About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

03 Aug 1992: Giliomee, Hermann

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM. Just as an overview first, Hermann, how far has South Africa come in the last year and what are the developments that surprised you and what are the developments that have not surprised you?

HG. When did we last speak? In August last year? That was before the Peace Accord and before CODESA 1. I think in my previous interview probably you asked me where we would be in a year from now and I think I said something to the effect that perhaps we would have small groups talking to each other. I think the major area in which there has been some progress has been getting rid of what I call the McGyver effect (you know the TV series McGyver where he gets into all kinds of hair-raising exploits and gets tied up by crooks and then in the very last minute he manages to free himself and there's always a happy ending.) And the McGyver syndrome was always that the whites and blacks will somehow play brinkmanship but in the end there will be this miraculous escape and all of us can get on with the rest of our lives because the deal has been struck.

. I think the most important progress has been the stripping away of certain illusions of a fairly amicable early settlement. I think we have a more realistic perception of the difficulties in reaching a settlement. Now to some extent I think there are also new fallacies which have been born, new myths have been born which again will have to be dispelled. For instance I think one of the unforeseen consequences of the referendum result was that the drubbing that the right wing received, that meant that there was no really important white resistance left, not only for a settlement but for an ANC dominated government. I think that is a complete misreading of the situation. I think the ANC itself now thinks that de Klerk has been rid of his right wing constraints and therefore he can afford to be much more amenable and there is this interpretation on the side of the ANC that in fact he has become more intractable after the referendum because he has now acquired an overweening self confidence.

. I think that is simply a misreading of the situation because de Klerk in fact was so keen to get the ANC locked into negotiations that he and his Cabinet made all kinds of concessions without really pointing deliberately at the bottom line that they had. Now at least I think both sides know that other sides have bottom lines. I think de Klerk is under no illusion that his victory in the referendum simply means an endorsement by whites of the negotiating process but with the underlying assumption that there will be all kinds of securities, all kinds of rights and privileges, not rights and privileges, but all kinds of guarantees built in to the political process which will mean that whites, as they put it, will not be dominated by an ANC government.

POM. Every report that came out of South Africa during that referendum and all the media that wrote about it here, which was all the media, I subscribe to two clipping services, and all spoke about it in terms of it being a referendum on a process involving the sharing of power with blacks which would ensure equality for all. And really no-one took any exception to the manner in which it was defined by the government, not even the ANC. So when whites voted yes, they were voting for?

HG. A process.

POM. That would ultimately result in power sharing?

HG. Power sharing yes, as they define it. But power sharing means in fact a degree of power in their hands that the ANC at this stage will find quite unacceptable. But it meant the process, it meant a process in which the ANC came into government as sort of a junior partner and most whites, of course, realise that over time they will become the senior partner but there would not be any abrupt change in the power equation, the power balance.

POM. Last year you distinguished between an interim government, a transitional government and then a majority government. Do you still think this is the ...?

HG. I think so yes. I don't know how I defined it last year. Obviously you would need a situation where you would simply, whether it's three or five years, where you would get the major parties in government and get them to get accustomed to each other and then you will have to move towards some sense that the majority would be more important in certain respects than the minority. In the meantime the whole question of increased majorities came up and I have come round to the view that in fact if you could agree on certain increased majorities on certain issues, certain vital issues, like for instance that if the government comes into power it would need the support of say 66% of people in parliament then that could become a viable way of bridging the division between power sharing and ordinary majority rule.

POM. You say that the events of recent months in particular point to it being a much more difficult and probably a slower process than people have envisaged or thought possible. On the other hand the ANC are saying this process must be speeded up, we want an interim government now, we want a fixed time life-span put on that interim government. We're talking about nine months, twelve months, but we're not talking about years. And we're talking about an election for a Constituent Assembly now, within a year or less than a year. In their view their mass stayaway and mass mobilisation is to speed the process up, where you are saying the lesson of CODESA is that the process must be slowed down.

