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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

29 Jun 1998: Naude, Beyers

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

(Accompanied by Caroline Barker)

POM. Dr Naudé, it's been a number of years since we talked last and I am still conducting the study I began then. In fact I am living in the country now for about four or five months since 1994 and the study will run through 1999. When we last met the people I was interviewing who were in power were the National Party and the people who were out of power were the ANC. Things have done a slight reversal since with a slight change of attitudes on various sides.

. What I would like to talk to you about is reconciliation and I want to do it within the context of the speech given by Deputy President Mbeki in parliament on 4th June when he made a number of statements. What I would like to do is to read you some of the statements he made and to get your commentary on them as to whether you think he was absolutely on the mark, somewhat on the mark or even somewhat off the mark with regard to certain things. That's one thing.

. Second, I would like to talk about corruption in the context of that when the former apartheid parties made allegations of corruption against the government or whomever, the standard reply was (a) there was more corruption during the NP government and (b) it's a legacy of apartheid. But recently President Mandela himself has taken a much stronger stand on this issue and said some of the comrades who were part of the struggle are now putting their fingers in the till.

. The first statement he made in a rather strong fashion was that there really had been no progress towards reconciliation. I'll take each one and you can talk about each one. Would you agree with him, disagree, and if you agree why do you think that that lack of progress has taken place?

BN. I think we'd better start with the first question.  You said that you would wish me to comment on each remark or statement which you made. OK.

POM. The first one is he said that there had been no progress towards reconciliation since 1994.

BN. And that in fact we were still two nations.

POM. That's another question, but to deal with that one first. What's happened?

BN. I think he said this, as I understood his address, we received a full copy of that, as I understood it he was referring to the whole question of reconciliation, not of progress made in the country.

POM. That's right, of reconciliation.

BN. Of reconciliation, in which he referred to the fact that despite everything which had happened basically there was still no reconciliation, that we are in fact in that sense more, I would say, as strongly divided as before with two nations, predominantly speaking one white and one black nation, which is true. To my mind it is true. Where has real reconciliation already taken place in South Africa? It is from the viewpoint of the black community, I have discovered there is a deep longing on the part of the black community that there should be real meaningful reconciliation but it should be based on justice. On the part of the white community, the majority of the white community, there is, thank God, a small section of the white community who understand that but the majority of the white community still has not crossed the Rubicon towards real reconciliation because they do not understand what is required of them in order to assist in the whole process of reconciliation. That would be my comment.

POM. Why do you think they don't yet understand what is required of them?

BN. First of all because the previous government did not prepare them for that at all and secondly because many of them had thought to believe that apartheid, with the Afrikaner and the white community predominantly remaining in a predominant position, would remain like that for many, many more years to come. That is why what happened was such a terrible shock to them and they have not been able to adjust themselves mentally and emotionally and also economically to what is required.

POM. It's become kind of a joke in a way to say it's very difficult to find any white person in this country who ever supported apartheid.  It's like when they hear revelations at the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, it's like that I never knew what was going on and if I had known what was going on I would have been appalled, I would have been outraged, I would have been this, I would have been that. Is this a case of two things, (i) denial, denial of the past, that they haven't come to terms with what in fact was done in their name, and (ii) do you believe that the majority of people knew or in a sense chose not to know what was going on? The example I'm using is Germany, there is this book written by Goldhaber in Germany where he very carefully documented that the average German had to know about the concentration camps and the death camps, that just the geographic, economic and social structures, the organisation of the whole country was such that it was impossible for them not to know so their excuse of saying I didn't know was and is a continuing denial.

BN. I could immediately respond by saying it is true if many of them are saying I didn't know everything which happened, I didn't know everything which happened behind the scenes, also including these latest revelations of the poisoning of people and so on. Certainly that would normally not be known. But to say that I didn't know what apartheid was doing to the majority of our community in SA to my mind is a denial of the facts. The fact is that they preferred not to know. It suited them in every respect to close their eyes and to believe implicitly that the NP, the party being in power, knew exactly what to do and they could trust them.

