About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

25 Nov 1996: Meyer, Roelf

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM. Let me ask you first, the ANC has had six months really of governance on its own and the National Party has had six months of being in opposition on its own and this is the first time the ANC has really been in government on its own and it's the first the National Party has ever been in opposition on its own. How would you evaluate the performance of the NP during that period in opposition? What did you do right, what did you do wrong, what will be your mid-course corrections? And by the same token how would you evaluate the performance of the ANC during its six months on its own? What has it done right, what has it done wrong and what kind of mid-course corrections does it need to make?

RM. First of all I think when one has to reflect on the position of the NP looking from inside, I think much of what we have done over the last four, five, six months actually focused on planning and strategies regarding our opposition role which is relevant in the context again of the question whether we did the right thing to leave the government of national unity. Now my personal view was always that in principle it was the right decision because it was inevitable, it had to come in any case somewhere between now and the beginning of 1998 or even the end of 1997 because it would have been necessary for the NP to leave the GNU in time to prepare itself for the next election. What, however, I think would have been important is that we could have allowed ourselves some time to strategise before we actually left the government and I think what we have seen over the last six months to a great extent is actually referring to that. In other words we were now in the phase of planning and strategising more than actual implementation of opposition role.

. Of course for any party to move from government to opposition is something that one has to go through as a learning experience but when a party was in government for as long as the NP was, since 1948, it is a real experience, there are quite a number of surprises that one can think of. It certainly landed on our tables and we had to take care of that. I'm judging this now also from the angle of being Secretary General of the party in which capacity one has to devote a lot of attention to this planning exercise and, for instance, one area that required a lot of time is the building up of our research, our own research department to assist members of parliament, to assist party spokespersons and things like that.

. In that regard if one takes this all into account I think one can say, well we have made some good progress in many respects of establishing our own infrastructure, of coming to terms with the new role, of starting to enjoy it in some respects even because I think if you are in opposition there is a lot of enjoyment in it because you can say things that you don't have to take necessarily responsibility for which has always not been the case when you are in government. For many years while we were in government, and I can speak from my personal experience there, you always had to weigh and test before you speak. When you are in opposition that's much easier. So I think in that regard good progress has been made, also as far as the building of our own infrastructure is concerned.

. But I think there are also some disappointments still. I don't think we have really succeeded in setting our own agenda as far as opposition work is concerned. I think to a great extent we have been more on a reactive side than on the initiative side which is also important for opposition, to take initiatives, to come up with issues that you can nail the government for, and I don't think we have been successful completely in that regard. But taking into account the circumstances I think that is explainable why we have not yet succeeded in doing that.

POM. So on a scale of one to ten where one is poor and ten is terrific, where would you place the overall performance of the party in opposition during it's first six months in that position?

RM. I would say in general probably six, and I measure it against the background of our own position now as far as voter appreciation is concerned compared to six months ago and I don't think we have lost ground. We might have gained some ground. In fact the latest HSRC report or public opinion survey indicated that we might have consolidated our position especially through our withdrawal from the GNU which means that we might be a few points better off now than we were six or nine months ago. But at the same time one must also admit that we have not really gained new ground in the process and that is why I would think that six is probably a proper evaluation of the situation now.

POM. How about the ANC's first six months swimming in the waters on its own, so to speak?

RM. I guess there is some enjoyment also on the side of the ANC because one has the feeling that they now have the opportunity to take decisions on their own. I don't think the IFP is really bothering them. As far as that is concerned they are practically a one-party Cabinet now and I can imagine that therefore they don't feel themselves being hindered by another party in the process of coming to the decisions. But on the other hand that situation in a party as big as the ANC one can imagine is also starting to deliver some difficulties because new nuances and pressures are starting to build. While we were in Cabinet with them on many occasions they could find a united position simply on account of the fact that we were there. Now the various factions and fragments of the organisation are starting to play its role in terms of different emphases, nuances and different viewpoints and it's quite clear also from the information that is starting to emerge that this is playing a role now suddenly in the ANC and it has its effect. You can see that people are starting to, or situations are becoming more and more controversial within the ANC on account of this. As far as their public performance is concerned, I would say in certain areas, in certain departments things are going smoothly. I don't think there is necessarily a sign that overall the quality of government has degraded or declined since we left, but on the other hand I think there are a few major problems that are starting to show. If I can take one example, the change of focus or focused attention away from the RDP remains to my mind a very strange facet of the ANC's policy position over the last nine months.

