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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Aug 2001: Giliomee, Hermann

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(These are points of clarification of the interview of 3 August 1990)

POM. These are turning up the ambiguities since the 1990 interview.

HG. Yes. You want me to clarify that?

POM. Yes. "It was a very shrewd thing to do because the ANC would simply come in under -"

HG. I suppose the blanket of the UDF.

POM. But they obviously would have gotten no credit for it.

HG. De Klerk would have gotten no credit. I think the government or the regime would have gotten no credit if they had unbanned the UDF but not the ANC. It must have been something like that. I think it was basically what was at that stage the plan of PW Botha to ban, to keep the ANC banned, to keep the Communist Party banned. I think UDF is wrong there. To keep the Communist Party banned but unban the ANC. And then I said that the Communist Party would have come in under the ANC but De Klerk or Botha wouldn't have gotten any credit for the unbanning then.

POM. So how would you then rephrase that?

HG. A very shrewd thing to unban both the ANC and the Communist Party because the Communist Party would simply have come in under the ANC and De Klerk or the state, the regime, would have got no credit for that.

POM. It looks like – ?

HG. Probably Van Zyl Slabbert I would guess.

POM. Yes, Van Zyl Slabbert and the first name, MA ?

HG. Magsorr WI G instead of WR G.


HG. Orrwig is IG instead of R G.

HG. G AT V O L, gatvol, it's a very sort of stock term now in South African parliamentary circles. The 'gatvol factor'. I would delete that, and then I would say GA T VO L factor, gatvol factor.

POM. And for English readers that would be?

HG. That would mean that I'm fed up with or that I'm bellyful with something.

POM. "South Africa needed as a developing country kind of long term loans where you pay" - ?

HG. I think it needs long term loans, not short term loans.

POM. A comment. You said, "It's going to be rough and even if the ANC comes to power peacefully it still is going to be rough for the next five or ten years." Would you comment and say, yes it's been rough?

HG. Yes, I think it's been rough. Direct political instability in the sense of the state being challenged but in general –

POM. That would be referring to where it says in that speech, in that interview, you said that he said to De Klerk on the eve of February 2nd, refers to Van Zyl Slabbert.

HG. Van Zyl Slabbert, yes.

POM. His interview with De Klerk.

HG. Yes.

POM. The next change is, dis-aggregate rather than disanogate?

HG. Go further down and see the full sentence.

POM. " … where they could put forward solutions. But the fact is it will not count for all that much."

HG. Yes, when they could put forward solutions, when they could advance solutions. I would say advance solutions, but it will not count all that much like in the case of the general – in fact it could advance proposals and motions, not so much solutions but proposals and motions but it wouldn't count for all that much as in the case of the General Assembly and then you will have an Upper House.

POM. An Upper House and a General Assembly and a Security Council.

HG. Might be a Security Council.


POM. That book.

HG. That book – you say it's 1990? Schlemmer.

POM. It's Schlemmer and I in our book?

HG. Yes, we had a book in 1989.

POM. Do you think that in the government of national unity, in the interviews that I've done it comes across that in the end the ANC simply said decisions in the cabinet will be made by the majority, period?

HG. I don't think they probably would have said it. I think they would simply have appealed to the … the provision there, that you don't actually vote in cabinet, you don't actually put up hands. The majority will – like in that convention the chairman will formulate the majority opinion or formulate –

POM. It's just that in other interviews I've done with people who participated they said the issue came up and then was left unaddressed and they wrote the post-amble, brought the post-amble back and the issue never arose again.

HG. That's what happened. I think De Klerk's basic failing was that he thought that, if he thought about it all, but he simply assumed that the conventions would be the same as the Westminster convention of the past 90 years and also whether somebody who is a dissident in cabinet has the right to speak outside. That was a crucial one because he lost contact with his electorate, his supporters, but he simply assumed if you disagree in cabinet you can't go outside to say look, I disagreed and these are my reasons. That was a crucial issue that from the start he should have addressed. Now Gatsha didn't bother about that. He went back to Ulundi or to the rural KwaZulu and he said what he wanted to say.

