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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

South Africa: Perspectives

Padraig O'Malley

18 May 2000

One of the features of inter-communal or ethnic conflicts, is that they are almost invariably intra-territorial: they take place within the boundaries of sovereign nations, and in many respects do not follow the "rules of engagement" that conflicts among sovereign nations, at least in theory, are supposed to follow. Because of the heretofore sacrosanct, but increasingly questionable axiom of diplomacy, that sovereign nations do not interfere in the internal affairs of each other, conflicts in divided societies tend to be less subject to international mediation, since resort to such measures would legitimize the claims of suppressed minorities in the view of the dominant majorities in the countries in question. 1

As a result, as long as dominant groups i.e. groups that have a vise-like grips on the levers of power believe that they have the offensive capacity, access to the military hardware, and a stranglehold over the security and judicial domains of the state, they have little incentive to negotiate with militant minorities who seek self-determination or autonomy of some degree since they proceed from the assumption that they cannot be forcibly removed from their positions of preeminence and dominance. Hence indefinite internecine conflict is preferable to alternatives that would require them to acknowledge the legitimacy of the grievances of the minorities they suppress and to take measures to redress those grievances at a cost that would require them to devolve power to other groups at the expense of the power they already exercise with little or no accountability to the minorities they keep firmly, and if necessary, ruthlessly under their far-flung, and perversely invasive tentacles of state control.

Aggrieved minorities, on the other hand, invariably in the pursuit of some form of self-determination or equal rights under the ruling dispensation, usually turn to armed struggle as a measure of last resort to destabilize ruling regimes, cast doubts on their legitimacy, when all else fails to elicit a positive response from the dominant groups.

In the global hamlet which makes us increasingly interdependent, altered traditional notions of national sovereignty, the prospects of making their countries less governable, if not ungovernable, give oppressed or subordinate groups a political leverage they heretofore have not enjoyed, place fewer limits on their aspirations, as long as they have access to the military wherewithal to continue their struggles. In a world awash with arms where it often seems that impoverished, destitute, conflict-emaciated societies have higher AK-47s than GDPs per capita, access to arms is easier and cheaper than access to food or water.

Moreover, the radical institutional transformations that have accompanied the post Cold War era, the re-conceptualization of what constitutes power and the half-hearted attempts to define the modalities of a New World Order have leavened rather than stimulated debate. Integration and fragmentation have become opposite sides of the same coin –some might say chaos. The Cold War provided a broad band of certainties. Foreign policies, as often as not shaped by erroneous assumptions and dispensed with injudicious hands, were at least grounded in an understanding of the perquisites for order. They provided a cushion of stability and a set of protocols that put restraints on how nations behaved toward each other and went about settling their differences.

Inter-communal conflicts no longer respect sovereign borders, and increasingly have unforeseen and unpredictable effects in neighboring countries making them more susceptible to destabilizing consequences, whether indigenous or imported, confront the international community with questions relating to the protection of human rights, issues of self-determination, the legal basis for the intervention of international peacekeeping forces over the objection of sovereign powers, the jurisdictional mandates of intervening forces, and the appropriate moral and political response to crimes against humanity committed either in the name of ethnic groups, dominant/subordinate communities, or sovereign nations determined to maintain their internal hegemony at any cost.2

As long as the levels of violence and its corollary, instability, come to be regarded as acceptable in divided societies, where identities and aspirations are often antithetical and people define themselves in terms of opposites – endemic conflicts often follow the piped pipers of subconscious and unfathomable terrains of terror, self-perpetuating and self-retributive, peregrinations across killing fields that sterilize themselves in blood and leave the wastelands of the incomprehensible in their wake.

There is no literature that documents why some conflicts are more amenable to settlement – not resolution3 -- than others; each beats to the rhythms of its own dark and cavernous impulses, hostage to myth and history, distortions of reality, imprisoned in misrepresentation, warped perceptions, and insatiable demands for revenge that are the legacy one generation bequeaths to the next. In some, the long duration of the conflicts, has led "to the evolution of social mechanisms to regulate and control the relationships [between the parties in conflict], and unable either to remove each other and unwilling to assimilate, they gradually evolved forms of relationships which regulated rather than resolved their antagonisms."4

In Northern Ireland, such social controls evolved, acceptable levels of political instability became the norm, thus reducing the pressure on the politicians and their party masters to engage in the intense dialogue that is inevitably necessary to break historical logjams.

In South Africa, apartheid mandated the forms of relationships that existed between Blacks and whites. When apartheid began to crumble, the absence of political and social space to create new forms of relationships, except among certain elements of the elites, widened the divide between Blacks and whites and further encouraged the youth to make the townships ungovernable when it became increasingly clear that the government no longer had the stomach to pay them the price control of the townships exacted, given its own uncertainties – and divisions -- as to the way forward. These uncertainties were reinforced by the government's reluctant conclusions in the mid-eighties that apartheid was no longer a viable proposition nor one that could be indefinitely propped-up by made-to-order reforms. Yet, it remained unsure what to replace apartheid with, and unwilling – or unable -- to contemplate the ramifications of the inevitable – a universal franchise and a total dismantling of the apartheid apparatus; in short, the surrender of power. Nevertheless, while the social controls to regulate the conflict deteriorated, they did not collapse providing the leeway for the risks both the ANC and the NP had to confront in their respective communities in order to convince their constituencies that neither was about to sell them out in negotiations.

The Balkans and Rwanda provide the best examples in recent times of social mechanisms imploding with catastrophic results5 – the abrogation of all acceptable norms of human behavior, mass killings, remorseless hate fanning out across countries, neighbor turning on neighbor without consideration of friendship or mercy, routine torture, mass execution of civilians, rape as a strategic instrument of dehumanization and a weapon of war, wanton criminality in the name of self-protection, barbarity and atrocity justified on the grounds that "if we didn't do it to them, they would do it to us," the obliteration of the instruments, institutions, and behaviors that serve as the safeguards for our collective survival.

With the collapse of the boundaries that protect social order and regulate human activity, the values and sensibilities that condition our humanity simply evaporate into a miasma of behavior bereft of a moral code, directionless in the absence of an ethical compass but with a genetic predisposition that condones the extermination of other as a reflexive response to perceived threat to the survival of self. Whatever the fathomless depths of the abyss that conceal in their unreachable depths the secrets of human motivation labyrinths of inviting us to reconsider the adequacy of Hannah Arendt's expositions on the "banality of evil"6 as a sufficient explication of the inhumanities we routinely visit on each other in the name of either redundant ideologies, rectification of the wrongs of history or some other cause that blights the air we breathe and the pollutes the space we share as accidental members of the human species.

In the end, parties to some conflicts in divided societies stumble into negotiations when some kind of rationality begins to assert itself, usually when protagonists realize that military "solutions" will not succeed, that no side can defeat the other and unilaterally impose its will, that the country itself has either become ungovernable or the voracious depletion of its resources to sustain the conflict has become unsustainable, and that there will be little left to govern if all parties to the conflict continue to destroy the social and economic infrastructure of the country, or when international persistence begins to exert subtle but unmistakable pressure.

Settlements or the making of settlements begin to take shape when all sides acknowledge that the sharing of power through some consensual, even if ill-defined process is preferable to indefinite and irresolvable conflict. Paradoxically, the outlines of a settlement are usually self-apparent, although seemingly intractable, due more to the obduracy of the protagonists, embedded questions of identity, ethnicity and religion, issues surrounding the forfeiture of territory scoured with the blood of centuries, the possession or surrender of which has become ineluctably intertwined with questions of nationalism and sovereign destiny,7 than to the conceptualization of forms of governance that would go a long way toward meeting the concerns of all parties, but would necessarily involve compromises on all sides. Unfortunately, in divided societies, compromise and surrender are for all practical purposes one and the same thing, and the advocacy of meaningful compromise by one of the warring parties or parties supporting the same side are a political kiss of death. Thus, players in conflict situations are as much prisoners of the constraints forced on them by considerations of domestic politics as they are by the impositions and presumptions of history that are the indelible hallmarks of the human narrative.

