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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
23 May 1996: Ngubane, Ben
POM. Let me begin, Minister, by asking you, the IFP attitude towards the new constitution, on a scale of one to ten where one would be regarded as an unsatisfactory constitution and ten would be regarded as a very satisfactory constitution, where would the IFP put it in its rating?
BN. Well it's difficult to give that rating because we don't recognise this as a genuine South African constitution. To us it's still an imposed constitution. You remember very well that we walked out because the ANC would not honour its pledge and written, signed agreement to international mediation immediately after the elections as had been promised. We repeatedly approached them about meeting this commitment and they refused and then we had to leave the constitution making process. So we regard this as obviously a compelling state instrument, we will be governed by it, we will live under it, but essentially the IFP sees it as imposed. From the point of view of what it contains we believe that there could be a lot of improvements that could be made in terms of the bill of fundamental rights itself. For instance, issues such as including the local clause, we think it goes fundamentally against entrenching the bill of rights culture in this country if you favour only one side and not the other. We think you are abrogating that in a sense. You almost also bring in the obligation between individuals as opposed to the state and the individual. We think that's a dangerous concept as far as we are concerned. As far as it gives powers to the provinces we think in fact it's taken away power from the provinces and we think it is unconstitutional in doing so because the interim constitution, the principles were supposed to entrench the given powers of the provinces so that they are not diminished by the new constitution. And, of course, it fails totally to address the real crux of the matter in this country which is the issue of how different cultures cooperate and live tolerantly together. This is not being addressed because to address it you would need to build institutions that will actually handle the reality of cultural diversity in the country. We think it's a future instalment of problems that we are creating by not going boldly now to address those issues before they grow into national movements, into liberation armies, into all sorts of products of malcontent.
POM. Does the IFP see itself as using parliament or the Constitutional Court as a way of challenging provisions in the constitution or is it simply going to adopt the position of, well it's their constitution, it's being imposed on us and we accept that situation, or are you actively going to try to engage in a process that would make it more acceptable?
BN. As a party we want to use every constitutional avenue available. We have already drafted our representation to the Constitutional Court about those aspects which we think are actually unconstitutional, like diminishing the powers of the provinces which already exist. We will do that because we are committed to democratic procedure but our worry is that a part of the constituency, which is a very major part of the constituency that we represent, will not accept this constitution as anything that is meaningful to them. They will see it as an imposition. I am talking of the traditional Zulu people who fought battles in 1879 to protect Zulu territory, their way of life, their kingship. That tradition lives on and it gets strengthened as people perceive themselves being threatened by foreign domination and that is really our worry about the future in this country.
POM. Do you think there is any appreciation in the ANC of the depth and potential of this kind of problem, that the Zulus are different, have a history that's rich in its telling and in its mythologies and in its performance? Are they trying to impose a homogeneity on the country that doesn't exist?
BN. I think so. I think to a large extent they want to emulate the melting pot approach to cultural diversity. There are certainly people there who are very influential who just don't seem to have a conception about what the reality of African tradition is. Most of them are non-African unfortunately so I think this is why they take it very superficially.
POM. Most of them are non?
BN. African. Those who stand for a melting pot type of approach.
POM. Who would you put in that category?
BN. Well I would think of Kader Asmal, Mac Maharaj, Derek Hanekom, Essop Pahad, Aziz Pahad, a lot of the people I don't think they really see the deeper problems. But I certainly believe that Thabo Mbeki does, that he is very much aware of the need to defuse the situation and to really find an accommodation with Buthelezi and he goes out of his way to do that most of the time. Even the way he handled the issue of elections in KwaZulu/Natal was very pragmatic and as a result it wasn't beset with a lot of shouting, quarrelling in the meeting. It went fairly smoothly and in a very logical way so I hope that he gets stronger in that appreciation of these issues.
POM. Talking about KwaZulu/Natal for a moment, here you have what would appear to be endemic political violence built on cycles of its own that endlessly repeat themselves. Again, is there an appreciation at central government level about the seriousness of the situation there, how easy it is for the province to move from a low level civil war to a much higher level kind of civil war?