POM. You mentioned that black people want a true reconciliation based on justice. Now when you look at the TRC in a way it's set up on contradictory premises because it trades truth off against justice, against reconciliation. Now if on the one hand, to echo what you have said and the Deputy President has said, there has been as yet no real reconciliation, the truth is slowly becoming revealed but justice seems to get lost in the middle. I have talked to many people in the black community and when they see white security men get up there and tell their tales of horror in great detail, in great explicitness, with absolutely no show of remorse, though the Act doesn't call for remorse, whatsoever, almost looking at their watches and saying, you know I've only another ten minutes to go and I can show it was linked to a political motive and my amnesty application will be approved and I'm out of here. Where is the justice if all those who were the perpetrators of these awful deeds are given amnesty because they can show even in a very amorphous way that it was attached to a political objective? Where is the justice?

BN. Well, I respond by saying I think that is the basic problem with which the black community is struggling. They are asking this very pertinent and valid question. If you talk about reconciliation, if you talk about truth, both have got to be talked about, but there is no possibility that you could ever reach meaningful reconciliation without justice. And they refer to a number of things including, for instance, the return of the land. What is happening? Why is it that there is not a very serious effort on the part of the majority of the white community in SA by saying we've got to look at the whole question of the just redistribution of land, of ownership, of income and of the means of living? Why is that not raised by the white community? And quite rightly so they are saying as long as this is to them a minor or secondary issue we do not believe that real justice will be done even through the work of the TRC.

POM. So what do you, as it were, say to the white community? For the last four years you have been treated with gentle gloves, in fact many black leaders would say that even Madiba has paid more attention to assuaging your fears about the future than the amount of attention he is paying to inequalities in the black community. None of your wealth has been touched, none of your privileges have been touched. Your lifestyles are the same now as they were four years ago yet you continually complain, you continually carp, you continually say things are going to hell. We can't indefinitely allow you to hold these attitudes, you need a good shaking up.

BN. I think that is what the black community would certainly wish to do. My impression is that they did not know exactly how to do that shaking up, how to do it effectively in order that it may have a positive effect on the white community and this is one of the major problems that we face in SA, that there is so little understanding still within the white community of the process of transformation which is needed to build a new SA that I personally believe it's going to take a very, very long time.

POM. There is no leadership emerging out of the white community that is really attuned to - ?

BN. Not that I am aware of. You're talking about the political or a church leadership?

POM. I'm talking about both.

BN. As far as your political leadership is concerned, I mean the NP in any case is going to pieces, it has no future. Secondly, as far as Roelf Meyer and Holomisa are concerned they're trying to set up something of that kind but what is the support that they receive from the majority of the white community? I do not know but my impression is that there is still a long way to go before whites are going to support, for instance, this initiative of the UDM.

POM. Do you think that's a good initiative, that it is founded on - where Meyer in a way, because I remember talking to him about it, he was given a task by FW, it was like a little boy doing an examination, he was given a blank piece of paper and a pen and told go into the room and I want you to come out and the question that you have to answer is, how do you recreate the NP, bring in blacks but where whites still retain all the leadership and power positions, and Roelf came out and said it can't be done.

BN. I think he knew that before that it could not be done but he dare not say that right in the beginning because he knew that what FW de Klerk still wanted to do to maintain was absolute nonsense. It could simply not be realised. But in any case he went in, he did his very best, and therefore at the end of that he could truthfully say I'm sorry, it doesn't work. And that's one reason why I see no future whatsoever for the NP.

POM. But do you admire what he and Bantu Holomisa are doing?

BN. I would not use the word 'admire', because politically that's the only thing that he could do, to look at that. And as far as Holomisa is concerned I think Holomisa is trying to find a base for himself as a political figure. Whether they are going to succeed is very difficult to say.

POM. Do you think it's more a marriage of convenience than a marriage of principle?

BN. From the little I know this is to my mind the case.

POM. Which one? That's it's to be a marriage of convenience?

BN. Of convenience, political convenience. It suits both of them in order to enter. I haven't got the impression - as far as Roelf Meyer is concerned I think that is his conviction. As far as Holomisa is concerned I am not convinced.

POM. To come to the role of the churches in this and there was a very moving statement given last week at the TRC, the embrace between Archbishop Tutu and the senior cleric from the Dutch Reformed Church. Have they yet done enough, in other words the rhetoric is right but it's almost like the government, you've got the right policies but your implementation isn't there? Are the churches kind of in the same places of where they're saying the right things but they're not getting out into their communities Sunday after Sunday, banging into their minds that for moral reasons alone they have to start adjusting to the fact that they must share, that they will have to have a lower standard of living, that they must give back, that's the form reparation for the past will take, that to say you didn't know what was going on is no longer an adequate excuse? It would have been impossible in a country where a  black man was arrested every three minutes for a violation of the pass laws to be a white person walking down the street and not notice something was going on. Are the churches living up to their responsibilities in this regard or are they still in a way prisoners in part of the past?

