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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
17 Sep 1992: Akhalwaya, Ameen
AA. Hello Patrick, how are you?
POM. Ameen? How are you?
POM. It's late over there.
AA. Yes, it's actually pretty late.
POM. How are you keeping?
AA. Oh surviving, it's sort of rough patches with the paper and South Africa being in a recession so things are not that hot at the moment.
POM. Yes, I saw, I get the Weekly Mail, that you discontinued your column but I thought it said that you were discontinuing journalism?
AA. Yes, in fact we had actually put the paper up for sale, we were planning to sell the newspaper as well.
POM. Oh dear. That's a big change.
AA. Yes, but it depends on finding alternate work and so forth and jobs aren't exactly forthcoming. I have been offered one job, a reasonable academic type of job, but I'm not too keen. Certainly when the reality hits you that this is what you may have to be doing instead of doing what you've been doing for the last 20 years it becomes a little more difficult then.
POM. Sure. Well that's a real pity. Is the Indicator still coming out every week?
AA. Yes, yes. The paper is still going. You see we're not running at a loss or anything, we're still breaking pretty even. We actually made a paper profit for the last couple of years but what happens is because of the recession people are not paying, our debtors are not paying as quickly as they should be. It means that we have to borrow more and more money from the bank in order to pay the rest of our bills and this just piles up and interest piles up on that as well so that makes life a little difficult, but we've had some problems. There are a lot of people in the community who when they heard that this was happening, in fact there was a meeting last night when they told us they were getting together to see if they can put a package together.
POM. Oh, that might be wonderful if that could happen.
AA. Yes. The ANC came to see us as well and they were very concerned about it as well. They don't want us to close down and they said they will try and see if they can help us if they can.
POM. Oh, I really hope that happens. I mean it's awful to see something that's become an integral part of your life, your life's work kind of, just go away.
AA. How are you keeping, Patrick?
POM. Busy. Running around South Africa. The last time I was really running, with so many things happening I was all over the place simultaneously. The project is proceeding. I'm staying with it and everyone who I've interviewed over the last couple of years has stuck with it too no matter how busy they've been put aside an hour or three quarters of an hour when I've been there which is very gratifying.
AA. I must apologise for the last time when you called, what happened is that sometimes when we are on deadline or close to deadline we leave instructions with staff to just take messages and tell them I'm not available. What then happened was they didn't give it to me and we've had changes of staff and we've moved to new premises as well so I actually got your message a couple of days late. I apologise for that.
POM. Well let me ask you a first almost very basic question. Last May it seemed as though just a few percentage points on the question of special majorities for the constitution and the Bill of Rights were separating the ANC and the government and then it all fell apart and went from bad to worse. What happened?
AA. I think the National Party suddenly realised that its time was up, that this was now really the crunch and when it started coming up with all sorts of blocking mechanisms, some of the more outrageous demands in CODESA for things like the 75% majority to pass certain clauses in the constitution and so forth, I think it became intractable. Before the public session of CODESA we had been told all round that in fact the National party had agreed to it and it was just a matter of going ahead there. They were just stalling, it was part of the usual negotiating process giving the impression that they were digging in and they always are going to compromise. Of course we were all proved wrong.
POM. So do you think that the National Party either wanted the process to slow down or it wanted it to break down?
AA. I think it wanted it to slow down in a way when it dug in in terms of the majorities that it wanted, the figures that it put out, it was genuine because I think it finally came to the realisation that it is not going to win any election, not only for parliament but for a Constituent Assembly but that the ANC may just as well get over 60% of the vote. I think that is where the reality started hitting hard. I think we did mention earlier, last year some time, the National Party actually started believing its own propaganda that it could quite easily win an election but I think the developments in the country and when polls started coming around, especially because of the violence, that the National Party was not picking up support in the black communities. That's when reality started hitting it.
POM. Some people have said to me that the ANC were lucky that the government turned down its offer, that there were many in the ANC who believed that the offer of a 70% veto threshold for items in the constitution and 75% veto for items in a Bill of Rights were much too generous and that had the government accepted the ANC might have had trouble selling it to its own constituency. Do you believe that?
AA. That is in fact true. In fact Mandela did confirm that as well because about six weeks ago he held a meeting in Ennerdale which is the township neighbouring Lenasia where he did say, there was a public meeting in fact or a semi-public meeting of all the Patriotic Front forces, Patriotic Front within CODESA with the ANC, that they had agreed on the two thirds majority and its negotiators became over-generous. I think there is truth in it. I don't think the ANC stalled because of that. I think it also came as a relief to the ANC that the Nationalists had dug in. I think had it come to the crunch and the ANC had made that offer and the National Party had accepted, the ANC would have been morally bound to accept it so I don't think that would have been a factor. But, yes, it did come as a relief to the ANC.
POM. But many people would have seen, even if they had been morally bound to accept it, many people would have seen it as a sell out.
AA. I think in terms of the intelligentsia, in terms of the more politically aware, yes it would have been seen as that type of thing but I think the reality is that the majority of the ANC supporters who are not that politically sophisticated in terms of seeing the type of numbers or the shenanigans of the National Party, they would vote for the ANC no matter what happens. I think what they are most desperate for is the chance to vote in the first place and the chance to vote for the ANC and that is what the reality is.
