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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
22 Oct 1996: Viljoen, Constand
POM. General Viljoen I want to start today with a discussion of two issues. One is the development of multi-party democracy in South Africa and the other is the public financing or some form of public assistance to political parties in order to make the political system more competitive. Looking at the first, the constitution provides for 'a multi-party system of democratic government'. How would you define a multi-party system of democratic government and are there any features that you would consider indispensable to its operation?
CV. Well a multi-party democratic system is a system whereby as many parties that wish to participate in government should be free to do so and that according to the votes they receive they will play a role in the country. That does not mean that the majority system which we have at the moment will prevail. I think what is important to realise is democracy is not head-counting, democracy is a way of ensuring that the majority should get their way but also that minorities have protection and will be happy to remain part of the system.
POM. As regards indispensable elements that a multi-party system must have in order for it to be effective as distinct from just counting the number of parties involved, are there any particular features that you would associate as indispensable with the operation of such a system?
CV. I think the first aspect is that parties should be free to participate. Second, parties should in a way be financially in a position to play a role. There is some unfair approach in the present system of South Africa, especially when we did the negotiation with the constitution. In all committees there is a pro-rata representation, proportional and this proportional representation in a way it does allow for participation by all the parties but when it comes to decision making then very little is left over for the smaller parties. This is exactly the same situation which we have in parliament at the moment. So one feature that is very important is that in a way there must be minority protection within a multi-party system as we have at the moment because unless you have a minority protection then it is actually meaningless to participate in parliament as we are at the moment because you can do what you want to, when it comes to voting you are out-voted. In fact the present system of majoritarianism is so serious that we Afrikaner people are disempowered in virtually every level of government at the moment. That does not mean that you cannot exercise influence. You can by your value, by indispensability, but it does mean that when it really comes to important issues then the majority will always win and the winner takes all.
POM. Would abortion be a good example of that, that even though there were committee meetings and the like and diverse points of view were listened to, in the end the ANC said, Well this is our Bill and this is the way it's going through and that's that?
CV. Yes abortion is certainly one of the glaring examples of the present situation, but there are some others too. You take the more sensitive issue such as education, now we are completely dissatisfied with the present provisions of the Schools Bill. Now the way we have been going about this up to now is that you will do a lot of lobbying and you play a more important role in the Select Committees of parliament preparing legislation, but when you come to a sensitive issue such as the education one you just find that they close their ranks and whatever you do you're out-voted and this then brings a feeling of hopelessness, a feeling of incapability, of being of any value to your people. So I would say a very, very important feature in multi-party systems is that there must be a way in the constitution where the constitution is applied, is tailor fit for the specific situation in which we are at the moment. Considering the present situation in South Africa you must bear in mind there are two, or actually one major direction and that is the one of the ANC. The ANC is not a political party in the real sense of the word, it's a revolutionary organisation and in South Africa the multi-party system will not get off the ground until such time as the ANC will abandon its revolutionary character and go for a real democratic character because at the moment it seems as if the populist movement in South Africa is gaining the upper hand. Mr Mandela is absolutely quiet, you never hear of him. Mr Mbeki is even more quiet and the decisions are now taken through means of the majority vote in virtually every sphere of life in South Africa.
POM. When you say 'the majority vote' do you mean the majority vote in ...? One question I was going to ask you was, who rules the country? Is it the National Executive Committee of the ANC, the government or parliament? Where are the decisions made? In fact is the ANC caucus no more than really a rubber stamp for policies that have already been made by the NEC behind closed doors and those decisions are handed down to the government which in turn hands them down to parliament? What's your understanding, what would be your understanding or the Freedom Front's understanding of how decisions are actually made? Who rules?
CV. The ANC is very clever. They pretend to make use of a lot of consultation. They go round the country in a very expensive way and consult through public hearings, many people, but eventually the decision is made, I think, in the NEC. That is especially for the more important issues. I have no doubt in my mind that at the moment the ANC is following a policy of pretending to be very democratic but in fact they are not democratic. They are democratic in the way that they regard the majority as being in government and all decisions are taken on the majority style. But what worries me is not even the ANC at the moment, not even the NEC can take a decision because in many ways the NEC is subjected to pressure, for example, through the continuation of the revolutionary war. People will just slam the door or slam the table and say, This is how it will be, and eventually this is how things turn out. I get the impression that the populist movement within South Africa is being manipulated by the South African Communist Party and that they do so in such a way that the ANC or the NEC is out of fear too scared to take any decision in favour of the country. They are bound to the populist decisions of the grassroots level.
POM. What would you point to with regard to that? For example, on two issues, on the death penalty it looks as though the overwhelming proportion of ANC supporters are in favour of the death penalty and I think even a number of surveys have shown that rank and file members are against abortion on demand yet President Mandela simply says, There will be no more further debate on the death penalty, it's off the agenda, period, and certainly the wishes of the rank and file with regard to abortion on demand do not appear to be reflected in the bill put before parliament by the ANC.
CV. I don't quite follow your question but I think that - no, maybe you must reformulate this question, I'm not quite sure.
POM. You're saying the populist element is in control of the ANC and that they reflect what people want at the grassroots. Well at the grassroots the people want the death penalty and at the grassroots ANC supporters are opposed to abortion on demand at least in the form it has been reflected in the bill that the ANC has put before parliament yet on both of these issues the ANC leadership has said, To hell with what the rank and file think, these are the positions the party has taken, and in a sense 'our public be damned', where they simply don't reflect the rank and file feeling on the death penalty.