HG. Well it should be slow and deliberate and each step should be carefully measured before it is taken. I don't think the government is remotely prepared for getting us to a Constituent Assembly and then an entirely new constitution will be written, almost a radical shift in gears. Just to complete what I said about the fact that new fallacies and new myths have been born I think that is that the feeling in the government that you can in fact isolate the radicals in the ANC and if the radicals, I don't know how this mass mobilisation will turn out today and tomorrow, if the radicals do in fact drop it then that may not be a good thing either because the government will incorrectly believe that the ANC is freed from that kind of pressure and constraint and I think the ANC as a negotiating party will always be under very heavy pressure by their radicals to speed up the process. My own feeling is that that thing can be breached by a three year period or a four year period but certainly not nine months or twelve months because if people now go out to choose a Constituent Assembly I don't think they will necessarily choose people who can slowly and wisely deliberate over a new constitution. I think they will much rather, the blacks, choose overwhelmingly an ANC which will bring the constitution that will redistribute wealth and power.

POM. Let's go back a little. You had CODESA and you had first of all the stalemate on the provisions of 70% and 75%, but you had de Klerk and Mandela putting the best face on it that the problems weren't insuperable, CODESA had achieved a lot. Then in the space of six weeks you had a series of events. You had increased calls for mass mobilisation. You had more personal attacks by Mandela on de Klerk. You had Boipatong and you had the ANC walking out of the talks altogether and accusing the government again more directly of being directly involved in the violence. What do you think were the dynamics that went on during that period?

HG. I think the ANC, basically, when they started negotiations always had two tracks, just as the government always had two tracks. I think on the one hand there were in the ANC people who said let's go for the continued insurrectionist line and there were those who said let's give negotiations a good shot. Now those people who in fact wanted to take the negotiations track obviously couldn't really have an open-ended agenda. They had to promise results in a fairly quick period of time and in the course of the first half of this year many of them started saying, look, we want an interim government by June and a Constituent Assembly in place by the end of the year. Obviously that time scale was completely unrealistic and the insurrectionists started saying this is completely unacceptable, we must give mass mobilisation a very good shot because of the very impressive achievements of mass mobilisation in the past. Certainly the Value Added Tax strike was quite an impressive achievement in mass mobilisation.

. I think simply Mandela, I had an interview with him earlier this year, what struck me about him is that he is very much a symbolic leader. He is not a pragmatic, bread and butter type of politician. He is very, very high on symbolism and the symbolism of liberation struggle, the symbolism of symbolic victories, symbolism of MK, of the armed struggle and all that, and I think Mandela was simply persuaded by some hard liners in the movement, or let's call them insurrectionists, that unless mass mobilisation is tried again people will always feel that a certain chance has been missed by not pressurising the government more. So in a sense almost they had to try mass mobilisation in order to find out whether it works or not.

POM. Where does that leave them because many people that I've talked to in the ANC say that if in fact the government had accepted the offer of 75% on a Bill of Rights and 70% for a constitution, that the ANC would have had great difficulty selling it to its grassroots?

HG. Well, certainly, I think there's a possibility, I wrote an article with a black scholar in which we came to exactly the same conclusion. But the ANC will have great difficulties in selling any compromise constitution because they have delivered virtually everything to their followers. They had promised to deliver victory, not a compromise, so whatever the compromise would be and as I read the situation there will have to be a compromise, they will have difficulty in selling.

POM. OK, but they have moved to a position where they have become more intractable rather than less. They say now the offers of 75% and 70% are off, they're gone, we want what's the norm accepted in the international community, a special majority of two thirds in a Constituent Assembly.

HG. What has happened in the case of the ANC, or what really has happened in the entire conflict is that it is now much more a clear cut power struggle where really what is at stake is how many battalions can you bring to bear upon the whole process in order to get your opponent to accept your demands. Now the one thing that has been very important in this entire six or nine months is that it's almost like Sherlock Holmes, the dogs didn't bark, the ANC didn't succeed in detaching any major sector of the ruling bloc from government to its side.

. I checked with two polling agencies the other day, the HSRC and also some research surveys. Schlemmer gave me white support for the ANC - 2%. Then I went to the ANC alliance research polling agency and they said no it's 1%. So the ANC also couldn't get the businessmen. So the ANC would have been able to extract major concessions and compromises had they succeeded in getting the business or an important section of the business community, or important sections in the white community. But they didn't succeed in that so they are thrown back on their own resources, which are not many. They are very, very thinly spread. They are heavily dependent still on Scandinavian money and so on. So in a certain sense everything in this situation says, well, it must be stalemate unless some factor comes into play which we at this moment cannot really detect. It could be that the ANC's resources suddenly run out, because certainly I think the government was very keen to compromise in the hope of getting foreign investment. That, through mass mobilisation is now out of court. I don't think we will get any foreign investment over the next two or three years.