BN. I think we must distinguish between the term 'the churches' because, as you know, there is a deep division amongst the different churches. I am talking here about the Afrikaans speaking churches, in particularly the NG Kerk, Dutch Reformed Church, I am talking about them, not about the members, member churches of the SA Council of Churches, that's a different perspective.  But as far as that is concerned I am convinced that very little is being concretely done in order to help both the ministers and the congregations, the members of the DRC, to realise what is needed for them to do in order to, the term which I will use, to cross the Rubicon in order to effect real reconciliation. The fact is this, that within the DRC they are deeply afraid that the number of your ministers and of the congregations which are so conservative and I would not say right wing, some of them, but so conservative that they are not willing to support the more progressive views on the part of the leadership, the Moderature of the DRC. And it is all very well from that personal experience which Desmond Tutu now had in the Linwood congregation but the Linwood congregation is an exception. I would say the majority of congregations of the DRC you would have either a denial or people will simply stay away, they will not allow this to happen. So I personally do not believe that it's going to be easy to have this take place in the foreseeable future. If the DRC is not carefully looking at itself and really trying to make a meaningful contribution it is increasingly and in the future going to find itself to be a white ghetto church in SA with practically no blacks. When I say 'black' I mean African, especially Africans. To a lesser degree there will be coloureds there but as far as the others are concerned very little of this is happening.

POM. By the same token people since the TRC came into being have said to me in an odd way it may be contributing less towards reconciliation rather than more because what you have happening is that on the one hand you have a white community who regards it as somebody that is out to get them or pin blame on them, it's a kind of a witch hunt and they resent it. They think it's one sided and it's really out to vindicate everything that the ANC might have done and condemn everything they might have done, so rather than listening to it, they don't talk about it, they don't talk about it at cocktail parties, they don't talk about it all. You have to force it into the conversation and it's only then reluctantly that they talk about it. In the black community as they become more aware, as I said, through hearing the details of how their brothers and their sisters were murdered, and not just murdered but mutilated in the most gross and inhuman way, that their anger is increasing. So that what you have on two sides is a polarisation rather than a reconciliation.

BN. That is true, I agree with that, that is what is talking place. If the leadership of both the white and the black churches, if they are not taking note of this whole process of polarisation the situation in SA is going to become increasingly tense and I would not wish to use the word 'explosive' but if we are not able to really effect meaningful reconciliation I foresee a very, very difficult period lying ahead for us in the next at least one generation before this is brought to a better understanding. Personally I believe that it can only begin to occur when you have small groups of both black and white, including coloured and Indian, meeting in small groups throughout the whole country on an informal basis to talk to each other about their feelings of anger, of injustice, of pain, of suffering. Put it on the table and then as Christians ask themselves, those who are Christians, ask themselves now how in the light of all this, and allow the whites also to express their fear, their criticism and there is some valid criticism which they can present too, certainly, to a certain degree, but put it on the table and then to say now on the basis of the demands of the gospel, on the basis of the biblical demand for reconciliation, on the basis of the biblical emphasis on justice, how do we now bring about meaningful reconciliation. But to believe that this can only happen if we have synodical decisions coming from the top to the people at the grassroots, forget about it. I cannot see that it could happen.

POM. Do you think that - one hears, and even last night I heard two cases of where people were in their cars and were just shot and the young boys who killed them didn't even bother to take the car. They just shot them and walked off. Do you think, and I'll put this in the context of somebody like Joe Slovo who once said that the essence of the good revolutionary was contempt for life. Do you think there is, that part of the anger that's there, unexpressed in the black community in particular, and the lack of transformation or the slowness of transformation translates itself from anger into violence and that they will take it out not necessarily on whites because there's more crime in the black communities, but it's like saying - whites you have it, you won't give it up, you won't share it so we'll just take some of it from you, and that there is a culture of a contempt for life that's threatening the - this comes to another question of the collapse of moral values, which Mr Mbeki mentioned, the collapse of moral values in the country.