POM. So what happened between the period when CODESA deadlocked in May and Boipatong in June where after the massacre you had the ANC withdraw from talks, lay a whole series of new demands on the government, where Mandela became very much more direct in the language in which he condemned de Klerk and in which mass action was moved from the back burner to the front burner? What were the internal dynamics going on do you think within the organisation itself, within the alliance?
AA. Well I suspect very much that the ANC rank and file was getting fed up with what they saw as National Party intransigence. That's how it came across clearly to them. It was not the ANC that was at fault but it was the government that was at fault and the government would look for any obstacles in order to block progress on negotiations. Once that happened obviously I think even the more moderate people within the ANC, I use that term very advisedly, but if you do think that there is a moderate element within the PAC I think that they too were alarmed that this is what the National Party's game is and in order to regain the ANC's credibility, not necessarily credibility but to get its ranks really behind it, I think that is why the ANC stepped up its demands again. It had to go back to a stronger hard line position in order to be able to get more concessions. The other example is that had the ANC, for example, stuck to a simple majority of 50% plus one, say, for Constituent Assembly and so forth and then had to negotiate up to two thirds majority that would have been acceptable instead of starting at two thirds and then having had to go into a 70% position. So I think what it was doing was going back to the drawing board, going back to its hard line position in order that when negotiations do restart that when it does make concessions it will then be able to push back to its original position.
POM. Some people have said to me that the SACP or particularly COSATU have emerged on centre stage, maybe particularly COSATU. I know that in July when I was there and in August that it seemed to be that COSATU was making all the running. There was Jay Naidoo on centre stage, it was they who were pushing the programme of mass action and saying that mass action would continue more than any other organisation. Is COSATU assuming a new prominence or is what is happening to be expected?
AA. I think it has to be expected. What happened previously was, you know COSATU is a very important part of the alliance, that there may just be a parting of the ways after the election when the ANC becomes government. Obviously the interests of the workers within COSATU may not always coincide with the political policies of the government. But also COSATU has got the numbers to bring out into the streets if it's going to be mass action and if it has to be demonstrated to the government and to the rest of the world that the ANC can muster support, it has to rely to a great extent on COSATU. The ANC cannot just get rank and file out into the streets and say that this is part of mass action. It's the organised workers who do make that sort of impact, it's the organised workers who are able to negotiate with big business. It's COSATU and organised workers who are able to make an impact of mass action on the economy and big business and on government as well. So COSATU does play in terms of its actual membership, you see the ANC political membership is not that active on the ground in that people will go to meetings and rallies and talk about grievances and so forth, but if anything has to be demonstrated it has to be done through the type of worker power that COSATU is displaying.
POM. I remember you talking before about the difficulties they seemed to have in getting off the ground in Lenasia. Has that improved or is it organisationally just as weak as it had been a year or eighteen months ago?
AA. It's just as weak. In fact the ANC branch had its annual meeting here last week where only about 10% of its membership turned up at the AGM, which in terms of what's happened with political parties all over the place is not anything dramatic but it does reflect the extent to which people have become disillusioned with the type of politics which don't take them any further. I think in places like Lenasia for example where there's no COSATU base, there's no real COSATU base, you have pockets of workers who are members of COSATU but who don't make an overall impact. The problem here is that they would go to a meeting and listen to ANC leaders or COSATU leaders or anybody else from the SACP/ANC/COSATU alliance, they would listen to these people reporting back and telling them what they already know what needs to be done and why the government is intransigent. But at the same time they may open the paper the next day to find that the ANC have said this and it is now making another concession down the line.
. So people are very uncertain in terms of what the actual position is. The low turnout actually reflects the disillusionment with lack of progress. To counterbalance against that is the fact that when there was a lot of growing hostility towards the ANC and the rise of racism within Lenasia, for example, I think events like Boipatong, before that the findings of the Trust Feed massacre and so forth, that has sobered people up and the reality has begun to hit home and that reality or the perception is that the National Party is largely to blame for the violence in the country, that the whites are back to their old tactics again.
. We have this phenomenon, for example, I think I may have mentioned it to you last time, that even the most conservative religious bodies which do have a lot of sway in a community like this, that they are increasingly becoming more supportive of the ANC, not necessarily of ANC policy but they have also now gone to Patriotic Front meetings and have begun to issue statements criticising government actions and so forth. That not only applies to the Muslim community but even the Hindu community in Lenasia, for example, has now got together and they have formed a new Hindu Co-ordinating Council in order to be able to speak with one voice on religious as well as other issues.
POM. Ameen, some people have said to me that the ANC were nearly badly out-negotiated at CODESA and that it goes back to the thing of if the government hadn't been so greedy, the government could have gotten most of its cake. The argument they make is that the government wanted to use CODESA to draw up an interim constitution and that this interim constitution would only be amended by a Constituent Assembly and that it would take 70/75% of the votes in a Constituent Assembly to amend the constitution, that they had gotten the ANC to agree that the powers of regions should be entrenched in the constitution, that they had gotten the ANC to agree that the boundaries of regions should be drawn up at CODESA. That in fact they had got an extraordinary amount of concessions on really very basic things from the ANC. Do you think that's a fair assessment, that the ANC were giving a lot away and not getting very much back and that their negotiators in a way were outfoxed or almost outfoxed by the government?