POM. Were you surprised when the ANC were prepared to offer veto thresholds of 70% and 75%? My understanding of polling information is that the government and its allies could probably put together around 30%.

HG. Yes, I'm surprised about the 66%, I thought they would have stuck to the 50%, but I really don't know the literature on this but normally constitutions are in fact accepted at a much higher level than 50% and 66%, but is that the international norm? Because someone has made the argument that's how you change constitutions, on 66%, but not actually make them.

POM. But the ANC would go to 70%. Were you surprised when they said we'll give you a threshold of 70 and 75%?

HG. I think that was quite something, yes. Unless there was this little rider written into it that if there's no resolutions reached within six months then you go back to a referendum.

POM. My point would be, could not the government have said we accept the 70%, which they came back with in a couple of weeks, and let's negotiate about the rest?

HG. In retrospect it would have been much shrewder, smarter of them to have accepted it but they are also to some extent - I think what happened there, I got it on fairly good authority, is that the government wasn't acting alone there. They already had Inkatha and other allies who in fact insisted on this 75%. They were not their own men there because they were already in an incipient electoral alliance and their alliance partners said, look we want 75%, don't leave us in the lurch. But seen in retrospect I think the government obviously overplayed its hand and I think it must now be sorry because it would have put the ANC in a difficult position. On the other hand the ANC whether they could have sold that kind of deal to its constituency is also rather problematic and in a certain sense I think it's better that the whole thing collapsed at CODESA 2 rather than major strains building up after the process had gone further, after they had already been locked into an interim government.

POM. I think in a recent article you pointed to the Sudan as being a case where the superb negotiation over ...

HG. And then it falls apart again.

POM. It fell apart because it was never institutionalised at the ...

HG. Middle and grassroots level.

POM. So if I'm hearing you correctly, you're saying that even if they had broken that impasse over the 70% and 75% and an interim government was formed that the unresolved pressures would have been such that this thing would have fallen apart. So the CODESA structure was not a good negotiating structure. How was CODESA flawed and what lessons are to be learnt from it and how do you put together any negotiating forum that stands a better chance of success?

HG. I feel that all along the government and the ANC had never really negotiated on the essentials of the constitution. They've always just talked about removing the obstacles but they've never really looked at the entire problem, the entire process, the entire substance of the negotiating process. Now at CODESA one of the major flaws was, of course, the presence of a whole host of parties with no significant electoral support at all which simply cluttered the whole process. It would have been much better if the major parties, the three major parties, now I'm uncertain whether you can bring in Inkatha at this stage, but if the ANC and the National Party had reached much more substantial agreement about what they had felt, about how the process would develop before bringing in the host of other small parties with very little legitimacy.

. The second flaw was the absence of the major role players, the major political leaders in the process, the absence from the negotiating floor of Mandela and de Klerk, that a very junior Cabinet minister, namely Delport, had to go out quite often and phone de Klerk and say look I've got 70% now shall we wait for 75%? Also the government certainly didn't have any people of substance at that stage. Viljoen was ill, Delport was a very junior minister, Meyer was on another committee. So I think the fact that the major parties, and there I really mean the ANC and government and the National Party, had not undergone any kind of mutual education process by bilateral talks. That means that they somehow had to go through the shadow boxing of CODESA in order to reach some kind of agreement. And therefore I think the government realised that and when the whole thing broke down they proposed a two-day conference with the ANC to really thrash out issues. And so many issues have been left unresolved that CODESA couldn't simply bear the strain. The issue of instant release of political prisoners was something which in fact embittered relationships. There were so many things overhanging the entire CODESA that it simply collapsed under the strain and I think there may be an argument that you may in fact to some extent concentrate negotiations by having much more thorough negotiations with the ANC and the National Party. At the same time also disperse it to leave the negotiations over certain issues like, for instance, housing, electricity and rent and rate boycotts, second level government, to other fora rather than concentrating that all on CODESA.

POM. Is there any prospect now of abandoning the CODESA format or now that it has in a way, I won't say it has become institutionalised, but it has gained a life and an administrative apparatus of its own?

HG. Well I think there are very much mixed feelings about CODESA. On the one hand it's succeeded in formulating some common principles and to that extent it was a gain. On the other hand I think the mere lack of representativity of so many of the smaller parties really also affected the credibility of the process and I think a lot of dissension has been building up about certain parties on both sides, the kind of Indian parties on the ANC side and the homeland parties on the government side. So I think CODESA has more or less had its run I feel and I think you again could bring it back at a later stage but the most important stage now is for Inkatha, the NP and the ANC to try and see whether there's not common ground for them to push the negotiations any further.