BN. Let me say that I think one of the reasons why white farmers are being killed certainly refers to this anger on the part of many of the young blacks who are simply saying nothing meaningful is happening. The white farmers remain on their farms, they have the same privileged position as before, what is happening here? That is certainly one reason. The other is the whole question of serious unemployment which remains. If you think, for instance, well just an example, of a township like Alexandra where there is so much hijacking, why is this happening? Because of the tremendous amount of unemployment of young people who have been trained, they have got skills and everything. Now they find no employment, what on earth must they do? And especially if they see that the majority of whites continue to live with their privileged position economically and otherwise, certainly that will be, I would not say normal, but the inevitable reaction on the part of many of those young blacks by saying to hell with this, we also want some part of this. And I think that is part of the serious problem that we have to face in this country.

POM. Do you think that's understood by the police or the people who are in charge of policing who increasingly talk about we'll crack down on crime and we'll put more people in prison and we'll have tougher bail restrictions and longer sentences or whatever and this is the way we'll deal with it? That what they're only dealing with are the symptoms of the problem but not the underlying causes of the problem itself, that the causes of the problem lie in having been oppressed and victimised in the past, feeling oppressed and victimised in the present, having no sense of having been empowered in any way by the changes that have taken place, looking around and seeing that the 'oppressor' is still living the good life and that all these things in a human way make them turn and say, hey the only thing I know how to use is a gun and if I can't get a job and I can't get it legitimately in any way I will take it any way I can?

BN. You mean you're talking now about the feelings of the police, of many of the police?

POM. Well that the police force, police authorities are talking about the way we deal with crime is we build more jails, longer sentences, stricter bail, tougher sentences, that all they're dealing with to deal with these things are the symptoms of crime not the causes.

BN. That is not the cause. I understand why Fivaz and the others are saying we've got to look at it and do that and that and that has got to be done. I believe under the circumstances it has to be done but that in itself is not the solution. If we do not look first of all at the whole question of unemployment, of the whole question of the widening gap between affluent and poor in SA, therefore basically the whole question of economic justice, if we do not only look at that but begin concretely to attend to that and then ask ourselves what can all of us do in order to create a new economic dispensation in this country with a more just distribution of means, of wealth, of income, of everything else concerned. If we do not attend to that all these other steps which the police are advocating could be undertaken, I personally do not believe that they could succeed.

POM. Years ago or a number of years ago when President Mandela was opening parliament he talked about the need for a new patriotism and a coming together of all the peoples of SA to act in a cohesive way on their own behalf. Just leaving that there for a second, one saw the economic crisis in South Korea and there were pictures on television and stories in the papers of how people queued up and handed in their personal jewellery and their personal possessions and said if this will help rescue the country we will give some of our most valued possessions, our gold rings, our gold watches and whatever, and there was a real cohesiveness of spirit that we're all in this together and to start pointing the finger of blame at somebody is not going to solve anything. One gets no sense here of there being a sense of cohesiveness among anybody, it's like everyone is still in the mode of I'm all right Jack and if I'm all right, even if I have nothing but I'm all right, I don't feel any necessity to become part of a broader movement that understands that we all have to make sacrifices if the next generation is to be better off. Everyone is still saying I want my bit of the pie now and I want it for me and if I have it and you don't have it, well that's tough. That permeates all communities not just the white community. Do you think that's accurate in terms of their being a lack of what I would call cohesiveness?

BN. As far as the vast majority of the people of our country are concerned that is correct. There is, I think, a small, a very small percentage of both blacks and whites who are concerned about it but their voice is so weak and their influence is so small and the lack of themselves being able to call upon everybody to come and make a meaningful sacrifice, I personally - I'm not saying it could never happen, but I see no signs of this coming together simply because there is not this cohesiveness.

POM. What stops that cohesiveness from developing?

BN. Very difficult question to answer. I would not dare to give that. There are many factors which do that.

POM. Just as a matter of speculation throw ideas out.

BN. Well first of all I think if we do not look first of all at, call it, the moral fibre of the nation and ask ourselves what is wrong there, if we do not as churches and all religious bodies, all faiths, ask ourselves what more, what else, what difference can we do in the message that we put there, in the example that we give of sharing more, if that does not come forward on a much larger, a massive national scale, I see very little possibility that this could ever be really meaningfully changed.

POM. What is the role of the churches and of other NGOs in this regard? What is the role of the political establishment? Again one will find many people, blacks, incensed that the leaders that they had in 1992 and 1993 who earned small salaries but shared with people whether it was in the UDF or whatever, are now rolling around in BMWs and Rolex watches and clothes made on Saville Row and 15 bodyguards, and they're saying this is now what we thought the struggle was about.

