole range of things with Inkatha, the ANC, social and economic deprivation, breakdown of family life, rivalry in areas where there are no democratic mechanisms for resolving rivalry. Who is the warlord in a township when you haven't got a local council to elect? Whoever wants to be the warlord and how do you get rid of a warlord? You shoot him and somebody else is there till he's shot. So you haven't got democratic structures which can absorb the natural pressures of the society. You've got a pressure cooker situation. You've got ethnicity and you've got different social norms and you've got competing elements even at the work place. Put that all together and you've got the recipe.
POM. You mentioned de Klerk's ineptness or incompetence in dealing with the violence now?
CE. It's the government not de Klerk.
POM. Well de Klerk is an astute politician and there's this constant accusation made over the last two years by the ANC of the government being directly or indirectly involved in the violence. There have been numerous cases cited of where the police have acted or not acted on behalf of Inkatha or just didn't step in. You would think that a politician as astute as de Klerk would take action that was seen as action, would have ordered a special commission, would have suspended a couple of people in cases where allegations have been made, would have done something to say I am in fact visibly being seen by that black community part of whose vote I'm trying to woo, that I'm visibly seen as doing something. Why would he not do something?
CE. He will argue that he has done something. I think he has done. They've appointed the Goldstone Commission, they've arrested - they've just had eleven cops charged and they've got this Trust Feed case, this fellow is sentenced to death for murder and all the rest of it. It's not that nothing has been done. I don't know whether the white cops can handle the scene in any case. They're not persona grata with the people on the ground. I don't think you can just impose peace on people. If in fact they say you're the enemy of the people because you've been the custodians of apartheid you can stand on your head and you can't sort it out. So perhaps you need a whole new structuring of the police, perhaps you've got to make the ANC co-responsible for security.
. But given the circumstances, all I'm saying is that the state has been ineffective in dealing with it. But every second night I read of a policeman being killed. That's violence. I'm sure the state isn't killing their own policemen. Who's killing them? You know there are 5000 people killed. I'm not saying the state hasn't been involved in some of the killing but I can promise you the state hasn't been necklacing people in the townships. Who gets killed tonight, it's not going to be state killing. I'm not saying, therefore, that the state, but I think to suggest that the only person as the ANC I'm afraid does, that the principal agent and the principal cause and the principal killer, there are two things, one is a cause and one is the killer, is the apparatus of the state I think is - go and read Goldstone.
POM. The ANC categorically reject this kind of analysis over and over and over again so their rejection of this, their insistence that it's the state making the whole process of negotiations ...
CE. In my opinion if the ANC and the IFP would really take their own supporters by the scruff of the neck and say can't do, and Hani has actually said we can't do it in certain areas, and if Buthelezi would take their supporters, you'd have less violence. I'm not saying you'd therefore eliminate it. And if de Klerk was more competent in running his police there would be less violence. But to suggest that in a place where lots of people have been killed it's only the agency of the state that is at fault I think is bullshit. I'm not saying the state is blameless but there are no angels in this thing. For everybody to say we're all angels it's somebody else, it's nonsense.
POM. How then do you get to the point of having what would be called free and fair elections? Could you in the short term ...?
CE. You know, we haven't got round to that point. You're going to have to have an agreement between Mandela and de Klerk and that must involve Mandela saying he's now satisfied that the state is handling the violence, otherwise you won't have it. Somehow they're going to have to have some deal with Mandela and Inkatha and I would presume that we've got foreign observers now to watch what's happening here today. I would assume there are going to be foreign observers at an election time.
POM. When I was here last year the National Peace Accord was working out how structures would operate from the regional and very local level and it was signed with great fanfare and yet it seems to have just collapsed on itself.
CE. I don't think it has collapsed. It's operating all over the show. Maybe we would have had 20 000 people killed if we didn't have the Peace Accord. If I listen to my colleagues they are sitting here three times a week and there are less killings in the Peninsula than there have been for some time. Good luck to them. Perhaps Natal would have been worse. I'm not saying that they've done nothing. I'm saying that given all the circumstances the violence continues and I do not blame just the state for the violence. I mean if you read the cases they can almost smell when the state is involved or the cases where the state is nowhere there.
POM. Can Mandela take his supporters by the scruff of the neck? Can Buthelezi take his supporters?
CE. Yes they can, their parties, but can the government take ...?
POM. Can one get to a point of being able to have a situation free of intimidation and violence, that you can actually have happiness?