POM. Was there an in-built contradiction in each side's understanding of CODESA, that for the ANC seeing it primarily as a vehicle that would result down the line in the election of a Constituent Assembly to draw up a constitution, the government seeing it as the place in which the constitution is largely made and then an election subsequently for an Assembly which might amend bits and pieces of the constitution. But they saw this constitution as being cobbled together at the negotiating table and not as a result of an election.

HG. What this co-author of mine wrote, by the name of Johannes Rantete, now he had in fact looked at the entire ANC negotiating stance over two years and he showed up the kind of disputes and differences within the ANC so there was no one single ANC point of view.

. How long are you going to continue with these interviews? Are you drawing a line now and say look I'm going to ...?

POM. No, I'm actually hoping to take it through to the first transitional government and maybe even a bit further since in many respects I'm getting more interested in what will happen afterwards. Taking Solidarity and the ANC as two exact models, they pull together in the face of all adversity for ten years and then splintered in a thousand different ways as soon as they went for power, whether the same kind of splintering process will occur here?

HG. Where did you say that happened, the splintering process?

POM. In Solidarity in Poland.

HG. Yes, yes. I think that's the same, I think the ANC is sure to split but after an election, I don't think before an election. And I think the government is calculating on that, it's basing its calculations upon that. Then if the government split, I doubt it, I suppose the right wing is in such disarray that I doubt there will be any attraction for the members of the National Party to split rightwards, there's no incentive to split leftwards.

POM. Which right would you now split to?

HG. They've already split, there's the splintering process, yes.

POM. You mentioned your colleague, Rantete.

HG. Rantete. What happened with the ANC basically is that there were certainly two tracks in the ANC's position with respect to CODESA negotiations. The one track had this kind of abrupt interim government, Constituent Assembly in very sort of abrupt phases, very rapid phases. The other strain felt we'll have to accustom ourselves to a slower process, drawing more parties into the process, getting general legitimacy for a new constitution. But there were a lot of veils being drawn over certain issues. For instance, I said to this young scholar who is very close to the ANC, the fact that they were allowing all these parties at CODESA meant that the ANC had in fact drawn back from their original position of seeing negotiations in the form of two trenches, that was the term used by some of the ANC leaders whilst they were in exile, basically bilateral negotiations with the democratic forces on the one side and the regime on the other side. He explained to me that in fact that was just a subterfuge to get all the parties at CODESA because the ANC had told their followers essentially it is still two sided negotiations because the whole principle of sufficient majority means that it could never be used against the ANC, that if the ANC is against something there will be no sufficient majority, sufficient incentives. And similarly they felt that they could in fact isolate the National Party at the negotiations and the purpose of the negotiation was in fact to crystallise all the forces into simply the forces for ordinary majority and the racists on the other side.

. And I think that was the kind of comment that van Niekerk also made, that it was simply a simple dichotomy between ordinary democracy and racism, so you are actually back to the two sided negotiating table. Certainly I think at CODESA the government, you're quite right, we point that out in the article too, the National Party wanted CODESA to draw up the constitution and the ultimate Constituent Assembly simply adding the rubber stamp, whereas the ANC wanted this CODESA just to draw up very vague principles with no meat attached to it and then have the real negotiating drawn up by the Constituent Assembly. In fact in one of the CODESA documents there's a very funny phrase where they decided to talk about significant regionalisation and it said all parties agreed to significant regionalisation provided that doesn't exclude majority rule, power sharing, consociation, whatever. So it accepted the principle but then again immediately insisted that this doesn't exclude - so it was to some extent almost a charade for the fact that the ANC in fact was not interested in CODESA per se except to get to the Constituent Assembly. The government wanted to use CODESA to the full to be able to build an interim government, an interim constitution and, as I heard Viljoen at a dinner party say quite explicitly, "We believe there is a good chance that the interim government, interim constitution will become the ultimate government and the ultimate constitution." Viljoen said that to me at a dinner party. He said it with a smile, but he said the interim constitution can just as well become the ultimate constitution.

