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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

18 Aug 1997: James, Wilmot

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POM. Dr James, there's a lot happening and a lot not happening. What's been happening has been mostly on the sports front in many regards but I've noticed a kind of funny change in the headlines since I've been here last. There have been more ordinary stories dominating the headlines rather than imminent clashes or imminent this or imminent that, yet under the surface there appear to be a number of things going on both within the ANC itself, as again instanced this weekend by their inability to agree on a candidate for the premiership of Gauteng, the eternal struggle going on in the ANC over who would be nominated for what posts for the December conference, the apparent dumping or losing of favour of Matthews Phosa who was once a 'hot shot' for the deputy presidency, and perhaps the biggest one is the lack of attention which there was last year or six months ago when we talked to GEAR.

. I say that in the context of that I have talked to a number of people ranging from Derek Keys through Mr Motlanthe of the Mineworkers' Union and to other people and they all say GEAR is dead, that the reality is that this country in the foreseeable future can get to a growth rate of about 2½% a year, that's the reality of things, 5% is not going to be met. The jobs envisaged by GEAR are not going to be created and that the standards of living of the mass of the people are not going to increase for the foreseeable future, poverty is going to remain more or less at the same level and the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged, between the first sector and third world sector, has stabilised, it's about where it's going to be and about the only change you can expect is the emergence of a new black middle class, professionals and others, they are about the only gainers. That's a wide web but I thought I would give you the wide web to start with.

WJ. I'm not sure I'm the right person to remark on what's happening within the ANC but it's clear there is a lot going on and a lot of positioning that is leading up to the end of the year conference where some things are certain and other things are not. The ANC style has been somewhat chaotic. It does make decisions and it has increasingly tried to centralise it's decision making and democratic centralism has been at work but it's implementation has always been somewhat chaotic so there is clearly an opportunity for a lot of manoeuvring and repositioning within the ANC that I think is creating a level of turmoil. We can talk about that but I'm not the best person to speak about the ANC. In terms of GEAR, it's not dead for the Minister of Finance and for the Finance Ministry.

POM. Well it can't be.

WJ. And they clearly operate and develop micro-economic policies based on the GEAR blueprint and it might be that they have to scale down their expectations in terms of growth and job creation over time. Clearly that's the promise upon which they are working and there seems to be a level of determination there that bodies like COSATU will have to take seriously. I think that the politics of that would have to play itself out partly through the ANC and in discussion with its alliance partners but it's not at all clear what alternative the critics of GEAR are proposing that would be something that would benefit South Africans as a whole and not leading to the campaign which would lead up to the March or April 1999 elections. So I am not quite sure how to respond to your question.

POM. Well I suppose Derek Keys, who I have interviewed every year since he became Finance Minister and go back to points, he says it's not that there's not a will there, it's that political considerations may just make the achievement of its goals impossible and he says the level of government expenditure as a percentage of GDP is over 20%, the repayment of a foreign debt will be a burden for a long time, that the domestic savings ratio is next to zero, this is an over-consumption society and that foreign direct inward investment is moderate, that unless, according to him, government expenditure is cut you can't do it. On the other hand government expenditure has to be at a certain level to take care of social needs so there is this dichotomy between the two. There are those who say, as I saw this weekend in particular, Stals coming under heavy attack for maintaining interest rates at 17% or 18%. But I think what I found disconcerting is that a few people are saying, oh no GEAR can be put back on track if this is done or that is done, there is kind of an acquiescence that the goals were over-stated. If the growth for this last quarter was negative, growth for this quarter could be negative and jobs are being lost not created.

WJ. So what are you saying? GEAR is a bad business plan?

POM. Yes.

WJ. Because you have to revise the estimates and the variables.

POM. And when you do it says change is going to be incremental and slow. It's not going to be the creation of 250,000 jobs this year or next year or the year after. It may even be an increase in unemployment. Yet the pressure on the government next year as you move into an election year will be to start spending like blazes to ensure that its constituency comes in. I don't hear discussion of these issues in public fora.

WJ. The whole idea is that if you do all the things that you are supposed to do in terms of the GEAR business plan then it should work out. The problem is that we haven't been able to do all the things that we're supposed to do and therefore let's not be too surprised at the outcome. In any case there must be a level of unpredictability around things like growth rate and job creation. If one is saying that the estimates are wildly off the mark then the credibility of GEAR as a strategy itself would certainly come into question.