CE. I believe you can. I'm not crystal ball gazing, I can tell you what has happened in the past but I can't tell you what this country's going to look like in a year's time. Maybe Mandela and de Klerk and all of them will join one political party, it's all happy. Perhaps once you have elections people will say, well now we're going to get an agency for getting power so we don't have to fight over it. I don't know. Mandela says he wants an election before the end of the year, but then ask him what the conditions are?
POM. Just in your opinion, as you view the situation?
CE. I'm saying you won't have all these things unless agreement is reached. The violence will continue as long as people are at each other's throats. You're going to have to reach agreements and you're going to have to monitor those agreements if you're going to have elections. But at the moment they aren't even talking to each other so how can you have elections when in fact you can't even agree to talk about the elections. I don't know what the situation will be in six months time. We might have a combined control of security forces. We might have MK as part of the SADF, I don't know. At the moment they aren't talking to each other. Come back in a year's time, but I can't crystal ball what's going to happen in my country. All I'm saying is, all the problems, I actually believe that there's a graph of moving averages which shows progress. I don't know what's going to happen. I didn't know Boipatong was going to happen. I didn't know CODESA was going to collapse. If you had said to me two months before I would have said it wouldn't. Now you ask me, I would say that the cycle of violence is probably going to get less rather than more as you move towards a settlement but at the moment, for the last two months, we've moved away from a settlement. And I say that the climate is more prone to have violence as a result of what is happening than it was before. Maybe getting rid of the 32 Battalion is going to help, maybe breaking down the hostels is going to help. But what more must I say? I didn't know that Croatia was going to split from Serbia.
POM. I can relate that to - there was a book which came out last year by a man named Donald Horowitz, he's an expert on divided societies and he wrote a book on South Africa in which he argued that a lot of white academics, and South Africa is a deeply divided society along classical terms of divided societies and this is why an ordinary democracy can't work, like Northern Ireland to give you an example where power sharing is a pre-condition for any new government running the place. But he laid great stress on the ethnic dimension to the conflict that was overlooked particularly by the ANC. Do you think there is a severe ethnic side to the conflict that goes (a) unrecognised by the ANC because it smacks somehow of being an apology for the government's actions or (b) that the ethnic part of it is simply overplayed?
CE. I don't know who's overplaying it.
POM. Well, anybody who suggests that there is a strong ethnic dimension to this whole conflict would be overplaying it and anybody who was saying there was no ethnic dimension to it would be underplaying it.
CE. I think that's right. Anybody who says it's only that is overplaying, those who say it doesn't exist is underplaying.
POM. Is there an ethnic dimension?
CE. Well that's what we've just agreed. If you say it's only ethnic it's overplayed and if you say it's nothing ethnic you're underplaying it.
POM. What do you think?
CE. It depends. In Zululand you have Zulus killing Zulus so it's clearly not an ethnic factor. In the Transvaal it's largely Zulus and others killing each other but they happen to be living in different social circles. One is a permanent settled squatter family community and others are tribal peasants who are doing contract labour and they probably would have killed each other in any case. But in that circumstance I'd say, yes, ethnicity becomes a trigger factor. If all the other factors hadn't been there then ethnicity wouldn't have been a factor. In Natal, in Richmond and Ixopo they're not killing each other because they are Xhosas and Zulus. It cannot be the dominant factor but you ask me does it become it, and I tell you they kill each other in Europe and Britain over soccer matches because they belong to different soccer clubs. Well it was the same thing, you get in an environment in which you develop a loyalty and all the rest but when you can't become part of the other society then naturally the ethnic factor boils up but it's not the issue otherwise it would be an issue everywhere, otherwise there would be peace in homogenous areas. Here they're killing each other over taxis, they're all Xhosas. But the taxi war has nothing to do with Zulus and it's Xhosa against Xhosa because there there's a taxi rank, competitors. To say all of South Africa is caught up in an ethnic war is nonsense.
POM. No I'm not suggesting that.
CE. Agreed it's neither zero nor 100%, it must mean that in certain environmental circumstances it becomes easier to kill each other if you go down the street. If I speak to that chap and he answers me in Xhosa, and I'm a Zulu, he's more likely to be my enemy, not because he's Xhosa but because he belongs to a community which I'm not part of. But if you go down the streets in Richmond it doesn't matter because they all speak the same language. Come to CODESA, some of the top ANC are Zulus. I think it's a hopelessly overstated thing that it's ethnicity per se. Ethnicity becomes a factor if it's in a pressure cooker with other circumstances.
POM. How are we doing?
CE. There was supposed to be a call at three and it's now well after that and one hasn't come through so we can carry on.