. So there was every reason for the ANC and the National Party to act the way they did. They acted in terms of their own interests and there was not much purpose in calling either of them as acting in bad faith. Perhaps the only one acting in really good faith was Buthelezi who was quite clear on behalf of the IFP what they wanted right from the start. They wanted a very strong federal state.

POM. The ANC would argue that the government wanted the talks to collapse, that the more time they can buy for an election the better for them, that they have moved - the analysis I get from them is that while the right was there as a threat the government would hold on to an alliance with the ANC, directed their efforts during much of 1990 towards overtures to the ANC and rejecting Buthelezi, pushing him aside, marginalising him to an extent that with their victory in the referendum and the absoluteness of its breadth and scope the right was no longer a threat, it gave the government more room, it began to think in terms, looking at survey figures, that in fact it might be able to win this thing. It could put together an alliance of partners. You get people like Pik Botha saying that the National Party is going to be the majority party.

HG. I think the funny thing about the ANC is then that they did something that exactly served the government's purpose by pulling out from the negotiations. If they felt the government was in fact deliberately stalling so that they would have more time to fight an election, then they shouldn't have pulled out from CODESA because that exactly gives the government that opportunity. I think what will delay a constitution is the fact of the whole problem of registration, the fact that of all the blacks inside South Africa, outside the so-called independent homelands, only I think 28% are still not issues with identity documents. If you add the independent homelands the number must go up to 40%. Issuing identity documents is a laborious process. I think simply the whole issue of issuing identity documents and getting all the mechanics of the election in place will take another year or whatever. The government didn't need to collapse CODESA in order to win more time for preparing for an election.

POM. Is the ANC now slowly boxing itself into a corner? It has now embarked on mass action. I assume that the way these things are analysed they have been trying to portray as living up to their expectations of being a massive demonstration of support. From their point of view I assume the government will point to intimidation and say the ANC had to scale down its expectations. A lot already are comparing the numbers promised at demonstrations and the number of people who actually showed up. But it's demands are becoming more insistent. Mandela on television last night on two different programmes said, "We are into mass mobilisation because we want an immediate election and a transfer of power." This is a straight-jacket?

HG. I think as an outsider you can judge this much better. I'm not very close to anyone in the ANC so I simply don't know what their thinking is. Van Zyl Slabbert once used a term or a phrase which I thought was quite vivid, he said that the ANC is the most illustrious victim of their own propaganda successes, and there is something of that. The whole liberation rhetoric has still got a momentum of its own and the whole agenda that it has set itself. It would be very interesting to see if Mandela was no longer there whether they would still go on this. But in South Africa I simply don't know how the ANC will be able to undo some of the promises they have made at this stage, whether that would lead to mass disillusionment among its own supporters. I would agree with you that the ANC is putting itself in a straight-jacket.

POM. The fourteen demands that must be met and de Klerk has gone some of the way to meet a lot of those, so they do seem to be gaining ground on that front.

HG. But again they have now boxed themselves into a corner where Mandela has said all fourteen demands must be met and obviously that's not going to happen.

POM. Let's say they get past that hurdle. What I'm getting at is that what I hear more insistently since I've come here is that the people are tired of waiting. For a year this process has gone on behind closed doors and then the ANC comes out with a package that amounts to a sell-out and there's a revolt of the grassroots and as part of its efforts to reconsolidate its position the movement falls back on mass mobilisation and pulls everybody back into the movement. But the people are saying, (a) what you offered was too much, which the National Party is saying is too little, and (b) it's saying you've got to move quicker not slower.

HG. Again, you must try and balance it. I think certainly on the level of, say, shop stewards there's a lot of patience because they are being buffeted on the one hand by the employers and the workers on the other hand. But if you look at some of the accounts of the entire process over the last month it's quite clear that workers on the ground level are not prepared to risk their jobs, they are not prepared to really vote in favour of strikes. So you get shop stewards who are close to the ANC saying, look people are completely impatient and they will not wait for any further delays. On the ground floor I think many blacks still tend to say, if you can go by opinion polls, let's have a power sharing type of government. All the polls consistently show that even in the urban areas the majority of blacks prefer power sharing in which all groups are represented.

POM. Are these polls that are conducted among rural blacks as well?

HG. Mostly urban blacks. And consistently show, there are about eight or nine, consistently show that the majority prefer a system in which all groups are represented and no group dominating in preference to a black majority government. Now on that kind of ground level there is no expectation of a sudden transfer of power. But on the middle level, the ANC activists, the ANC shop stewards, they are experiencing an immense amount of frustration and anxiety because they are in the interface between the leaders and the people and they in fact are articulating their own responses. Now the ANC leadership, I think, is divided between the kind of symbolic leaders like Mandela and pragmatist, instrumentalist, strategic leaders like Mbeki and Ramaphosa and people like that.