BN. You see this is one of the major problems that I think the political leadership in the country to my mind does not understand adequately, the deep and growing feelings of dissatisfaction, disappointment and of growing anger on the part of the grassroots of your young blacks who are listening, hearing, look at this example and say to what degree are they also making some meaningful contribution, including the high salaries in parliament, including all the additional emoluments or including the way many of them joined the gravy train and they just look and say to themselves, uh-uh. That is why, it seems to me, I can't prove it but it seems to me that there is a growing distrust in your black community in every political party regardless of which one, ANC, PAC, the DP and all the others. There is a growing distrust because they simply say basically you cannot trust the promise of any politician, and that's dangerous because then it means if you lose your trust and your faith in the whole political process then it becomes the first step towards anarchy and violence in the country.

POM. So there's a danger in a sense that this young democracy which is still just getting off the ground could be almost stillborn because of the cynicism that the population developed towards it?

BN. Yes.

POM. This would result in -

BN. And my concern is that they may be aware of this but I do not see that there is enough awareness of this amongst your top rank of your political leadership in the country. They may be and they're afraid to express this publicly but I see very little of that at the present moment.

POM. Let me just finish on Mbeki's statement that there has been a collapse of moral values. If there has what has that been due to? When did that collapse set in? Does it inform all communities, not exclusive to one? Again, what would be the underlying causes for that collapse?

BN. Well let me start by saying if we use the term 'collapse' I think it's perhaps too strongly stated but there is certainly a process, a very serious process of the slow disintegration of moral values in the community. One reason why this happened is because this is still a legacy of the previous apartheid rule where this was done, where this was agreed, where this was taken for granted and where nobody really bothered about it. Many blacks are using this as an example by saying well this is what these people did, enriched themselves, they didn't mind by which means they would do so, why should we now all of a sudden be a little bit more moral? This is one argument which is being used. Another reason I think is when the majority of the churches in SA acted against apartheid there was a unison in that sense amongst them because all that they could do was to say I am against apartheid and they stood together. Now that legally and constitutionally apartheid has been removed many of these churches and religious bodies are confused, they're divided on what their role and responsibility now is and should be and increasingly there are those who are deeply concerned about the moral fibre but they do not know how to handle it. There is a sense of helplessness which I discover amongst all the churches. It is as if the problem is so overwhelming that they simply do not know how to tackle it and how to take it further.

POM. Do you think Mbeki's idea of a 'moral summit' is - ?

BN. The idea is good but it depends, it's very important who will take the initiative because the government certainly can't take the initiative or should not. It would be a shame if the government should take the initiative on moral issues instead of your churches and all religious bodies, people of all faiths. That's why I am not only referring to Christians, I am referring to your Jewish community, to your Moslems, to your Hindus, all the others. Except if we as an interfaith community stand together and see this as one of the priorities, urgent, serious priorities that we've got to tackle I cannot see that it could succeed and I do not hear, and naturally you will have the rightful question by saying, but why don't you yourself do something about it. It's very difficult for a white to take the lead in that because you've got to deal with so many of the issues which in the first place deeply affect our black community and whenever a white comes forward and points, even if he doesn't want to point the finger, the impression could be given it's all very well for you as a white in order to do that. I certainly believe that such an initiative must come in the first place out of the hearts of the leadership of our black, both African, coloured and Indian communities with the whites giving their full moral support and saying yes we agree, we support, please include us in what is being done. And that I have indicated on more than one occasion and I have said I would gladly, although I've got to be careful about my health and my age, everything, I would gladly be willing to do that, but the initiative must come from our black religious inter-faith community.

POM. Besides what you've said that whites in a way are so accountable for the collapse in the first place through apartheid, you've also got the situation which will last for a while where you can't have white people saying we will be the leaders again, we will identify the problem, we will be the initiators, black people come on and join us. You can't.

BN. We've done so much harm in the way in which we took the leadership in the past. There is no way in which that can work. It cannot and it should not.

POM. Turning again to one of Mbeki's phrases, he said there has been the emergence of, well he said two things. One was that there has been an abuse of freedom in the name of entitlement and, two, that there has been the emergence of a black elite who use their positions to further their elite positions in society like becoming millionaires or whatever, that in that sense black empowerment has been the black empowerment of the few but not like empowerment of the many.