BN. I think there is appreciation but also there is a feeling that we are government and we must impose our will. A lot of people think that through the security apparatus we can solve that problem hence there are no serious negotiations at political level going on even now. This is the tragedy that they see it purely as a security issue and you put in more police, you put in more security forces, you put in your better intelligence services. Ultimately that's not going to solve it as far as I am concerned. It's going to be a political settlement.
POM. It sounds more like the old National Party government's approach to things.
BN. Absolutely, and this is the tragedy.
POM. Well surely people like Jacob Zuma must be aware of the deeper underlying political and cultural differences that were at the root of the problem?
BN. Well when people are defending their own turf I don't think you will highlight that situation. I would think you will go more probably with what party caucuses say, or their NEC says rather than come up with a real concrete issue. We know that he was in competition with others for the position of leadership in that province so I don't think he would really give the problematic way out which would be seriously negotiating with IFP, with the Chiefs, Amakosi in the area, that sort of level of negotiations which at the moment is not acceptable to his own party caucus.
POM. Could you give me your analysis of what the major problems facing KwaZulu/Natal are or the matters which you think must be addressed before you can achieve political stability in the province?
BN. First of all it's historical. It's been a long established kingdom, there were serious wars fought with the Boers, with the English, about sovereignty issues but even after 1879 the Natal government, the colonial government gave sufficient domestic autonomy to the Zulu Chiefs, to the King there although he was reduced in stature and called a Paramount Chief and a lot of his powers taken away, he couldn't mobilise armies and all that. Still in day to day running of affairs they were left alone. Then came the Nats who decided that they are going to parcel us off as an independent government and created the government of KwaZulu/Natal which further reinforced that original set-up where they ran their own affairs.
. Now comes CODESA, we approach the whole thing and say KwaZulu as a territory and as a group of people, Amakosi, the King, must come to CODESA to put their case and we were refused that. Then it leads to a constitution which is again adopted in our absence. We then go into the 19th April 1994 agreement that we will go into elections but there will be mediation to settle these issues and nothing happens. We again pull out of the National Assembly because there is no progress, so this is the tragedy. The people feel what they had in the past, even after their defeat, is now being taken away by the so-called majority government. This is the thing. That issue has got to be faced. I am not saying that it's possible to give autonomy to a point where you actually threaten the cohesiveness of the South African state but there have to be areas of governance that are left to Amakosi, are left to local government structures in the countryside which satisfy them and make them feel that that have a role in future in the new dispensation.
POM. What makes the violence so difficult to bring under control?
BN. Well precisely because it's a situation of some people feeling so threatened that unless you give them something on the table which assures them that they can live with the other people. It's a question of ANC or IFP in any area. People see these as mutually exclusive, there is no tolerance, but when you go back to it the root cause of it is IFP feeling very threatened by ANC and ANC wanting to impose their will as a liberating force, as a liberating army, as a new government now.
POM. It's Zulu against Zulu. This is the tragedy of it.
BN. Yes. Well that's the tragedy of it but it's about approaches to future governance. I would say there is a faction which represents traditional political and social forms of organisation vis-à-vis those who want to wash away all that and impose a new system. I think that is the basic divide in the whole thing.
POM. Is it between those who would see themselves as modernists and those who would see themselves as traditionalists?
POM. So in a sense it's a very basic clash between value systems?
BN. Absolutely, and unless you address that issue I don't think there is going to be a solution.
POM. President Mandela is seen internationally, nationally as the great reconciler, the person who has bent over backwards to alleviate the fears of whites, to talk about the inclusiveness of the new South Africa and yet on this issue with regard to Dr Buthelezi he doesn't take the reconciling steps. It would seem to me that on the question of mediation that all he had to do was say, let's honour the obligation, call in the mediator. You sit around the table, the mediator might say after an hour that there's nothing to mediate, my job's done I'm going off home, and President Mandela would say, "Well I've done my obligation." What do you think is the obstacle on this particular issue that prevents him from reaching out in the way he can to other communities and constituencies?
BN. When he came out of jail Buthelezi was very excited, he was organising a visit by him to Ulundi. We would have had cows slaughtered and people partying, but just before he was due to come, he had agreed everything, Harry Gwala and all the very hard liners in the ANC and Communist Party went to him and said he shouldn't come. He himself used the phrase that they had threatened him.