POM. Theirs have been the silent voices in the last month.

HG. I don't think the issue has been decided. I think Mandela has still been voicing all these demands, but it's quite conceivable that Mandela over the next months will climb down a couple of steps, short of saying all fourteen demands must be met before we start talking again.

POM. COSATU seems to have moved, or it certainly has a much higher profile in the last several weeks than ever before, than in the last two years. Does that signify, again, is there a shift of power within the ANC from moderates to, for want of a better word, the insurrectionists?

HG. I think the ANC itself must also be worried to some extent about COSATU's political role because some polls show that the majority of COSATU members would now prefer to vote for COSATU rather the ANC in the election. So there is also a kind of internal struggle within the alliance. Much of COSATU's standing, and Naidoo's standing, will depend on how the next couple of days go, if the general strike is a success, a resounding success, then I think he will be enhanced, but if there are a lot of problems and so on he may not be.

POM. This has been called, in some respects, the black referendum. The white referendum you could look at two figures, 70% and 30%, and make a judgement. In the case of the stayaway, what criteria do you use, are there common criteria that can be used to make some kind of objective judgement on whether it was a success or a relative failure?

HG. I think the problem for the ANC alliance is the quite astounding number of people who were participating in the VAT strike, the Value Added Tax strike, which I think went up to 80% or something like that. So I think to some extent it will measured against a very successful stayaway. But I would imagine that if they could pull out 70% - 80% of the people over the next two days that will be considered a success for the ANC's demands. If its accompanied with a lot of violence, a lot of deaths and so on, I think the whole issue will become much more blurred and much less decisive. This morning over the news there were suggestions that there were a lot of problems and turbulence in the townships, exits from the townships being blocked.

POM. Where stands the government? If it rejects a 70% threshold and then within a couple of weeks it turns round and comes back and says we find the 70% threshold acceptable?

HG. Yes, I think that doesn't reflect well on the government. It doesn't reflect any kind of clear cut strategy. I think the government must decide whether it is already fighting an election or whether it is negotiating. I think because it was already fighting an election it accepted the advice of its allies at CODESA to go for a higher 75% rate. I think the fact when they were acting on their own and were prepared to drop their excessive demands about over-representation from minorities in the second house of parliament, that's also a significant one, and also prepared to accept a lower cut off point for the constitution making, shows that there it was thinking more about negotiating a proper constitution. I think the government is keeping on changing because I think their assessment of the ANC is simply that they probably have less to fear of an ANC takeover than they did two years ago, that the ANC has got the capacity to effectively take over the government.

HG. So when you use the word 'takeover' you use it to mean?

HG. Transfer of power, ANC assuming government in an election.

POM. Because the government is now proceeding on the assumption that if there were an election tomorrow the ANC would not be able to form a majority government?

HG. Necessarily swamp the polls, get 70%, 75% of the vote. I think there's a feeling, that ties in with the previous question of yours, the longer the process takes the more the ANC doesn't in fact lose votes but what is much more worrisome to the ANC is that they may not get people out to the polls. That the process would become such a troublesome process that many blacks would simply stay away from voting and at the same time more and more people will see their kind of salvation in joining either the government or some other non-ANC alignment.

POM. The second part of the ANC analysis, or the analysis of some of them, was that their assumption, their reading that the longer the process takes, the more it benefits the government. This ties into their belief that the government is behind the violence, the violence is undermining and weakening the ANC in the townships and the more the ANC is impotent to do anything about the violence the less support it receives.

HG. Yes, to some extent that would feed it, but again, what can I say about it? The point is the danger in South Africa for both the government and the ANC is not so much the other party taking over, but this collapse at the centre, that you may in fact start fragmenting as a state and that anarchy and chaos in ever larger parts of the country will become prevalent. In that sense both the ANC and the government must be worried about their ability to hold the centre.

POM. You said one of the lessons of CODESA was that it was starting to believe that a resolution of this thing could be arranged between elites sitting in a nice cosy environment. So is not putting the government and the ANC together as the two dominant negotiating partners making it even more of a process between elites?