BN. Yes, but that is correct. I'm very glad that he said that. I think it took him a lot of courage in order to say that. There would have been no point for any white to say that, any white, it would not have been heard, it would simply have been pushed aside. But the question is to what degree will it really make any meaningful difference? We've got to wait and see what's going to happen there. I personally believe that it is only if this whole transition takes place voluntarily in the hearts of all of us from the grassroots that we will be able to make any meaningful impact.

POM. So to people like Dr Motlana - ?

BN. Yes, Cyril Ramaphosa and those, yes.

POM. What would you say if you had them here in a room? Would you say you're doing a terrific job at empowering yourself but to tell you the truth you're not doing a hell of a job at empowering the masses?

BN. But he would simply say immediately that it cannot be done at the present moment. You must ask him that question. My impression is that he will say, look, first of all I see my first task, we must first of all empower blacks to find themselves into meaningful, leading, key positions where they can influence the whole economic and political structure of the company and without that we're going to get nowhere. That is his argument, I believe, and I think that would be the same argument that Cyril Ramaphosa would give and therefore he would say we must first of all empower the black community substantially and we can then begin to look at these issues. Well I understand why they are saying this because they are simply saying the backlog that we have is so tremendous it will take us years before we find ourselves in such strong, meaningful leading positions. Then we can talk about these issues.

POM. But there's the real danger there that as you move into this position of this elite, when you go in with not just the best of intentions but with real convictions, Mammon has a certain way of corrupting the best of convictions and five years from now you no longer exactly think the same way.

BN. The temptation is very real, it's very serious and except if you as an individual lay down for yourself specific definite moral standards, saying I am not allowing this to happen, this and this in my life, the temptation could simply overpower you.

POM. So at this point in time, to ask you directly, is black empowerment working for the many or simply for the few?

BN. No it's not working for the many. It is working for the few - well it depends, as far as the government's programme is concerned of affirmative action that is a different one.

POM. Yes, I'm talking about really -

BN. As far as this is concerned certainly it's not working yet, it's giving the wrong impression.

POM. And the second phrase that he used, that there has been an abuse of freedom in the name of entitlement?

BN. Yes that is true.

POM. How does one deal with a situation of, the famed case that Mbeki used was of the students at the University of Venda, hard-strapped for money anyway, where the students come along and demand half a million rand for a party which amounts to 30 cans of beer per student and the administration says, under no circumstances, and they burned two or three buildings down. Or where you have this situation at Wits, which has happened on a number of occasions, where black students getting opportunities simply have trashed the place, and that if you don't get what you want you trash and in a way you're killing the opportunities being offered to you. How do you deal with that? What do you do with those students? Do you say you're expelled?

BN. It's very difficult because I think it depends on the specific situation because every university has got its own background and history and so on and the development which is taking place, and simply to expel students may not be a solution. It's very difficult for me to say that, but what I do believe is that the leaders of your black community in SA, both at universities and others, they must come together and say how do we handle this whole trend of trashing, of ignoring of basic rights on the part of the community, how do we handle that? How do we handle the students? How do we discuss it with them? What do we do to sit down and also to hear why they are doing this? It's going to be a long painful, difficult process but it has to be done. It has to be done. Certainly the government has a responsibility also to have a hand in that in order to assist that process because otherwise if you have a revolutionary uprising of your student community it could in the long run destroy the whole life of our community in SA.

POM. His next statement was, "We are a damaged people." Are South Africans damaged people, black and white?

BN. It's true, it is true. I do not know exactly what he meant. When you use the term 'damaged' you could for instance read one meaning to that, but as I understand it what he said as far as the whites are concerned they've been damaged by all the privileges which they've enjoyed, all these from apartheid. As far as the blacks are concerned they are also damaged by the way of concessions which have been made to them which they do not really appreciate. For instance, the question of payment now of taxes and of the resources which have been given in the townships. Many of them simply take it for granted. To hell, we want this free. So in that sense that whole process of being damaged even coming over from apartheid has now also been transferred to the black community and in that sense what he says is absolutely true. I only deeply regret the fact that it was not said before. I think it should have been said already by the State President. It should have been said earlier but I am very grateful that he said it.