POM. The economy and what can be delivered: do you think that the level of expectations among the masses of people, such as they expect all kinds of new things from a new ANC government?
CE. I don't know whether they do. They might think there's going to be some sharing and all the rest of it. I know they're very angry with what the present situation is. I don't know whether they believe that if Mr Mandela was President they would suddenly live in smart houses. I don't know whether that's their view. They're very negative towards the present situation, but I don't know what their material expectations are. That they would like their position to improve I've got no doubt and they would like some evening between the rich and the poor but I'm not sure what they actually think will happen. I really don't know what they expect. They expect an improvement. So far they're getting a deterioration.
POM. If a new government can't deliver what do you think, what should an average black family be reasonably entitled to expect from a new government?
CE. I really don't know what's going to motivate an average black family. There will have to be rising living standards and there's going to have to be a manifest closing of the gap between what they see as wealthy whites and poor blacks and at what level they will be satisfied I don't know. I really don't know at what level. You find it in Zimbabwe, it is now 12 years and the land issue is only coming to a head now because there's other unemployment, so for 12 years the concept of redistribution of land has been contained and it's only really bubbling up now, legislation being changed in order to give effect to it. I think it might differ from area to area. Rural areas might have different demands. You might have land based demands and in urban areas you might have money based demands. But there will have to be a measurable improvement in the quality of life, that's what will keep the pot off the boil.
POM. Last, and you've addressed this in one way, can Buthelezi be a spoiler in this whole thing?
CE. I'm not saying he's going to be or wants to be but you say can he be? Yes, Mandela could be a spoiler in it, Buthelezi could be a spoiler and I think de Klerk could be a spoiler. I doubt whether at the moment our political leaders maybe will emerge from labour union leaders who could become spoilers.
POM. What I mean is that you talked of the necessity for bilateral talks between the ANC and the government so that you were saying there are two major partners, so if Buthelezi wants to see himself as the third major player on the stage must that be ...?
CE. I think Buthelezi is sufficiently significant in particular because of a very strong regional base for him to be seen by others as somebody who has got to be accommodated in some way. I suppose the same thing would happen in respect of Transkei if they had a dominant leader in Transkei and you wanted Transkei as part of South Africa you'd have to take note of what it is and all the rest of it. And Buthelezi is a factor, is a significant minority player.
POM. But you don't see the necessity at this point of him sitting up there being one of three major players?
CE. No, no, I didn't say that. You said three and I said a 'significant minority player'. But you can't have, as other countries will find, you've got to take note of significant minority players and therefore I don't think you see him as a co-equal with de Klerk or Mandela but I do think that the two of them will have to take note of him as a player. And I think in a sense they do, more de Klerk. I think some of de Klerk's decisions are based on a concern of not wishing to alienate Buthelezi and not so much because he wants him as an ally but because he's actually concerned that if there was alienation of Buthelezi from the total process then it could be very difficult and awkward for the country and for the government. So, yes, I think he's a significant minor player.
CE. Let me put a similar one, if Mangope should have as good or as strong a constituency as Buthelezi, I don't think he's as significant a player as Buthelezi just because the nature of Buthelezi's constituency is cohesiveness and it's historical background, if Mangope said the Tswana people are angry, they'll smile and say, "Why are we so angry, we don't understand it." You know Buthelezi is a factor and you say, therefore, he must be one of the big three. I'm not going to argue that.
POM. His recent speeches have been full of threatening noises or rhetoric of whether he's moving to a point of, or whether he has moved to a point where he will not be party to an agreement between the government and the ANC or others to achieve ...
CE. Whatever he's moving to it's a correct stance from his point of view. If a chap senses he's being sidelined he's got to be strong, he's got to be aggressive and he's got to leave you with the same question mark if he's reaching a point or not. That's what the game is. Something with mass action. How do you take it down the line? Is it a real threat? You now get some people saying, well you know we must plough the government to its knees. So obviously in the negotiating, in the game of getting into position, which you're not doing through the ballot box because there's no ballot box available, the political leaders are upping their own kind of ante all the time, they can overstate it, they can fall flat on their face. But each person, Mandela and de Klerk, are playing a political game as well as drawing up a constitution and looking at their constituencies, they're mobilising. Each one decides on what basis I want to mobilise. That's what they do. I don't know how you're going to resolve the Buthelezi/ANC situation. There's a sadness about it because Buthelezi was ANC at one stage and gradually they drifted apart. It's a complicating factor.
POM. I interviewed him last week. I have managed to interview him every year and he's an extraordinarily bitter person at this point in terms of how he thinks he's been marginalised and insulted.