POM. This is precisely COSATU's point, it's based on servicing their own constituency, i.e. foreign bankers, or trying to gain foreign confidence or investment will increase but that's an assumption that hasn't led to the expected outcome.

WJ. It's much too soon to tell. GEAR is about a year old, a little over a year old and all the partners in it have not signed on so on the level of political bridge building it's not been that successful but it still is the basis of what the Finance Ministry would like to do and how it would structure its spending and how it would initiate public sector reform, so the pressures would be there. I don't know what the impact of the election is going to be on this because in trying to put together the policy document on immigration which I've been involved in, there are clearly massive fiscal pressure not to spend more money through Home Affairs in order to do the things that we think are necessary but in fact to control expenditure and cut the size of that department down rather than to increase it, which is what we're suggesting. So everybody, in terms of public sector spending, everybody has to pass through Trevor Manuel and he's been quite tough, quite hard. His side of the bargain is delivery but the other part is hesitating so who knows, we might be surprised.

POM. So you would say there's a question mark beside those who say it's almost dead in the water? I mean not dead in the water in the sense that there will not be growth. Everyone says there will be growth but that what the economy is probably capable of over the next ten to fifteen years is a sustained 2½% or whatever a year but it's not going to reach 5% or 6%, it's not going to get to that magic number where there's a job for everyone.

WJ. Yes, it's hard to imagine that, us reaching those sorts of growth levels. The South African economy has always been subject to, over the last hundred years, been subject to the performance of the gold mines and sometimes we've been very lucky. We were very lucky in the early eighties with the price going up and maybe that's what determines and punctuates the cycles of the South African economy. Maybe we will be lucky this time, maybe getting the Olympic Bid would be one of those sort of lucky events that interfere in the normal course of economic cycles. Who knows?

POM. I'm not betting on Cape Town.

WJ. Well the odds are not that good right now.

POM. The London bookmakers have made it second to Rome. The Swedes being the Swedes would, out of conscience, obviously prefer South Africa, it's Africa's chance. Let's just move from that. To me, and I come back to it every year, if anything jobs are being lost not created. That's one. And where they are being created is, oddly enough, the only sector I think is the public sector where they are trying to cut like hell and you had this damning report last week by the Director General of Zola's department that really said we are facing not just severe problems here but almost catastrophic problems both as regards our ability to retrench, of the inefficiency particularly at the provincial level, that we need to train at least 22,000 civil servants a year which may prove impossible and that we are not coming to a crisis point, we have passed the crisis point and without an efficient public service you can't have delivery. And if you don't have economic growth even the resources that are there are not being used in an efficient way and it's like one thing is piling up on another, or am I painting doomsday scenarios? Not doomsday but that the country is settling, I get this sense of settling into an acceptable level of the way things are, that you don't find people out there any longer expecting a hell of a lot. Life is not good but life's not bad.

WJ. I think government departments are actually in a state of mild chaos and there are some exceptions to this but I'm not inspired by the extent to which the public sector has been reformed in the direction that needs some of the goals that they set for themselves in terms of efficiency and being lean and so on. That will no doubt have consequences for delivery, it already does. Just think about the criminal justice system, the Justice Department. I think they are really struggling, they really are. Things are not easy. It's not easy to retrench people. It's not easy to do the sorts of things that we require to have a state administration that operates at a level where services are delivered as targeted and costs are minimised to meet those. Part of that has to do with the nature of the deal that we've signed and in a sense it's a political necessity that we have to live with but there are also concerns about corruption and it's a pity that the issue of corruption was raised by the National Party.

POM. That was on my target as a question.

WJ. It just spoils the issue because it's the National Party. But there is the issue of corruption and there is the issue of in fact what it would cost to implement the constitution. There's the question about whether we should in fact have provinces the way we have and whether we should revert back to the old model where provincial government is administration in its entirety. We have all these Chapter Nine institutions, all these commissions, we're spending quite a lot of money on them. They say that they're spending too little but overall it's quite an expensive exercise. So the price of South Africa's transition to the taxpayer has actually been quite high and in a sense as a background point I think it's necessary just to remember that that's the price tag that comes with that transition. But now to shift gears and to say, well let's take that as given but see what the political logic is behind it, and what the political dynamic is behind reform of the public sector, then it's not clear who would drive that.

