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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

15 Jan 1993: Kane-Berman, John

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POM. John maybe to start with what happened at CODESA. In May you had the deadlock over the question of percentages and the government turned down the ANC's offer of a 70% veto threshold for the inclusion of items in the constitution and then you had Boipatong and the ANC taking a walk out of CODESA altogether. You had a period of confrontation and stayaways and then you had this meeting between Mandela and De Klerk in September with the Record of Understanding and now you've had the meetings in the bush and everything seems to be hunky-dory between the two major players. Going back to CODESA first, did one or other of the two parties want out of CODESA? Was the ANC being taken to the cleaners by the government and only realised it at the last moment? What's your reading of it given the dynamics of the situation that occurred around the question of the percentages or were the percentages really just an excuse for something else?

JKB. Well I think the fundamental problem was that CODESA had allowed itself to be pushed into setting deadlines. The second plenary of CODESA on 15th and 16th May of 1991 had already been postponed twice so that was the third scheduled date and there seemed to be unrealistically high expectations that a settlement could be reached then. I don't think it's quite correct to say that the government and the ANC couldn't agree because the ANC had certain proposals on the percentage question, the IFP had certain proposals, the government was trying to mediate between the two and get some sort of compromise but it ran out of time and didn't have the time to discuss the proposed compromises that I understand the government was willing to make with the IFP and it therefore had to report on the Friday 15th May that deadlock had been reached. I'm pretty convinced after talking to a number of people that if they'd had another week or ten days they might very well have reached a compromise on the question of percentages.

. Now the ANC, I think, used the deadlock that was reached then in one of the five working groups as a pretext to walk out of CODESA. I think that Cyril Ramaphosa virtually said that in so many words. The popular view at the time, although the view in the mainstream press and among many political commentators, was that the ANC had made too many compromises for its grassroots support base to accept. I never believed that because the great weight of opinion survey evidence showed that the political centre of gravity of black people in this country was pragmatic, one might use the term moderate, and the compromises that had been agreed upon in the four other working groups, not the one that was deadlocked but the four other working groups, were entirely in harmony with the views of black people as indicated in opinion surveys. I think the real problem that the ANC faced, therefore, was not the grassroots reaction but objection by its activists if you like, the hundred or however many people it has on the National Working Committee, they thought that the organisation had made too many compromises. I don't think it was rank and file grassroots people.

. Now we find that the ANC having walked out and said in a sense that all bets are off, six months later is willing to go back to CODESA on the basis of the agreements already reached so there were no further concessions that have been made by the government to accommodate the ANC, that we know about, there may be some secret deals that we don't know about. But something has happened between May and January 1993 that has enabled the ANC to accept now what six or eight months ago it said it couldn't accept. Perhaps the activists in the ANC have been talked around, but again I am only speculating, I've got no inside information on that.

POM. From government people that I've talked to, their understanding is that the ANC has already agreed that the powers of the regions will be entrenched in the constitution and that boundaries of the regions will be drawn up before, not in an elected Constituent Assembly, but rather in a CODESA-like forum. They believe those issues are settled. The ANC say those issues aren't settled. What is your understanding of the position, of the agreements they have reached on regions, the powers of regions and the boundaries of regions?

JKB. I honestly don't know because the stated position of key ANC negotiations such as Mohammed Valli Moosa, but the same view is expressed by others, is that a subsequent constitution making body should have untrammelled powers, it should have sovereign authority, it shouldn't be bound by any prior agreements on the question of regional powers or regional boundaries. Mr de Klerk, when he opened that special session of parliament in October 1992, said that prior agreement would have to be reached before a constitution making body came into existence. Mr Slovo in a strategic policy document that was published a few months ago, which was subsequently adopted with only minor amendments by the ANC, made the point that the right, as he put it, of a subsequent constitution-making body or Constituent Assembly to determine the whole question of regional boundaries and regional powers was something on which retreat by the ANC and its allies was impermissible. So the publicly stated positions of the government and the ANC are pretty far apart as far as I am aware. Whether there has been a secret deal behind the scenes I don't know, I tend to doubt it.