CE. I know, I know. From his point of view I can see it. Unfortunately he is also a chap who is fairly introspective, everything that happens he takes it, how does it relate to me? How does it affect me? Why is everybody doing this to me? It's a great pity. He sees it, OK, he's that kind of person. That's one of the reasons why you can't ignore him. If he was just a passive, meek and mild kind of chap you could ride all over him. But your assessment is that he's bitter?
POM. Oh very, very, and it gets worse from year to year. It's also interesting that he's obsessed with this story of how Mandela had said that he would visit him and the King and then Mandela had been told in Durban by the ANC that they would throttle him if he, Mandela, did anything like that. He brings out this throttling story. Has he said it to you? Every time I've interviewed him, he's got a fixation on it, he keeps going back to it as some kind of reference point. It wasn't in his speech but he spoke about it.
CE. I thought he might be slightly more relaxed about it because I saw him about three months ago, he was not only as angry as he is with the ANC but he was equally angry with de Klerk. Now de Klerk is flirting a bit with Buthelezi, he went up to the opening of the Legislative Assembly and things like that, and clearly some of his concessions on regionalism at CODESA are not original NP philosophy at all. They're an attempt to bring Chief Buthelezi on board. So I thought Gatsha might be a little bit warmer towards him.
POM. Just generally, after Mandela has been out 2½ years and this process has been under way for 2½ years, what's your general assessment of Mandela and de Klerk in terms of strengths, weaknesses, what each man is to do, what each seems incapable of doing?
CE. Well once again de Klerk is, other than the hiccup over Potchefstroom and then the referendum, his task is relatively easy in that he's got a cohesive, manageable caucus and a civil service that still plays the rule that I'm the servant of the government of the day. And there's been no sign that either the civil service or the caucus is going to break ranks. So in that sense he's been skilful in having a fairly compliant constituency and therefore he sets the pace not in accordance to but because he's got a fractious constituency. I think Mandela has got a much greater problem with his than de Klerk has in that at the time when Mandela decided to negotiate the blacks were far more inured to the civil war, liberation struggle, hate the boere, all this kind of stuff. And their conditions have deteriorated far more than whites have. Whites have deteriorated with just a scale of comfort, the others have deteriorated with a scale of discomfort so there's an anger there and he hasn't got a constituency that he can command in the same way. So I think to the extent that he's managed to take his constituency along with him, I think he's been quite remarkable. But if he was in a de Klerk position, if he didn't have to worry about his constituency, if he were in a comparable position I think he would have been much bolder and would have moved much further. But I think he is more concerned about his constituency, I think with some justification, than de Klerk is. And this is why I think at times he has lacked the kind of visionary lead which one would require because he's concerned about constituencies.
POM. If something were to suddenly happen to him, does that create a real problem?
CE. Yes I think that the aura that is about him, because of his background and his history and his 27 years, he's still an absolutely key factor in keeping the ANC together in a cohesive form and moving forward. I think that if he wasn't there it would be less cohesive and more backwards and forwards in the process. It doesn't mean to say that in a year or two somebody else won't become a dominant person but I think, with all my irritations, I think that Mandela has done quite a remarkable job in bringing his fractious, fractured, undisciplined constituency along, this amorphous group of people that he's brought along, won't share the same ideology. They are peasant farmers to rich businessmen to radical students to trade unionists. The magnetism of his personality due to his background of struggle has been a critical factor in keeping it on board. So he, I think, is conscious of the constituency. You might say he can take risks with his constituency. So far he's tended not to take risks except the key risk was walking out of jail and saying, "Well we'll negotiate" when the civil war was still on. That was one hell of a risk. His constituency could have said, no, no, we carry on. So given that which was almost the ultimate risk I think he's done remarkably in what I call strategic terms, not so much on tactics but on strategic terms, turning the civil war around and things like that. I think it's been remarkable.
POM. Is it wrong that it is de Klerk who has internationally received the acclaim for being the visionary for driving the process, for having come a long way?
CE. Well he has come a long way, but he was on the other side of the civil war. If you hear Mandela he will claim that he started the process with Botha, and de Klerk while he was very courageous in following the crew was not the initiator. And technically I think he's correct. It started in 1986 and de Klerk only came in in 1989. But for all that, whatever background Botha did and should get credit for, he lacked the style and the personality to actually sell this as a new dramatic deal. The reality is that de Klerk and Mandela have needed each other. It's when they've fallen out with each other that the process has broken down. They occupy critical positions in their own constituencies, one out of government and one in government.
POM. Thank you.