The path from that acknowledgment to formal agreement on negotiation procedures, defining an agenda, implementation of complex protocols and development of complementary institutional frameworks, is invariably a long-drawn out process marked by disagreements on joint declarations on the way forward, endemic distrust that is papered over during negotiations, political gamesmanship, and pigheaded orneriness.

The map from talks about talks, to formalizing arrangements for talks, to setting the parameters for talks, to resolving the innumerable preconditions that must be met before talks can take place, to drawing-up a mutually acceptable agenda, to agreeing on the rules and procedures that will arbitrate the talks, to formal talks, substantive negotiations, and binding agreement is strewn with political land mines, obfuscation, procrastination, dilatory tactics to secure ephemeral advantages, political infighting within the parties who are supposedly negotiating with their protagonists in good faith, intrigue within and among parties in the jostling for power in the post-settlement era, and the unpredictability of the process itself when concession and compromise become mirror reflections of each other.


You cannot reform what must be abolished but this truism did not dissuade the NP government from endlessly tinkering with its constitution in the rather hopeless belief that it could devise a governance system that would somehow satisfy Blacks, even if it fell well short of meeting their demands for universal suffrage. In 1983, this led the government to write a new constitution, which made provision for a single Parliament with three chambers, one for whites, Coloureds and Indians. These chambers had the authority to pass laws governing the "own affairs" of each community. Matters that effected all three communities, or general affairs, would be discussed directly in a new joint chamber. The combined chambers would also be responsible for electing the State President. However, the election formula was so devised that it would be neither possible for the Indian and coloured majority parties to outvote the majority party in the white chamber, nor to prevent the white majority from electing its choice as president. Hence, the new dispensation, hailed by whites as a major breakthrough in race relations, ensured that ultimately all power remained in white hands. Of course no provision was made for even a limited enfranchisement of Africans at the national level – they were thrown the crumbs of the right to elect Black local councils. Thus, rather than luring Africans into believing that their turn was next, Africans reacted with unrestrained anger, seeing the government's machinations as an instrument to co-opt the coloured and Indian communities, more amenable to taking the government's side.8 Why the government did not anticipate the tidal wave of protect that inundated the anti-apartment in reaction to the introduction of the 'tricameral' parliament remains a matter of conjecture -- either hubris, naiveté, ineptitude, or its failure to understand that Africans, despite the color of their skins, were in all regards equal to whites with the same entitlements and rights that that incontrovertible proposition bestowed.

Opposition to the new constitution led in turn to the founding of the United Democratic Front (UDF), an umbrella for some 700 anti-apartheid organizations that became the new front in the war against apartheid and the internal front for the ANC, touching off a country-wide wave of unrest in 1984/ '85, the central object of which was to make the country ungovernable.9

Thus, in the mid 1980s, when the struggle within South Africa was being conducted with an intensity and tenacity heretofore not visible, PW Botha, the reviled State President among Blacks of every hue, opened secret negotiations with the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, the first brick paving the tentative pathways to all that would follow. The National Party (NP) government, under immense pressure from the international community, feeling the bite of financial sanctions, and the backlash of snowballing township violence, despite the imposition of draconian laws, came to the reluctant conclusion that the demands of the Black majority for some form of enfranchisement would have to be accommodated. How this would be accomplished, they did not know; what form enfranchisement would take, they did not know, and how power would be exercised, the rights of minorities protected and governance operate, they did not know.

In a little-noted passage of PW Botha's "Rubicon"10 speech to the Natal Congress in August 1995 "– overlooked in part because off the international furor PW's finger-wagging warning to the world to stop telling South Africans what they ought to be doing – were the telltale signs of a policy shift, minor perhaps in the broad geopolitical context of South Africa's standing and of the expectations of radical reform the speech would articulate that had been widely anticipated in the international community, but seismic in terms of its implications for Verwoerdian apartheid: "Should any of the Black national states, prefer not to accept independence," the testy State President intoned, "such states or communities will remain part of the South African nation, are South African citizens, and should be accommodated within political institutions within the boundaries of South Africa." 11 With that simple subjunctive sentence the building blocks of separate development, the pillars on which the edifice of grand apartheid had been so assiduously constructed began to crumble, although it would take some time for them to come crashing to the ground.

In 1986, the government's Special Cabinet Committee, developed a number of broad proposals that, in the view of De Klerk "represented important and essential shifts in the thought process of the Government and its supporters"12

In the Special cabinet Committee, we realized that a formal change in policy would be a prerequisite for meaningful negotiation. We subsequently made a concise formulation of our new policy framework, which constituted a 180 degree change in policy forever away from apartheid, separate development, and racial discrimination. The proposed framework accepted the principles of one united South Africa; one person, one vote, the eradication of all forms of racial discrimination; and the effective protection of minorities against domination. It ought to strike balance between having one nationhood on the one hand, and the reality of our cultural diversity on the other.13

The key words here, of course, are "the effective protection of minority rights against majority domination." The words would become a lasting source of discord between the ANC and the government, with the former regarding them as sophistry of the first order, the latter as an attempt on its part to protect what it would regard as the legitimate interests, concerns and fears of the white community in the context of a more encompassing constitutional framework. Part of the problem was the ANC's unshakable conviction that governance arrangements that "protected" white interests were little more than apartheid under another name since it would freeze the existing order of things, give legal sanction to the status quo and entrench white privilege -- a direct product of apartheid – making the elimination of the social, economic, and political disparities of 50 years of institutionalized oppression and racism all but impossible.

In the circumstances, the NP government was in a no-win situation. Whites perceived separate development as a noble experiment in trying to accommodate differences among multicultural nations. But when it finally saw the futility of the "experiment" in social engineering that was supposed to blossom into a plethora of independent Black states, each able to nurture its cultural norms and traditional values and develop at rates commensurate with their societal structures, without being subjugated to the norms and values of others, it found that its attempts to accommodate multicultural differences within a single nation state that would continue to allow it to maintain its position of preeminence, under the rubric of whites being a "minority" group and hence eligible for the special protections international law increasingly affords such groups – a perfectly legitimate demand in "normal" circumstances – the legitimacy of the demand was undermined by the fact that unqualified adherence to special protections for groups would be based on racial grounds. Thus, their every effort, on the basis of labeling themselves as a group that was something other than white, to wriggle their way out of the racially based categorizations they themselves had legislated everybody into simply reinforced the racialism they professed to have shed. When the NP became advocates of "minority rights," "group protections," "human rights," and "no one group being in a position to dominate another," the ANC and its supporters viewed the NP's promulgation of these concepts, not as some Paul-on-the-road Damascus-like conversion but as a cynical ploy on the government's part to appropriate the vocabulary of liberation movements the world over in order to entrench the maintenance of white power by subterfuge. Thus white efforts to dismantle apartheid's vertical structures without tampering with its hierarchical framework became were ingrained in the Black consciousness with attempts to usurp the language of the oppressed to entrench white supremacy. Whites could bring no moral armament to their "struggle" to preserve their cultural ethos since they had had already sacrificed that ethos in their efforts to perpetuate it. Even when negotiations between the government and the ANC did get out of the starting block, they were initially fundamentally out of kilter: one side wanted to negotiate a settlement that would ensure its dominance using the ruse – not consciously it would protest -- of the rights of minorities for special protections and hence the necessity for a panoply of laws securing their positions in a new dispensation, while the other side was intent on negotiating a settlement that would remove a white minority from its position of total dominance and absolute control of every instrument of state power to ensure their continued dominance of the majority. With its late conversion to the plight minorities often find themselves the victims of, the white minority forgot that majorities had rights too – or perhaps it had not forgotten since its "culture" had long resisted the notion that Blacks had any rights at all, other than those benevolently apportioned to them by whites.