. The Public Service Commission has been unable to do very much. They have now changed the composition of that. With respect to Public Service commissions they will tell you that their job is an impossible one. In terms of state departments it's good to have such sharp statements from the Director General but I think that if you're looking towards a Department of State like Public Service to reform public service and so on, I'm not sure how far it will get. Then heading towards 1999 where your majority party is increasingly organised as one based on patronage, dispensing privilege, almost being somewhat feudal in terms of its internal organisation, trying to use the public service in government as a way of strengthening its position in the electoral market heading up to 1999, I would say that I'm not very hopeful at all in terms of the capacity of government to reform itself, because that is what one is asking, that's the question. This government has the capacity to -

POM. We're talking now about, this is coming back to the issue of corruption, and I think the response of the ANC to the NP's document was that it was a dishonest document that most of the corruption that exists was inherited from apartheid days in one way or another so it overlooks - that's almost a convenient way of dealing with the problem because you never have to confront the corruption that comes under your own stewardship and it would seem that there is a fair amount of corruption going on under the stewardship of the present government, that it is becoming a problem and that they are loathe to admit it because again it's like saying, we knew blacks couldn't do it, that at the end if they got the power they would misuse it or be like every other African nation and become corrupt. Is the word corruption? Is it a code word for other things? One, is it a problem? Is it a problem that's got to be seriously addressed, more seriously so than the finger pointing at the past?

WJ. Corruption is a contemporary and current problem and we can have a debate about what corruption actually means and how one tracks it down and monitors it.  And I think the NP is correct in saying that the ANC is not, as the majority party, taking it as seriously as it should. It's a great pity that the message comes from the NP. I think one must say that it's good that they've done what they've done but I'm not, just going through their documentation, when they start citing figures to do with the scale of corruption, they provide no source material. It's newspaper cuttings and it's estimates that are made based on a couple of thumb sucks here and there. So I think it is a pity that the quality of the work and the quality of the research is what it is. One would want to see better work done in that area and there are state institutions that have that responsibility, the Public Protector and Auditor General and so on and they say they don't have the means and they don't have the ability to in fact keep a finger on what it is that's going on in terms of corruption and that they ought to be strengthened in some way and I think that's something one must look at. I think there's enough room in the political environment to in fact have a project and a campaign of good governance that has an anti-corruption component because the danger is, as you were saying, that we will slip into not necessarily an African pattern, whatever that might mean, but where people grow used to the fact that there is a premium to be paid for transacting business with government and that's the premium of corruption and that premium isn't that great right now. Once that starts happening then corruption seeps into the political culture, people take it for granted, children take it for granted and then you're gone.

POM. When you say children take it for granted, like?

WJ. The way you negotiate your daily life is that you have to pay off a cop around the corner. Once you become like Argentina in a sense, it's very difficult to reverse corruption in the public sector, but I do think we're nowhere close to that point and so there's a lot of space for intervention. The question is how does one create a non-partisan multi-party environment initiative that would in fact deal with it because I do think that the senior political leadership in the ANC would not tolerate corruption. In fact the President is not somebody who would want to tolerate it but somehow it does continue and it could grow worse and so you need some political will on the ANC's part and you need parties to co-operate on this. It's not just a National Party initiative, the Democratic Party has been making noises of this kind.

POM. But is part of trying to police it part of the larger problem? You have a public service that isn't working and within that you have departments that are supposed to monitor corruption and they themselves are not working so that one thing feeds upon the other.

WJ. Yes, yes. I really don't know whether the capacity of the agencies responsible for this, the Auditor General's Office and Public Protector's Office, those are the two key ones, whether they should just be strengthened in terms of both having the capacity and methods to attack corruption, because that's not easy to do, and to raise it as a public issue. It might be that organisations like ourselves should take it up as well, should come out of that sector and so we're looking at it and hope to take it on as a project, as a good governance project. But it's important to get this right because the quality of the information is everything. One can very easily blow it by having the research done in a way that's sloppy so one has to get the methods right, the techniques right, and also to raise it as a broader public issue and not contaminate it by party politics. Because once people are aware that somebody is watching or some cluster of agencies are involved in monitoring corruption then it does have a positive spin-off effect on people in government. One important thing to mention is one should not do this on the basis of necessarily occupying higher moral ground here. This is to say that corruption is something that happens very easily, politicians are open to corruption depending on their personal values and so on, that it's not a normal thing but it's something that has to be monitored because people are susceptible and that there are given weaknesses in the game of politics and that having some kind of monitoring programme over corruption would simply help restore the balance of it.