POM. Changing it from the RDP to GEAR or just really consigning the RDP to the dustbin?

RM. Almost that because one doesn't hear about the RDP any longer. GEAR and the RDP are both possible, they can live in conjunction with each other but what is happening now is that the RDP has landed up in the dustbin, you don't hear of the RDP any longer. It's true that certain projects are still being carried through but the whole point of the focus of reconstruction and development is not there any longer and that is a matter of major concern to me, not from a party political point of view only but for the country in general.

POM. Why do you think that happened, given the immense amount of effort and the whole prestige of the movement that was thrown behind the RDP, this was the panacea, this was the direction for the future?

RM. It remains difficult for an outsider to understand and I don't think there has been a real answer given yet. If one looks back at the announcement at the time it was stated as if there is restructuring in the Cabinet and that the responsibilities related to the RDP would be handled by Thabo Mbeki and Trevor Manuel but I think it soon became clear that there was something more to it than only that and of course in the process Jay Naidoo especially was removed from that office and the office of the RDP was totally closed and later on also the RDP fund. Now the RDP fund will be closed as from the end of this current financial year. My impression therefore is that it has something to do with the personalities, a personality clash. I think it was clear earlier on already that there is not much love between Thabo Mbeki and Jay Naidoo and maybe that was a prominent reason but whether that was the only reason it's difficult to say and there might be others too, but it remains a strange facet and the point of course is that the overall picture that I have in my mind at the moment is that the government lacks vision, lacks a vision of where they want to take the country in a specified period of time. GEAR is not going to give the necessary results. The earlier predictions of a 6% growth rate by the end of this century ...

POM. You're not going to get 3% by the end of this year.

RM. Exactly. So there is no specific vision, there's no control in other words over a specific plan and one tends to say, well it seems the country is desperately in need of a Managing Director, especially in the light of the fact that President Mandela is more and more moving out of the political day to day management, not that he has ever been directly involved on a daily basis in management, he left it mostly to Thabo in any event. But now, and I think this is a particular facet of our withdrawal, while we were still in Cabinet at least the Cabinet Committee meetings were chaired, as well as Cabinet meetings, were chaired by Thabo and FW on a rotating basis, so it was one week the one and the next week the other one. Of course that at least generated some form of unspoken competition, I guess, between the two because both wanted to ensure that the meetings deliver something. Of course now it's only Thabo that runs the business, that chairs the meetings, and it seems to be either the burden is just too big for one person or he can't cope and I am afraid to say that much of what we're seeing developing at the moment is related to the fact that there is no proper management. So although in certain departments things are running smoothly the overall picture that is emerging is one of a lack of vision and a lack of proper management.

POM. Has the NP after six months now come up with an alternative vision or a vision of the future? I want to get back to that because a lot of your critics, particularly in the ANC, accuse you precisely of that, of not having a vision. I will give you a quote in fact from Jay Naidoo in a couple of minutes which encapsulates what would be many of the ANC's perceptions of the NP as they come to me from interviewing different members but the quote from him encapsulates many of them. But before I do that I want to just go to the constitution and ask you two things. One, did you feel validated by the rulings of the Constitutional Court from the NP point of view? Did a better constitution emerge?