The new policy framework was accepted by a special Federal Congress of the National Party in Durban in August 1986.14 De Klerk says he asked Congress to give the NP "a powerful mandate to develop a new dispensation that would satisfy two demands: firstly, for cooperation, joint decision making and power sharing between the peoples of South Africa; and secondly, for the protection of communities, to ensure that they could continue to educate their children as they saw fit and to lead their own community lives without the fear of domination by any other group."15 Congress gave the leadership the mandate it sought.

The new policy framework was conspicuously deficient in its references to the need for either an inclusive democratic dispensation or the compelling need for whites to come to grips with the grim realities they would have to face when they thought through the consequences of the actions they appeared willing to commit themselves to. But they were not encouraged to think through the consequences, but rather assured that the tranquility of their Christian lives would remain undisturbed.

This was the policy framework the National Party asked the electorate to endorse in the May 1997 elections. Again, it should be noted, that the new policy was sparse on particulars regarding who would wield power and how in any new arrangements, wisely leaving it to the imagination of the white electorate to envisage some new arrangement that would amount to little more than an extension of the tricameral parliament, or in any event one that while accommodating African demands for a vote would leave the essential levers of government in the same hands. And, perhaps, from the government's point of view this was all for the better since the target of the NP in the election was the CP, which it sought to emasculate to the point where the election results would give the NP free-rein to test the waters it had warily stepped into.


After years of struggle, the wholesale imprisonment of the top echelons of its leadership and the exile of those who had escaped arrest, and an armed struggle that became more difficult to sustain when the South African government exacted severe retribution on neighboring countries that harbored ANC training camps and used them as springboards for attacks on South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) was also coming to the reluctant conclusion that the South African government could not be defeated, that the armed struggle was more a gesture of defiance than a offensive military juggernaut that would lead to national liberation, and that a negotiated settlement might prove to be not just one of the ways forward, but the only way forward.

Convinced in the latter half of 1989 that a negotiated settlement was feasible, the ANC drew up a document – the Harare Declaration -- that set out its vision of a transition to democracy. It outlined a basis for negotiations and set out the issues that would have to be addressed to create a climate conducive to negotiations. These conditions included, inter alia, the unconditional release of political prisoners and detainees; the lifting of bans on restricted organizations; the removal of troops from the townships; the ending of the state of emergency; the repeal of repressive legislation, and the cessation of political trails and executions. According to the ANC's scenario, once these conditions had been met, representatives of all parties could sit down to negotiate a new constitutional dispensation, which would have to be agreed on universally agreed constitutional principles.16

The process had to commence with initial discussions to achieve a suspension of hostilities, which would then facilitate agreement on basic constitutional principles to underpin the new dispensation. The parties could then define the forum that would draft the new constitution. An interim government could be formed that would supervise the drafting and adoption of the new constitution and govern the country in the interim period. Once the new constitution was adopted, all armed hostilities would be formally terminated. For its part, the international community would then lift sanctions and South Africa would qualify for membership of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)17.

When formal multi-party negotiations got under way in 1991 after the release of Mandela, and the unbanning of the ANC, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), and the South African Communist Party (SACP), the ANC and the ruling National Party (NP), the two major parties to the conflict, found that once away from the formal setting of the negotiating table, which included 19 parties and as many viewpoints, one-on-one Indabas were a way to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that tied their hands and enabled them to pound out their differences. For without their agreement on the way forward, there could be no way forward, a platitude so obvious that the failure of many of the smaller parties to grasp the point was a measure of the hubris they had imbued themselves with either in exile or in the insular confines of an internationally isolated South Africa. That recognition – agreement on what sufficient consensus meant in practical terms -- gave a concrete context to the process within which the peace process was going to either advance or regress.18

And without that framework, embodying the implicit acknowledgment that the political space necessary to somehow enable the two major pillars of polarization to "depolarize" would have to be excavated, there could have been no agreement that would allow South Africa to begin to accommodate, if not overcome, the hurdles that lay in the minefields of differences that had to be "dismantled" before a truly lasting, if at times unstable, accommodation could be created.

To get to the understanding that both parties could only accommodate their differences through negotiations and that they could not resolve them through a protracted and indefinitely drawn-out war of violence and counter violence took the better part of a decade. Forsaking war rooms for negotiating tables was not an option particularly palatable to either side, but one dictated by the logic of inevitability. Perhaps a chess analogy is most appropriate. Neither side could achieve checkmate; permanent stalemate was the alternative to declaring a draw. Draws means deals.

In short, once both sides came to realize that the one could not hold on to power through its repressive security policies and the other recognized that it could not seize power through an armed "liberation" struggle the options for both became more narrow, and more importantly, more crystallized.

The process of crystallization is a process within a process. First, there is the "outer" crystallization – a coming to terms with the harsh implications of existing political realities rather than elusive potentialities. Second, there is the "inner crystallization" – the psychological "deficits" those decades – perhaps centuries of denial – that have to be acknowledged, dealt with, and overcome. In South Africa, both the ANC and the NP had to reassess both their strategies and tactics within the confines of these constraints.19

Afrikaners traced their roots to a trading post their forebears established on the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. Unlike, say, the British settlers who colonized South Africa - and much of the rest of Africa - in the case of the Afrikaner there is no "mother" country to which the designated "settler" population can return, nor would the designated "mother" countries regard themselves as such and open their borders to hordes of foreigners masquerading as prodigal sons.

Indeed, if the "mother " country criterion became the yardstick to adjudicate matters of nationhood, few countries would pass the "purity of origin" test. In many countries, indigenous populations are indigenous only by virtue of the fact that they decimated the previous claimants to the distinction or had reduced their numbers to an infinitesimal proportion of the country's current population, and in so doing precluded their reemergence as dispossessed claimants to territory previously theirs. One might call it the "whose on first" syndrome,20 a resurrection of historical reversibility as the random arbiter of human destiny. While many divided society conflicts have roots in the indigenous/settler dichotomy, especially where the settlers disposed of the indigenous as the ruling elite, they are in themselves insufficient explications of the root causes of why conflicts emerge in some multi-ethnic societies and why it is absent in others.

Certainly, the degree to which indigenous and settler populations intermix, the prevalence of inter-marriage, the level of social integration, the degree to which religious or ethnic affiliations become purveyors of the perceived threats of difference rather than the perceived enrichments of diversity, and the salience of dispossession as one group's historical starting point contribute enormously to political and socio/economic imbalances, which eventually express themselves in conflict, where satisfactory forms of equilibrium among competing interests become impossible to calibrate. On the other hand, the "narcissism of small differences," first articulated by Freud, which postulates that the more objectively alike opposing groups are, the more they magnify their pseudo differences is

Communities that have been suppressed for long periods of time by the state, either colonial or otherwise, in which the suppressed people identify the police as one of the state's instruments of control – part of the state's armory to keep them in their proper places rather than as the custodians of law and order ensuring the safety of the citizenry – have far different attitudes to policing than communities who dominate others in every sphere of life and are the well from which the police are drawn. The latter are far more disposed as seeing the police as the impartial enforcers of the law, protective of their safety, there to be called upon when danger threatens.