POM. On the question of the provinces, we were talking about this, you even brought it up, are they working?

WJ. Some are working, some are not. Part of the reason why I think Matthews Phosa is in such trouble is the fact that his province is in deep debt and it's not clear to me how he's going to dig himself out of that debt because you have massive spending on the part of provinces and they are turning more and more towards central government to bail them out.

POM. He's in debt to the central government?

WJ. Yes.

POM. Why does the central government allow him to be in such debt to them?

WJ. He's overspent on education and what he's doing is coming back to central government, to the Minister of Finance, to bail him out and he's getting a negative message so I don't know how he's going to do it. So I think what we've done is we've created a set of circumstances where provinces have some spending capacity and if they overspend they initiate what will be a continuous cycle of fiscal debt on the part of provinces seeking bail-out from the central government and they will have to negotiate that on an annual basis.

POM. Isn't this a very weak budgetary process then that allows the central government to drop a budget, allocate moneys to the provinces and then allows the provinces to go out and spend what they want and to come back and say we're R400 million short, we've already spent the money?

WJ. Yes. Well the essential provincial fiscal system has been up and running but it's not functioning that well. The Fiscal Commission is supposed to take care of its transfers and they have been trying to sort it out.

POM. That's Murphy Morobe?

WJ. Murphy Morobe yes. And so if you look at the constitution and you look at the way in which provincial governments have formed themselves, especially the ones in the north, you've got so many ministers, you have people walking around with so many bodyguards, buying so many luxury cars and you see the trappings of over-spending in order to shore up a status that's been created by the constitution. So people look at this and they think, well is this a good idea? And I think that there are some serious misgivings within government and within the ANC over the National Council of Provinces and that have we created a monster here in the sense of having a political design that doesn't suit our fiscal capacity? The political design might be much too elaborate.

POM. To move on to something else, the question that intrigues me, and I'm just looking for your opinion, is that the Truth Commission has gone heavily after FW de Klerk and has almost completely ignored PW Botha, his name almost hasn't surfaced. Mandela rings PW Botha on his birthday and congratulates him and says he's a charming man and he can't get a good word out of his mouth to say about De Klerk. Why is the Truth Commission almost 'ignoring' PW Botha and concentrating its guns much more on De Klerk?

WJ. I think there's a sense in which they think that FW is not being honest and not being frank and that he's trying to play a game, and trying to play a game to suit his own sense of himself and his place in world history. I think it angers people and it angers people in the Truth Commission, whereas PW Botha is not playing that game. He is not trying to carve a place for himself in world history, that he is quite frank, that he does not apologise for things and that in a sense he plays his cards in a much more straightforward way, less of a political operator and he just wants to retire and die gracefully at some point.

POM. Get married again.

WJ. There's a question of political chemistry there that's important because I don't think Mandela likes FW at all and I think there were moments when they warmed to one another but I think that has been a history of fairly intense dislike and some respect clearly but on a personal level they have just never got on. There is also the question of political chemistry between the Truth Commission and this business with Archbishop Tutu and Alex Boraine and FW that's not good.

POM. Certainly not between Boraine and FW.

WJ. Yes, I think they intensely dislike one another.

POM. I heard on television one night, Alex, and he made the most stunning statement that I have heard, and I had a couple of people with me so I didn't misconstrue it, but Alex said that he had in his possession documents from meetings of the National Security Council which were attended by FW where the elimination of people, that's the word he used, were discussed. That's an incredibly serious allegation to make. I looked at the papers the following day and couldn't find any reference to it at all. Do you recall him making that statement?

WJ. Yes, yes, he made that statement and there was some reference in the newspapers but somehow it's just disappeared as an issue. There was some debate about what it means to use the word 'eliminate', although it's fairly clear to me what that means and in standard security jargon it means that you would kill people. So if that's the case then the TRC should clearly release those documents. I don't think they should sit on it.

POM. If you look at the NP's relationship to the Truth Commission, if you look at Inkatha's relationship to the Truth Commission, saying this is ANC loaded, they would say they're out to get us, they're out to nail Buthelezi; is there a degree of truth, are the political elements within the Truth Commission beginning to sway the direction and intent of its deliberations?