POM. To just turn to that strategic perspective for a moment. One of the questions I have been asking both government, ANC, PAC, whomever, I think I asked you this last year too, is whether this is a process which is about the transfer of power or the sharing of power? The government always talks about it in terms of sharing of power, the ANC always talks about it in terms of transfer of power, yet Joe Slovo comes up with a document which almost explicitly says that power sharing may be necessary not merely during an interim government but in a post final constitution government with certain sunset clauses built into the constitution. The Strategic Perspective paper almost says the same thing, there's an implicit acceptance of power sharing. One, is that your reading of the document? Two, why since power sharing was one of the big issues at the negotiation table and the position on which you would hold closely to your chest, why would the ANC lay half its cards on the table before it goes back into the negotiating process on the question of power sharing?

JKB. Well I can only speculate here and that is along the following lines, that the National Party's prime concern is to protect the interests of its own support base and it was looking at various ways and means of doing that, minority vetoes, a highly decentralised political system. It now seems to be moving in the direction of accepting Mr Slovo's carrots which would be that there would be power sharing between the National Party and the ANC beyond the transitional period. But that's not the real question. The real question is not sharing of power or transfer of power, the real question, as I think I said to you last time, is what limitations will be built into the constitution to prevent the abuse of power. One could have two or three or four highly authoritarian parties in some sort of long term power sharing deal where they divide up the spoils of office between themselves - that isn't a guarantee of any kind of democratic system at all. I still say that the criterion that needs to be used in evaluating the success or failure of CODESA or any other constitutional forum is what the end product, the final constitution, says about how much power the state, whether one party, two parties, three parties in the Cabinet or in parliament will have and to what extent the rights of ordinary citizens of minority groups whether organised in political parties or in any other way can be protected from abuse of power by the state. So the mere sharing of power between one or another party, however many parties, is itself no guarantee of a democratic outcome for this country.

POM. Leaving that aside, it was one of the issues which illustrated a very basic difference between the ANC and the National Party. Again my question is, one, why would the ANC almost capitulate on the question before it had been required to do so in negotiations? The second question is, were you surprised when they came out with this document or were you not surprised?

JKB. I was not particularly surprised for a number of reasons one of which is that I have believed for a long time, since two or three years in fact before De Klerk took over the State Presidency or indeed the ban on the ANC and the PAC were lifted or Mr Mandela was released from prison, that once racially discriminatory laws are repealed and political prisoners released and the whole political process is deregulated there is quite a lot of common ideological ground and philosophical ground between the National Party and the ANC because both of them believe in using the power of the state as a good thing. They are dirigiste parties. They also have not entirely dissimilar track records in the way that they treat people in detention whether in cells of the security police in John Vorster Square or detention camps outside the borders of this country. That's the first point.

. The second point is that if you look around the political landscape the single most important potential opposition to the ANC is the Inkatha Freedom Party. That has been the case for a long time and possibly what the ANC is looking to at the moment is some sort of power sharing alliance, deal, with the National Party in order to form a united front with the National Party against the Inkatha Freedom Party as the ANC's most important potential opposition and possibly the National Party has made the calculation that the ANC represents a far greater proportion of black opinion than does anyone else. So the National Party has taken the view that the ANC would win an election among black people and the best way for the National Party, therefore, to protect the interests of its followers is to do a deal with the likely winner of the future election which is the ANC. It's line up of people that ideologically have a great deal in common against the single party that represents the greatest potential opposition to the ANC which comes from the same sort of tradition on economic policy, for example, as does the Democratic Party. They are both free market orientated rather than dirigiste parties.

POM. That surprises me when you say that the IFP will be the main opposition to the ANC given their standing in national polls and even the standing of the IFP in KwaZulu itself. There is no poll that I've seen that gives it more than 10% at best of the vote outside of Natal and some polls even suggest that it wouldn't hold a majority in Natal itself.

JKB. Well that may be entirely correct but it doesn't contradict my point. If you look around the political landscape there isn't any real opposition on the black scene to the ANC other than the IFP. The PAC barely features with much support in opinion polls and those polls might be correct or they might not. The IFP, even though it might be a quarter of the size of the ANC according to opinion polls, is still the only potential opposition to them, not necessarily a party that's going to win an election against them because if opinion polls are to be believed that's definitely not going to happen. It still represents the only threat of any consequence, I believe, of the ANC, on the black scene.