Thus, the reform of the police service, whether at operational level or in terms of its ideological and political ethos, is almost necessarily a matter that is one of the outcomes of a negotiated settlement rather than an a priori condition for negotiations themselves. Parties agree that policing and security services must be changed to reflect the terms of a consensual settlement but change cannot precede negotiations themselves.

The parties who control the security systems of the dominant community – usually the state -- are unlikely to cede control over them before they negotiate. They would in effect be ceding control of the instruments that have allowed them to maintain power. On the other hand, parties who have had to make their case for political change through the use of physical force are, for the same reasons, unprepared to hand over their weaponry and disband their paramilitary organizations prior to a satisfactory political settlement being reached. Neither side is ever willing to make a concession that might alter the tenuous balance of forces and circumstances that had resulted in military stalemate and the subsequent need for recourse to negotiations.

Moreover, the reality of the situation on the ground, ingrained cultural attitudes towards policing among Blacks in South Africa make the policing issue complex and not one that can be easily dealt with.21 In South Africa, the entire command structure of the South African Police (SAP) was white; the police were trained to fight "terrorism," not crime, the preferred method of obtaining evidence to support charges brought individuals was the defendant's "unsolicited" confession, usually extracted by threat, intimidation, physical abuse and, if necessary, torture. Thus, when the ANC became the governing party, the transformation of policing required not only a restructuring at the management level but the development and inculcation of an entirely different ethos of policing and service to the community at every level of law enforcement, and basic training for police personnel in reporting, recording, investigating, evidence collection, and preparation of cases for presentation to prosecutors.

In South Africa, the task of transformation in policing after successful negotiations has been strewn with pitfalls. Not only are there the questions of accelerated affirmative action in the new South African Police Service (SAPS) and the usual backlash that accompanies it, but imponderables relating to the size of the "pool" from which potential recruits for fast-track promotion can be siphoned, the behavioral changes that are the basic prerequisites of new people-friendly, rights' oriented police services, the latent anti-police attitudes that members of oppressed communities inherit that inhibit them from joining police forces, reformed or otherwise, and the fact that the process of transformation itself must be internally driven i.e. that more enlightened members of the "old guard" must become agents of change, dragging their less than cooperative colleagues with them, since the ranks of the "new guard" cannot be suffused overnight with raw recruits without a slither of knowledge of what policing and law enforcement is about, other than the perceptions they have accumulated from years or decades of being at the receiving end of police forces they despised, even if they have undergone or are about to undergo rehabilitation and pride themselves on their new found emphasis on crime prevention, provision of safety and the maintenance of law and order to the citizenry at large.

Adding to the difficulties that accompany transformations in policing in countries embarking on new dispensations are the "rogue" elements in the police that either have been subverting the peace processes they were supposed to support, as in the case of the "third force" in South Africa -- a loose amalgamation of security officials who engaged in criminal activities including the abduction and murder of anti-apartheid activists or who continue to work within the system to either hinder the process of transformation or bring it into disrepute.22

The fact that when all the theories have been expounded, best practices implemented, and grievances apparently successfully addressed, conflict may remain dormant, sometimes for substantial periods of time. But the impenetrable roots of conflict are part of the subconscious itself, the psyche a warehouse in which they are stored. Even parties in conflict are not aware of, and have no understanding of the contradictory tensions that derange inner impulses which they are incapable of not succumbing to, impulses that impel spontaneous conflagrations of inter-communal violence in unforeseeable, and often seemingly benign, circumstances.

Unfortunately, Negotiations are usually seen as a means of last resort to resolve political differences, only to be considered when it becomes clear to all sides that none is capable of "victory" in the sense of having its views prevail without prohibitive costs in human and financial terms. Negotiations are about pragmatism. Loss of life that violent conflict incurs is not in itself a sufficient reason to bring warring parties to the table. Loss of life, even on an atrocious scale, is acceptable to parties if any one of them believes that in the end it will prevail. Moreover, the loss of life that accompanies inter-ethnic/communal conflict is often a means to an end -- not to abrogate injustice, inequity, and discrimination, or to maintain the status quo, but to eliminate all threats to the existing order of things by annihilating the other community i.e. terminal ethnic cleansing.

Thus when parties agree to engage to negotiations, the key players on all sides must have reached the conclusion that while none of them can lose, neither can any one of them prevail. Hence the need for the fundamental changes in attitudes, the dismantling and reconstruction of old mind-sets and a harsh reassessment of the political realities they face on the part of all parties before the gateway to negotiations can be opened -- often only a little but enough to let all the parties to the conflict to enter the negotiating arena.

What makes the situation more delicate is that some of the parties involved may reach the conclusion that no side can prevail a lot sooner than others, meaning that a pre-negotiation mode is needed to enable the parties who believe no one can win to convince the parties who continue to think they can prevail, if only they continue to engage in struggle or counter struggle long enough for the "enemy" to lose the will to carry on, that in the end they cannot win. What makes these gestures on the part of one side of their willingness to negotiate more difficult is the perceptions they give rise to on the other side that the enemy is indeed beginning to weaken and will therefore eventually capitulate: that once one begins to think in terms of not winning, one is already thinking in terms of losing.

This in turn leads the parties who think they have uncovered their enemies' "weaknesses" -- in the sense that they equate signals that their opponents are prepared to talk about negotiations with a lack of resolve to continue the war they are engaged in -- to redouble their efforts to capitalize on these perceived weaknesses.

Thus the escalation of the conflict on the part of the parties who remain constant in their belief that they will ultimately prevail. This, of course, leads parties who have come to the conclusion that no one can prevail to respond in like manner. The run-up to negotiations is often, therefore, preceded by a period during which all sides engage in escalating violence, on the one side to drive the message home that willingness to negotiate or seeing negotiations as the only alternative to an indefinite conflict in which there will be no winners, should not be construed by its protagonists that it is about to throw in the towel. Willingness to negotiate should not be construed with willingness to accept defeat. Conflict, therefore, invariably continues long after many of the participants have come to the conclusion that they cannot win, and it invariably escalates until such time that all protagonists come to the a similar conclusion.

Negotiated settlements to conflicts should not be confused with the resolution of a conflict or more importantly with the eradication of the causes of the conflict itself. They are an accommodation, a [package of measures that ensures that some of the demands of all of the sides are met, not that all of the demands of some of the sides are met. They set parameters to how differences within the context that all sides agree that the use of violent means to achieve political ends will be eschewed in favor of non-violent means. Deep differences will remain. What negotiated settlements are supposed to reinforce is the recognition that these differences cannot be resolved by resort to violence, and that in the event that one party or another should resort to violence, the differences will still remain when they once again are compelled to negotiate after the needless slaughter of thousands, almost all of whom will be civilians who were only to trying to get on with their fractured lives.


This situation prevailed in South Africa since the mid-eighties -- the government slowly coming to the conclusion that its security apparatus, despite the magnitude of the resources at its disposal, could not "defeat" the liberation movement; the ANC slowly coming to the conclusion that the armed struggle and the internal campaign to make the country "ungovernable" could not "defeat" the government.


In South Africa, too, the NP governments of the late 1970s and the 80s treated Black demands for empowerment, for the right to vote, for a parliament that would be elected on the basis of one person one vote and be representative of the people as a whole, for repeal of the laws that discriminated against the majority in favor of white minority privilege as a security issue not a political one. Hence, when the foundations of separate development began to crumble, the government developed the concept of the Total Onslaught.