CV. You see as far as the abortion issue is concerned it is affected by the new concept of gender equality and the ANC is giving the women's organisation within the ANC a far greater say than what they should have. In fact I think it is the women's organisation of the ANC which now overrules the rank and file or the grassroots levels on this issue of abortion. On the issue of abortion, therefore, I have no fear that it is in the interests of the women that they make this decision. The women want to have power, they claim to have the power to make the decision themselves and that's what they do with it. But what is also very important to realise is within the ANC the influence of the SACP.
. You see this is the point I made earlier on on multi-party systems. The ANC is of such a diverse nature that they cannot as a party function in the normal way of a political party. There are too many interests within the ANC. You can't satisfy them all. This is one example. When you speak, for example, about the death penalty I think the situation within the ANC is certainly so, all the grassroots level people are suffering from the crime situation in the country and they call for the reintroduction of the death penalty. But I think the NEC, in this case, is very much aware of the problems in the country and by reintroducing the death penalty they will probably have to execute such a lot of people that they don't face up to this. And that is maybe the reason why they have decided not to do this.
. But I think we never should under-estimate the influence in policy making within the ANC of the SACP. I think the whole manipulation comes from the SACP and to a certain degree from COSATU too. They seem to overrule the more traditional, conservative people within the ANC. In fact multi-party democracy can only come about when you have a separation, the ANC by themselves, I think the more traditional, more African-like members of the ANC by themselves and the rest, maybe COSATU and those people by themselves. That division must first come and if that happens then you will reach the situation where in South Africa wherein the multi-party system, and that's another feature, wherein the multi-party system it would be possible to have a real danger of having a change of government. At the moment because of the revolutionary influence the tendency in South Africa is to still vote for the liberators. In other words it's not a political party, it's a liberation movement and we are still too close to apartheid. People still believe that apartheid can be revived.
. So the situation on the whole about this whole idea of how do you deal with killing apartheid and how do you deal with breaking up the ANC is that the country's democracy is suffering at the moment. There is no hope of a change of government in the 1999 election. As a matter of fact all the signs are there that it will probably go to a two thirds majority. There is no way in which with the present constitution smaller parties or minority parties such as ours will really play a meaningful role in the new dispensation. Yes, agreed, we have succeeded in entering into the constitution, some important aspects on minority protection but all those aspects still have to be dealt with by means of legislation and it is in the process of preparing that legislation that you will really come across the same problem again and that is a majority in Africa having grabbed the power will not let go of that power, they will stick to the power. In fact I think this is also one of the reasons why the solidarity within the ANC, notwithstanding their big differences, seems to last and I think it will last at least until the 1999 election.
POM. So that having power is a great way of paving over differences if the alternative is, well if we start dividing up we start losing power so let's hang together even though we have differences?
CV. It's the old story of you must get your opponents to divide then you can rule, or vice versa, you have to remain united in order to rule. And I think this is the role that Mr Mandela has been playing up to now. Whether this role will be able to be fulfilled by Mr Mbeki when he takes over that remains to be seen. I think we will have a very much more volatile political system after Mr Mandela leaves. At the moment he is the controlling factor, he is the glue that keeps things together.
POM. So on a scale of one to ten when you look at national priorities where one would be not very important and ten would be very important, where would you place the development of a strong, viable multi-party system on that scale?
CV. I take it you mean how far have we progressed and how do I - how important is it? It's a ten importance. Oh yes for sure. How far have we gone? I think four. So I don't think we're half way towards a real multi-party system suitable for South African conditions.
POM. Do you think, and you touched on this, the only way this can come about is through some kind of political realignment particularly some kind of political realignment within the ANC itself?
CV. I think so. I think the political realignment might be broader than just the ANC because if you now look at South Africa the ANC seems to be politically unstable. The Zulus are politically unstable. The Afrikaners are politically unstable. The coloureds have no clear direction, political direction to go. The National Party, politically unstable. So in a way we are like a lot of pigeons that you just let loose, we are still circling, we still have to find a direction and the realignment of political parties is a very important phase that will have to come, I doubt whether it will come before 1999 which is a pity, but it will have to come and only thereafter will a multi-party political system in South Africa, hopefully, be a replacement for apartheid because at the moment the majoritarianism which we are experiencing might become worse than apartheid.
POM. Are you convinced that this realignment will take place after the 1999 elections or is that a hope more than the product of hard analysis?
CV. When I met Mr Mandela the first day on 12th August 1993 I made a strong point on the issue of communism. I put to Mr Mandela that for me as a white African I have no problem in working with black Africans but I do have a problem with a foreign ideology such as communism which is not really suitable for African conditions. And then Mr Mandela said to me, yes, he realised, he realises at that stage that they would have to separate but it was not possible for him to do the separation before the 1994 election because he explained to me that ever since, I think, 1922 the blacks were co-operating with the South African Communist Party and that they were actually partners in liberation and therefore it would be very unjust of him now to kick them out. He then said to me that he fully realises that some change will have to take place, some split will have to be effected. And he said it might be sooner than what you think. Now having been in politics myself for a few years it's clear to me that they just cannot afford it and I sometimes fear that it will never happen. But considering what is taking place at the moment, I'm referring to the cases of Holomisa, to Mrs Mandela, in many ways the instability in the ANC seems to approach a position of chaos and if that happens maybe the realignment will be the automatic or will be the logical development from this. I personally think that then we will have some interesting directions taking place. Maybe, and that's the way I see it, the idea of black nationalisms vis-à-vis Afrikaner nationalism might redevelop.