POM. So your logic is that the ANC and the NP in some ways form a natural alliance, they reinforce and protect each other's interests?

JKB. Well I'm trying to explain why I think what might motivate a power sharing deal between the National Party and the ANC which is how many people believe things are moving at the moment. Whether they are in fact going to solidify in that direction is a different question. The media are almost talking up the notion of a quick fix deal where the ANC and the National Party would fix things behind the scenes and then CODESA will rubber stamp it. I think much of the press favours that, the diplomatic community as far as I can make out also favours it, so do sections of the business community. Whether that in fact is what is happening in these secret talks is a different question. I simply don't know.

POM. Does Buthelezi in circumstances like that have the capacity to be a spoiler? Can he say that he will not be a party to an agreement that is reached without his being part of the negotiation process? Can he mobilise Zulu nationalism? Can he continue to conduct a low intensity civil war in Natal indefinitely to make any new fledgling democracy very unstable at best?

JKB. A lot of that is in the realm of speculation. What Buthelezi has said that I think is germane here is essentially two things, the one he said about a year ago, as far as I remember it was in America, California somewhere, that he said it, where he talked about deals made in Angola which left certain parties out, i.e. Unita, which didn't consider themselves bound by those deals and sought to destabilise them. Whether he is issuing a warning, making a prediction, uttering a threat, you can interpret whatever way you choose really. That's the first point he's made. He's drawn the analogy of a disaffected party feeling itself excluded being able to destabilise. The second point he's made is that he will not consider himself bound by any agreements to which he is not party and that the Zulus will not consider themselves bound by any agreements to which they are not party and I think what comes into play there is not so much the IFP as the Zulu monarch which has been a sore point with Buthelezi ever since the first plenary on 20th and 21st December 1991. Whether he's got the capacity to destabilise in Natal or beyond that or whether he would have the political will to do so are really speculative questions at this stage.

POM. But if you had to speculate, how would you speculate?

JKB. I don't want to speculate on that.

POM. Let me put the question another way. Some people say that all the government has to do is to pull the financial plug on Buthelezi and essentially it would have taken away most of his power. Would that be misunderstanding the nature and extent of what one might call Zulu nationalism?

JKB. If the government were to pull the plug on KwaZulu you might end up with a situation where people feel themselves the target of financial sanctions by Pretoria and put into a position where they turn to desperate measures.

POM. Do you think, on a more general plain, that over the last couple of years events in, say, Yugoslavia in particular and in Bosnia with the resort to ethnic cleansing and some of the savage ways in which European ethnic groups are drawing differences or settling differences between each other kind of opens, I won't say a Pandora's Box, but puts the whole question of accommodations, of groups, whether ethnic groups or cultural groups, in a slightly different light?

JKB. Well because the National Party pursued divide and rule policy for so long along ethnic lines people in this country, as I think I mentioned last time, of a liberal inclination don't really want to put ethnic issues on to the table. They would prefer to sweep them under the carpet and just hope they will go away. If we are sensible in this country we will take account of what has happened in Yugoslavia and see if there are any lessons that should be learnt from it and it seems to be the obvious lesson that should be learnt is that ethnic conflicts should be identified as a problem up front so to speak, put on the negotiating table and discussed, not simply brushed aside in the hopes that it will go away. If we work out a constitution for South Africa which ignores the possibility of serious ethnic conflict down the road I think we're asking for trouble.

POM. De Klerk was at a high point last March, with the referendum and its result, and since then the perception at least outside South Africa, certainly in the United States, is that he's been on a slow slide, he's been losing the initiative. He's no longer the 'glamour boy', the politician who couldn't make a false move, that the initiative has now moved to the ANC, that they are grasping the nettle in a more forceful way and forcing the pace.