POM. I remember the phrase.
BN. And he didn't come. So this is the tragedy that with all the power that he has he should actually listen to extremists who stopped him from carrying out what would be his historical duty to bring about reconciliation between the IFP and the ANC. And yet he can do it with the Afrikaners because of course he does it on a different value system. Afrikaners are not a threat in terms of real numbers and territory, they have no real territory that you can say is Afrikaner land as opposed to the Zulu people who are fixed to a particular territory. The whole hegemony, if you can use that term over KwaZulu/Natal as a region, is at issue here. Will it be under IFP and traditionalist control or will that be broken down and new structures, modernising structures be brought in? These are the issues which are fundamentally confronting each other.
POM. How do you find it as an individual who straddles both worlds? At one level you're a very sophisticated modern man. At another level you are a believer in the traditional values of your culture. What relationship do you see between modernising and freeing people, making them more democratic, empowering them and the maintenance of traditional structures of leadership?
BN. Well I don't think there is a conflict at all. I was a medical doctor in the area in Zululand. I worked with all types of society, the trade unionists, the academic, the tribalist. It is easy because you give them a service on an individual basis. I worked with the Red Cross for many years doing work in Chiefs' area, establishing gardens, schools, clinics with the communities, organising communities to come together to take very democratic decisions about where things will be located, who will be in charge, how the committee is created. That is possible even within the traditional society. But you see you are not excluding anyone. You report to the Chief. You say we are coming as Red Cross, we want to talk about development and nutrition and all that. We will come on such and such a day, do we have your permission? He will say it's fine. We will be there or I will bring Mrs Maas or Professor Rood or Roy Marcus because we must lay down the pipelines and prepare the surfaces for irrigation. Fine. I brought a whole gaggle of students from Wits to work on a project there. They were camping under a tree in the veldt near the water, the women of the village were bringing them food, they were washing their clothes. It was perfect. So it's a style really. No-one felt threatened and you can make a lot of progress and I think it's easy even now at political level. Create a structure where the Chiefs don't really have power to decide over and above democratic wishes and processes but they are part of it, they are part of the consensus and you have won.
. So this is our approach. I have never been stopped in anything I wanted to do in that area not simply because I was IFP but because there was enough consensus about everything. But to feel threatened by Amakosi being on the District Councils and say that they shouldn't be because it's anti-democratic is actually to bring in a totally foreign concept to what people are used to. I agree that in some areas there may have been Chiefs who abuse their authority, particularly under the corruptions of apartheid but we can have mechanisms to weed those out. I remember, for instance, when I first came to Zululand I was called to a meeting at the Magistrate's Court because the Chief in whose area I was practising, and of course I was then a member of the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly, the people had come to lay a charge against him, to impeach him in fact, and that process went on. Of course the whole thing stopped short of him getting thrown out because he was acting as a Regent and the son he was holding the seat for was just about to take over so people didn't feel the need to actually have him thrown out but it could have happened.
POM. How about, again on the question of the violence, many people have mentioned to me over the years the revenge factor in Zulu killing, that some of the disputes that go on or some of the murders that are committed have their origins in conflicts that may go back 80 or 90 or even 100 years, what's the culture of that?
BN. Well that comes from factionalism. I presume it dates before the Zulu nation was consolidated by Shaka. If someone from one clan killed in another place, another clan, there was a God-given duty as far as people were concerned to avenge that. So we have a hang up of this. When I grew up in Greytown, Msinga(?) was famous for that where the Ngubanes would fight the Nkunos over probably over the Christmas period, dating of girls, boys would quarrel over a girl then the boy from one clan kills the other one from the other clan and that fight will be carried back to Johannesburg even to the mines, to the hostels because it was you killed a person from our area and that's been with us. That could easily be handled with proper and efficient judicial mechanisms and policing. That, of course, serves as a fertile ground for this type of political violence because it gets mixed up and people get a reasonable excuse to divide themselves, which is again the situation where you might find different districts of different Chiefs supporting different political organisations and that builds on that factionalism of the past and it gets fired on in revenge killings and so forth. There is a lot of that underlying the general political violence but at this stage I don't think you can isolate it and separate it out completely because it's all got mixed up in the whole lawlessness and hatred situation.