POM. When you say black nationalisms you're talking about more than ...?
CV. I'm talking about the Zulu nationalism, I'm talking about the Venda nationalism, I'm taking about the Xhosa nationalism. If that happens then it is possible, especially in the rural areas of the country, there might come forward more small black parties and then you might find a lot of coalitions and alliances working together. Then if that happens we will move into a more favourable democratic dispensation in South Africa.
POM. Do you think you can have an effective democracy without a strong multi-party system, that institutions can compensate, institutions like the court?
CV. No I don't think so. Look at the way the justice system in our country is being manipulated at the moment. When the Generals were arrested I said that I'm absolutely convinced they will be found innocent and they were found innocent and in fact some very denouncing reports came from the judge, from the investigating team, indicating that there has been a tampering with evidence and that the investigating team in a shameful way prescribed towards the poor witnesses of the state in order to secure a conviction which is shocking. Now that being the case justice in our country is not impartial and it might be a matter of time when the courts might become instruments of government, which is in line with communist thinking. In a way in the communist world the Communist Party controlled everything and I am just scared that in South Africa we are slowly moving in that direction without even the ANC realising what is taking place.
POM. Do you see, especially since the withdrawal of the National Party from the government of national unity, do you have any perception of the ANC behaving in a more autocratic way, in a more dogmatic way? You have the Sarafina affair, they just kind of closed down. You have the Holomisa affair which appears to have been dealt with rather heavy-handedly. And you have other signs of where their willingness to listen to, not only listen to but to act in regard to difference of opinion or difference of point of view is becoming if anything more intolerant. It's like this is the way it is and we're going ahead and we're going to do it. Again, it's another aspect of majoritarianism.
CV. Yes certainly there is within the ANC greater intolerance or greater internal intolerance and this is, as I explained, because of the diversity of the ANC. But now you asked me the question as to whether this happened after the withdrawal of the National Party from the government of national unity.
POM. Become more accentuated after that.
CV. I can't say that. In fact I cannot say how the government of national unity operated. I get the impression that it didn't operate at all. I get the impression that the whole idea of power sharing was a complete failure because there was actually one sensible thing about power sharing and that is it was a means of transition. It had some value in that the ANC came in completely anew, they didn't know the country, they were in exile for a long period and they inherited a very sophisticated country and I would say the mechanism of transition would be to make sure that this new bunch of people that now forms the government will be able to draw on the experience and the knowledge of the National Party in order to, for the sake of everybody, not to run down the country completely. I think this role was not well played by the National Party or it was made impossible for the National Party. That I will not be able to say because I have never been inside the Cabinet situation. But I think what is important to realise is that power sharing is not something for Africa. The blacks never share power. They believe if they have power to retain the power. It is something that we will have to teach people. We will have to become more mature in our democratic thinking.
. The National Party in their role as partner in the government of national unity, when they gave up that position it must have been a terrible decision for them because when I think back ever since 1980 the National Party followed the policy of, Yes, change is necessary but if we have to change, hell we must just try to find some way of retaining some power. Whether they were power hungry is one thing and whether they were really concerned as to whether the blacks will be able to govern the country that's another point, but the fact is they stuck to this idea of power sharing and in 1994 when they had to share power with the black population, previously it was only the tricameral system, they still stuck to the idea of power sharing and then all of a sudden they just dropped the whole idea. To me it is not quite clear as to why they dropped this and I think this will still come out in history. But I think firstly it is because it was a mistake from the beginning. It is not the kind of democratic concept or principle that can work in Africa.
. Secondly, it is a clear indication that the blacks were at that stage not prepared to be manipulated or advised or influenced by the thinking of Mr de Klerk and his people. So De Klerk and Mandela would never in any case make a success out of this. That means when moving away from power sharing which was the trick with which many of our people were caught, if you think about the power sharing promises in the 1992 referendum and so on and then thereafter it was so quickly abandoned that we sit with nothing. In fact what the De Klerk government eventually did, they've given the country away for nothing. What now comes to the fore is what you call the multi-party system, so in the place of apartheid, in the place of the failed policy of power sharing we need something more and that I think is multi-party democracy in which the majority party will be able to exercise their majority function but minority parties will also be able to, well at least have a veto in specific directions that will affect them as a minority.
POM. You said there that what the National Party in effect did was give away the country?
CV. For nothing.
POM. For nothing, and that it's funny that a number of people have made the point to me on this trip, when I'm back this time, that the National Party when it began negotiations that it did so with overconfidence believing they were dealing with a weak opponent, that they could walk rings around the ANC, that they were better organised, more sophisticated, better at this kind of bargaining, that as a result they didn't think things through and the ANC took them to the cleaners. The ANC were in fact sophisticated, intelligent and had a very strong sense of strategic purpose.