JKB. I think De Klerk probably made a tactical blunder with the Record of Understanding in that only a month or two before the Record of Understanding was signed the Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, in particular had been talking about a possible alliance between the National Party, the IFP and various others as a winning alliance against the ANC. Now leaving aside as irrelevant for this argument whether an IFP/National Party and other alliance would be a desirable thing, that was the way at least some people in the National Party seemed to be talking in July/August last year. The effect of the Record of Understanding was that in a way the ANC had succeeded in manoeuvring the government into a position where it appeared to be in opposition to the ally that Pik had talked about and in opposition to the party that the ANC has always regarded as its most serious opposition. I think that was an instance in which De Klerk appeared to have been out-manoeuvred. I'm not talking about the merits of the agreements but it certainly looked as if he had lost the initiative on that issue.

. At the same time one needs to say that the government looked as if it had come better out of the agreements in the CODESA working groups in the first half of the year. The ANC said all bets were off. The ANC is now back having bound itself to the agreement that the government was happier with than the ANC was in May/June last year. So it looks as if the ANC has made the compromises in the contexts in which De Klerk is the one that appears to have lost the initiative. It doesn't quite make sense.

. The other issue that I think is relevant is that in the middle of last year the ANC was talking about a build up of mass action to propel de Klerk out of 'Exitgate', as they called it, by the end of the year; there had to be an interim government installed by June of 1992 and there had to be a Constituent Assembly by the end of the year or at least elections for a Constituent Assembly by the end of 1992 or else mass mobilisation would force the change upon the government. Now we've seen the quiet abandonment, so it would appear, of the Leipzig option of Exitgate, of mass mobilisation. What has the ANC been given in return for abandoning these strategies that were designed to upset the unacceptable compromises that had supposedly been made by the ANC leadership in CODESA? It's now bound itself to those compromises and isn't using the mass mobilisation any more. Is there some deal behind the scenes that we don't know about or has the ANC realised that in the context of high and rising unemployment and continuing retrenchments in the mining industry and elsewhere. And that's very important for Cyril Ramaphosa's personal position, that mass action, mass mobilisation, a never-ending series of strikes and stayaways and Cyril Ramaphosa was talking about a rolling mass action campaign of sustained strikes. All of that has been abandoned not for further compromises on constitutional issues, because there aren't any that we know about, or the Exitgate, and the Leipzig option has been abandoned because the grassroots is not willing to sacrifice jobs, income, disruption, disturbance that arise from that kind of action.

POM. Where do you think COSATU lies in this? I was struck in July and August how it seemed to me that COSATU was doing all the running. Whenever you turned on television there was Jay Naidoo talking about stayaways, strikes, about this and about that. They seemed to be the driving force. Is COSATU an organisation that is political, that is the muscle of the ANC?

JKB. I think to a very large extent the answer to that is yes, COSATU has got much, much more experience than the ANC of grassroots mobilisation and organisation. The experience of some of the people at shop steward level and at branch secretary level and in other positions within the trade union movement dates back now getting on for twenty years. The ANC, because it was in exile for so long and not able to operate lawfully in the country, doesn't have that experience. So COSATU has got a major part to play there and it certainly played that and I think it had the government on the run with the anti-VAT action early last year, I'm not talking about the more recent one. But at the same time COSATU's power has been reduced by the serious state of the economy. For the last two or three years the level of wage settlements by COSATU unions has been coming down. COSATU is able at the moment, it would appear, to maintain it's membership static only by recruiting new members to take account to replace the members that are no longer operational, so to speak, because they have lost their jobs and can't go on strike. I think in a sense the economic recession has clipped COSATU's wings a bit.

. So in an organisation/mobilising sense COSATU is very important but that's not the only thing that counts in politics. What counts is the enthusiasm and the dedication and the willingness to make sacrifices of your hard-core party activists, their ability to manipulate the media, to lobby on diplomatic and other circles. That's also a form of power that the ANC, I think, has been able in the last year to deploy fairly successfully. If you can get your viewpoint about the breakdown in CODESA accepted by the media, accepted by the diplomatic community, the international community and so on, that's also a form of power, of a different kind but it's very important.