POM. I want to go back to President Mandela for a moment and again maybe rephrase the question; why do you think a man who appears to be dedicating the rest of his political career to bringing about reconciliation in the country can so consistently ignore or not reach out to Dr Buthelezi or the IFP with regard to what is potentially the most explosive problem and the most divisive problem in the country?
BN. As he said himself he's a loyal ANC, disciplined ANC supporter. He does not act outside the collective wisdom of the caucus, the party leadership. And I think that's where the problem is. On his own if he struck out on his own I think he would solve that problem almost in six months, overnight literally, but he is not allowed to do that. Really I think this is just the basic situation. He has allowed a process to develop where he is very much guided by what his NEC says.
POM. How would you rate him in that regard then as a leader?
BN. I think that would be his failing. He is an excellent leader in every respect, tremendous symbolic person, jailed for so long, comes out whole, doesn't show the scars of that experience, doesn't really have bitterness based on racial lines, on racial divisions and he's absolutely the Bolivar of this part of the world. But the fact that he still works essentially in a very tight party structure reminiscent of the eastern bloc countries of Europe I think that is his failing. He should have broken that type of grip and really lead the country because he could really fight for reconciliation. There is no doubt about it.
POM. Is Dr Buthelezi, and I have interviewed him on a number of occasions but as you know he's a very private man who doesn't show his emotions in a very open way, but is part of the problem personal in the sense that on his side he feels deeply hurt by the way in which he has been treated by Mandela since his release, that his role when he was the black standard bearer against apartheid for the many years that Mandela was in jail is not appreciated, that every effort has been made to marginalise him and to even demonise him? Does this hurt?
BN. It hurts him tremendously. It hurts him very badly. For instance he told me yesterday that he was deeply hurt that the ANC now intends opposing the certification of the KwaZulu/Natal constitution even though they were part of the consensus in the province when that constitution was accepted by the legislature. Now he says he doesn't understand how people behave like this. You are part of an agreement and then suddenly your higher levels just oppose this. He's a very genuine man and probably a very fundamental person. There is right and wrong and to him he can't live with this thing, he can't understand how the President can allow that to happen. But he really feels hurt that for a long time he confronted the Boer government with the release of Mandela and he said he will not enter into any negotiations and suddenly when they are now back in the country they just demonise him and marginalise him when in fact he could be a very important factor in creating cohesiveness in the country. He does feel hurt very, very deeply.
POM. What about, when you brought up the KwaZulu/Natal constitution many people in the end say that - first of all why was there this almost desperation on the part of the IFP to get the constitution passed before the Constitutional Assembly had completed its proceedings and to get it before the Constitutional Court for certification before the final national constitution?
BN. Because then we would be using the principles provided for in the interim constitution, namely that provinces can create structures different from those provided for by the interim constitution. We knew and expected that that would fall off in the final constitution and this was important to get our constitution in. But of course at the end you know all that was whittled away because there are suspense clauses or sunrise clauses, all the new structures we wanted to create became part of sunrise clauses. They will only come into operation if the certification process agrees or if the new and final constitution agrees. But the intention was to try and create something different for KwaZulu/Natal and we had hoped that people will appreciate that, that there is need for variety within one South Africa.
POM. But it seems to me there's a contradiction in the sense that you look at the final constitution and say this is a constitution we had no part in making, this is a constitution that's being imposed on us, this is a constitution with which we have many, many differences. And at the same time you pass a provincial constitution in which you agree that the provincial constitution must at all times be in conformity with the final constitution.
BN. Because we realised there was no way we would get the ANC to be part of consensus, that was one. But two, the passing of the constitution, faulty as it was, because of these sunrise clauses, was symbolically very important for stability in KwaZulu. Had we failed totally to pass that constitution and then you had this new constitution coming in I think you would be having far worse violence today than we have. So it was very symbolic in terms of KwaZulu/Natal having adopted its own constitution, reaffirming the fact that it is a unique entity with a right to its own existence. When people examine it obviously that would be a different story, but I think a lot of people are happy as of now that at least there is a constitution for the province.