CV. Yes there is no doubt they made the basic mistake of underestimating our opponent. This was a very serious situation. You take the issue of amnesty. At first it was the ANC which came to the National Party and pleaded for general amnesty in order to get the whole process going. It was then the National Party which said, No, no, we can't give general amnesty. You have to declare for which acts you are asking amnesty and then we will consider as to whether those acts can really warrant this. Two years later it was the National Party who came and they said to the ANC, Let's have general amnesty, and then the ANC said, No, no, no, you first have to declare for which acts you now want amnesty. So this is the point I am making to you, that it was a misreading totally. In fact I am told that in this process the security establishment, by name General van der Merwe of the police, tried to convince the National Party then, Mr de Klerk, to accept the idea of general amnesty and then the National Party told the security establishment, No, no, no, not to worry, and I think General Malan himself was involved in this, Not to worry about this we will deal with these people and eventually we will use amnesty as the last bargaining chip in the whole negotiation process and we will give them amnesty in return for a lot of other things. And eventually it turned out to be a complete folly of the De Klerk government. So, this is just an example of underestimating your enemy.
. Another point is the Constitutional Court. I am told that in the Constitutional Court, when the negotiations in Kempton Park reached the stage of the Constitutional Court there was widespread dissatisfaction groups within the National Party and the Kobie Coetsee element criticised the Roelf Meyer element for caving in in the negotiations and then Kobie Coetsee was given the task to negotiate the Constitutional Court and the composition of the Constitutional Court. And I was told later on by the ANC members that eventually when they arrived at the final decision on the Constitutional Court the ANC was so surprised by what the National Party agreed to in the Constitutional Court, the composition, etc., that they asked for an adjournment because they couldn't believe what was taking place. They thought there was a trap in this whole thing and this is because of under-estimating your enemy. So in other words surely the National Party failed completely in this whole thing.
POM. If anybody had said to the National Party when negotiations began, if the ANC had said that one of the things we're going to insist upon is a Truth Commission and everybody is going to be hauled up before it and is going to have to confess and apply for amnesty the National Party would have said, No way, but they didn't foresee that by setting a certain train of action in motion in fact this was the inexorable result.
CV. Regarding the Truth Commission you must bear in mind that the whole exercise in my opinion is not really for reconciliation. The whole idea about the Truth Commission is to expose the past in order to build the image of the liberators and break down the image of the National Party and this is exactly what is taking place at the moment. The way to reconciliation that is followed by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission to me is not clear. I have no clarity on their strategy to eventually, from what they're doing at the moment, switch this whole process over to arrive at the position of amnesty or at the position of reconciliation. The position of reconciliation is that maybe they see it that satisfying their people, the ANC people, by letting them talk and by letting them expose facts, etc., and by getting the other people to expose facts, they will reach the point of saturation where the black supporters or the general supporters of the ANC will be saturated as far as their satisfaction is concerned about being shown up as the winners and the angels of the past and then they will probably say, Now we have reached the stage of reconciliation. But that is the one side. They have not given any attention to the other side. In fact I am not sure whether they are interested in the other side's amnesty, or reconciliation not amnesty.
POM. Would you say that the way it's working at the moment that rather than leading to reconciliation that it is leading more to alienation and resentment in the Afrikaner community in particular?
CV. No doubt about it. Even my own feelings, I have really gone a long way in order to find a way of working with the ANC. I have got along fairly well with people such as Mr Mandela but at the moment I get the impression that these people are not sincere and that they do not really wish to have a good future for everybody in the country, that they wish to have the whole country for themselves as if they will be able to run this country economically. It will be a mess.
POM. Let me distinguish between two things. What do you think should be done, for example, in situations like Eugene de Kock where he makes all these allegations, he's either got a very rich imagination or there is some truth to them, or to Brigadier Cronje and the five who have now applied for amnesty? How would you handle the situation, how do you think is the best way to handle this whole situation or is there any way of handling it?
CV. The good thing about De Kock and the case of General Malan is that it has gone through a court. In other words we are working with tested evidence. The bad thing about the TRC is that they work with untested evidence and this to me is a worrying factor because Cronje and those people are now talking in front of the TRC and that evidence won't be tested. Now you say, how do we handle this? I have always been in favour of dealing with ways and means of repairing the damage to victims. I have a great sympathy for the victims. I am also for a very clear analysis of the conflict of the past but I think that analysis needs to be done at the strategic level. In fact I suggested in the legislation being prepared for the TRC, I testified in the Select Committee and I said let us have parliamentary discussions on this, let us for weeks discuss the past and the conflict of the past so that we can see what went wrong and from this arrive at the position of forgiveness, of saying sorry. But now the ANC and their supporters seemed to see this more on an individual than on a strategic level. They think forgiveness, they think reconciliation is only possible if you have individuals testifying in the Truth Commission, etc. I still fail to see how from all the individuals you will precipitate the bigger picture and how this is going to bring national reconciliation. It might bring individual satisfaction for the blacks but then it won't bring national reconciliation. So this is the reconciliation situation. I really think the ANC will eventually have to prove to us how Bishop Tutu and Alex Boraine, how they are going to bring this country to peace because if they don't then we will have big problems coming.
POM. So if I'm hearing you correctly you're saying that as constituted or operating right now, that the TRC may bring some reconciliation between victims and the perpetrators of a particular deed.