POM. The last statement from the Deputy President, which I think we've already covered is, "Whites enjoy all of their privileges they have enjoyed in the past", and my addition would be that they show no particular inclination to -

BN. The vast majority show no inclination whatsoever. They simply take it for granted that this is what is due to them, this is their whole mindset and they refer then for instance to the question of poverty as of crime, of hijackings, of affirmative action, and they use all these as arguments to justify why whites in fact should remain in power. That is why many of them simply leave the country, more and more whites, professional whites, increasingly leave the country because they're just not prepared to make that sacrifice.

POM. They also say, if I can make an argument in their defence, one of the families I interview - among everything else I interview about 18 families ranging from very rich conservative white to Africans who live in squatter camps, and one family I would call your just ordinary middle class white family, the husband hated being conscripted, hates the military with a passion for what they did to him while he was in it yet finds himself kind of being held accountable for or the finger being pointed at him for some of the atrocities of the military, but he talks about when he leaves work he rings his wife and he tells her when he's getting into his car and he should be home, straight run, ten minutes, and she's outside with the phone ready at the gates to open those gates as quickly as possible and in they flash as quickly as possible, and they live in a state of fear. Now fear can be self-induced but to me their lives are kind of tragic, that they are locked behind their barbed wire and their closed doors and they don't know how to get out and they're afraid. Are many of their fears legitimate? What do you say if you say well I don't want to live like this and I have the means to go abroad and I have the profession to go abroad so I will go abroad so I can feel more free?

BN. I fully understand why they do this. My problem is that if all of us being in their position do that then what positive contribution are we making to the changes in society in SA? What contribution is then being made? And that is my problem. You see many of them as whites they do not feel that they have any moral obligation in order to assist in fundamentally changing the outlook, the attitude, the vision towards the new SA. Deep down in their hearts they have never committed themselves to the fundamental change of building a new nation and so it's very difficult. I am sorry for them in that sense because they live in two presents.

POM. You were saying that whites live - ?

BN. Live in the present and in the past. Now they are living in a self-imposed prison in which they find themselves, like this person who leaves and he ends this and he's there and be believes that therefore now he is safe within the walls and the security gates and everything else and the alarm bells and everything concerned. Temporarily this may be the case but what kind of a life is this? What does he contribute therefore to solving the problems of our country? I am not accusing him but I am saying this is the tragedy of many of these whites, they feel themselves totally helpless in order to make any contribution because I think deep down in their hearts they do not wish to make the sacrifice, the deep meaningful sacrifice in order to build a new nation.

POM. So in that sense, looking at what you said and talked about in the early nineties before the elections and President Mandela came into power and where SA is today as we enter the last year of his administration, are you really satisfied with the changes that have taken place? Are you disappointed? Are you somewhat disappointed and somewhat pleased? Is the country as far as one could reasonably expect it to be in this short period of time and given the massive problems the new government inherited?

BN. Let me respond by saying that as far as the political and the constitutional change which is taking place, the transition, I am very satisfied. I think it was very well done under very difficult circumstances and with the new constitution that we have and the way in which we're trying to implement what it really means and implies for the whole community, it's a process, it will take some time but it is being done to my mind very successfully. As far as the challenges are concerned it seems to me that the government did not realise how serious the problems would be which they would have to confront on the whole question of unemployment, of training and skills, of finding investment in order to promote the encouragement of greater employment, the whole question of the educational crisis in which we find ourselves. They expected, I think, something of the kind, they did not expect that it would be so serious and so prolonged and fundamentally affecting the process of transition. That is my impression. That is why as I see this, they find themselves in a very difficult position and it is for all of us in SA to say, even where we may disagree, let us now not talk behind the backs of the government, let us go directly. We've got ways and means to do that, to convey to the government what our concerns are, to indicate to what degree there is a willingness on our part to make our contribution to assist in the process of transformation which is needed in the country. But for those who have never made it and whose hearts have never been in the process of transition, who are sitting as it were on the fringe of the airport waiting to leave the country, get their money out as soon as possible, go and find a position, especially those professional people, they can find many of them, to my mind there is very little that one can do to help them. They have deep down, my impression is they've made their decision, that is where they're going to go in any case and we simply, those of us who remain in the country, we will have to look at ourselves, our whole community, our country as a whole and say where do we go from here.

POM. Just finally, do you think that the ANC, and I'm in a way using ANC/government as being synonymous even though they're not quite synonymous, do you think they're too sensitive to criticism, that there's a kind of a siege mentality, that there are all these third force forces out there whether they're in the media or in opposition parties or whatever, and the phrase they use, in fact President Mandela used it in his speech to congress, is they want to destroy the ANC, do you think this is being a little paranoid and now after three and a half, four years in office they should begin to know that in a democracy criticism is one of the hallmarks of freedom?