South Africa, according to the new dogma, was under siege from Soviet expansionism, surrounded by hostile Marxist neighbors, which were little more than Soviet-backed puppet states. The ANC, the government's propaganda alleged, masked its true intentions under the pretense of being the party that would bring democracy to South Africa and free the Black masses. In reality, the ANC was a tool of the South African Communist Party (SACP) which had infiltrated the ANC at every level, controlling its operations and dictating its ideology, infiltrating South Africa with its agents whose primary loyalty was to the SACP, which itself was an instrument of a Soviet imperialism that epitomized the enslavement of the masses. In this sense, South Africa was the bridgehead between East and West and white South Africa, the custodian on the African continent of western values and mores, and of the freedoms associated with them. The ANC had been duped, and rather than representing the interests of the disenfranchised Black masses it was at the vanguard of the sinister and evil ideology that would enslave the masses and emasculate their Christian values and beliefs.

General Magnus Malan, who succeeded PW Botha as Minister of Defense when Botha became state president propounded the doctrine of the total onslaught, and masterminded the state's response in the form of a total strategy.

De Klerk describes the mood in government:

[Although] it has become fashionable to ridicule PW Botha's view that there was a total onslaught against South Africa, during the mid1980s fortnight after fortnight the intelligence that we received in briefing after briefing in the State Security Council underlined the very grave situation that confronted us. We were faced not only by a concerted campaign to make South Africa ungovernable as the prelude to a general revolution, we also had to contend with extremely serious external threats. Seldom had such a comprehensive international campaign been mounted against a single country so relentlessly for so long a period, as the campaign that the international anti-apartheid campaign had mobilized against us. The sanctions net was beginning to tighten around South Africa in almost every sphere of its international relations. The Soviet Union and Cuban allies had established threatening positions in some of our neighboring countries. We were involved in a low intensity war in northern Namibia and southern Angola that had brought the South African Defence Force into direct conflict with Cuban and Russian-led forces. Guerrilla groups, based in neighbouring countries, had begun to launch attacks against South Africa.23

The "total onslaught" demanded a "total strategy," which in turn required the necessary tools to mount both the internal and external offensives that would frustrate the "total onslaught," infiltrate its structures, and ultimately defeat its attempts to overthrow the South African state. The National Security Management System (NSMS) was created to systematize, organize, and provide the strategic vision for the "total response." In short measure, it spread its tentacles into every nook and cranny of South African society, creating militarized governance structures presided over by the securocrats, -- the senior security personnel and like-minded ministers with key security portfolios. Every intrusion into the public domain, the organs of civil society, and the private lives of individuals was justified on the grounds that the state was fighting a faceless enemy which was establishing its own clandestine network throughout South Africa to facilitate and coordinate the overthrow of the government.

Blacks were not the enemy; communism was. Black demands for ending apartheid were a front, a convenient vehicle for agents of the SACP and the ANC to mobilize the masses and spread the doctrine of communism, an ideology dedicated to the upliftment of the masses and the destruction of monopoly capitalism which exploited the people in the name ungodly profit. The government itself was exploring ways to open the dispensation to Blacks. Thus in a situation where a new form of revolutionary had emerged which did not pit armies against each other on a battlefield, but one in which "revolutionary forces sought to overthrow incumbent governments by mobilizing the masses; by making countries ungovernable; by fomenting strikes; by involving churches, trade unions, and civil society in their campaigns; by using propaganda to destroy the image and undermine the confidence of governments; by eliminating opposition through the use of terrorism and intimidation; and by continuing to mount attacks against its enemies."24

The state responded in kind. The clandestine and covert activities carried out by the enemy were met with the clandestine and covert activities carried out by the state. Infiltrating the enemy's networks was everything.

When Buthelezi launched the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in July 1990, he declared that, " We will not allow the ANC and its SACP partners to crush all opposition and emerge as the only viable party."25 The killings began in earnest in 1983 when the UDF "invaded" KwaZulu/Natal, Chief Buthelezi's home "turf." After Mandela signed the Pretoria Minute in August 1990, having unilaterally declared that the ANC would suspend the armed struggle, violence escalated dramatically. KwaZulu /Natal became a killing field as supporters of the ANC and the IFP engaged in ferocious competition to secure and expand the their bases of support. Villages changed hands and the inhabitants changed allegiances in order to save their lives. Secured territory was immediately designated as no-go areas for one party or the other. More ominously, the violence spread into the Transvaal, encompassing Pretoria, Witwatersrand, and Vereeniging -- the Vaal Triangle that was littered with some of the most deprived townships, squatter camps, and hostels for migrant workers, most of whom were IFP supporters from KwaZulu/Natal.

Mandela became convinced that De Klerk was doing nothing to bring the violence under control – there were few arrests, the police were reluctant to intervene, eye-witness accounts provided prima facie evidence that the police were abetting the IFP, and yet there was no follow-up on the part of the authorities. In view of this sinister turn of events, Mandela came to the reluctant conclusion that a "third force" was involved in the violence and that the government's apparent unwillingness to get the situation under control and weed out the roots of the violence was working to its tactical advantage.

When Mandela confronted De Klerk with his concerns, with what he regarded as substantial confirmation of security force involvement in the violence, De Klerk would, according to Mandela, ask him to produce concrete evidence of police complicity, and go to unnecessary lengths to explain that he could not act on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations of police improprieties.26 Again, according to Mandela, De Klerk's demeanor was one of " don't come to me with your claims of police involvement in violence when you cannot get a grip on the violence that emanates from within the ANC itself."27 (The TRC did find that the ANC had to shoulder part of the responsibility for the violence insofar as it had "contributed to a spiral of violence in the country through the creation and arming of SDUs"28 – local paramilitary Self -Defence Units which were supposed to protect the communities ANC supporters came from).

Whites, who were rarely the targets of the violence, allowed themselves to indulge in gratuitous vindication and reacted with dismissive contempt: South Africa, they had repetitively predicted, would, under Black rule, descend into internecine chaos and simply go the way the rest of Africa, a situation that appeared to have metamorphosed before Blacks had even put their fingertips on the levers of power. But the contempt was mixed with fear, fueling support for the right- wing and adding to a climate of uncertainty about the future that was slowly beginning to envelope the country.

But the TRC was scathing in its denunciation of the violence perpetrated by the IFP, the security forces, and the two in collusion.29 ANC intelligence supplied information to Mandela which indicated that the IFP was not the only instigators of violence -- so too were the ANC, but that was a matter which ANC Intelligence could hardly be expected to address. Elements within the security forces, often acting as agents provocateurs, according to the intelligence reports Mandela received, were actively engaged in fomenting and orchestrating violence, and on a number of occasions were themselves the perpetrators of violence that they would later accuse the ANC of having organized.

Whether the "third force" the ANC referred to was a formal structure within the labyrinths of the state security apparatus, or an informal network of elements within the security forces acting with either the implicit or complicit blessing of the government – implicit if the government's failure to take decisive action to stop the violence was indicative of the government's benign attitude towards the violence; complicit if the violence was the result of a conscious decision by the government to use violence as a tool to erode support for the ANC, since its supporters would view its inaction as an inability to mobilize the means to defend them, remains unresolved.

And while evidence of the security forces involvement continued to emerge, the full accounting of who was responsible for what and the issue of whether the violence was officially sanctioned as part of a strategy to discredit Mandela and the ANC, and weaken support for the ANC or the work of rogue elements within the security system remains unanswered. The TRC reported in 1998 that it "did not make significant progress in uncovering the forces behind the violence in the 1990s.30 It found little evidence of a formally constituted third force, of a structure acting under the direction of the SANF or the SAP or their satellite agencies, but it did find that: "a network of security and ex-security operatives, acting frequently in conjunction with right-wing elements and/ or sectors of the IFP, were involved in gross violations of human rights, including random and targeted killings."31

According to the malign scenario, espoused by the ANC, government strategy was predicated on driving a wedge between supporters of the IFP and the ANC, splitting the Black vote (a more sophisticated variation of the old colonial "divide and conquer" routine.) Then, the NP in an alliance with the IFP, and the coloreds and Indian communities, who believed they had more to fear from the perceived threat of future African domination than the actual domination by whites they were presently subjected to, and with the support of homeland and TBVC leaders who were either despised by the ANC as collaborators with the ruling regime or not co-opted by the ANC, would be properly positioned to outvote the ANC in an election held on the basis of a universal franchise. In short, the government was not only not preparing to surrender or even share power, but still clung to the belief that in the right circumstances it could actually hold on to power, while meeting the democratic test of one person one vote.