POM. He still does, whacks the hell out of the ANC. I thought it was lovely he whacked the hell out of the ANC two weeks ago and the ANC don't even – oh that's just Buthelezi at it again, give him his say.

HG. De Klerk was sort of playing by Westminster rules, Queensbury rules and Westminster rules.

POM. Mac Maharaj said to me the NP could have –

HG. He would say that, but they didn't know what they wanted. They didn't know what they wanted and also now it's not so clear at all what you actually should have gone for. Schlemmer said to me the other day they should have gone for complete control, they should have gone for, say, look, we keep the local government system as it is with an element of redistribution but that you would not have these big cities with the ANC dominating. They should have kept local government like it was. That should have been your core fall-back position because it's quite clear that provinces are not going to account for much. A government of national unity depends on the majority party wanting to make it work, not on the minority party insisting on their rights. I don't think De Klerk ever really thought what would be the bottom line or what would be the best way of defending my constituency. I think Mac Maharaj is right but unless the government, the old regime, retained some levers in terms of, say, road security, something like that, I don't know how they could have enforced it because the ANC would take whatever they could take and that's very normal in any political party, that you take what you can take.

. An article that I wrote in the early eighties on sharing power without losing control, that was the intention of PW Botha in the tricameral parliament, sharing power without losing control.

POM. You did an article on this and you got the same response as your students on that?

HG. Yes, you've got responsibilities but you haven't got real control.

POM. Then if you have just somebody like Du Plessis?

HG. In 1992 people thought that there should be … but I felt that De Klerk had to do something like giving notification or endorsement.

POM. Yes from the whites. So my response is when I said, "I don't think it's a promise that he can't keep", your answer is really, "No", so that should read, "No, I don't think it is a promise that he can dare not keep". The first three words should come out.

HG. Yes, a typical double negative from Afrikaans.

POM. "I asked De Klerk about that", whether he intends to stick to that, and he said, "Look, I've got no desire trying to derail particular problems. I have to go back to the electorate." OK. So you consider his going back when he did, even though he wasn't putting the policies and the constitution before them, he in a way managed a very slick trick.

HG. Yes, this is a typical slick politician's trick. It was a big trick but in fact he got a blank cheque.

POM. Now if you look at the kind of general opinion polls, "for the moment no clear" – most recent polls.

HG. I think "For the moment no clear", delete that. "Most recent polls show that blacks don't demand - "

POM. Don't demand, majorities are in favour in both communities, they're in favour of power-sharing.

HG. Yes.

POM. What has happened to Bernard?

HG. What happened to him?

POM. What has? Is he still alive?

HG. I don't know. I once wrote him a letter about a year ago and I didn't get a reply.

POM. Bernard Kriek, I have 'Vernon Crete'. So some people do tend to think that for De Klerk his negotiations would be simply going to - ?

HG. Going to trick them I suppose. I suppose that he's going to bluff.

POM. So it should be, "So some people tend to think that for De Klerk the negotiations with the ANC he is simply going – would use that as a bluff when it comes to them. Let's forget about the whites and let's pass a constitution".

HG. I think I was still talking in the context that the whites will not really be consulted, that they will just through a charade, and that when it comes push to shove he will say, look, let's just forget about getting a mandate from the whites and let's pass a constitution. I think that's probably what I meant.

POM. But you said, "I think that will be disastrous."

HG. Yes, to bypass the white electorate.

POM. But did he? No.

HG. I think that referendum of 1992, it's an extent –

POM. But we're trying to stay in your 1990 frame of mind.

HG. My 1990 frame of mind, but you have to go to some –

POM. You're saying, "There's something to do with De Klerk in those negotiations with the ANC simply going to - "

HG. Yes, if De Klerk bypassing the whites simply had the constitution accepted in negotiations with the ANC that would be disastrous, to bypass the white electorate, not to get a special mandate.

POM. "I have no doubt if there's an election the CP will win". That would have been an election, how could it have been? That would have been the election that would have followed the adoption of the constitution? But if it was one man one vote the CP couldn't have won anyway.