HG. I think if I could reformulate that sentence I should have said elites and non-elites sitting in a nice little corner. Take, for instance, the government point of view that it simply in the referendum got an endorsement for the process but it didn't spell out in any significant way how the power structure will be changed. So at the moment the problem with our negotiating process is that so much is silent. There are too many silences in our negotiating process. No-one is actually talking to their own constituency about the kind of compromises that will be made. Both of the leaders could still say to their people that nothing will take place that will deviate fundamentally from our stated principles. The only kind of compromise solution that may be viable in South Africa would be one in which the principles of both the ANC and the National Party are violated to some to extent. So there is a complete lack of preparedness on the part of both the ANC and the National Party's constituencies for the quite considerable changes that will be made in the power structure.

POM. Let's relate this to the violence. What happened to the National Peace Accord? When I was here at this time last year there was great animation about negotiations for the Peace Accord and people flying back and forth and figures were being published and papers and people were saying, "Don't publish it, it's threatening the whole process." It was signed with great fanfare and there has been more violence this year than in any other year. What happened to that process, those structures? What can be learnt from that that can be applied to this process you're talking about, trying to trickle down, educate, develop structures on the ground where you seem to educate your constituency?

HG. Yes, I suppose that unless there's a will at the top to make this whole Peace Accord work then there is little prospect of all the structures at the grassroots level achieving any kind of success in resolving disputes. What has happened basically is that the entire electoral competition has taken precedence over any attempt to resolve conflicts and I think the conflicts in the townships are still basically rooted in some kind of undefined power struggle. Certainly I think the police feed into that kind of power struggle and I certainly think the police, perhaps not in any kind of cleverly engineered plan, do side with the non-ANC forces in the townships. But unless you get people like Mandela and Buthelezi and de Klerk constantly appearing on television and on public platforms preaching political tolerance, preaching democratic values and telling people not to injure or harm opponents, the structures put up by the Peace Accord will not affect anything at all.

POM. They haven't already. I think things are getting more out of control rather than less out of control. You have the ANC admitting that it's lost control over some of its local defence units.

HG. It could be that the kind of widening state of anarchy could in the end bring the NP and the ANC closer to each other, that they then will develop some common interests. Similarly I think Mandela's comments about the police also may mean that before they enter into any kind of interim government some understanding will have to built up between Mandela and de Klerk about how you are going to run the police in an interim government. I spoke to Justice Goldstone the other day and he was saying that obviously the ANC has got grounds for its unhappiness with the police but at the same time matters will improve a lot if the ANC were to get up and say to its own followers, "Join the police and try and reform it from within". So you must try and increase the legitimacy and the credibility of the police at the same time as you try to make the police more responsive to society and more effective. But at the moment what we are confronting is not really so much power struggle where two very coherent forces with the ability to control their followers are confronted with each other but where you are confronted with a situation where a widening anarchy steadily eats away at the centre of politics.

POM. To that extent, is Mandela not in control of his constituency?

HG. I don't think he's ever been, no.

POM. The leadership structures of the ANC aren't in control of what can happen at the grassroots?

HG. No, no.

POM. Is de Klerk in control of his police? Let me put it this way, it would seem to me from the two years that I've been coming here it really began with the outbreak of the violence in August 1990, but there certainly have been a sufficient number of occasions when either the absence of the police doing anything, or police presence, or the allegations of police involvement were sufficient that a political leader as sensitive as de Klerk would do something, i.e. restructure, set up a special commission, fire people. And yet when Mandela says not only have you done nothing but if these were white people who were being killed you certainly would have done something, it sounds to me like an argument of substance. Why has he really done nothing in a politically symbolic way?

HG. He demoted Vlok. I think in one of my interviews I said it was a surprise to me that he would demote both Malan and Vlok, which was quite a considerable thing to do in our terms. Inkathagate, yes. And then I always remember the comment, I had an interview with Willie Whitelaw in the House of Lords and I asked him why they didn't do more about the RUC and this talk of allegations about shoot to kill, and he said you can go only so far before you get a dispirited police force and that's the most dangerous thing that you can get.

POM. That's what I'm getting at. Is there a constraint on what he can do?

HG. I think so. Yes.

POM. If he loses the police, they are under attack from every quarter.