WJ. I don't think the Truth Commission is an ANC commission and they certainly would deny it and there has been a degree of even-handedness displayed by Tutu in particular in terms of what it is they are willing to pursue. It is true that the IFP has refused from the outset to co-operate with the Truth Commission and the NP has also had extraordinary difficulties. I must say it would be quite unfair to say that the TRC is targeting the NP and IFP in particular when it's clear that the level of co-operation from the outset is reluctant, it's hostile. There's a great quote by Joan Didian in Marching Towards Bethlehem about how, speaking about the morality of nations, and she has a quote which is something like we should do things because we want it and because we need it and because it's strategically necessary to do it, not because there's some higher morality that drives it, and in a sense the TRC is a strategic intervention, at least it ought to be a strategic intervention. They provide the space for people to express their anger and their bitterness and their sorrow at what has happened but to do it because this nation needs it not because there is some grand moral high ground.

. I think one of the things about the TRC that disturbs people and angers people in the NP and the Afrikaans establishment is this higher moral ground that the TRC occupies. I think that pisses people off a little bit since the TRC is largely staffed by priests and by moral entrepreneurs and the two operate from the moral high ground and instead of seeing the TRC as political intervention that it in fact provides people a space to express themselves and then to get on with it. I think that's been a cause of some recent problems in terms of participation of especially Afrikaners because Die Burger in Cape Town is hostile to the TRC, the Afrikaans community is largely hostile to it as well. The NP is partly expressing that hostility.

POM. This is a quote that I was going to ask you about from FW de Klerk, I don't know when he made it, but I want to see whether you regard it as a fair assessment of how most Afrikaners think of themselves and of the past. To quote: -

. "The people who structured apartheid and put it on the books were not evil people. Apartheid was in its idealistic form a plan to make all the people of South Africa free. The Afrikaner fought the first anti-colonial war in modern history in Africa against Great Britain so Afrikaners have a deep understanding of the need of a people to be free."

. And : -

. "We would lead the rural homelands to independence just as the colonial powers to the north had done. The goal was to bring justice to all by transforming South Africa into something like Europe, national states working together in respect of common interests."

. Do you think that's how most Afrikaners would think, that it was conceived in an idealistic and good way and then things went wrong?

WJ. I think that would be way too generous. Far too generous because I think the reality of it was that there was a chaotic and poorly thought through plan created after 1948. They themselves, the NP, didn't stick to that plan if you think about homelands and the Tomlinson Commission at the time.

POM. Which commission?

WJ. The Tomlinson Commission, which was a state appointed commission to make recommendations as to the viability of homelands in the 1950s, said that the present plans were not viable and that that government at the time should spend a lot more money which they refused to do. And so in a sense it was a fiction that was created. Verwoerd comes along and gives it a gloss, an ideological gloss, and that's how it evolved.

POM. It was a form of social engineering and it was, I think, JP de Lange who told me that he had read Verwoerd's doctoral thesis which was not really social engineering; his point of view was that he had developed it in a doctoral thesis and it wasn't just a rationalisation, it was an attempt to intellectually justify.

WJ. Yes, it comes at a moment in the history of apartheid when some of the building blocks were already there and preceded him and I think apartheid was a very crude thing. It's hard to imagine, even under the most generous of circumstances, to say that it was something, unless you were a fool.

POM. Is De Klerk, when he expresses this opinion, number one, there's a form of denial that's the reality of apartheid that he's never yet caught on to or understood?

WJ. Yes.

POM. And two, that most Afrikaners are still in the same bind. Maybe not only Afrikaners, most whites tend to be more generous.

WJ. I think we haven't reached that level of mutual understanding and appreciation for the different experiences people have had. I don't think many Afrikaners grasp finally what it meant to be a black person living in a homeland, what it meant for people. And I don't think on the side of black Africans that there is a full understanding of the kind of world in which Afrikaners themselves lived. It made that kind of amnesia and distance possible. This is a debate that can go on for ever and I'm not saying that apartheid is anywhere equivalent to, say, the holocaust but there are some similarities, people don't want to know certain things because if they knew those things they would be horrified so there are elaborate kind of avoidance attitudes that can be built into a culture, into the way in which those societies organise.

POM. I've been reading Hitler's Willing Executioners where I thought that some, not again parallels, but behavioural characteristics in the way the people in Germany dealt with things, not wanting to know is a way of knowing something is going on and you avoid wanting to know what is going on.  Just a couple of other things. This is Van Zyl Slabbert's book, not his book but Heribert Adams, I don't know whether you've read it?

WJ. No, no, it's lying on my 'must read' list.