RM. I have no doubt that on some critical points that the court referred back we have now a better product than before. We didn't go to the court in July with a view to oppose simply for the sake of opposing the constitution, opposing the certification of the constitution. It was our publicly stated intent and we argued it also in that way before the court that we are not really there to argue against certification but rather to ensure that all relevant points of view be put before the court in regard to those matters that we have raised so that the court can through that apply its mind and ensure that when it certifies it has really given thought to all the necessary arguments. And from that angle we were quite satisfied of course with the court's ruling in the first instance but we do not look at it as a point scoring exercise, it was merely to ensure that we have a constitution that will actually ensure the necessary credibility or the highest amount of credibility. So we were happy with what happened in that regard and of course we contributed again also in trying to improve it as far as possible but in the final instance after the October approval by the CA of the constitution we also informed that we are not further going to argue matters before it, we will therefore support the constitution as it is and we are awaiting the court's certification judgement now. We are happy that the process has been concluded. No doubt that there are many parts of the constitution which we would have written differently if we had it all on our own, and probably the ANC would say exactly the same from their point of view. So the constitution to a great extent remains a compromise on some critical issues, on matters of principle in some cases but that is not the point. I think we have a product that we can be proud of. It's almost an idealistic constitution in the sense that it sets a set of ideals to which we can aspire and hopefully implement over the time to come as far as society in general is concerned.

POM. Now what happened with the IFP? For a moment there it looked as though they were coming back into the process and in fact when I interviewed Walter Felgate, I interviewed him just before he had a meeting with you in Pretoria and it was before they had announced their decision to go back in, but he said at that point that the weight of opinion in the party was leaning in the direction of their going back in yet they seemed to come back in in a very desultory way and almost disappeared as quickly as they came. What's your evaluation of why they came in so quickly and why they departed so quickly?

RM. I don't think they were really back at any stage. Walter Felgate and a few others wanted to come back and they were very keen to do so and they tried to influence the members of their executive accordingly but I don't think they ever really had a mandate to participate, maybe a mandate to come and observe, but to participate I doubt and I don't think there was actually a serious comeback from their side.

POM. Where did Buthelezi stand as far as you can judge?

RM. As far as I can judge he himself was not committed to come back. There was probably a sort of an attitude of test the ground at one stage for a short while but the point is the people who are to a great extent dictating matters like these in the IFP are obviously the Amakosi and when they at the time when Walter Felgate and others were talking to us bilaterally and also in the process, while they were talking to us, there was at the same time a meeting of the Amakosi at which they rejected the constitution as a whole let alone trying for improvements and for that reason I don't think there was any scope for Walter and others actually to move.

POM. Where did Ambrosini stand?

RM. I won't know exactly. I think he would have liked to come back to try and score his own points in the process, so his own approach might have been to come back for a technical reason and nothing else.

POM. Do you think the Amakosi in the IFP exercise a greater influence than is publicly perceived? Do they have a kind of a veto?

RM. I would hesitate to call it a veto but the point is if one looks at the power base of the IFP as it is now, and one must remember that during the local elections in June the result clearly indicated that the IFP's whole power base is in the rural areas of KwaZulu/Natal and those are the areas that are being dominated by the Amakosi. So my feeling is that that is actually where much of the actual decision making is coming from. But again this is an outsider's view. One will have to test it and so on.

POM. When you evaluate likely opposition in the future do you see the IFP ever really breaking of its regional base or continuing to be confined to small areas in the East Rand like Thokoza and places like that but that it's potential for growth among either the African community or the white community is not just limited it's almost non-existent?

RM. As things stand now and as far as one can see into the future I would say they have a very limited growth base and I think opinion surveys also prove that, that they actually have a limited base of 6% or 7% on a national basis which would mean primarily the rural areas of KwaZulu/Natal and very little outside that.

PO. Is there an IFP after Buthelezi or is it his personality that's the dominant thing holding it together or is it internally fractious enough that without his leadership ...?

RM. I guess that that factor, that 6%, 7% will remain and it might even go ahead without clear leadership. There is at the moment no specific person that I can see that will be able to exercise leadership there if he goes but I would say that the political component that the IFP is composed of at the moment will still remain. That seems to me to be a fact. In other words they will not go to another political party necessarily and they will remain even if they don't have a clear leader.