POM. Yes, on an individual basis reach some forgiveness with each other but that does not necessarily mean that it translates to national reconciliation, in fact it can have the opposite affect.
CV. It can. Alienation.
POM. So that while you achieve the one the greater goal is lost in achieving of the individual satisfaction.
CV. But you must bear in mind what I said originally. I said that the TRC, the real aim is propaganda. I maintain that the TRC is the brainchild of the South African Communist Party and I think it is a way of waging psychological warfare. As you know the psychological warfare has two aims, one, to break down the image of your opponent and secondly to enhance your own image, and I think this is the whole idea about the TRC. Then it doesn't matter whether you have a lot of individuals complaining about the bad things of the past. Then untested evidence is more valuable because you get the saucy stories and the sensationalism and through this greater propaganda is disseminated. So it is all a matter as to what is the real intention of this commission.
POM. To move just for a moment, and then I want to move back to some of these issues, but I want to move to the issue of the public financing of political parties. Given that the constitution provides for a democratic multi-party system what should the state be doing to live up to its responsibilities under the constitution to ensure that there is a stronger, more viable, more effective multi-party system?
CV. I think what is important in South Africa is to realise that you have the haves and you also have the have-nots and a real proper multi-party system can only function if you have all the parties in a position to participate freely. One would like to say that the state should not be funding political parties but I think because of the inequality of the financial situation in South Africa it is a good thing that the state has decided to, in a way, subsidise parties. That will certainly by all means not be enough money to run a political party but at least it would enable the poorer people to be able to participate in democracy which is a good thing.
. Regarding the public financing I would say openness should be the answer. You get what is taking place at the moment with Sol Kerzner having given so much money to this and so much money to that and so on, I think in a way because the government funds political parties we must arrive at a position where people should openly show who supports them. I would say if I receive from big business R100,000 for my party then I think it must be declared or at least you need to have a gift book somewhere where you enter this so that if anything happens in future it should be able to refer back to that and say, I declared the fact that I received money from such and such a place, because it can so easily happen that a year or two from now I might be in government and then those people come back to me and say, Remember we gave you one million rand and you've got to do something about this now. Whereas if it has been publicly noted then it will be so much easier and so much less chance for corruption.
POM. Would you distinguish between public funding or support of public funding for political parties in parliament so that they can operate effectively in parliament and get their messages out and be able to address their constituents as distinct from the parties' day-to-day operations where the party is trying to build it's political space and expand it's political base as distinct from the party participating in elections? Which of the three - or should the government give a block sum and say use it as you wish, each party gets X amount as a base and you can use it for elections, you can use it for political party building, you can use it for parliamentary party purposes, that's up to yourself? Or should they say how a party builds itself on a day-to-day basis is up to the party itself but all parties should have a chance to get their message out in elections and the smaller parties in particular who don't have a strong financial base of support need support during election time if we are to have any chance of a multi-party system?
CV. I am more for a free system. I am more for the idea of giving them an allocation and how the parties can use that is over to the party themselves. So I'm not in favour of government prescription. If I want to spend more time at this specific period in building my party because I'm a new party, then I would use more of the funds towards building. If I have a completely built party such as the National Party then I would spend more money on electioneering. But I think it is bad for the government to try to prescribe how to use the money, but let's give them all a certain basic allotment and allow them to carry on.
POM. Now should the allotment be the same for all parties? The constitution provides for something which seems contradictory, That it shall be proportionate and equitable, but if it's proportionate it would seem that the party with the larger share of the vote, i.e. the party in least need of help, gets the most assistance. The party with the smallest share of the vote and most in need of help gets the least assistance.
CV. I am sure that one cannot say absolutely proportional allocation. In a way you will have to cater for the smaller parties because they are the people with the greater need and they are actually the people that at this stage form democracy in South Africa. So for the sake of democracy it might be worth while spending more money on the smaller parties but you cannot do that in an uncontrollable way. You will have to be very careful. So there has to be a sliding scale I think in this regard, how to deal with this.
POM. If money is given to the parties should this be done through something like the Electoral Commission or an independent body and should there be strict accountability procedures?
CV. Yes for sure. If the state gives state money to the political parties then the political parties will have to submit audit reports of their funds. That is absolutely necessary.
POM. Do you think if a law like this were passed and enacted that the bulk of the people would say, Well this is just more of the gravy train, politicians looking after each other?
CV. I don't think so. I don't really think the people will argue this way because we are a small democracy, no we are a young democracy and in fact we are just an infant in democracy. We need to develop. The only way you can grow in democracy is by allowing the parties or giving them, putting them in the position to grow. If we had a homogenous country then it would have been so much easier but we don't have such a country. Now if the poor people in this country would, for example, want to form a party and say, We want to have a party based on the principle of bread and butter politics, etc., then they will not be in the same position as for example the big business party which says, We are for capitalist principles in South Africa, if I can use these extreme examples. So I think we will have to come to agreement. Maybe once our democracy is developed and once we have a multi-part system that works in a tailor-fit type of constitution for South Africa which is still to come, once that takes place we should be in a position to do away with public funding and stick to normal party funding because in a way the efficiency of a party in collecting its own funds is also very important and in a way the image of a party is reflected in its ability to attract public donations. Now we put all parties on the same level which is not quite right but, as I said, the government's allocation cannot be enough for a party, it will still have to find a lot of financing from outside.