POM. Well two quotes from it. The first quote is: -

. "When the chips were down Afrikaners meekly handed over power without even seriously attempting to bargain any special group privileges. They even agreed to simple majority rule."

. That's one statement. Two: -

. "Affluent Afrikaners sold out the poorer Afrikaners because they felt more confident in their ability to either survive in or leave the new South Africa."

. And three, the most damning one I suppose: -

. "De Klerk's negotiators were really a part of Mandela's team in facilitating the transition to majority rule. It was a pushover."

. Would you agree with those, any or all of those statements, or is that a very ultimately simplistic view?

WJ. I think it's a very simplistic view. It's possible that the NP and Afrikaner political leaders could have extracted more out of the transition but they extracted quite a lot, sunset clauses.

POM. They must have expected to give up quite a lot.

WJ. Yes, and a framework, a broader political framework within which they can actually thrive, not all of them, but they can actually thrive. They kept their houses, they kept their cars, they kept their ownership of companies, their class position.

POM. The affluent ones did well.

WJ. Yes, but at some cost to poorer Afrikaners and in a way that was the cost of making that deal and the Afrikaner is also vulnerable in the civil service. There are some protections built into it for them but they are vulnerable in some parts of the state. But, yes, finally they rolled over and once they started with this negotiation track there were certain things they had to give up and they gave them up, and why should that be a surprise? I mean that was the whole idea.

POM. There was an inevitability to the process once it began.

WJ. But it could have been a lot worse, it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

POM. We talked about this a little last year, is there more that they could have extracted? In the end did they just roll over?

WJ. Yes.

POM. Rather than fight for things that if they had hung in there a little longer they might have gotten them. Patti Waldmeir in her book says that one of the reasons for what she again would ascribe to the 'caving in' of the NP was De Klerk's craving for international approval, that above all he wanted to be seen as the statesperson and Mandela was able to use this very strategically against him, to extract concessions at crucial points like setting the date for the election before they went to Philadelphia, or Mandela saying, "I won't appear with you unless we have a date." Do you think De Klerk craves that attention, that he wants to be seen as a history maker?

WJ. Oh he loves it.

POM. And that therefore he would sacrifice many of the demands of his own constituency in order to come out on the right side of history?

WJ. Oh I wouldn't draw that equation. I think he does like it.

POM. The (focus) of the man's interest?

WJ. Yes. No, De Klerk definitely loves it. It's important to his ego and his sense of self respect and place in history and that could make him blind to certain things, it's entirely possible.

POM. Do you think it did make him blind?

WJ. I think it created certain blind spots on his part but he supervised the negotiation process, he was not the negotiator and maybe he should have been the negotiator, but he left that to his lieutenants and if anything their point of view was very different. Roelf Meyer is a strategic person and he's not after a place in history as much as De Klerk is.

POM. One of the things that struck me was, and it's pointed out again and again, that Roelf was one of the first converts to majority rule and believed that simple majority rule had to come so that in a way psychologically you have your chief negotiator who doesn't believe in the mandate, you're supposed to be in there negotiating for entrenched power sharing or some other sociational form of government but you really believe that, hey, personally I don't believe in that, I believe in majority rule. You don't go in there with the same vigour and the same enthusiasm and the same willingness to bang away at your case than if you did believe in your mandate. Did he have the wrong negotiators?

WJ. Do you remember that model that was doing the rounds crafted by the NP that power sharing model with a rotating presidency and what have you, this elaborate crazy model that could not work, but if that was the starting point for them and if you look at the end point they moved all the way from that model to simple majority rule and I think Roelf Meyer was an early convert, I don't think he believed in that model at all, and what was important to him was success. He wanted to see this thing work out and that was really important to do and there you just need a give and take that's cleverly done and intelligently done and well-positioned to make it possible. I think success was important to Roelf Meyer. I think failure would have been a disaster for him and so he put everything into making it successful. But, yes, I think he was an early convert to majority rule so he was not willing to stand up to protect things that were, in his view, not to be protected.

POM. The other one is a statement by Mbeki and I preface this with a quote from Waldmeir again that : -

. "That Afrikaner, pragmatists as they are, made the peace with the new South Africa with extraordinary rapidity. Theirs is a political culture based on obedience that borders on the obsequious so they easily made the transition from obeying the NP to obeying the ANC. Even the Afrikaner dominated civil service and security forces, groups that the ANC had feared would undermine black rule, fell swiftly into line. All of this surprised the ANC which had expected far greater resistance. The sunset clauses were offered because the ANC feared it could not rule without the NP to guarantee civil service and security force co-operation so the ANC had agreed to protect the jobs and pensions of white civil servants and having FW as a Deputy President but within months of the election senior ANC figures were asking whether these gestures had been necessary."