POM. Again, many people say that in the end in order to get, since you needed the two thirds majority you needed the ANC and therefore in the end they held the upper bargaining hand because you either were going to go for the constitution with consensus or you were going to lose it, put the ANC in a strong position to whittle down some of the propositions that you held dearly.
BN. Absolutely, that's true. But I think also for the sake of the people of KwaZulu we thought it was important to get it even if it didn't satisfy what we had hoped for.
POM. Was there, is there within structures of the ANC, both within KwaZulu and at a national level, an appreciation of the lengths that you went to to get accommodation even though you had to give up some of the things that were dear to your own heart or do they simply think that they either outmanoeuvred you or out-bargained you and that there is no generosity of spirit involved, they don't see the generosity of spirit that you had in making these concessions?
BN. Well I presume if you are a revolutionary in your thinking you actually believe that there is no need for concessions or for generosity. And I think that spirit still obtains among a lot of the ANC people that they are entitled to power, they won the majority election overwhelmingly so who should say otherwise. I think essentially that is still the basic thinking. So I wouldn't really expect them to show any generosity to whatever we do. The only way to impress them is to beat them in an election. That's about it, otherwise I don't think they will grant any concession just out of being grateful that you stood with them or you were willing to cooperate.
POM. In the local elections that were held outside of KwaZulu/Natal and the Cape Metropole, the IFP did rather poorly, let's be blunt about it.
BN. Sure, because our organisational structure is in tatters in Gauteng. A lot of our leaders got killed as you know, a lot of our people were intimidated, so the only support really we had was around the hostels and it's going to take time to rebuild a proper infrastructure, setting up branches that are effective, are working, in any of the provinces. We accept this, it's an uphill battle but certainly we know that KwaZulu/Natal will always win. We have no problem about that, we have no doubt about that unless there is massive rigging of the elections which I don't think is possible today with information, infrastructure that we have to really do that.
POM. Two questions, why do you feel so confident that you will do so well in KwaZulu/Natal in elections? In US politics, for example, even if you've a big lead you never create the expectations that you're going to do well because reality is that it goes against the expectations and if you do less well than you are expected to do then you are perceived as being a loser not a winner.
BN. While this confrontation lasts between the IFP and the ANC the boundaries are very solid and fixed. On that basis I have no doubt that we will do well. The majority of the people in the countryside are for us. The majority of the people in the townships around Durban, Pietermaritzburg are for us. It's only small pockets that you would say are so advanced or so modernised that in fact they will want to move entirely to the ANC form of doing things. Secondly, there has been a lot of terror which was perpetrated by civics, by all these young comrades against the elder people in the townships, in the countryside, and people haven't forgotten that. Thirdly, a lot of Zulu people still look up to Buthelezi as their leader. He has done so after all from 1968 or so until now where he was always the spokesman of the Royal Family. He is the one who resisted the imposition of territorial authorities, the independence of KwaZulu, fought the Ingwema sequestration and did all sorts of things in the community and he symbolises, of course, the whole Zulu tradition. Every Shaka Day he goes there in his regalia and he leads in the singing of traditional songs.
POM. I've been there.
BN. So all those things create very solid boundaries at the moment. If we were to normalise the politics in KwaZulu/Natal where there was tolerance, whether it was issue based, then it will be different but at the moment as long as they maintain this conflict we will always beat them.
POM. That's very interesting. What about the relationship between the King, King Zwelithini, and Dr Buthelezi? Now when I interviewed the King first his line on the ANC was the very same as Dr Buthelezi's was. Mandela had promised to come and visit him and had reneged on that and they were going to take him to Shaka's grave and allow him to law a wreath there, something that's not normally done, and he felt very bitter about that. He saw the ANC as an organisation that was out to create a one-party state and dominate the Zulu people and he was very passionate about this. Now you have a situation where you have almost this total divide between the Royal House and the IFP.
BN. And the Zulu people.