AA. I don't know if they were outfoxed. I think that they were led along the line quite a bit. I think when the government thinking started becoming clear, the reason why it was holding out for high percentages in the regions, I think as I mentioned earlier, when the Nats actually found that they were not going to win any elections they started staking on having some say on a regional basis. In other words I think, for example, in Natal/KwaZulu, they probably thought that on their own or in alliance with Inkatha they would be able to say we're in control of that region. In the Witwatersrand despite the fact that we've got Soweto and most of the Reef townships out here, there's a large concentration of whites and perhaps significant numbers of support from so-called Coloureds and Indians that the National Party may be able to win that region, perhaps in parts of the Western Cape and so forth, or Northern Cape. So think this has been part of the National Party thinking. I don't think that the ANC was outfoxed in that. I think it would have been outfoxed had it given in to the Nat demands at CODESA. I think they realised at the very last moment exactly what it was all about. It was almost outfoxed but not quite that.
POM. Do you think that CODESA as a process worked or that it has now outlived its usefulness and that if negotiations are resumed they will have to be resumed in a broader, sharper context?
AA. I think most of the agreements that were reached at CODESA, those I really don't think need going over again. If, for example, a new body comes up in place of CODESA, whatever it is called, all you will have is the PAC included and perhaps the breakaway section, the Afrikaans Volksunie that's just been formed, the breakaway from the Conservative Party. They will be part of the process as well but in terms of numbers and sufficient consensus on which CODESA worked I don't think they will be able to dramatically change anything and I don't think that what CODESA had agreed in terms of other factors will actually become a problem. So I think if any negotiations do resume on a larger scale, on a full scale again it will be more concentrated I think on the points of the modalities of a Constituent Assembly and a transitional government. You see the other issues are going to become peripheral because most of them have been agreed upon.
POM. So you think the things that have been agreed upon will continue to be agreed upon, that they will not be renegotiated?
AA. I think the programme will go over it if it needs updating or so forth but I don't think that there will be any stumbling blocks there. Obviously the outstanding questions, for example, that still remain about political prisoners and so forth, those have to be taken care of but they are now part of the ANC set of demands which the government says it is addressing at the moment.
POM. When you look at the mass action that began in August, do you think it was successful mass action in the sense that it sent a message to the government which the government has had to respond to in a political way or do you think the government shrugged it off, attributed most of it to intimidation or coercion and dug in its heels?
AA. It was successful. Whatever the reason, even assuming, I don't actually agree, that there was a scale of intimidation that the government likes to put out. I don't think any government and especially a government as dishonest as ours will easily concede that the warnings that it had made, it made a massive propaganda onslaught against mass action, warnings about violence and intimidation and communist leadership and that type of thing, that didn't pay off. The fact that so many people did stay away for whatever reason I think that sent a signal to the government. Even if, for example, 30% or 40% of those who stayed away stayed away as a result of the ANC's call and stayed away voluntarily and even the other 70% stayed at home because they feared violence or trouble or whatever, the fact is that even if that type of intimidation is a factor it still sends a signal to the government that the ANC is capable of paralysing the country and I think the government actually felt that if you could have a 40% or 50% stayaway they could use its propaganda forces to discredit the mass action.
. I think that particular action gave it a shock and then it was followed up by that march to Pretoria led by Mandela where there was a huge turnout. This was not any part of the actual stayaway, the stayaway was over by then. Something like 70000 or 80000 people actually turned up in Pretoria and then of course the government tried to give the impression that people were dragged out from shops and so forth and forced to join in the march which I think anybody with any common sense will know that you can't just go, if you are walking past somebody and you grab somebody and you say, "Come and join our march", that person can quite easily fall out of the march and take a side street or something. I think that also gave a message very strongly that the ANC is capable of taking it to the heart of government.
POM. And you think that is forcing them to reassess their position? My question would be that if talks resume does the ANC go back to talks in a stronger position than it was in May when talks broke off or do they go back in just about the same position?
AA. I don't think it would be back to square one. I think we would be back in a position on the eve of the CODESA public session. I don't think it'll be in very much of a stronger position because all that it will be left down to again is fighting over the percentages and whether it digs in at the two thirds majority or whether it is prepared to go a little higher I think that remains to be seen. The ANC has made concessions before so I wouldn't be too surprised if it actually decides that it will accept a 70% percentage and not a two thirds percentage.
POM. Is that right?
AA. I don't think it is in any stronger position. If the government wants to it could still, the National Party could still continue to filibuster on this issue. It could drag on negotiations or come up with all sorts of proposals for transitional government which are not acceptable to the others and then drag on negotiations for another year or two.