POM. Should there be any limit on the amount that a party could take from an individual or from a corporation? How does the present law operate as far as you know?
CV. There is no limit.
POM. If I want to give you a million rand?
CV. Taiwan comes in and they present the ANC with millions, it was a lot of money. I don't think it's possible to limit. If the people think that the Democratic Party will be the party of the future then a lot of the big businesses will give lots of money to them.
POM. How about foreign governments? Should the Taiwanese government, or any other government for that matter, be able to give money to political parties here or should there be stricter controls over money that comes from foreign sources or once it's reported should anything be allowed?
CV. I don't think it is bad for a political party to build its image in the international world to such an extent that it might attract some international funding. Again, I would say it must be done openly and especially in a situation such as now Taiwan versus Red China, there is always a great danger that in this way political parties might be bought and corruption might come forward, whereas if this is done openly it will not then be the case. A political party must attract funding from outside and from inside depending on its merit and only the merit.
POM. With regard to the use of media and particularly the public media, again should each party at election time be given the same block of time on the public media no matter what their size is? You either get five hours and maybe use it as you want but it should be the same for all parties regardless of size because public resources are involved?
CV. Yes it definitely has to be the same for all parties. This cannot be proportional. If you want to give parties time in the public media then the case for the Freedom Front is as complicated and as important as the case for the ANC. In fact the ANC has got government on their side and we don't, so I would say if you allow in an election blocks of timing then allow them each an hour or allow them each half an hour, whatever the decision might be, but don't do that proportionally.
POM. So on balance looking at the whole question of public financing of political parties, on a scale of one to ten where one is unimportant and ten is very important, where would you put public financing of parties as a priority?
CV. At the moment I would say seven, at the present moment, but as our democracy grows it will certainly drop.
POM. Can you think of any country that comes to your mind that maybe South Africa should be looking at in terms of how it finances political parties or is this a question that has been high on the political agenda or much discussed inside, outside parliament?
CV. No not really, not really. I know that some of the European countries take a particular interest in the democratic development in South Africa.
POM. The question was whether or not there are countries or models that South Africa should be looking at in terms of how those countries finance their political parties or the financial laws regarding disclosure or things like that?
CV. I'm not well enough informed to really give an indication on this, but all I want to say is that in a way the countries if they want to promote democracy in South Africa then they should make available funds not for one specific political party but may for all the political parties so that all the parties can benefit from outside assistance for the sake of improving or enriching our democracy.
POM. Just on a practical level, do you think that the ANC having control of the process as the majority party would actually introduce legislation to start making opposition parties stronger?
CV. I don't think they will start legislation by themselves to allow opposition parties to become stronger, but this is now what you need. What you need is a certain minority rights situation comparable to what for example is the policy in Europe and there are so many examples as to how minority situations are dealt with in Europe that with the present acute minority system that we have in South Africa, with the very strong majoritarianism that is developing in South Africa, I think this is very important for the ANC to in accordance with what goes on in the international world, allow for the development of specifically those parts of the Bill of Rights that describe groups rights and so on and Section 185, Section 235, etc., to allow the development of those sections as soon as possible so that South Africa can be in line with international practice in this regard.
POM. How far has the Freedom Front come in advancing its agenda, and I'm taking as the starting point the establishment of a volkstaat, territorially semi-autonomous, how far have you, in the face of the announcement last January by the ANC that a territorial volkstaat was out of the question, to your emphasis on or it would seem changed emphasis to the protection of, to cultural self-determination if one could call it such? How, from where you were when you came into parliament in 1994 to where you are today, again one out of ten, how far have you come in advancing your agenda?
CV. I would say six out of ten because we have participated in the two years of constitution writing and because we have included in the constitution, we have succeeded to include in the constitution group rights and a new move by the ANC which I think is a remarkable move by them and that is to have a commission which is now Section 185, a commission that will work for the protection of the rights of linguistic, cultural and language groups. That's not the Cultural Commission, it's a commission that will work for the rights of these people. In other words that's a group rights situation. So I think that is a great achievement and then of course the reintroduction of Principle 34 in the new form, Section 235 within the constitution. That is also clear.
. So to sum up, for two years, and those two years were the constitution writing years, we have succeeded in constitutionalising the principle of self-determination, internal self-determination. Now internal self-determination has two legs, cultural self-determination and territorial self-determination. Cultural self-determination is self-explanatory, I need not discuss this further but territorial self-determination for internal self-determination stops short of secession, it means that you go for regionally autonomous areas. That we are prepared to do and we are prepared to negotiate with the Premiers and we are busy with the process at the moment to negotiate with the Premiers the concept of territorial autonomy.
. If I can start by explaining that the basis that we are starting with at the moment is individual rights situations. Above the individual rights comes collective rights and then above the collective rights comes cultural self-determination which means that you will allow cultural communities that wish to do so the right to govern over their own functions affecting their cultures. Above that layer you will find the possibility of territorial cultural autonomy which means that in areas where cultural autonomy now comes very strongly to the fore people can ask for the sub-area to be declared of a province and in that sub-area the intention would be to develop it towards a sort of territorial self-government. So if that can be the case then we can reach territorial autonomy and there are many examples of this, especially, for example, in the Spanish system, for example the province of Andulusia in Spain, that's a very good example of this.