POM. And the Zulu people. What are (i) the causes of that division and (ii) how are they playing themselves out, and (iii) what are the repercussions for the institutions of the Zulu people themselves?
BN. Well that is a very complex story. I don't know what the ANC did to the King actually because then the King became overnight very bitter against Buthelezi and the IFP. He said we had kept him as a slave, we were ordering him around, but it wasn't us doing that, it was the government. The government of KwaZulu had guidelines in terms of how they can pay him, what they can do for him, and yet he heaps all that now on us as a party. Secondly, of course, we could not accept that he could suddenly say he is neutral. He was always neutral as far as we were concerned. I will tell you, when the whole issue of the sovereignty of KwaZulu came up and he had repeated meetings with FW, you remember, he had challenged us, we were negotiating for him at the multi-party talks, that we were advocating federalism which would actually make KwaZulu part of Natal and therefore what about his kingdom? So he was going to fight for his kingdom. We didn't say he must go and put up that fight, but now he turns around as if it was us who said we are going to use you to do so. So there is a bit of confusion as far as his perception is concerned.
. Secondly, he has surrounded himself with hard line ANC people in his Royal Council, people like Siphiso and so on, which I think makes it very difficult for him to be balanced in his judgement of the issues. But what is really bad, worst of all, is that the people feel that he has now deserted them in favour of the ANC, he is no longer a part of the Zulu nation and this feeling is very, very deeply ingrained. I don't know how he's going to manage to be King of the people while being so far away from them. My hope is that he will find a way to come back to the people and become, OK, above politics as we all wish him to be, but really be part of the nation. At the moment as things stand the institutions are intact. It's only him as a person so there is no real implication for the institutions because after all the King is just on top of a whole pyramid of Amakosi, the Chiefs, the Indunas, the councillors, right down to village level. That societal structuring is as intact as it was in the past so I don't think those institutions will be tarnished.
POM. When people talk about the Truth Commission, this is something that the IFP have opposed. Given the manner in which the proceedings of the first month have been conducted have you any reason to modify your opposition to it or do you still see it as basically an instrument that will be used to try to get at the IFP?
BN. The problem is the composition of the Truth Commission. First of all we were very sceptical about the idea, the concept that you can use ordinary people and not judges of the court to get at the truth. We believe that every South African is on side, ANC, IFP, NP, there is no neutral South African. Now to put people who have political agendas and commitments to be in charge of the Truth Commission is a farce as far as the IFP is concerned. If it was a set of judges sitting there at least your faith in their high status, they will search for the truth. So we said if it was judicial, fine, we would support it, but to take Archbishop Tutu as we have done and the other people who are known to be ANC sympathisers, we think it's just no basis for seeing justice. In a way the atrocities that are being unveiled are just part of the atrocities. There are many other dimensions where people were killed because they were called collaborators, where UDF went on rampage, necklacing people, doing all sorts of things. That's not coming out. If it does come out it comes out once or twice, but that's not the trend of this hearing. It is the hearings of the National Party securocrat system, what it did to the fighters for freedom and that is the theme of the whole process. I think in fact the IFP is even more convinced that that Truth & Reconciliation process is not properly structured.
POM. Do you think it's necessary for white people to understand the extent of the damage that was done to black people under apartheid? How do you do that?
BN. Sure. Well you set up a judicial commission which will subpoena people who are mentioned and interrogate them properly, there will be cross-examination, there will be people who understand how to take evidence, what is admissible as evidence. At the moment there is no mechanism like that. You go up there and you say XYZ did this to me and that's it, so the onus is on XYZ to come and say I didn't do it or explain it away. It's cathartic for the people who have a chance to do it. There's no doubt about that. They spell it out but at the same time if it is as it is now, it is seen as being essentially one side of the fence making use of it and the people who are actually sitting on the chairs being known to be sympathetic to that side. As long as that perception persists I don't think it's going to make an impact on my side of the fence.
POM. Looking at the trial of General Malan, let me back up first and ask you a follow up question to what we were talking about, whites.