This is what Mandela and the ANC leadership believed: that De Klerk used Black lives to score political points; they were expendable in his pursuit of clinging to power at almost any cost. While he may not have ordered the carnage, he could have put a stop to it. And in Mandela's view that was the measure of the man.

According to the benign scenario, espoused by De Klerk and the former NP government, the violence was primarily a matter of the deadly competition for support between the IFP and the ANC, which escalated after the release of Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC when the ANC mounted a campaign to marginalize the IFP and Buthelezi, with a relentless barrage of propaganda to portray him as a collaborator with the apartheid regime, a puppet of successive NP governments, and an opponent of the liberation movement. Rather than ignoring Mandela's pleas for action to get to the source of the violence, De Klerk argues that he did precisely the opposite,32 appointing the Goldstone Commission, which did not uncover evidence of secret conspiracies and hit squads operating within the security system until 1994, and an investigation under the direction of General Pierre Steyn, which did uncover evidence that units of the SADF were involved in unauthorized and illegal activities to destabilize and discredit the ANC, sabotage negotiations, and were involved in the instigation and perpetration of violence, including the train massacres that had traumatized the country. In all cases, De Klerk would insist his government took immediate remedial action. In the latter case he retired sixteen officers including six top ranking generals, and instructed General Steyn to continue with his investigation.33 Goldstone himself is categorical: nothing his commission investigated implicated De Klerk in any way in the violence that took place in the 1990s; in this regard De Klerk had a clean slate. With respect to what De Klerk knew about the nefarious activities of the security forces during the apartheid regimes he was part of in the 70s and 80s, Goldstone is equally forthcoming: there is no way De Klerk could not have been aware of what was going on in South Africa, but he adds a rider – there was no way that anyone who served as a member of the apartheid governments during that period could have been unaware of what elements in the security forces were up to.34

On reflection it is would not have been surprising that some members of former apartheid cabinets were neither to party to nor informed of decisions with respect to the "gray" areas of state security. But not being informed about what agendas were pursued is not the same as saying they were not aware of what was going on around them. Leon Wessels, the one minister former NP minister who unequivocally apologized for apartheid put it best when he said that they had not wanted to know, for there were those who tried to alert them (in many respects a peculiar acknowledgment from Wessels who as Deputy Minister of Law and Order was the chairman of the National Security Management Centre (NSMC), which was set up in 1987 to manage the State of emergency under the supervision of the Office of the State President). With the appointment of Adriaan Vlok as Minister of Law and Order in 1987, the interests of the security police assumed a greater prominence in the deliberations of the SSC)35. In perhaps one of the most succinct summaries of the mountains of documentation gathered by the TRC, Tutu says: "For those with eyes to see there were accounts of people dying mysteriously in detention. For those with ears to hear there was much that was disquieting and even disturbing. But like the three Monkeys, they neither choose to neither hear, nor see, nor speak of evil."36

But again, "plausible denials" that former cabinet members have come up with must at least be given some context -- the governance structures that existed in South Africa in the late 1970s and 80s, and subsequent events must be evaluated against the backdrop of that context.

PW Botha's first years in office resulted in a complete reorganization of the apartheid state with the centralization of decision-making to sidestep the endless bureaucratic tie-ups and interdepartmental infighting; and the militarization of decision-making and administrative structures. His final years in office were characterized by an imperial presidency no longer accountable to cabinet or colleagues, one that had embraced the securocrats' paradigm of a national security state to which all sectors of society, public and private alike, were subordinate.37

At the pinnacle of the new structures, collectively under the umbrella of a revamped National Security Management system (NSMS), was the State Security Council (SSC) which reported directly to Botha who also controlled access to it.

In Forty Lost Years, Dan O' Meara describes in detail the powers the SSC exercised over the making of state policy, the controls it used to zealously preserve its preeminent position, and the increasing militarization not only of the SSC itself but of all the bodies that served under its direction and control:

Everything deemed connected to the security of the state now fell under its purview – from foreign policy to the price of bread. It was inside the SSC that 'the utilization of all the means available to the state to achieve specific objectives' envisaged by the Total Strategy was planned and managed. Statutory members included, in addition to the Prime Minister/State President, the Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs, and Law and Order, together with …the head of the National Intelligence Service, the Chief of the SADF, the Directors General of Foreign Affairs, Law and Order and the Commissioner of Police. 38

The SSC was exempted from the rule that Cabinet Committee decisions be subject to Cabinet ratification. The Cabinet was only informed of SSC decisions after the fact, and at the discretion of the Prime Minister -- later the State President. [my ithal.] Meeting the day before the fortnightly Cabinet meetings, the SSC would prepare the agenda for the meeting… during the entire Botha administration, no decision of the SSC was ever overturned by the Cabinet. [my ithal.]

…. The details and implementation of the reform programme were planned and debated within the SSC rather than the broader cabinet….

Influence within the government was increasingly confined to those ministers whose portfolios gave them a bureaucratic power-base within the SSC. Ministers who did not sit with their chief bureaucrats in the SSC were frozen out of key debates and lacked the political wherewithal to influence government policy. Though (the co-opted ministers) sat at the table, they did so in their individual capacities – without their departmental heads and strategists to engage in the bureaucratic bargaining that determined policy.

…the military in general, and Military Intelligence in particular, came to play a principle role in shaping the overall thrust of state policy.39

Despite frequent assertions that the SSC simply advised the Cabinet, which retained full and final authority, the Cabinet was simply not consulted on a range of absolutely fundamental decisions over the direction and details of government policy. These included, inter alia, the May 1986 raids, which scuttled the EPG; the declaration of the June 1986 state of emergency; the February 1988 banning of the UDF and 17 other organizations.40 [my ithal.]

When PW Botha opened Parliament in January 1996 with the declaration that "We accept one citizenship for all South Africans…The peoples of South Africa form one nation,"41 the "moral" underpinnings of Grand Apartheid jettisoned in short order. Verwoerd had given apartheid a "moral" coherence by introducing the concept of "separate development." as a way out of the legitimacy straitjacket the NP had strapped itself into in 1948. South Africa was not one country but several, each linguistically, culturally, and ethnically different. Each nation would be given its own territory to correspond with its historical boundaries; each would have its own government, governance institutions, and citizenship requirements. Each would issue its own passports. Each would be free to develop in its own way, according tom its own values and norms without being subject to the norms and values of other "groups." Rather than entrenching colonialism, Separate Development would accomplish the opposite by "freeing" "native" populations to pursue their own aspirations without having to submit themselves to the prevarication of the white man's predatory interference. Because it involved a wholesale rearrangement of society and people in no way detracted from its "moral" obligation to doing "right" for the Black man -- practical difficulties could be overcome if the proper administrative structures were put in place.

Hence democracy would flourish in each state in which citizens would be free to vote for the party of their choice. Hence the fact that South Africa denied citizenship to Blacks was not a question of color but of national origin. Once this rational was rejected by the NP, it had to face once again the moral dilemma Grand Apartheid had supposedly resolved: if all South Africans are citizens of the same state, should not all citizens enjoy the same rights, and in particular, on what grounds could one deny the right of some citizens to vote for the party of their choice, which was the basis for all democratic dispensations? In the "bewilderment" that followed in national party circles with the verligte and the verkrampte at each other's throats, divisions within the NP more bloodletting and more personal, a resurgent Conservative Party nipping at its heels, Botha turned to the securocrats to restore order – not just in the country but within his party. The former resulted in the state of emergency to break the backbone of the resistance of the UDF and organizations aligned with it with sweeping mass detentions of resistance leaders down to the street level, the latter by simply by-passing its incorrigible structures with the now more refined structures of the NSMS.