POM. One question that a number of people have asked me, and it's re-surfaced this year for some reason, is did the NP make a decision after CODESA to rule out, as it were, the IFP as a possible partner in a coalition?

RM. No I don't think there was ever such a decision taken but the situation of course changed. If I can sum up the period between October of 1991 and say April of 1993 I think that is the relevant period one has to refer to in this regard. In October of 1991 we started to talk about all-party talks, multi-party talks and it immediately became clear that the IFP was expecting of us to side with them in all situations, make a choice for them when it comes to critical decisions. That was more or less followed for the first number of months thereafter, in other words in the preparations for the multi-party talks, CODESA 1 and thereafter, this was more or less the attitude that we have to keep at all costs the IFP on board. You must however remember that Buthelezi never was present himself at CODESA 1 or at CODESA 2 or the multi-party talks at any stage and I think that already gives an indication that he was not heart and soul in this business although he allowed his party to participate. But they expected of us to be fully on their side at any given moment and of course that gave rise to some tensions on our side. However limited they might have been it was certainly there to the extent that we had to see often first what their reaction was before we could take our own positions. After the collapse of CODESA 2 and the start of bilaterals between us and the ANC to iron out matters and to find a way forward the picture started to change and although we continued with specific talks with the IFP and other parties, also at the same time during that process of the channel meetings that was between June and September of 1992, I guess the IFP more and more felt that we were sidelining them and of course it's now public knowledge what happened after the signing of the Record of Understanding when the IFP turned their backs on us and said, well we have sold them out.

POM. When you say the picture began to change, what do you mean by that?

RM. Some people would argue that it was part of the ANC's intention actually to break up that close relationship between the then government and the IFP and that that was one of the reasons behind them causing the collapse of CODESA 2, that is an argument that one might come across. I think that could have played a role but it was not the only reason but in the process of our further engagement with talks bilaterally, from our side and from the ANC side, I think it so happened that reality started to materialise that unless the government of the day and the ANC could find at least common ground to move forward on there would be no solution in the country and that led to a change of the picture. In other words the reality, looking back at it, the reality was probably there right from the start, although people might not have accepted it, that the actual basis for agreement had to be found between the NP and the ANC because the one had the power and the other had the numbers and that could have been attained even without the IFP. I am saying that was the reality probably right from the start although people thought differently about it. There was the stated intention on our side, by some of our people, that it should be a tripartite sort of agreement. Now looking back at the situation I don't think that was ever part of the reality of how things could develop. So I think through that period of June to September and thereafter this reality became part of the basis upon which we had to work further.

POM. I want to go back to the NP in its opposition role. Many people have said to me that there is a Catch-22 here, that the more you criticise the ANC whether it's in parliament or outside of parliament, that it is perceived as attacking the ANC for being the ANC as kind of having the implicit message of saying, "See we told you you couldn't do it", it's the implicit message of South Africa is going the way of the rest of Africa, that Africans see it as not being anti-ANC but as being anti-African and in that sense it hinders your efforts to expand your own support base into the African community. What would you say to people who make that observation?

RM. I think the observation is not necessarily incorrect. If one talks about perceptions, and often politics is about perceptions, it is unfortunately true that many of the reactions one would see amongst the black community would specifically indicate this perception that first of all, as one of my own black colleagues has stated to me once, black people in general see opposition as being obstructive to progress and therefore even the terminology or the term of 'opposition' is not benefiting the NP in its current endeavours to reach out especially to the black electorate. I am afraid to say that in some ways when we are dealing with this that perception might even be enhanced so it is true that we have to be very sensitive to this perception. There is in my mind no doubt that that is not the intention, it's not the intention of the NP to create the impression that the party says black people are not capable of doing the right thing of governing the country and so forth, but I am aware of the fact that that perception does exist and I think it's very important that we address it. Now the question is how do we address it? I think in this regard a lot of work still has to be done further, first of all to set our own vision of where we would like to go and then to follow that very strictly and rigidly so as to ensure that the message that is being sent out by the party is very clear, specifically on this issue as well.