BN. While you are talking about whites I must just remind you, that you see the atrocity of the whites in this country was not just about the shooting and car bombs or being tortured, it was daily life experience of our people where you got woken up at three a.m. if you lived in the township. You are told to wake up, you are asked for your pass, if you had a relative and the relative had no permit he was bundled into a car, driven around to the police station. I know of people who because they didn't have a pass and they were coming from work in town they would be riding in the police van for the rest of the night as they go to different houses searching for people in the back houses, domestic servants whether they had boyfriends there. That was the atrocity of apartheid which is not being mentioned here and that affected all of us. So really to just be selective and talk about the atrocities that were experienced by people who fought for liberation doesn't cover the whole story because there are many others who fought for liberation but on the other premise, to oppose the denationalisation of blacks. A lot of IFP were harassed by the Special Branch because of those, which is not recognised as having been contributory to liberation by the ANC. They don't consider that worth anything. So it's a very multi-faceted type of thing.
POM. You're putting your finger on what I want to get out, that when I think of apartheid and the little bit I've experienced of it being in the country in the eighties and what I've read and talked to people about is exactly what you were talking about, the total degradation of human beings under inhumane and evil laws where they had no rights, robbed of dignity, robbed of everything, robbed of their humanity. Do you think whites as a whole, as a group, even today have any real understanding of what they did or what was done in their name and the immense damage they did to black people or do you find among even whites that you associate with an attitude of, well we ended apartheid, good for us and let's just get on with the future and forget the past, close the book on the past.
BN. Sure, absolutely.
POM. But you can't close the book on the past.
BN. There is even anger when you try and mention in your speech, I know this because De Klerk himself has become angry, when you say under apartheid there was so much discrepancies, so today we don't have black scientists because there were just no mathematics teachers in black schools. They won't accept that. They resent any mention of that. So this legal process of truth and reconciliation actually helps them to avoid facing the reality of the hugeness of their crime against the people in this country. It addresses a few issues of De Kock and whoever else, very specific issues of some few people and it absolves the rest of the people. There is no doubt about it, so from that point of view it's a very inadequate process.
POM. How about the trial of General Malan and the other security officers including the Deputy Secretary General of the IFP?
BN. As far as the IFP people are concerned, or just generally the people of KwaZulu/Natal, the Zulus in majority see this as a total farce. The IFP and anyone who was working, supposed to be a collaborator, were under tremendous attack. Four hundred of our top leadership was wiped out, a lot of families in the countryside suffered untold brutality at the hands of the UDF and the people say, where are the other people to be tried? As far as they are concerned Buthelezi had no choice but to ask government, central government to provide more strength to the KwaZulu Police. This is the perception and so it's a non-event as far as people, other than those who are ANC or think otherwise, but by and large it's again being seen as a very one-sided pursuit of justice or whatever.
POM. Do you think if they are acquitted, and I asked this of some 'liberal' whites, I said, what if the generals are acquitted? And they looked at me with amazement and said, "But they can't be, they're guilty! What do you mean if they are acquitted?"
BN. They are guilty like all the rest of the establishment with maintaining apartheid and perpetrating injustices and all sorts of things that were done to people, they are guilty as far as that is concerned, but in terms of saying we are going to create protection for KwaZulu-Natal, leaders, communities, the Magistrates Courts belonging to Chiefs which were burnt down and some of the Chiefs humiliated, as far as our people are concerned that was absolutely above board. To go and kill the family in KwaMakutha was a crime so there must be a differentiation between that, that the act of creating a sort of defensive capability was different from saying go and kill Duli family, and the people make a difference about that and it's dangerous to tie these things together because then you undermine the very justice process. People say what about some known people in the ANC who are in government today who ordered certain actions, when is their day coming? But now if you just mix it all up as it has been mixed up I think it loses impact. The liberals are saying hang them, the other one will say they are heroes and you have created again a situation of no-win.
POM. Just two last things, and thanks for the time you're giving, I appreciate it, I'll only take another five years of your life, look at it that way. One is going back to the constitution. Now you would fight it in the Constitutional Court with specific objections to areas you think are not in conformity with the constitutional principles of the interim constitution. Will you fight it in parliament or use parliament as an instrument?
BN. I don't think there is much room in parliament other than if we were to establish serious negotiations to carry forward our international mediation agreement. Then it would open room to fight it in parliament, but while it's just straight majoritarianism obtaining there is very little you can do.