. And then she quotes Mbeki as saying: -

. "The ANC discovered quite late that we had made a mistake. None of us really factored in the dynamism of what was going to happen. We didn't factor in the speed with which the Afrikaner would shift, recognise the fact that here is a majority party, here is a new government and we have to define a relationship with that majority. The notion of a government of national unity derived precisely from the understanding that the NP would be the political representatives of the army, the white police, white business, the white civil servants, that it would have had a hold on very important levers of power. When we came into government we would have come in with the numbers, they would come in with the power and we would need to work together for a certain period instead of saying to those centres of power, you are the opposition."

. Do you find that a simplistic analysis on both parts?

WJ. I think it's quite revealing, some of the quoted material, revealing in the sense that people thought that it would be a hell of a lot more difficult to cobble together a deal and they were surprised by how easy it was at the time and what Mbeki is trying to say there in fact reflects on how surprised they in fact were. I remember attending a conference in 1987, you might have been there too, outside of Bonn, and you remember at that conference people came out of it thinking that apartheid in South Africa probably was the hardest nut to crack. Well we still have the Northern Ireland problem and we still have the Israeli/Palestinian problem and the South African nut has been cracked. So even I was surprised and just coming out of that conference we all must have been surprised at the fact that South Africa was the first one to go in terms of finding some kind of durable solution. So there is that general amazement I think all round which people can't quite explain. They often look towards Mandela for an explanation with his magic and his personality and all of that and speak about South Africa as a miracle. I don't think we've quite figured out yet why it happened the way it did. There are some revealing books. I think Patti Waldmeir's is quite a good book in terms of trying to get at this.

POM. I thought it a better book than Allister's.

WJ. Allister Sparks' book, yes. I must still read Van Zyl and Heribert Adams' book because they normally have interesting things to say. But I think the broader outlines of the story are that if it's done from a cost benefit analysis Afrikaners and whites had in fact very little to lose in terms of their lifestyle and in terms of their economic opportunities which have become quite entrenched over time and that the ANC finally didn't threaten them on that level. The threat was appropriation of private property. The threat was essentially taking away the conditions of the accumulation of wealth for that community and for the most part that was what they threatened. So the issue was how do we get the political chemistry right to make them come along into the new framework. I think that that probably surprised somebody like Thabo Mbeki.

POM. My reading of it when I went through it was the reverse, the fact that there were sunset clauses, the fact that there were protections, the fact that there were safeguards made it easier for the Afrikaner to adjust and to co-operate with a lot more rapidity than if those clauses were not there. So that to say, well it wasn't necessary to give them is to miss the point because their behaviour would have been different if they hadn't been given.

WJ. Yes. Joe Slovo's intervention there was crucial.

POM. Do you think the sunset clauses were part of what made the transition more smooth than it would otherwise have been?

WJ. Oh I think were it not for the sunset clauses the transition would have been very difficult indeed. I think that Joe Slovo made a huge difference there in terms of being able to convey an element of concern for the insecurity Afrikaners were feeling and that was the message: we understand your insecurity and here are some guarantees.

POM. Last question. Africanisation. Is there an increasing tendency towards Africanisation within the ANC and what are its broader implications if that is so?

WJ. The ANC recently had a series of discussions on nation building and what is the nation and who are minorities and who are not. It is the first time that there was a fairly open dialogue on this question. I think this dialogue, this conversation has just started in the ANC. Late in the day. Part of the reason why the conversation has just started has to do with the fact that there is a perception amongst certain people within the ANC, white, coloured, Indian, of a growing Africanisation both in terms of the way in which the new power elite around Thabo Mbeki sees things and the way in which people are being treated both within the ANC and outside of the ANC as part of minority groups. So I worry about this Africanisation story, I worry about the ideology of the African renaissance and I worry about how Thabo Mbeki would in fact play the Africanist card leading up to the election in 1999 and what that would mean in terms of the approach of the new government towards a whole range of issues that are carved along racial lines.

POM. When was that conference?

WJ. They had an internal discussion and I think it was within the ANC caucus in parliament that this discussion took place, about two months ago.

POM. OK, I will leave it there. 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.