. So I wouldn't say that COSATU is the only important aspect of the ANC's muscle. I think COSATU has also got its own agenda and that is to ensure that there will be space for a trade union movement to operate in a post-apartheid constitution without interference by the state. There are some small businessmen in Johannesburg that I know, for example, that have been so inconvenienced by strikes that they say, "Roll on the next ANC, roll on the ANC government because the ANC government is not going to tolerate strikes, it's going to close down the trade union movement or severely curtail the right to strike." Now I think COSATU if it's sensible, and it's got some very shrewd people in it, must be aware of the risk that any future government might represent to a militant trade union movement. Government's don't like militant trade union movements. So maybe COSATU is now laying down a few IOUs in return for supporting ANC mass action campaigns. COSATU is demonstrating muscle power not only to the government but to any future government and it's trying to get some sort of quid pro quo from the ANC, "We will help you now to emphasise your political demands through strikes and stayaways but what we want as a reward for that, so to speak, is that you leave us alone and you don't pass anti-union legislation when you're running the country." I'm sure that's part of their thinking.

POM. Going back to when you talked about an alliance maybe between the government and the IFP and others and I've seen a couple of studies, one I think was mentioned in Business Day last week, by a man called Reynolds in California, that laid out a plausible scenario of the ANC getting just a plurality of the votes, 46% or 47%, with all other parties getting 53% or 54%. If the next government, the first government elected under a constitution, were not to be an ANC dominated government, the others ganged up in this kind of situation, what do you think the consequences of that would be?

JKB. You mean if the ANC found itself after an election excluded from power because of the successful electoral alliance against it?

POM. That's right. It would be better with the opposition.

JKB. God only knows. I think that the ANC would find it very, very difficult indeed to accept a defeat at the polls and there would immediately be cries of foul. It's a very serious problem. I don't think that the ANC in its present mood would accept the results of an election that it didn't win. This may also be part of the government's thinking to do a deal.

POM. You talked about the level of openness here and connected with the letter that Helen Suzman sent out concerning Dr Jeffrey's report on disinformation about violence, where she talked about the Institute's being proud of its research over all of its life and it stood behind this report and would not be intimidated, it struck me as significant that she issued a letter like this to all the membership. What went on when that report came out? What was disagreed with, by whom, and what kind of pressures were attempted to be applied?

JKB. Well Dr Jeffrey's report was criticised by a number of people. I gave her all of the criticisms after we got chapter and verse and detail and asked her to go through them and to check them against what she had written and we will be making available within the next month or so her detailed response to the critique. Some of her response, point by point, has already been published in the press and there will be a two page summary of her main refutation of the criticisms in the next issue of RR News which is at the printers and we should get within the next couple of weeks. There's no space in Race Relations News to publish her full refutation but that will be made available, fifty, sixty pages, however long it is, within the next month. It will be typed in the next couple of weeks. On the merits of the case she made nobody has been able to fault her on any major point and not on any minor points either. Her document stands as entirely accurate.

POM. What were the criticisms made?

JKB. Some of the criticisms said it was inaccurate. Those criticisms have no foundation. We've evaluated them all very carefully.

POM. They were made by whom?

JKB. Well some were made by a Professor at Wits, another was made by a lawyer who has got a part time job at Wits but also seems to be in private practice as well. Some were made by some of our own researchers, some were made by a couple of church organisations. I think those are the main ones that have been made but as I say the criticisms on the contents of the documents, the merits of the case after we've evaluated them very carefully because we are jealous of our reputation for accuracy and truthfulness, have been shown to be entirely without foundation. The real reason for most of the criticisms and this I think is what Helen Suzman was alluding to, is that Dr Jeffrey had successfully exploded the view that the government and the IFP were exclusively to blame for violence. She pointed out in her document that, yes, the government was partly to blame for the violence - and by government I mean essentially security forces, SADF and the South African Police and of course the ministers are politically accountable so the government and it's security forces are partly to blame for the violence. Yes, the IFP is partly to blame for the violence. But there are other people that are also involved in violence that carry some of the responsibility as well, namely uMkhonto weSizwe and the ANC and the South African Communist Party. So Dr Jeffrey said, yes, some of the criticisms levelled at the IFP and the government are valid but the groups whose reports she had evaluated in great detail and with great care, which was Amnesty International, a local group called the Human Rights Commission and the International Commission of Jurists had failed to mention that there are weapons used in violence in this country other than so-called traditional weapons. They had failed to mention the frequent use of AK47s, they had failed to mention the involvement in violence of uMkhonto weSizwe, they had failed to mention ungovernability strategies, they had failed to mention the campaign of assassination of policemen or IFP people. So what Anthea essentially did was to say there are two sides to this equation. These agencies have correctly identified the one side but there's a whole lot that they have failed to mention and we are now mentioning that as well, and she provoked a great deal of anger because the fashionable view in many circles is that the violence all emanates from the one side and she proved conclusively, beyond a shadow of doubt, that violence emanated from other people as well.