POM. Let me read what Jay Naidoo said, and as I said it's not only Jay Naidoo because in many conversations I've had with members of the ANC these sentiments have been repeated in one form or another and to me they are worrisome for a number of reasons which we can get to. I had asked him whether the NP's dream of a new National Party that could somehow start attracting a large number of African votes, whether this was a possible reality or whether it was wishful thinking, and his reply was : -

. "It's an absolute myth because a party that invented prime evil which is state hired and paid assassins to murder people who opposed its rules, and that's the reality that's coming out of the Truth Commission, that's come out of De Kock, has no remote chance of ever winning any significant support in the constituency that bore the brunt of those attacks. Secondly, I think that most of their senior enlightened leaders are leaving, among them Leon Wessels, Pik Botha and I am not sure how long Dawie de Villiers has, but a number of the very senior people who guided the party in its attempt to transform are leaving, deserting the party. A number of their very senior black politicians, etc. complain of racism in the party and it is very difficult for them to get senior positions within the party. They have withdrawn from the government of national unity, they are actually a weakened force, they have no influence on the executive process, they have no majority that can stop us taking any bill we want through parliament so they are an ineffective force and cannot offer their constituency anything, and they are still a party that welcomes and embraces people like Magnus Malan and Vlok. You couldn't get the leader the National Party to dissociate himself from Vlok. He still defends Vlok even today. You would find that that party has lost its support even of its most traditional supporters in the security forces, that's people coming before the Truth Commission, the security forces consistently say, "We were the hired guns, they were the politicians who gave us the orders", so in a sense the National Party is there but it's ineffective. I don't think it really has the capacity to offer any viable alternative."

RM. You want my response to that?

POM. Yes.

RM. That sounds like one politician talking about another political party. It's a lot of political rhetoric.

POM. But this is a sentiment that I found pervasive in the ANC amongst some of the ministers who talk about the NP as being irrelevant, as being an obstacle to transformation, as being still looking after vested interests. They would cite the Education Bill as being a clear case of where the change in direction was obviously not apparent, that rather than looking after what they would say is the whole community, you chose instead to look after a particular section of the community despite the fact that the NP had advertised itself as broadening itself beyond the narrow base of its constituency. And when I say it's pervasive I find it among lots of ministers and there's a dismissiveness to their attitude when it comes in regard to the NP. What they like to say is, they are kind of complacent, that we are our own opposition, that the debate that really matters comes from within our ranks, that outsiders like the NP or the DP have really very little to contribute and mostly it's of the kind of putting obstacles in the way, not being a real opposition putting forward alternatives.

RM. Well I think there are three elements to that kind of argument that you have put forward. First of all one can expect the ANC to take that position because it's in the majority and they are dealing with a relatively small opposition. All in all the opposition are just over 30% I guess. In our own case as a 20% party you can't really change decisions in any significant way because if the majority wants to push something through it can do so. So that is part of the reality of the circumstances where we stand at the moment. Secondly, there is the TRC and of course that has in itself a negative impact on the way in which people would look at the NP at this point of time and I think it's important therefore that we also from our side co-operate as far as possible with the work of the TRC so that the full picture hopefully can emerge in the end. I must, however, point out that in my own experience going around meeting people on the ground literally, especially in the townships, there is less of a concern about the TRC than what I had generally expected and I spent some time talking to people recently in the townships, visiting Soweto for instance and so forth, and my general impression is that black people on the ground are more concerned about their daily circumstances now and what the future would hold for them. For instance, on two evenings while I was visiting Soweto and had discussions with many, many people, no single reference came up during those talks about the TRC and what is happening there and the evidence, and I am talking about visits I conducted over the last two weeks.