The "tricameral" system of government, Botha's answer to the irresolvable problems of apartheid, had produced a gigantic bureaucratic monster swollen with a voracious appetite for resources that had ground it to a standstill.

The central government bureaucracy included departments to manage "general affairs," as well as three departments to manage "own affairs" – African, Indian, and Coloureds. Each of the four independent states and the six self governing homelands had departments that duplicated the national bureaucracy at every level, one department for every line function at the national level. Thus you had 16 departments of agriculture, industry and trade, health etc. -- an endless proliferation of bureaucracies, multiplying exponentially in response to every contingency. Thus, the 47 proposed Regional services Councils, the 15 interdepartmental committees, and further proposals for 9 Black Regional Councils. South Africa had five Presidents, nine chief ministers or chairmen of councils of ministers,14 cabinets or ministerial councils, close to 300 Cabinet ministers, over 1,500 members of parliaments or other legislative bodies, and tens of thousands of local councilors.

More than 10 per cent of South Africa's labor force worked in the central government, and over third of all employees worked in the public sector. In 1988, by 1988, the total wage bill for the public sector came to 60 per cent of the national budget and almost one quarter of GNP. 42 In the 1987/88 budget, a 'conservative" estimate of security spending pegged it at between 25 and 30 per cent of the national budget, or between 8 and 9 per cent of GNP.43

The NMS was superimposed on, complemented by, and ran in parallel with these mind boggling layers of bureaucracy. After 1986, it assumed what virtually amounted to absolute control of government. It oversaw 12 Joint Management Centres (JMCs), 60 sub-JMCs, 448 mini-JMCs, and thousands of Local Management Centres (LMCs), each covering the area of jurisdiction of a local police station.44 Through the LMC network, about 600 key officials, tightly coordinated by the SSC, ran the day-to day operations of government.45 Civilian politics were effectively marginalized. Ministers reduced to carrying out the orders of generals who now dictated policy. Civil Servants became the lackeys of the LMCs. The word "Security" was dropped from the nomenclature NSMS. It was renamed the National Management System(NMS) to reflect its intrusion into every aspect of South African society, public and private. Management. It managed "everything."46 South Africa had become a state run by securocrats; whatever pretenses it had to regarding itself as a democratic state had become unstuck.

When De Klerk was appointed State President in August 1989, he set out to dismantle the NSMS and the powerful security structures the securocrats had created. He was in effect changing the balance of power within the highest echelons of government, sidelining the powerful secretariats that had served the interests of the security branches for over a decade, particularly since the mid-eighties, and restoring the Cabinet as the preeminent decision-making body. In doing so, he was opening Pandora' box. But those to whom he entrusted the task kept a firm lid on the box.

De Klerk, after all, was doing away with individual fiefdoms of power, undercutting entrenched lines of authority, which were seen by many who exercised it as personal domains of influence. They set policy and got their own way without the constraints of having to justify or even inform others of their actions. While the chiefs of the SSC remained in their positions, the about-to-be- deposed securocrats could cause waves with powerful undertows that could drag under many of their superiors who had pooh-poohed the idea of taking swimming lessons..

Thus entrusting the task of dismantling an order of doing things to the very people who had created that order, were familiar with its innermost workings, and, above all, used to enjoying the power and privileges their positions gave them could be likened to putting the fox in charge of guarding the chickens. As the state consolidated its securocratic foundations in the late eighties, it was less susceptible to the constraints of the meager checks and balances that had given some semblance of accountability to state institutions in the past. To expect that the tight and interwoven agencies and functionaries who had accumulated great power in the latter years of the Botha era would suddenly undergo "born again"-like leaps of conversion to ethical standards of accountability and transparency, or meekly surrender their vast powers without finding numerous ways to evade or reinvent De Klerk's edicts would require an existential transformation in ethos and values that human behavior simply does not countenance, not for the lack of wanting to, but because of the nature of the beast itself – a beast which was at the best of times slow to adapt, and at the worst of times instinctively reactive to the imperatives for survival. The securocrats, according to at least one well-placed observer of the unfolding political intrigues, concluded that rather than meekly accepting the return to "civilian" rule that De Klerk's initiatives were intended to achieve, the securocrats were planning "to go on playing a central role according to their own vision."47

That none could fathom the labyrinthine interconnections among different strands of the multitudinous dimensions or the scale of the interweaving networks that had come to represent the sprawling machinery of state is not surprising, indeed, it is a compliment of sorts to the architects of intrigue – the efficacy of clandestine networks is that they are created in ways which leave the creators themselves in doubt as to how the disparate parts fit – or even what their exact relationships to each other is.48

De Klerk himself was not impervious to the need not to alienate the SADF. Plots against him were "commonplace" in the Special Forces Command and other "dirty tricks" units after he released Mandela and unbanned the ANC and more ominously the SACP.49 He was aware that members of both the SAP and the SADF were opposed to his moves "to put an end to the special influence in decision-making" his predecessor "had given to the SADF, in particular." There was, he says, rather casually, "resistance to my initiatives in this area, " but that like a good boy scout, he "was determined to press ahead with them."50

Nevertheless, one finds it more than a little ingenuous on De Klerk's part to believe that after he addressed some 800 senior police officers in January 1980 at the South African Police College and told them it was their duty to be absolutely impartial; that they should no longer be required to promote or oppose any particular cause; that they should refrain from any political involvement; and that they should restrict their activities to combating crime and protecting the lives and property of all South Africans,51 that he would actually believe that the assemblage would follow "orders" to the last letter, and that he could rest assured that all was well with the world.

Given that Mandela was still in prison and the ANC and its affiliates banned organizations, his announcements must have come as something of a shock to the police officers who listened to him, especially to those who were up to their armpits in covert activities and the extra-legal corollaries that inevitably accompany them. The leaking of his remarks, which were confidential, to the press, which printed them in full, at least confirmed to him that part of the security forces were not in sync with the reforms he had adopted, perhaps because of the novelty of his suggestion that they should devote their energies to "combating crime," an activity for which they were woefully unprepared.

A month later, he tells us, he repeated the same message to the senior officers of the SADF at Voortrekkerhoogte, the main SADF base outside Pretoria. But here the atmosphere was "slightly tense," and he could sense "that a substantial percentage of the officers present were skeptical or apprehensive."52

That these elements might resort to subterfuge to short his reforms and their marginalization never seems to have crossed his mind. That Mandela might have been on to something when he recounted stories of security force members being involved in violence and the fermentation of violence also seems to have gone over his head, despite his own acute observation that he did not have the full backing of the security departments of government, and in particular, that he lacked the backing of some of their most senior personnel.

That those in the security forces out to "get" might cover up their illegal acts, lie about the investigations they were supposed to carry out, and follow their own agenda seems to have never dawned on him. In the "old boys" network, honorable gentlemen do not lie to each other, and in a "democratic" state where the military are under the control of civilian rule, officers do not disobey orders, even if they find them difficult to follow. If they found them impossible to follow, they would do the honorable thing and resign. But to commit treason? -- out of the question.

Moreover, if De Klerk was sensitive to the disaffection among some of the senior ranks, to say nothing of the known sympathies, especially in the police, with the right wing, and that "this was a factor [he] would have to watch very carefully throughout the whole transformation" why was he so willing to exonerate the police from allegations of collusion, and dismissive of Mandela's warning that there were people around him who were up to no good,53 since Mandela's observation was a reflection of his own?