POM. Do you think the fact that the ANC adheres rigidly to this position since August 1990 that the government is behind the violence, the government itself or the government operating covertly with the IFP, that their unwillingness to acknowledge their own role in the violence seriously inhibits any real settlement, any real end to the violence itself?

JKB. I would answer that by saying that if you've got any problem that you want to solve you've got to identify what's wrong and the obvious analogies with the government's own policy, the government for a very long time has had a stock response to protect demonstrations, acts of insurgency, planting of limpet mines in supermarkets carried out by uMkhonto weSizwe, black grievances and all that kind of thing. The government said, well, this is the total onslaught orchestrated by Ambassador Solodovnikov in Lusaka who was the bete noir of the time. South Africa would be a peaceful, happy country, most black people are smiling, as most of the tourists will tell you, but for these communist agitators and the Institute of Race Relations and, of course, the ANC and many other people, Helen Suzman herself, the old Progressive Party, the Democratic Party said, "Yes, we're well aware of what the interests of the Soviet Union might be in trying to destabilise things in Southern Africa, support revolution but there's a fundamental problem which is racially discriminatory laws, apartheid, the fact that the ANC is banned and can't operate democratically, the fact that black people don't have a parliamentary franchise they therefore believe that there's no choice but to operate undemocratically and underground."

. I think the same is true of violence. It doesn't help to simply say that the government and the IFP and all your opposition are to blame for violence. One has got to look at one's own strategies and policies and ask the question whether the strategies that were launched to make the country ungovernable are possibly a contributing factor in the violence as well. Now if you don't identify your own behaviour as part of the problem then I don't think you're likely, if you don't admit your own part responsibility you're not going to be able to stop doing the thing that you're doing that may contribute to the violence. I think Inkatha needs to admit that the carrying of weapons in public, whether they are cultural weapons or whether this is a traditional practice or not, Inkatha needs to admit that that is provocative, that it's incompatible with modern democratic practice to carry weapons to a political meeting. Carrying them on some cultural occasion such as a wedding may be legitimate but to march through a township carrying weapons of any kind I think is incompatible to democratic practice and I think Inkatha needs to recognise that and stop doing it. By the same token the ANC needs to recognise that the campaigns to make the country ungovernable are part of the reason why violence continues to afflict black townships and rural areas.

POM. Since the ANC has been unbanned what kind of relationship has your organisation had with it?

JKB. Well the same as we have with any other political organisation and indeed with the government itself. We attempt in everything we publish to reflect as accurately as possible and as truthfully as possible everybody's viewpoint and one does that by studying reports, their own policy documents, their conference resolutions, whatever, evaluate their strategies and then in addition to that there's also contact of an informal nature on a social occasion. You might talk to people that you bump into at some party or you go and see them or researchers go and interview them. When Anthea Jeffrey, for example, wrote her study, about a year ago now, of mass mobilisation she went and spoke to the police and defence force people and the National Party and Inkatha and ANC people and members of the Communist Party, some of whom agreed to be identified in the publication, some of whom said they would rather talk privately and frankly as long as their names wouldn't be disclosed. When the ANC was a banned organisation we had contact with them in exile. I used to see them on visits abroad whether in England or Australia or New York and since they have been able to operate openly within the country it's obviously much easier to have that kind of contact. But we don't have any particular contact with any organisation. You reflect everybody's views and talk to them all.