POM. Where does Buthelezi play in all this? The IFP were very quick to point out to me that it was they who insisted on the 75% veto threshold and when I saw Buthelezi in Ulundi he was bitter and dour and making all kinds of dark threats about what the Zulu nation would accept and not accept and the King spoke in the very same language. Does Buthelezi have the capacity to be a spoiler? By that I mean, say if the ANC and the government being the two major partners reached a settlement does Buthelezi have the power to turn Natal into an area of low scale civil war where you can never have free and fair elections, that it is just like an ongoing cycle of violence where no stability returns, no normalcy returns, he just spoils the thing?
AA. In theory, yes, he could do it. I think what the problem here is the latest round of exchanges between the government and the ANC, with a summit meeting between de Klerk and Mandela being mooted, makes it quite clear which are the two key organisations that are involved in negotiations. Now it's going to become very clear that you are going to have smaller parties which are going to try to have their say if they don't agree to what the ANC and the government eventually decide, whether we are going to split up much more clearly than it is now, with the government and its allies on one side and the ANC and its allies on the other side.
. At the moment what would happen, for example, if the PAC does go into negotiations and the PAC doesn't agree totally with the ANC you would find that the PAC may either not go along with the agreement or threaten to pull out of talks and on the other side, for example, the Afrikaans Volksunie may do the same thing which then leaves Inkatha as the biggest organisation on the side of the government. It will not, I think, accept any shut out from this type of summit. I think Buthelezi will start insisting that even if the National Party does agree to make any deal with the ANC it will have to be with the approval of Inkatha and I think Inkatha has got a strong hand there because the government still believes, if you listen to what Pik Botha had to say in the past couple of weeks, again coming up with that wishy-washy public stance that the National Party could conceivably win a majority, that the National Party has actually, they have pinpointed Inkatha as an ally and there have been no real serious rebuttals from the Inkatha side that it will not be the National Party's ally.
. But in terms of being able to continue a low scale civil war, yes in theory, as I said, it could happen but the key to this will be the agreement that is reached in negotiations on the activities of the security forces. If the security forces can be brought under joint control and the security forces can start acting in the way they should be acting they would be able to scale down the level of violence. So free and fair elections won't necessarily be that free and that fair but they could be relatively free and fair so as not to change the overall picture, the overall voting patterns in the country.
POM. But you don't see Buthelezi having the capacity to emerge as any kind of Renamo in the Natal region?
AA. No I don't think so and I don't think that he will want it that way either. A lot of it, quite apart from the real violence that is taking place, is that the political arguments, the political fights that are going on, there is a lot of posturing on all sides, a lot of grandstanding on all sides as well but I don't know whether any of these organisations will have the capacity or the will to carry on for any protracted time. I think Buthelezi also does to an extent take very seriously the views of his western sympathisers, in particular the United States, Britain and Germany, and I think if they see that he is acting as a spoiler they could conceivably put pressure on him and he could be isolated that way. That doesn't mean that if they distance themselves from him that he will not be able to operate but it will make his base a little weaker in terms of the moral backing that he would need.
POM. I want to go back a little bit in time to earlier in the year to the whites' only referendum. What do you think whites were voting for when they voted 'Yes' and what do you think they were not voting for?
AA. I think they were not voting for an ANC government to take over. I think that's pretty clear. I think they were giving de Klerk a signal that he should make concessions. White people generally I still believe are quite removed from reality. They still believe that there is going to be some sort of government involvement and they will still be able to maintain their lifestyles and they still believe it when the government says that it can conceivably an election. I think that type of wishy-washy thinking is still prevalent in large sections of the white community. So what it was doing, the 'Yes' vote was strengthening de Klerk's hand in terms of negotiations. It said, "Yes, go ahead and negotiate", but not necessarily to say, "Hand over the country to majority rule." But it was also important at that time that we had all these sporting links taking place, the cricket World Cup was taking place in Australia and if there was a 'No' vote the threats were that South Africa was going to be kicked out of the cricket World Cup and white South Africa being sports mad I think that was quite sobering. Also the fact that the Olympic Games were coming up and a 'No' vote would have jeopardised that as well. So those types of threats, of return to sports isolation, did sway people towards the National Party so a lot of them did vote against the Conservative Party rather than necessarily for the National Party because they felt if you go back to Conservative Party days you're going to go back into the days of sporting isolation. That played a role too.
POM. You mentioned something there that I think is important, that whites are living under this illusion that they can have their cake and eat it too. In the 22 years since the ANC has been unbanned and Mandela has been released have you seen any sense from the white community, from the collective white community, that it acknowledges that apartheid was wrong and that in some way at some point they would have to acknowledge that wrong. There has been no acknowledgement of the wrong of apartheid. Am I right in that?
AA. I think collectively the large body, for want of a better word, the white masses as such, to them there is no real awakening to the fact that apartheid was evil. What happens is that we get a lot of empty words, a lot of rhetoric to say, well, yes, apartheid was bad but the blacks weren't so badly off. You were better off than in the rest of Africa and people had jobs and they were happy until the communists and Mandela and these guys came along and started instigating them and that type of thing. Sure things weren't the best anyway but let's forget about the past and let's carry on. So there is none of this expiation of guilt, none of the admission of guilt that they were wrong. They would admit little bits here and there that perhaps sports apartheid was wrong, perhaps theatres and that type of thing which don't really affect their lives one way or the other, that that type of apartheid was wrong. But overall the whole plan, strategy of apartheid, I don't think there is any conscious awakening on the part of whites in general that what they have done over the years was something that was totally unacceptable not only to the blacks of this country, the victims of their policies, but to the outside world as well. The siege mentality that we are right and everybody else is wrong.