. The question of the volkstaat, we have now declared in the Freedom Front that it is our wish to start developing for a very long term, maybe forty, fifty years, the North Western Cape for the sake of a future Afrikaner volkstaat. Now when I say a volkstaat it actually means that you will have to go through the process of cultural self-determination and then go for territorial autonomy and eventually when you have reached the stage where you have about an 80% Afrikaner occupation of such an area then you can ask for territorial volkstaat status and that's the situation which you will have to negotiate at that stage with the people because if you go for the volkstaat then that means it might not be complete secession but it will certainly include aspects such as international liaison and greater autonomy regarding governmental functions.
POM. But you would still be part of the sovereign state of South Africa?
CV. You would be part of the state of South Africa. If, however, one never knows how things are going to develop in fifty years, there is an indication that there will be suppression of the Afrikaner people then such an area should be in a position to have secession. So we might arrange eventually at the sort of Quebec situation in Canada. This is what I think is important. The Afrikaner is so intimately involved in South Africa that there is no way that we will be able to divorce ourselves unless we are forced out of the country. If we are forced out of the country then we have that volkstaat and we will certainly be able to have secession.
POM. How would you distinguish between minority rights and self-determination? What's the cutting line between the two?
CV. I would say minority rights, a minority can be any group of people. It need not be a certain size, it can be a rather small group of people too, it can be a minority group of 40,000, 50,000 people. I would say self-determination is also a form of minority rights but that is for larger groupings. Self-determination is for people such as the Afrikaner, consisting of roughly two million people. So self-determination is an advanced form of minority rights.
POM. Now to people who would say, and I've heard this said, that essentially the ANC have outmanoeuvred you, that what they're doing is they are talking you to death, they are giving you commission after commission and council after council but to them it's a dead issue but what they are doing is giving you crumbs off the table to allow you to think that it's a living issue whereas in effect to them it's not.
CV. I don't think what we've achieved in the constitution can be regarded as crumbs from the table. I think we have some substantial aspects in the constitution. The real test will come when we start negotiating the legislation to implement what is in the constitution. This comes, unfortunately, at the stage within the ANC where they have become very unstable. A stable ANC for us is a better system. An unstable ANC means that whatever decision we try to arrive at will be challenged by some groups within the ANC because of the insurrection within the ANC or the instability within the ANC. Previously when we had a solid ANC with Mandela on top who controlled them very well it was possible to achieve more. We must bear in mind that a volkstaat, or the whole aspect of self-determination is not something that we can just slam on the table and say this is what we want. It is something that has to be negotiated because the way we Afrikaners in this country apply self-determination will affect the other people of the country too. So that being the case we have to negotiate with them, we have to discuss with them, we have to come to an agreement. It's very difficult to come to an agreement if you have an unstable political opponent.
POM. On the question of rights, I remember when I started this project back in 1990 or 1989 the ANC being categorical, group rights were out, there was no way they would consider anything to do with group rights, it was just another kind of fancy phrase for the protection of minority privilege and apartheid and all of that. Do you see the fact that the constitution now actually differentiates between individual rights and group rights and makes provision for the protection of group rights to be a singular breakthrough on this front?
CV. I think it is a breakthrough. The evening when we came to this final discussion was not the evening in the negotiation, it was in Mr Mbeki's home where we had the regular bilateral meeting and then Mr Mbeki quoted from their Freedom Charter the heading which says 'all national groups shall have equal rights'. And the first idea of Section 185 was to call it a commission for the rights of national groups and then eventually it was given the long name for cultural, linguistic and language groups and so on. Mr Mbeki that day said that, Let us follow this route. Who knows where it will take us, that was his summing up of the whole situation and then I complimented them and I said this is a major move from their side. I think also one must bear in mind that the ANC is very much aware of what goes on in the country or in the world and in the world there is a tendency at the moment towards the expansion of individual rights and the concept of group rights. In fact the whole idea of minority rights is acutely being discussed in Europe at the moment and the ANC themselves would be foolish to be out of step with the rest of the international world again. So in fact I think it was a breakthrough. There is of course, let us not be naïve about this, there is a danger that the ANC might be delaying, they might be fooling around or they might be, as you say, give a carrot here and a carrot there and a commission here and a commission there, but this has not been the general impression which I get when I speak to the more senior members of the ANC. If that happens then we are confronted with a new situation and then I will have to reconsider and say what do we do now?
POM. So if they were to make the assumption that Afrikaner support for a volkstaat was no longer at a level where it could become a national cause for Afrikaners where they would be prepared to fight for it in the absence of their being to negotiate for it, would they be making a mistake to assume that that will isn't there?
CV. I don't think so. In any case we can prove it. We can very easily in the 1999 election go for the same kind of arrangement that we have had in the 1994 election if they should challenge that. There are some very good signs within the Afrikaner community at the moment. Firstly, you take education, to have an education unity group amongst Afrikaners which consisted of three political parties, the Conservative Party, Freedom Front and National Party, and all the educational institutions that you can think of, parents' associations, etc., and they have been operating since April up to now without disintegrating. That's a good sign. The other day I attended a meeting at some cultural body in which, again, all three parties were present and in that meeting we came to the conclusion that we're going to try to find a way in which what is available in the constitution can be utilised for the Afrikaner people. In other words we are now moving towards a situation where notwithstanding political differences we want certain things in the constitution. Now that is a very good sign and if we succeed in having a united view within Afrikaners as to what we require, the ANC in no way will be able to resist this. They will have to apply what we say. The hurdle for us is to get that united view within the Afrikaners.