. So the point is, therefore, that I think more and more, and that brings us to the third aspect which is the most important one to my mind in regard to what you have just put to me, and that is how we can as a party contribute to make things better in South Africa and I think that is what most people, black and white, in the country would aspire for, to have an opposition that would make a useful contribution towards improving of the living conditions of everybody in South Africa. I think that is the one thing that would really concern me most. I would therefore say, and I have often said it publicly, our ability to put a test to the ANC or the government for that matter should not necessarily come from what we do and how we behave in parliament but the kind of support we can gain on the ground, and I think that is the biggest test. For many years during the sixties, well during the fifties probably already, well rather between the sixties and the eighties Helen Suzman and her colleagues were a very effective opposition to the old National Party which was then in government, but election after election they were blown out of the political scene in spite of being an effective opposition in parliament because they could not reach out to the hearts and souls of the electorate. I think it's the same thing we're talking now. We might become a very effective opposition in parliament.

POM. What do you call an effective opposition, at least in the sense that they had no impact over the kinds of laws the NP could pass? They could make passionate speeches in parliament and the NP could say, nice passionate speech, OK here's the legislation, here are the numbers, legislation passed.

RM. Well that is what happened and that is what is happening right now again with the kind of majority the ANC has. But the point I'm making is Helen Suzman was very effective in her addressing of the wrongs as she saw it at the time but she could not get the voters to support her and through that the old Progressive Party could not make any progress with the voters. What I am saying is I am not looking for that kind of attitude of becoming a very effective opposition and telling the ANC government what to do and what not to do and we can't reach out to the voters. So I would rather think the kind of strategy that we should follow should be focused on how we can reach out to the electorate and address the needs of the electorate. So I would not try and please Jay Naidoo but rather what is necessary for the sake of the country.

POM. I don't want to use Jay as the focus, what I'm saying is does it upset you or does it concern you in any way that among many senior people in the ANC the NP is regarded as being an obstacle to transformation, something that is like an irritating fly that must be brushed off occasionally and that they don't accept your bona fides when you say we are trying, attempting to become a non-racial party and we understand that requires fundamental change on our part and we are coming to grips with that, and they are saying you're just the old National Party. There's this lack of - that they doubt the integrity, they continue to doubt the integrity of your intentions.

RM. Again I would emphasise that I think in many cases it's a question of perceptions, but again whether it's perception or reality we have to address it. I totally agree and personally I'm working hard at addressing that right now, which I hope to speak to you about at the next occasion.

POM. Going to the TRC, in your last appearance before them on the Bisho massacre, and I hope it will be possible to get a copy of the statement the NP made, the commission rapped you or the NP over the knuckles and said we're tired of hearing the same old things, the same platitudes that we're not to blame and other statements, and you yourself made a rather, what I thought was a kind of rather hard statement when you said, "Those who were killed and injured at Bisho were at the wrong place at the wrong time being led by irresponsible and reckless leaders against a tyrant and a regime with weapons wrongfully shooting at them." It sounds a bit cold and saying it was their own bloody fault. Again, in terms of reaching out to a wider constituency what kind of message do you think that sends?

RM. I obviously said it specifically referring to that particular incident because they were led there, and I explained that to the commission, they were led there by Ronnie Kasrils, wrongfully so. I was actually referring to what the Goldstone Commission found about the occasion but the Reverend Finker asked me specifically, and that was the quote that you are referring to, he asked me specifically, "Was there no blame that the NP would ever take for incidents like the Bisho one?" And I said, "Of course, although we believe that the specific responsibility for that specific occasion rests with Kasrils and Gqozo, the overall blame has to come our way." I said it, and that unfortunately was not carried in the press. I said the overall blame was the fact that there was ever such a thing as a Ciskei that was created by the NP government. The blame was the fact that there was ever such a person like Gqozo in charge of such a regime. That should never have happened. So it's true that we have to take the responsibility for that and get the blame for that. That was my reaction.