. Now, of course, we are merely readjusting our system and our thinking in order to accommodate the blacks into our system which translates into the de Klerk type of thing that we are interested in power sharing and that we are going to be part of an interim government, we are going to be part of a government of national unity and so forth. So they still cannot think or will not think that they are faced with the reality that the ANC is going to rule the country and they will have to make serious adjustments to their own approaches. This is borne out incidentally if you listen to Radio 702 every day on just about every issue that comes up here on the talk shows there is such a clear polarisation between black and white and you find that the two groups are living in completely different worlds in terms of their experiences and in terms of what is really happening.
POM. Does that worry you about the future?
AA. Worried about the future?
POM. That polarisation that seems to be not diminishing as this process proceeds but in some way seems to be getting sharper. The second part of my studies is that I have a number of families ranging from a rich conservative white family in Zeerust to a poor African family in a squatter camp in Orange Farm and I've got liberal whites and the mix of colour and race in between and all the white families, even the liberal whites have become more anti-African in the last 2 years.
AA. Anti-Afrikaans or anti-African?
POM. More anti-African, more anti-black, but polarisation seems to be increasing rather than diminishing at least with regard to whites. It doesn't paint a very happy picture of reconciliation around the corner.
AA. I would agree with that. It comes back to this whole question that whites actually feel a few adjustments here and there and life would go on normally as before and the thinking behind it seems to be that we are giving these people so much, we are making so many concessions, we are opening up a few schools here and there, we have done away with petty apartheid and so forth and yet these people aren't grateful they want just about everything. So I think that type of thing is entirely predictable. I think that type of disillusionment is going to get worse when we come closer and the polarisation is going to get worse as we get closer to any form of election whether it's for a transitional government or whether it's for Constituent Assembly or whether it's going to be for parliament, the polarisation signs are clear. I'm that gloomy about the long run.
. I still feel what I have said initially in our first interview, that I foresaw a type of Lebanon, South Africa becoming a type of Lebanon and it will take us a few years to clear that up and if we haven't reached our peak in terms of the violence that is taking place then we are probably approaching it. I just hope that we've passed that peak of violence and after Boipatong and Bisho that things will start levelling off a bit. I say that more in hope than what I actually think is going to happen but in the long run I am still hopeful. The problem is that the whites actually need to undergo a tremendous psychological adjustment in this country. The blacks are disillusioned, as I've mentioned before, because of the high hopes that were created in February 1990 and the fact that very little progress has been made since then, so that type of disillusionment has set in amongst black people. That will change once the electoral process starts again and the ANC, PAC and others will be able to start mobilising support so that type of hope will return among the black people. I think amongst the white people it is going to make them much more gloomy.
POM. Turning to the violence for a moment, do you think that the threat of the right wing is now a thing of the past?
AA. Yes. I have always felt that the right wing threat has always been over-estimated but I think the March referendum has knocked the stuffing out of organised white resistance, but that obviously doesn't mean that it is going to end completely in terms of the elements within the security forces and so forth. Even if there is a new structure, a new body that will take control over the security forces there are those elements that are intent on causing havoc. They are not just going to be brought under control immediately because they just cannot be identified still.
POM. This is a kind of a dual part question, do you think de Klerk is in full control of his security apparatus or that he's really limited in terms of what he can do either because he can't alienate key sections of them in case of a breakdown in negotiations they're about the only thing he can call back on or because they can embarrass him with revelations about the past or that it still has its nooks and its niches that he can't just get control of?
AA. I think he hasn't got overall control. I think, in our last interview I did mention that I suspected that de Klerk himself is not behind the violence. I don't think the ANC accusations that he's actually orchestrating the violence and he's got a hand in it, I don't think that's true at all. I still believe what I said then that he doesn't know, because he was not part of the State Security Council and the security apparatus under PW Botha, he really didn't know then and I still believe that he does not know exactly how far down or who is involved in this type of organised hit squad activities. I think if he did he would be able to bring them up but I think he is also afraid to start exposing these people because again he doesn't know how deep this goes in and who actually is involved. If you look at the General van der Westhuizen incident for example, this is a General who is linked with signing the signal for the elimination of Matthew Goniwe, he still hasn't been questioned, he hasn't been brought to account, he hasn't been brought to book. There's just nothing. He's just sort of wandering around, well that is the public perception that he is lying quiet somewhere down there and has become completely untouchable. So I think that sort of reinforces what the suspicion was previously that he really doesn't know how far this goes in and he really doesn't know who he will be able to control at any particular time.
POM. Did it surprise you then that the Goldstone Commission seemed to go so soft, to state that there was no evidence of a link between the government and the violence itself?