POM. Do you think too that in the ANC that there is less of a tendency now to dismiss everything you advocate as trying to be one more attempt to either maintain your 'privilege' or to find a back door to returning to apartheid?
CV. There is the tendency amongst the populist groups within the ANC to use this but at the higher level there is still very healthy co-operation and a very useful trust that was built up and I am referring, for example, to our efforts to deploy South African farmers in neighbouring countries and so on which is a project which Mr Mandela thinks a lot of and it's a project that will be very, very valuable to the whole of the region. So I still maintain that the ANC at the higher level, the more responsible parts of the ANC, they will certainly realise that the Afrikaner is indispensable for the future well-being, economic well-being of this country. At the moment we seem to be at the very bottom of the graph. Maybe things will improve especially after the TRC, we hope it will improve. At the moment it is very bad.
POM. What's your greatest fear as you look towards the immediate future? Somebody I was talking to yesterday said crime or the failure to deal with crime has become symptomatic of other things, of a larger social breakdown, like in the SANDF there is a high absentee rate, there is a high absentee rate among the police, high absentee rate among the teachers, that nurses and doctors, public servants were not carrying out their responsibilities or their duties and in the townships the youth treat young girls and women in a most barbarous kind of a way and little is done, that teachers are still chased out of schools by pupils. Non-payment for rents and services is not only still endemic in the townships but is even spreading to areas like Sandton in protest to rate increases. There is this kind of sense of impending social breakdown, the social controls are breaking down. Do you get that sense?
CV. Yes there is no doubt, but when you say what is your biggest fear, I think what you have mentioned now are the symptoms. The real problem is very, very much deeper and my great fear is that the present economic inability will cause a complete fall in confidence amongst the grassroots levels and it's taking place already and that that will lead towards a drive for socialism and communism. In a way we are in the same position as Europe after the second world war. At that stage the United States came to the conclusion that unless they do something about the economic upliftment the countries of Europe, the people might turn towards Stalinism and communism and then they started what they called the Marshall Aid Plan. This is my fear in South Africa, that the lack of development, the inability of improving the living conditions of the people at the grassroots level, the ever-increasing lack of jobs, the falling standard of the health services, notwithstanding all the money that the people have because much less is now spent on defence and so on. Notwithstanding this we are falling quickly, we have a fast degeneration of our services and this will be aggravated by the uncontrolled application of affirmative action and I have a great fear that eventually the system will degenerate to such a degree that the populist movement at the lower levels will say, To hell with this, we now want to have a communist/socialist application in this country, and that will bring new uprisings, new mass actions, new wars and then my fear is that the police and the defence force won't be able to deal with this because, you have mentioned it yourself, that inefficiency.
POM. Particularly in the forces of law and order a high degree of indiscipline is an obviously worrying sign to say the least. Is this being taken seriously at national government level, are they identifying their priorities in the right way? They talk about building houses and doing away with unemployment where many other people would say, listen they are secondary unless you deal with the whole question of social order and the maintenance of social order, the rest are really peripheral, you're not going to have jobs, you're not going to have ...
CV. Well this is the point, this is the point I'm making, and if that takes place the grassroots level will feel convinced that the change has not been good for them and then they will blame the change on the multi-party democratic system and then they might have a movement towards socialism and communism which is no longer a multi-party system. This is the experiment which Mozambique has gone through after 1975 and after five years Mozambique realised that they have failed and they are now trying to correct their mistakes. Now sometimes I fear that we're not going to fall fast enough for this government to realise what is good for the country.
POM. That it's not going to fall fast enough? That can be kind of a slow kind of deterioration that maintains ...
CV. You know Pavlov's theory on warm water and frogs? He put the frog in the warm water and you slowly hit the water, it gets so nice for the frog inside that by the time it really starts cooking it can't get out, it's killed.
POM. I think that's it for the moment. Thank you ever so much. Oh yes, just two last very quick questions. One is, come 1999 do you think, and it's pure speculation but it's something I will check with you at intervals every six months, but right now do you think the ANC will do better than it did in 1994?
CV. I am sure they are going to end up with a two thirds plus majority, unless they disintegrate before, but I don't think they will.
POM. And the other question is, what does their handling of the whole Holomisa episode indicate? Were they trying to send a message and if they were who were they sending it to? What was the message?
CV. The ANC is going to have a lot of problem in this regard, that is they have a lot of Holomisas inside there, people that from a populist point of view are very popular but might not be as efficient as the ANC would like them to be. Unfortunately the ANC in dealing with Holomisa has been too autocratic and this has caused a greater movement towards populism in the country.
POM. Their emphasis on party structures, disciplinary committees, nobody is above the party, party loyalty is everything?
CV. No I don't think so, I think the ANC up to now has been remarkably democratic within the ANC. There are people that criticise the ANC and they don't immediately kick them out. It is only when unacceptable aspects such as Holomisa has done that they have reacted this way. But in general even in the Select Committees the ANC members are pretty free to speak their own minds.
POM. OK, thank you ever so much General.