POM. Wouldn't it take, even if it were amended in parliament, wouldn't it take two thirds?
BN. Yes, sure. But to get to that point the ANC must be willing to seriously negotiate with us, but I don't think they are at the moment.
POM. Do you think that's a political time bomb?
BN. It is because as long as people in KwaZulu-Natal believe that it's an imposed constitution I fear for the future because I know what will happen. All sorts of things will come about as has happened in other countries. You get extremist leaders who may be opportunists who will have a fertile field to perpetrate whatever.
POM. So when you say, "I fear for the future", one of the paradoxes is that most of the foreign investment that's coming into the country is in fact going to KwaZulu/Natal despite the level of violence and the instability. But if I were a foreign businessman right now given the political situation, the potential political time bombs that are there, would you advise me to invest in the country or would you say hold off a while?
BN. If you are going to invest in South Africa, any part of South Africa, it's just as dangerous so it's not just KwaZulu/Natal. If a rupture or an explosion happens there it will affect the whole country. That's why I say I fear for the future because some people think you could just isolate it, quarantine it and deal with it through security instruments. I don't believe that. I believe that that's the Achilles' heel of the whole country, of the democratic order in the whole country because if you allow certain forces to find fertile ground you will then create a force that will spread throughout the country because there are all sorts of malcontents there, the right-wingers, white right-wingers, all sorts of things then jump in and make use of such a climate. So it's not just a question of stability in KwaZulu/Natal, it's a solution of political issues that have a potential to destabilise democracy throughout the country. That's what must be addressed.
POM. Is in any sense Mandela the glue, despite the problems, that holds the whole thing together or do you think that the country's basic structures are strong enough?
BN. Mandela is very important for reconciliation and institution building but I think the institutions were there, he has just given them additional meaning. The institutions were there because essentially one economy, it doesn't matter where you are, were in a single economic unit. The labour market and so forth, those are the glue that really hold things together. Not in their wildest dreams would anyone say, for instance, KwaZulu could hive off and be an independent state because economic issues will make it impossible. So I would say the foundations are there for a sovereign state but to prevent political issues in this sort of multi-cultural and very plural situation from starting to create centrifugal forces, you need to address them in their own right, on their own terms, then you can start saying, OK the institutions that have been built, the foundations that are there will remain strong and not ten years from now start shaking. This is what I mean.
POM. Are you hopeful or pessimistic about, again, the ANC recognising the gravity of the situation in KwaZulu-Natal and realising perhaps after the local elections that you are the ruling party and they do after all believe in majority rule and that you should be given the opportunity to rule and they should behave like a loyal opposition? Or do you think that they will continue to dispute, no matter what electoral result comes out, as somehow saying it was rigged or it was through intimidation?
BN. Well the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal led by Jacob Zuma will question any result because I don't think it has struck them to understand the fundamentals of politics in that province. They think the popularity of the President must shine down on them and they must win. If they don't win it means someone has done something about it. Now my hope is in a different field. The ANC came in with strong centralist tendencies, autocratic, almost mimicking the eastern bloc, but over time I have seen a change in their own ministers to realise that you cannot win the present globalisation and liberation tendencies, you can try and fight them as you like in rhetoric, in encouraging COSATU to perform mass action and do all sorts of things, ultimately you have to come down to being democratic, to living by the norms and values of the modern world which is globalised and this is going to translate into accepting pluralism even in politics and will put an end to this wish which is a very deep-seated one for total hegemony over everything. That is my hope.
POM. So do you think they are moving from a position of, if I asked you now, do you think with the immense power they exercise particularly at the national level, do you think they understand democracy or that there is a very real possibility of the country becoming for all intents and purposes a one-party state?
BN. No, that they will not get. As long as the IFP is there, there will be no one-party state in this country because the IFP holds very deeply what it believes in and there is no way of that hegemony really of power in KwaZulu-Natal whatever they do and that will always be our base to organise multipartyism right through the country. They would wish that it was a one-party state. I have no doubt about this, but with the National Party also still being strong I don't think that will ever happen.