AA. No it doesn't surprise me. It's also what Mandela said at the end of the meeting I referred to earlier. He said, and I agree, that Goldstone in terms of his legal training as a Judge that he can only pronounce on the facts that are available to him and because there is no clear cut evidence linking de Klerk to the violence Goldstone has no other option but to say that there has been no evidence to include de Klerk or any of his senior government ministers in the violence. It didn't surprise me at all.
POM. It also didn't link the security forces as a whole to the violence either. If one were a reader just of The Weekly Mail over the last year and a half what appeared to be startling revelations week after week would seem to have provided a prima facie case for believing that the security forces were up to their eyebrows in all kinds of shenanigans.
AA. Someone from the Human Rights Commission said yesterday, I think it was, that the problem with the Goldstone Commission is that it has the power to enquire rather than to investigate and the enquiries don't bring up the same information as an investigation would do which is why Goldstone can only pronounce in terms of the findings in terms of the enquiries they make. So unless the Goldstone Commission does get more teeth and more power of investigation, now that it has taken on policemen and others on to its team, then perhaps it will be able to uncover more. But I think even in terms of The Weekly Mail revelations there is no common thread linking all of this. We had a guy like Gert Hugo, a Military Intelligence guy who has come out and made all sorts of allegations again about the security forces and he himself said that there is no actual third force within the security forces but there are probably hit squads all over the place out there. I think the common thread is missing in linking one organised unit within the Defence Force that is hell bent on upsetting everything. We have got pockets of it but no real evidence of a systematic approach to it.
POM. Looking at the other side, is Mandela in control of "his constituency". I had many tales from people telling me of how armed gangs in the townships masquerading either as local defence units or who called their actions political were really becoming a law unto themselves and you had Chris Hani saying that local defence units, some of them had gotten out of control. Is there an element to the violence that is on the verge of becoming self-sustaining and beyond the capacity of anybody to bring really under control?
AA. Yes there are elements of that and I think that there are groups of youngsters in the townships who would go around chanting ANC slogans, would shout PAC slogans and obviously do support the ANC and PAC but the reality of their existence is quite far removed from what is being negotiated, what is being discussed in political forums in terms of statements that are made out there. They are living from day to day and violence is triggered off at the slightest excuse so I don't think anybody has got control of those youngsters at all because when you get outside forces or any agent provocateurs coming along it merely results in another explosion. I don't think that the ANC does have control of a lot of these younger groups as well.
POM. How do you see that violence being brought under control?
AA. I think we need in negotiations a broad agreement, obviously I think a new structure of the security forces in which all the major parties are involved. I think if there is going to be multi-party control of the defence forces probably we need a restructuring of the entire defence force area. That's easier said than done but until the police and the army are restructured, probably just disbanded as they are and re-enlist people and then get them committed to a transitional government or a multi-party arrangement, a much more neutral type of organisation, that would be one step towards it. You have to include, obviously the three major players would be the ANC, the National Party and Inkatha who are involved in the violence. I think once we see the process going that we have some sort of unity at the top. You see in terms of the public slanging that goes on between the various organisations that doesn't help to cool temperatures out there, it merely fuels the anger and makes it open season for everybody, those who are bent on violence to just go ahead and do their thing.
POM. Do you think the ANC's insistence that it is the government that is behind all the violence and its refusal to accept that it played a part in it too, vis-à-vis political rivalry with Inkatha, do you think they are being honest in their own assessment of the part they play in the violence too?
AA. No I don't think very much, I think what would happen in a situation like that, again because it's a political game of propaganda, no organisation would easily admit to its own role to a damaging extent in any type of violence. Just to give you an example, all the allegations about the brutality in ANC camps outside the country, the ANC has got a Commission of Enquiry, apparently it's made its findings, those were exposed by The Weekly Mail which wasn't corroborated and nobody denied that certain findings were made, and yet the public I think in terms of where ANC supporters have, for example, attacked Inkatha people with or without provocation the fact is that just as Inkatha would blame ANC supporters for provoking their members, the security forces blame the ANC for provoking them, so the ANC gets into the trap of also apportioning blame. So I don't think any of the organisations are being totally honest in the propaganda war.
POM. There's only a couple more questions and thanks for staying up at this hour of the night. The massacre at Bisho was played in a peculiar way over here in that it wasn't treated like Boipatong and there were elements in many of the major papers, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, that the ANC itself had to bear part of the blame, that it knew of the probability of violence and in a way courted it hoping even to exploit it to bring down Gqozo. How was it played in South Africa?
AA. In the mainstream press, in the white press generally, culpability is being apportioned equally for example blaming the communists within the ANC of using the demonstrators as canon fodder, being totally reckless and totally foolish and saying this is exactly what they wanted and this is what they got.
POM. That's the white press?
AA. That's right.
POM. Does that include the white liberal press, or whatever passes for liberal?