HG. Yes, I think it's probably in the context if you don't have ratification by the white electorate and you adopted the constitution in terms of which the whites felt insecure but that the whole process hadn't been completed, so that you would be, remember it had to be in terms of, the legislation had to be a white election again in 1994, that the party abstain after the 1989 election. So everything was still up in the air on the constitutional level. On the table was, look, effective to whites then if a white general election was held it was possible that the Conservative Party would win.

POM. So you're saying that if the NP and ANC had agreed on a constitution but it hadn't been ratified?

HG. It hadn't been ratified yet and it hadn't been –

POM. But it would be ratified by the white parliament?

HG. It will have to be ratified by the white parliament. That point came up that you were compelled to have an election in terms of the constitution, the old constitution.

POM. But that would be in 1995.

HG. 1994.

POM. Let's say they had reached an agreement, the NP and the ANC had reached an agreement prior to the election date and this was ratified by the NP, that did happen, by the NP in parliament. There would be no election for the Conservative Party to win.

HG. Yes, if for some reason De Klerk had referred that to a white electorate then the Conservative Party –

POM. Afrikaans words.

HG. ORDENTLIK. (Proper or correct)

POM. "There was a bomb that was planted in"?

HG. I think it was a parking garage. They used a bomb in a parking garage.

POM. Was that condition met in terms of there would be agreement on constitutional principles that have to be incorporated in the constitution itself?

HG. Yes, they would have to pass the principles, ANC procedure.

POM. They'd worked this out during or after – these were reached in CODESA 1 and elaborated on and included in – they said these can't be touched when a consequent Constitutional Assembly meets to finalise the constitution between 1994 and 1996.

HG. Yes. Your question is?

POM. That in fact that condition was met.

HG. Yes I think so. Of course the principles which the NP insisted on were very often very vaguely formulated.

POM. "It will take at least a year or two for the ANC to get the show on the road". Did they do better than expected?

HG. Yes I think they're more or less intact. I suppose Boipatong finally cemented them, walking out of the Constitutional Assembly. I think they were very still very confused up to that point.

POM. Which makes negotiators, because on what do you base that particular side of the negotiations? Thabo Mbeki, the internal UDF?  On what would you base that particular … ?

HG. Follow –

POM. Then I should just cut it out.

POM. Sub-committee came to an agreement with the ANC. "Alternately I think if you do enter into a power-sharing arrangement then at the point where the government gives up control with the armed forces." That is, that they also give up control of the armed forces?

HG. I suppose it would be control of the armed forces.

POM. That would be a turning point, turning over the control of the armed forces to the ANC?

HG. Turning over the armed forces to the ANC.

POM. That was a major delay?

HG. They turned it over quickly to the ANC.

POM. Would you just say that the armed forces still under the 'old guard', General Meiring and the rest, means that – ?

HG. I suppose looking at my frame of mind in 1990 I probably would have thought that the whites would have a sense of security in some degree of control over the armed forces for a longer period.

POM. …

HG. Piet Cillié, you need to be a crocodile to be an Afrikaner leader.

POM. On the question of locking in the police and the army behind him, do you believe – one gets the impression talking to ANC people that NP negotiators at some point would say, "Well, excuse us for a while", and kind of go away and come back and they all assumed that they were consulting the military. Do you think all the fears about the military were misplaced?

HG. I think there was certainly the rogue element, any military, any police could have rogue elements using private initiatives but the leadership usually was quite subordinate to the civilians politicians. They wouldn't directly challenge civilians politicians.

POM. Mandela. I just marked that for a reference. He's still going.

HG. He's resilient.

POM. Two white branches of – this is enrolment in the ANC, the two white branches of –   A man by the name of Pierre – ?

HG. Oh it's a fear for whites, the fears for whites. Pierre.

POM. White farmers, the kind of fears there. What kind of fears? This bit here?

HG. Whites will not be safe. That was quite right. Laurie Schlemmer often says that, what the white right had feared came exactly true.

POM. That they might be at risk.

HG. Yes the white women, breakdown of law and order.

POM. That's just a repeat there. It's like 80% fear, the whites have their fears.

POM. Clashes between Ndebele and the Shonas.

HG. Any opposition except the very blind ones. In the old days the democratic centralists.

POM. "The government have … problematical … to make that kind of chase".

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