POM. When you hear revelations like Eugene de Kock or by Brigadier Cronje, or by General Johan van der Merwe as saying he blew up Khotso House on the orders of Vlok who said he received his orders from PW Botha, and as more and more security people say they took orders from superiors and their superiors in some instances are coming forward (I don't know whether it's true or not, whether Vlok has looked for amnesty), one, what's your feeling towards all these revelations that this kind of machinery existed? Two, do you think that as an attorney, speaking as an attorney, that with all the revelations that have come out and are coming out, do you think there is a prima facie case to be made that Nelson Mandela was correct when he said during the early nineties when his bitter dispute with De Klerk was that he said there was a third force that was trying to undermine the ANC and destroy it? Do you think at this point that the weight of whatever evidence is there points to the existence of a third force at that point in time?

RM. I think you might have asked this question, the second one, of me some years ago, I'm quite sure of that, and I think I might have said to you that it came to my mind after August 1990, in other words after the Pretoria Minute, time and again it came to my mind that there must be something going on because every time there was a breakthrough in negotiations there was also an increase in violent incidents and things like that. I always asked myself where could it come from and how is it happening. I still have the feeling that it was an organised, or the possibility exists that it was an organised attempt and of course various investigations were launched into this. Whether one can call it a third force depends on what is the definition of a force, but that it was an organised attempt by some individuals at least I think appears to be the case and from the information that is coming through, is starting to come through, that seems to be confirmed. During those times one rolled around that question in your own mind and I certainly have put it also but clearly these guys have handled it in such a way that their own footsteps could not be traced effectively. Let me take two examples to make that point. The one is De Kock who was saying now in his court case that he lied to the Harms Commission. In other words under oath he apparently lied. Now how do you get to the truth or how could we get to the truth at that stage, I ask myself, if that was unfortunately the situation that people didn't speak the truth?

POM. They were instructed to lie by their superiors who in fact coached them in their lying. Mitchell has also said that he lied too when he went before the commission and was instructed to do so. My point is how does this percolate up the scale? Again, where does responsibility lie? I suppose to get more specific, or would you be more inclined to believe now in the organised existence of a third force, as Mandela said, out to undermine the negotiations and that his dispute with former President de Klerk was his saying, "You could stop this violence and you're not. It's under your nose and you're doing nothing about it"?

RM. I guess FW was asked who that was but he launched numerous investigations, he established the Harms Commission and then thereafter the Goldstone Commission exactly to try and find out what is going on here, because apparently people also lied to him.

POM. You've no idea where this stops? Would it surprise you if senior members in former governments began to be implicated in one way or another as having knowledge of these actions? Would you really be surprised, somewhat surprised or would you be totally unsurprised?

RM. It's difficult to say now because I don't think all that evidence has yet started to emerge, but I said at a press conference recently in Cape Town that it is possible that certain Cabinet members didn't disclose to their colleagues what was really going on and what was not. In other words a denial of information at least was possible.

POM. Two very quick last questions. One is in the elections of 1999 do you expect the NP to increase its share of the vote and the ANC's share of the vote to decrease or do you think that things will end up relatively the same this time around?

RM. As things stand now I think we can hold our position and I think the ANC will drop because there is also a lot of uncertainty in their own constituency at this point of time. There is no doubt a lot of disillusionment and it doesn't mean that that will be translated into support for other political parties yet, but I think their own support has dropped significantly. I think we will be able to hold our position but that means that we also would not have grown yet. That's as things stand now.

POM. The only poll that counts is the poll on election day. In your view why did Cyril leave politics?

RM. Should I say this on the record or off the record?

POM. I won't quote you. Off the record but just what do you think?

RM. Let me put it in perspective, I think Cyril's disappointment first originated when he was not appointed Deputy President and he wanted then already to leave. It was confirmed over the weekend in an interview by Mr Mandela himself when he said that Cyril asked him in 1994 to leave and he denied him the opportunity to go and now when he asked again he granted him. So I think it's directly linked to the fact that Mr Mandela then made the choice in favour of Thabo and not of Cyril and that made Cyril take the decision. I don't think Cyril would have been able or been prepared to serve under Thabo.

POM. Why do you think Mandela would have come down on the side of Thabo? A lot is said about ANC hierarchy and the exile movement and you've got to work your way up and serve your time and Cyril was a relative newcomer.