AA. No comment. Yes, in fact if you look at the weekend press, the Sunday press it was almost hysterical, the hysteria, the anti-communist hysteria which the government has cottoned on to very quickly. Every little statement it makes now is that the ANC is being led by the communists. There is a very interesting article in the Star today by Raymond Suttner who is a communist and also one of the ANC's political education officers where he talks about what they had planned and he freely admits that when they did see a gap at the stadium which they took, that's when the shooting started, that this had been done in advance but whatever they had done had been done, the ANC national leaders and the communist leaders who were there were merely acting on instructions of the Border region of the ANC. They had been called in, the national leaders had been called in by the Border region to lead the march, and Suttner makes it clear that if they were going to use people as canon fodder and if they knew that they were going to be shot at then the ANC leaders wouldn't have been in the front line. They were actually leading the march and they would have been extremely foolish to do that, they could very well hidden within the crowd and start running when the shooting started. But I think if you listen to the black reaction there's absolutely no doubt that this is part of a government/Gqozo plot to do exactly the things that they have been accused of doing. I think also there's the realisation amongst black people that the whole march, the demonstration in Ciskei was because there is no real free political activity being allowed there, there is a lot of brutality against ANC supporters and that this type of action, the murder of these people, merely proved why the ANC had had to march against these guys.
POM. Would the black community believe that Gqozo was operating on the orders of or in collusion with the South African defence forces or acting on his own?
AA. I think the perception is that he is their puppet and whatever he would do he would do on their orders or he wouldn't do anything that would antagonise his masters in Pretoria. That is the general perception.
POM. Yes. I was just leaving the country, just shortly after the firing or the resignations of the 14 or 15 senior police officers. Has that been seen as window dressing or as a sign that de Klerk wants to seriously undertake restructuring of the police force?
AA. Today they announced, I didn't get the full text of the news because I was out at a function, but at the Transvaal Congress of the National Party this afternoon what I did hear on the radio very briefly was that de Klerk has now pronounced the end of the homeland system officially. I think what he has announced is that their powers are going to be stripped substantially. In other words it's going to be the military and the economies and so forth. So the homelands are being emaciated, their powers as they are, are being emaciated completely.
POM. That's actually a change of some significance. Is it?
AA. Yes. It is. I haven't seen the full text of it but it will be interesting to see how this is going to transfer into KwaZulu. As you know the KwaZulu Police Force is going to be taken under the South African Police Force's wing again. Whether this means the end of Bophuthatswana and Mangope's role as the undisputed President in the government's eyes, the undisputed President of Bophuthatswana, whether Bophuthatswana's powers are going to be reined in as well. It's a very significant development. It seems to be some sort of admission on the part of de Klerk that he homelands are regarded as puppets and they are no longer acceptable.
POM. Looking at de Klerk over the whole 22 years, how have you modified, if you have, your view of him?
AA. My view of him has been slightly reinforced from what it was originally. I think originally I didn't trust him, perhaps it was the normal reaction that anybody who has been part of the anti-apartheid movement would look at very suspiciously. When he did start making all these concessions and agreed to CODESA and what seem to be very sincere moves on his part I actually did an article saying that I have changed my view and this guy is actually very sincere about changes and so forth. But I think in terms of what happened at CODESA and his refusal to take action against people like van der Westhuizen, the whole question of digging in about political prisoners and then introducing new demands and so forth, that reinforced my view that these guys cannot be trusted. De Klerk himself I wouldn't trust him.
POM. So after 22 years you've become more hard line rather than otherwise? Is that a fair statement?
AA. I've gone back to my original position.
POM. You've gone back to your original position.
AA. Yes. I had given him the benefit of the doubt and I've gone back to square one to say, no these guys, the leopard doesn't change his spots very easily.
POM. Do you see a pretty quick return to the negotiating table at this point?
AA. I would think so. I think probably within the next couple of months, certainly before the end of the year a return to the negotiating table but in terms of whether an agreement can be thrashed out within the next six months or so I'm a little doubtful about that.
POM. What do you see now as the fundamental issues separating the two sides and the main obstacles on the road?
AA. I think the most important would be guarantees from - I think both de Klerk and Buthelezi will be looking for some sort of arrangement that would guarantee them a say in government either in a long term transitional arrangement or if it's a short term transitional arrangement, certainly in the first government, whether it would be a government of national unity so that they would want substantial positions in that type of government and be some sort of, if not totally, equal partners, at least partners with a substantial say in various issues. I think that is what is separating the two although the ANC did make it clear, Mandela has repeatedly made it clear that he wants a government of national unity and that it is very important that the leaders of all the major political organisations should be part of a government of national unity. But I think there is going to be a lot of horse trading in terms of the numbers and the positions that the junior partners would be able to hold. I think that is going to become the crux of it. I think there are going to be guarantees sought also on the regional level. I think in terms of de Klerk and Buthelezi, for example, they obviously would want to be accommodated in the national government but that they would also require some of their major colleagues to be given some positions of strength or influence or power in regional governments as well.
POM. Do you think the issue of federalism is going to become one of the key issues?
AA. I think that is one of the red herrings that the National Party has introduced. When I talked earlier about suddenly bringing up new demands and obstacles, the government has totally opposed the federal concept all along and suddenly has become a very keen proponent of federalism. It's late discovery, I think, is not surprising because really there's so much confusion about what is meant by federalism that whether this is some type of souped up or jazzed up version of regional government, so there is going to be some horse trading in those lines but I don't think it's going to be that serious.