POM. But you find no propensity on their part to see you as being slightly adversarial or you don't feel in some way they would like to censor some of your reports? I'm asking that in the context of an earlier question which was when you talked about the NP and the ANC having many similar ideological traits whether dealing with people in detention camps in John Vorster Square or in Quatro. I'm not trying to draw a line but I want to draw a connection.

JKB. The ANC, to the best of my knowledge, has not put any particular pressure on me or my organisation. We're involved in research and much of it, as you well know, is in controversial areas and the most important thing is to be able to have access to people and to talk to them and to get their views and we are able to do that whether it's the ANC or the PAC or AZAPO or the National Party or the IFP or the DP or anybody else. That's for us, in a sense, the bottom line. We're able to do that. If we want information from any political organisation you phone them up and you send them a fax and they send it to you, usually. And if you want information you phone and ask them and they contact us and they ask for things from time to time as well. I'm sure that many of these organisations don't like a lot of what we've said but that's par for the course. There's nothing new about that. But the ANC has not tried to suppress or censor anything that we've said. There are some people who have been very angry about it but the anger has come mainly from whites.

POM. Did the reports that have been published whether by the ANC or Amnesty International or by Douglas on abuses in the ANC detention camps present the ANC with a real problem, i.e. must it name the individuals who were involved even if they are senior ranking figures in the organisation and must they take severe disciplinary action against them or do they lose their lustre, so to speak, as a shining liberation idealistic organisation?

JKB. Well it's not for me to say what they should do, but clearly the ANC is worried about this persistent stream of reports and allegations about abuses in some of these camps. That's why it's attempting damage control, partly appointing its own commission and so on. They are clearly worried about it. I think that is of prime concern given the fact that many people, and possibly some named in those documents, are likely to have positions of power in a future government. Voters are going to have to decide whether they think it's appropriate that a party, some of whose officials have been named for doing certain things, should be able to put those people into positions of political power, such as the Minister of Law and Order or Minister of Justice and so on. There will be an election at some stage and voters will have the opportunity of choosing. The fact that some people within the ANC might have been identified or accused of some of these things that happened in some of those detention camps may work to the detriment of the organisation at the polls. It may make some people willing to form alliances with the ANC, think twice or three times about it. On the other hand the ANC has a very, very great advantage which is that it symbolises black opposition to apartheid in a way that no other black organisation does, the symbolism of Mandela in prison for 27 years, whatever it is. Many voters might take the view that, well, those other things don't matter terribly much, what counts is that our party, the premier liberation instrument, is in power. One saw how white voters in this country were well aware for a very long time, thanks to a very large extent to the efforts of the Institute and of people like Helen Suzman in parliament, white voters were aware of deaths in detention, of all the abuses that happened under National Party rule. But the more stringent the detention without trial laws that were passed, starting with 60 days and then 90 days and then indefinite detention, the bigger the National Party's majority got in parliament. So the abuse of human rights by a political party doesn't necessarily mean that it loses support at the polls.

POM. Just two last questions and, again, thanks for the time. One is, do you think you could have free and fair elections given the present political climate in South Africa and the level of violence? And two, do you think that there must be elections anyway whether there is a high level of violence, whether there is intimidation because elections are necessary and not to have them shows those who oppose elections how to make sure they don't happen, make sure violence increases?

JKB. I don't think in the present climate it's possible to hold free and fair elections in many parts of the country. The National Party, Democratic Party, just to cite the most recent experience, can't even have meetings in certain areas. Whether that would be universally true of the whole country I don't know but I suspect it will be very difficult indeed to hold free and fair elections in most parts of the country. You don't even have free speech on English language South African university campuses. People that break up Democratic or National Party meetings, as happened in the Western Cape recently, as happened last year in Kimberly during the by-election, the National Party meetings were broken up, people who are smashing up those meetings are emulating the behaviour of the National Party of the 1950's and they are emulating the behaviour of the students of the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand.