RM. It's probably not possible for somebody from the outside to speculate about that but there could have been many factors. As I read it, it was possible that Thabo was seen first of all as the senior, the person who served in exile, was well known in that group, who has the necessary experience and so forth in the organisation. As you said Cyril was a latecomer to the organisation. Secondly, there is also the fact that Thabo is coming from the tribe that forms the basis and still plays a dominant role in the organisation and maybe thirdly there were some enemies that Cyril had then and now that the old man was scared of, of allowing to generate further tension and conflict in the organisation and that Thabo might have been the better person to remove conflict.

POM. Do you think the way the Lekota affair was handled really sets a bad precedent for the way the ANC is handling things and, two, do you think it may be downright unconstitutional for a party structure to remove an entire provincial government which was all the same elected?

RM. I think it was handled in a bad way constitutionally speaking. I am quite sure if they would have addressed it by calling and putting influence on Terror to resign and the same with his Cabinet it would have been a far more acceptable approach, but to take the decision from the top and say to them you must go is actually not a sign of real constitutionalism and the spirit of the provincial nature of the constitution for that aspect.

POM. Does the constitution allow for that?

RM. For the person to resign?

POM. No. For the National Executive ...

RM. Well the constitution does not allow for that but actually a person is then forced from the top to resign and that is what he did apparently, so that is not necessary unconstitutional technically but I would say it goes against the spirit of the constitution. I think the controversy is apparently not over. Over the weekend there were reports that Ivy (Matsepe-Casaburri) ...

POM. She doesn't even, she's not elected to anything.

RM. Exactly.

POM. So how could she be appointed?

RM. Now there's a big new conflict about that this morning in the papers. I think the whole thing has been handled very badly.

POM. Is that learning experience or is that a sign of the ANC becoming more autocratic in its internal workings?

RM. I guess there are a number of signs of that nature that they are becoming more and more autocratic, to start to behave like we used to, which shows power often leads to all sorts of actions to further embrace power.

POM. I've asked that question of a number of people, the ANC, the old NP and the current ANC and are their modus operandi the same, and the answer is: not very different. Last, last question, and one that has intrigued me a lot. Since I came back this time I've noticed a degree of unrest in the white community, a degree of disillusionment, insecurity that I didn't see there before, whether it's lots of people leaving the country or more people saying we're going the way of the rest of Africa, or just the dream is over, the miracle has gone, the bloom has gone, everything is falling apart, the ANC can't really govern. What do you think is happening in the white community that gives rise to these fears when all are saying it has been a relatively smooth political transition, constitution in place, Constitutional Court working, other institutions up and running?

RM. I think there are some signs of a very negative reaction on the white side as you are correctly stating, and let me first say I think we have a lot of work to do to generate hope again. Personally I still believe that the country has a great future. I think there is a lot of hope that we can actually spell out to people and therefore we have to work towards that in ensuring that people understand that what we are experiencing at the moment might be something of a lapse in progress that one could have expected. It often happened I guess in other societies, in other countries too where one's freedom has been obtained, that you have a fall down in a specific way in which management took place. If you go from an authoritarian type of management style to a more democratic one that is the natural consequence political scientists would say. And I think that is the kind of perspective that one has to give across to the people in general, to the white electorate in particular. But we are, I guess, more or less in the middle of this transformation process. I think one could have expected it to last for at least five years, at least, and maybe a little bit longer too. What I would think would help the country to overcome this is if government actually from its side can produce the necessary vision. That I think is a major obligation on the side of government and as I said during this interview the biggest criticism that I think one can level at this point of time is that the government is not using its power, is not using its credibility to actually create a vision of where they would like to see the country being in ten or twenty years from now and work full out towards attaining that goal. But there is a lack of management, there is a lack of direction as far as that is concerned. I think that is the one thing that one should urge the government to do to change the picture around and to get people out of this current state of mind.

POM. OK. Thank you.

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