POM. And finally, Ameen, free and fair elections. If the level of violence stays more or less at its current level, can you have free and fair elections?
AA. No I don't think so. The level of intimidation is going to be so high from all sides that there's just no way you can have free and fair elections. I don't think that political parties would be able to campaign properly. We have to create a climate of peace first, of relative peace, not the scale of violence that we're having at the moment.
POM. Might that take some time?
AA. I should think so but I think the key as far as I am concerned is getting control of the security forces and if they can get that done very quickly then I think we have a fair chance of getting reasonable normality in our political situation. But even if you get reasonable normality that means that violence isn't stopped completely.
POM. So when might you optimistically look for elections to take place?
AA. I don't see anything happening until at least before the middle of next year. Even if they thrash out an agreement rather quickly, iron out all the differences rather quickly which I don't think is going to happen very quickly, but even if they do just to get the electoral rolls in order is going to be a mammoth task. The numbers of black people who have relocated, moved into squatter camps, who have left their place of abode, people who have never registered before, people without identity documents, all those are immense logistical problems and I think those will have to be sorted out and it's going to take a long time to be able to do that.
POM. And finally, Ameen, whither the Indian community?
AA. Well I still think that in terms of what has been happening now the National Party is now claiming that Indians and so-called Coloureds are going to be supporting the National Party, I still doubt that very much indeed. I think that if they don't support the ANC they certainly will not vote for the National Party. Just to give you an example of what has been happening in our area: the new National Party branch which has been launched very quietly out here is headed by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the local Management Committees, the government created bodies which enjoy absolutely no credibility, but both these guys are absolute crooks and we had exposed both of them as crooks. It's uncle and nephew and in fact we've been running a series of articles. The Vice-Chairman was caught stealing money from a bank where he was working and he was fired after signing an Acknowledgement of Debt and he hasn't even repaid that money up till now and for the past 22 months, since July, it's coming up for 3 months when we first broke the story, the National Party undertook to investigate the matter and come back to us and they obviously haven't and we've uncovered more and more crookery on these people's part.
. The sum total of all that is that it merely reconfirms what the public knows: that these are a bunch of crooks who cannot be trusted and if these are the people who are going to be your representatives in the National Party then you are not going to vote for the National Party. If you don't like the ANC you're not going to vote for the ANC but you are certainly not going to vote for these crooks and people who have been involved in mayhem and murder all these years. So there is not going to be any significant amount of support for them. I'm talking mainly about the Transvaal of course. In Natal obviously it's going to be a different thing altogether because of the Inkatha factor there as well. So Natal obviously is much more fluid and much more flexible where the question of fear is probably going to be the over-riding factor in terms of how people are going to vote.
POM. Last, there's a guy named Philip Nel who is at Stellenbosch and after the crash at CODESA he wrote something I would just like to quote to you and ask you to comment on it. He said : - "CODESA ignores the fact that the ANC is a mass political movement and not a traditional political party. The ANC's legitimacy has rested on its ability to project itself as the representative of people power. Because of this the ANC is exposed to a myriad of grass roots influences which the leadership can ignore only at its peril. Ideologically and emotionally the ANC can't be drawn into an elitist arrangement even if material improvements of the daily living conditions of its supporters would follow soon thereafter. The followers of the ANC may declare that their grass roots would not tolerate an elite pact. Mass action was decided on to address the fears of its followers that the leadership was no longer interested in people's power. This implies that a future renegotiated forum will have to accommodate the people's character of the ANC."
AA. I agree with his starting premise that the ANC is actually an organisation of disparate elements. The ANC has always regarded itself as a coalition of different interests ranging from capitalists and communists to nationalists and all sorts of tendencies. I think in terms now of saying the ANC cannot move without its grassroots, I would disagree with that. As I said initially I think the ANC supporters want that opportunity to vote for the ANC irrespective of what it stands for. If the ANC comes up with some crazy Marxist/Leninist thing that hasn't even been tried elsewhere before, which everybody knows is going to be totally unworkable or probably even disastrous, people will vote for it. Even if it comes up with a capitalist system, a pure capitalist system, which wouldn't benefit anybody down the line, people will still vote for the ANC. So I think in the first election certainly the ANC is going to ride into power on the back of the sentiment and position it enjoys in the black community so I don't think in terms of what its policies are, in terms of what it offers its grassroots is going to make the slightest difference. The difference will come in when the second election comes up whether the ANC has been able to deliver or has not been able to deliver. I think that is when people are going to start thinking more seriously about whether this organisation is carrying out its wishes. That's going to be a different ball game.
POM. Ameen, thank you ever so much. I will be over at Christmas and I hope you're still in business. I hope the package deal comes through. I would hate to see you lose the paper.
AA. I appreciate that. I hope I make sense.
POM. Yes. Lots. This will be an easy one to transcribe. In fact doing interviews over the phone gives a much clearer tone to the recording, it's a much easier thing to transcribe actually. Anyway, thank you.
AA. You're welcome, Patrick, and keep well.
POM. You too. Bye bye Ameen.