HG. And in fact I think that's one of the legacies both of the total onslaught period, is that the police have just learned that they can never win by going into the townships because if they do they are damned and if they don't do they are also damned. And by coincidence I was listening to a report two or three months ago about some riot in Toronto where the police force just said there's a mentality among my people that if you're called in for riots in black townships you just never can win so people just stay away. So I think that is one of the outcomes of the total onslaught period that the police have learned, especially with the television cameras and everything, the world press coverage, that you really don't win if you go into townships to try and prevent violence.

POM. But must the violence be brought under control before you can have meaningful negotiations? Must the two work in parallel?

HG. I'm still of the opinion that you cannot really have elections if you've got these high rates of violence so I think the violence must be brought under control.

POM. But you're not talking of an election for three or four years?

HG. I would imagine that you could talk about an election in a year's time, August, September next year for an interim government, constitution making body.

POM. What the ANC would call a Constituent Assembly?

HG. Yes. I think if you get increasing ANC, world participation, United Nations participation, I don't know. Someone was saying to me the other day the lesson from Cyprus was that with the international involvement you get better peace keeping where you don't get peace making and I think exactly the same kind of thing could be happening here. Basically the one area where the ANC has always been strong is on the public propaganda type of level where they turn the situation around to look as if the government is the only real culprit and it could be that with increasing international participation that would become more difficult to do although we are a fairly big country. I suppose it's much more difficult to do it in a country like South Africa than, say, in Northern Ireland where you are within one hour from virtually every place in the region. But I think as the ANC basically feels that it is in fact not winning by delaying the matter further, that it is increasingly losing control over its followers, over it's self defence units, it is not getting increased support from the international community. To that extent it may become more interested in participating in operations which could in fact both curb the violence and enhance the credibility of the police.

POM. Just one or two more things. Is Buthelezi still out there as a potential spoiler?

HG. I think Buthelezi probably realises that the best that he can hope for is a seat or two in the Cabinet but also control over rural Natal. I think he is potentially still a spoiler. He still can be dangerous but I think that he can also be bought off.

POM. This comes back to the issue of federalism, his belief and the government's belief in a very strong federal system?

HG. I tend to believe that we will not get a strong federal system because the state is becoming simply too weak and the federal system may increase the weakness of the state, the coherence of the state, that you can only really get a federal structure when you've got a fairly coherent central state that can, so to speak, afford it, to disperse power. But with this growing anarchy it may be that the whole debate about federalism is simply in fact a vacuous exercise.

POM. Looking ahead, an election within a year? The ANC comes back to the table?

HG. I think the ANC comes back to the table within the next six months.

POM. In a new forum?

HG. I think we will probably first get bilateral negotiations. I think neither the government nor the ANC will be keen on just revamping CODESA, take over where they stopped. I certainly think that the ANC will be increasingly pressurised to negotiate simply because of lack of resources. I suppose it's a reflection on human nature that the cold war was really ended not by rationality but by the fact that the Russian economy collapsed and in South Africa I think it could simply be the inability of the major players to in fact retain their coherence, the government to retain the coherence of the state, the ANC to retain the coherence of it as an organisation, that could force them into each other's arms. My enduring image of the ANC and the National Party is still that of two drunks who are in fact locked into an embrace and they need each other to keep standing and when one falls down the other one swears and curses him but he somehow is also dragged down.

POM. It's a good point to end on. The article you referred to by yourself and Rantete?

HG. And Rantete. Are you going through Johannesburg again or not? He's at that Centre for Policy Studies and it's going to appear in African Affairs. I suppose if you're not in a particular hurry - one article by me alone is appearing in African Affairs on intra-Afrikaner struggles and that will appear in the June edition. I think the one by me and Rantete is scheduled to appear in the September edition, but if you would write to me in Washington I should have a copy of that by September.

POM. Does Rantete have copies of those at the Centre for Policy Studies?

HG. He's got a piece called Room for Compromise which is a policy document of the Centre for Policy Studies and it's called ANC - Room for Compromise. Now he may also have a copy of our joint article. I'm just not going into office again before Thursday but Rantete may have a copy of our joint article and you can just ask him and he will make a copy of it. He's well worth talking to. I think I would really see him.

POM. I'm coming back this way again in about two weeks.

HG. Is that for the Federalism Workshop or not?

POM. No I didn't hear about that.

HG. That's the Centre for Policy Studies, federalism, federal option. Some good people like Stephen Friedman got together.

POM. If you have a copy of your article could you pass it on to Judy?

HG. Just call me in a week's time just to remind me. You can call me here and I can then post it to you. I still have got some copies left.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.