BN. They may have information which we do not have and if so then I think it is important that they make that information known in the same way that they should allow, they should expect increasing criticism even criticism in solidarity with their aims would be there, because without that you cannot really, meaningfully rule and reign a country and assist a country and build a new community. It's not possible. I'm thinking, for instance, of the very serious negative reaction on the part of the State President to the criticism which was made by the Anglican Archbishop, immediately he was very angry. Well they seemingly resolved it after that, but the fact that he reacted so, I would say, almost vehemently and very strongly shows to my mind that they are still perhaps too sensitive to that kind of criticism and that is why I think many of your whites in SA have withdrawn. That's why they remain silent, that's why they simply say it's no use, we'll be misunderstood in our criticism so the best is for themselves, for them to discover themselves how far they're going and how they should handle this matter.

POM. There was a famous poem by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, the title was Whatever you Say, Say Nothing.

BN. Yes. I understand it, I personally believe that we have adequate channels. I'm thinking of the churches, I'm thinking of the religious bodies, I'm thinking of your people who feel politically. Why don't, for instance, may of the Afrikaners who feel unhappy, angry, who don't they come together as a group and insist and say we want to talk to the State President, we want to have an interview and a discussion, we want to have, as it were, a workshop together with him. We're going to put everything on the table, we want to ask numerous questions, you'll get your replies but we also want to have the opportunity to respond to those replies. Why don't they do that? My impression is because they simply do not believe it's worthwhile. And why don't they believe it's worthwhile? Because deep down in their hearts they have not committed themselves to assisting in the whole process of transformation towards a new SA.

CB. I have one question if I may? I am particularly interested in issues facing the police in transforming themselves both here in SA and also in Northern Ireland and John Brewer who has written on this subject talks about the way in the late eighties when PW Botha was combining some degree of reform with nevertheless the continuing repression and strong oppression in the forces, there was a turn towards religious discourse and talk of serving the King of Law and Order, Jesus Christ, and development of the Chaplaincy Unit. I just want to ask you what your view was as to the degree to which this kind of religious rhetoric reinforced ideologies that some members of the police force already espoused? Was that ideology already strong enough or did the imposing of a religious rhetoric on top of it add to it in some way, strengthen it or change its dynamic?

BN. Oh it was there, make no mistake about it, it was there. It added to that, there is no doubt in my mind. It was there. We're talking now about the white police, not the black police? You don't find that amongst the black police, you find just the opposite. But as far as the white police are concerned it was so deeply imposed and embedded in their whole outlook, their attitude, their vision, their understanding of what it was all about, also what authority was all about, that they simply took it for granted that this was the way in which it had to go further. That is why religious rhetoric, which is being used especially by your white DRC and the others, is dangerous because it simply strengthens those deep rooted prejudices and hopes, unjustified hopes and aspirations which they have had with regard to their life and their future.

CB. And in subsequently trying to go through this latest phase of reform, how has that played on movements? Is that religious aspect to the old mentality, one hears so much about the continuing resistance even back in the eighties and as early as the seventies when there were very minor reform attempts, that there was always this talk of resistance from the grassroots. Now in this latest stage is that both in terms of the political ideology and the religious overtones added to it, is that still fully embedded, what is your impression as to changes of mentality? Does the religious overtone make it all the more impossible to change that because it is, as it were, a higher authority than merely changing one's political view, or do you get the feeling that people are disengaging religion from politics?

BN. Some people, we are now talking about mainly the Afrikaans speaking community?

CB. Yes.

BN. To a lesser degree the English speaking white community too, there is this process, a slow process of disengaging the one from the other but my impression is that at the deepest level it is still so deeply embedded in their whole vision, their philosophy, their understanding, that it's going to take a long time. I think it will need a younger generation which has gone through this to say for us, our view, our vision in this regard is totally different. To my mind it will still take quite a long time.

CB. OK, thank you.

POM. Thank you ever so much for all of your time. You're lovely to talk to.

BN. Thank you so much.

POM. I'll have to go back now and get this transcribed and then think about all the things you said and hit other people with your - I won't say who said them.

BN. I think you must hit me also with what other people have said.

POM. I've done that.

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.