. So political intolerance has become part of accepted culture in many circles in South Africa and that poses a serious threat to free and fair elections because this isn't simply a phenomenon of radical, dispossessed black people in townships. Intolerance in South Africa originates from the intelligentsia on university campuses. It originates from the privileged classes if you like. Having said that, I think we're heading for an election at some stage and it's likely to be held in circumstances of intolerance. It's probably inevitable that it's going to be that way. The real question is, is the outcome of any such election going to genuinely reflect the views of differing people on the relative merits or otherwise of political parties' policies and strategies or is the result of the election simply going to indicate who is the most successful at coercing and terrorising people into supporting party A and not party B?

POM. So if the ANC were to lose they have an obvious card to fall back on.

JKB. Absolutely. So has everybody else. But I don't think that's going to stop us having elections rightly or wrongly.

POM. So looking at the next year, an interim government by ...? Come on, put yourself on record. Nothing will be published till 1997.

JKB. There will not be an interim government in 1993.

POM. There won't?

JKB. Sorry, there will not be an interim government in 1993 and I don't think there will be elections in 1993 either.

POM. So when many people talk about this being the decisive year when the packages must be put together do you see that as being a slightly off base analysis?

JKB. I don't know. It could be a very decisive year if, for example, the National Party in pursuit of an agreement in CODESA or in agreement the ANC decides to ditch its new found, skin deep belief in federalism, for example, which I think is a possibility. That in itself would be a pretty decisive development. Lots of things can be decisive in shaping the future of this country. It doesn't have to be only elections and the advent of an interim government but one's got to be careful of terminology here. What was agreed upon in whichever working group at CODESA, was that there would be a Transitional Executive Council in place by mid year and that that Transitional Executive Council would have as its main job levelling the playing fields (we all seem to think politics is the same as sport). It would have as its main job to level the playing fields for free and fair elections for an interim parliament which would also serve as an interim constitution-making body to draw up a final constitution. So we're looking at a Transitional Executive Council this year. I think that is entirely within the bounds of possibility but that's not the same thing as an interim government and I think part of the reason that there's so much confusion is that people tend to think that those are the same body and they are very distinctly different.

POM. Just finally, since you opened almost a Pandora's box, you say you think the National Party's new found affection for federalism is skin deep?

JKB. I think there's a paradox here. Pandora's Box contains a paradox. The National Party ironically has itself always been a federal party. Stoffel van der Merwe who has just left the job of Secretary General, was the first Secretary General at a national level that the party had ever had. All the power was always previously at provincial level and federal congresses were rare things. The National Party has always been a federal structure. The National Party has never believed in federalism for the simple reason that federalism has always been part of the South African liberal tradition. There are attempts now to smear it as a right wing thing, but federalism comes from Olive Schreiner, from the Molteno Commission set up by the Progressive Party in the fifties and sixties, from the Alan Patons the Helen Suzmans and people like this.

. Under the original constitution, the 1910 constitution, to be precise the 1909 constitution, the four provinces had certain powers. The National Party never hesitated to remove those powers from the provinces when those powers got in the way of the implementation of apartheid. In 1955 Dr Verwoerd took control of education away from the provinces because he wanted to use the power of central government to impose Bantu education and Christian national education. In 1971 or 1972 the central government took away control of black housing from black local authorities for no other reason than the Johannesburg City Council which was then under opposition control, the old United Party, wanted to build more houses for black people than the National Party government thought acceptable. And they couldn't dissuade Johannesburg from building houses for blacks and extending Soweto so they removed its power.

. So the National Party has always believed in highly centralised government and don't let second or third tier levels of government interfere with the will of who sits in the Union Buildings. Now they've been talking for a year or so about federalism, but I think that Joe Slovo has now offered them an alternative which is this power sharing deal beyond the life of the transitional government and they may find that carrot sufficient to abandon their commitment to federalism and it's noticeable that the National Party doesn't use the word 'federalism' any more. They talk very much more about regionalism and it seems to me the chief advantage for a politician of the word 'regionalism' is that it doesn't mean anything. A federal system means a number of things, but it means that your second and third tier levels of government have constitutionally entrenched powers that cannot be tampered with by the centre, and that is constitutionally entrenched and guaranteed by the independent judiciary. The National Party talks about federalism, about regionalism. What is regionalism? It doesn't mean anything. I find that their abandonment of the term 'federalism' makes me deeply suspicious.

POM. OK, on that note thank you very much.

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.