Perhaps the answer lies in De Klerk's own words: for the reforms he envisaged to succeed, it was essential, he says , "to retain the support of the broad leadership of the security forces."54 And hence the trade-offs that would irrevocably haunt him; the not wanting to know that would facilitate his own agenda, a Faustian compromise which would leave an indelible stain on his own historic achievements. Or perhaps his not wanting to know was reflexive: a conditioned non-response whites had created to protect themselves from the consequences of terrible acts committed in their name. For De Klerk to act, he had to be able to distance himself from the immediacy of the consequences that would smother him, if proof of the allegations was forthcoming; he had to subordinate himself, as it were, to the dispassionate investigations of an independent commission, and hence take himself out of the security forces' line of fire.

To appease these elements, De Klerk appointed, in November 1990, General AJ ('Kat') Liebenburg the new SADF Chief of Staff. Liebenburg had once presided over the "dirty tricks" of the SADF's Special Forces Command(SFC), the Command that was making noises about ridding themselves of the country's tiresome chief executive. During Liebenburg's tenure, the SFC had organized SADF support for RENAMO and UNITA. As army chief he had approved all the hit-squad operations the Civilian Cooperation Bureau (CCB) had carried out which were later uncovered by the Goldstone commission and General Pierre Steyn's one-man commission.55

De Klerk assumed leadership of a National Party in total disarray. Vulnerable from the left and the right, it was devoid of policy initiatives that would unify it in the face of internecine and seemingly endemic differences as to how to resolve the national question without recourse to platitudes it no longer believed in, the repetition of which only reinforced the bankruptcy of whatever fragments of ideological orientation it still clung to – fragments that crumbled with the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and buried in the rubble of a world order that no longer existed.

Its senior politicians were empty shells of conviction after years of keeping their mouths and minds closed, cowed into passive submission whether members of Cabinet, parliament, or executives of the party's powerful provincial structures to the imperial dictates of an imperial president and the claque of securocrats that surrounded him, a president whose paranoia grew with each year that he tightened his grip on power until there was no longer any instrument of power he could find to tighten his grip on – cause for further paranoia -- intolerable of every form of criticism, no matter how fawningly couched. They were afraid to assert themselves not because some awful fate might await them – there would be no disappearances in the night, no sudden knocks on the door in the predawn, no detentions for straying from the party line and fomenting doubt, but for fear of losing the privileges they still enjoyed as part of the white elite. The corruption that was pervasive was more than corruption for material gain, but a corruption far more insidious – a corruption of values, a moral vacuum that expanded its boundaries until it had enveloped an entire society, which went to church on Sunday to console themselves with the theological platitudes that complemented their political counterpoints.

Social scientists and the like will scour archives, looking for the causes for the collapse of apartheid. They will find none . They should look instead to Gibbon's: a good reading of The Fall of the Roman Empire56 provides more insight into the causes for the collapse, or better still, the creeping disintegration of apartheid that began with the invention of apartheid itself, than the sheaves of academic treatises that will provide fodder for scholars and historians to fed on. Its birth-pains and death-pangs different sides of the same coin. It would be uplifting if we could ascribe its demise to the impact of moral bankruptcy, or some such delinquency, but bankruptcy implies that there is something there which can be bankrupted, but in the case of South Africa there wasn't, and therein the fascination.

In The Last Trek, De Klerk, goes to some lengths to describe himself as neither a verligte or a verkrampte, but as a centrist, someone who wanted other proponents of reform to think through the implications of their proposals before advocating them with such ardor. He describes his growing disillusionment with piecemeal reform , yet during deliberations of the Special Cabinet Committee (SCC) on constitutional reform to which he was appointed in 1985, he emerges, according to his own account, not as a proponent of radical reform but rather as one who acted as "the devil's advocate," adept at pointing out the shortcomings of tentative reforms to bring the Black majority into a new constitutional dispensation, but oddly silent when it came to putting forward proposals of his own.

Indeed, the failure of the SSC to develop a process that would enable the government to come up with a set of proposals that might lead Blacks to believe that it was serious about its efforts to form an inclusive dispensation could be attributed to four factors, each of them sufficient in itself to doom the SSC's efforts.

First was the government's attitude, the underlying presumption that it was trying to find a way to accommodate Black demands, not because they were just demands and inalienable rights in a democratic dispensation, but because they were making the country ungovernable, the target of international sanctions, isolation, and the object of mounting opprobrium across the world. It did not approach the issue with an understanding that Black leaders would have to be consulted and negotiated with regarding the form and substance of its proposals, leaders that would be seen as credible leaders among the masses, not puppets of the state who would be more concerned with preserving their own personal fiefdoms of power and patronage, not with the emancipation of the mass of Black people. The government continued to think in terms of its conscientious and well meaning attempts to

Indeed, within their respective fiefdoms, leaders of the so-called independent states and the homelands had shown scant concern for the welfare of their populations, made no pretense about the absence of democratic elections or the institutional accouterments of democracy, and presided over administrations -- if many of them could even be called that – deep in the troughs of corruption, that looted the NP government as quickly as the NP government could replenish them. Since accountability and transparency were hardly bleeps on the NP's radar, it could hardly make an issue of the lack of accountability and transparency on the part of the governments they had put in place to show the world that separate development within the South African context was a viable and working proposition, despite the damnations of the international community.

In fact, insofar as the insatiable free-spending obsessions of the homelands leaders contributed to their delusions of aggrandizement, and to depleting the coffers of the NP government, adding to budgetary woes, an accelerated deterioration of the economy, and the need to make some overtures to the ANC before the country went bankrupt, the ANC should offer a belated thank-up to the puppets who in their avaricious way helped to make the country ungovernable. As in all matters relating to the predatory instincts of man, there were more than one way to skin a sheep.

Second was the unspoken but never-far-from-the heart fear of the Black majority, of its thirst for retribution, the assumed belief of its vengeful intentions to do unto the minority what the minority had had done to unto it --- to strip the white minority of the ill-gotten gains it had accumulated by the ruthless exploitation of the Black majority. Hence the obsession with innumerable permutations of what constituted "groups" rights, the repeated emphasis that no one group should be in position to dominate another, for special constitutional protections for minorities, the rights of minorities to self-determination – feasible in some way, perhaps, if the minority occupied some identifiable critical mass of territory, pie-in-the-sky delusions when the minority in question – the whites of South Africa – were dispersed throughout the country and didn't form a homogeneous mass in any territorial configuration. These fears --the unmentionables-were woven into the rhetoric about the soviet-style communism the ANC supposedly endorsed that would threaten the foundations of the state and the way of life of the "good" people of South Africa.

Third was the unwillingness to accept that no matter what formula for power-sharing one could come up with, there was no way in which the proportion of the population accounting for 13 per cent could expect to have the same voice in the way things should be run as the 87 per cent who formed the rest of the population. Furthermore, given the demographics of the country, the population proportions themselves were changing drastically. In 2005, the projected white population would amount to 8 per cent, well below the minimum threshold in terms of numbers that would allow whites to administer an apartheid state.. The nightmare they conjured up of being "swamped" by Blacks was no nightmare, but a demographic reality that they could do nothing to stop. With each year that passed whites were whittling away their own bargaining position, and if they procrastinated long enough, there would be nothing left whittle, and no one to whittle.

And fourth was their unwillingness to do what they had said they would never do: release Mandela and his ANC colleagues who had been incarcerated for 27 years, unbanned both the ANC and the SACP, and recognize the ANC as the authentic voice of Black nationalism, and the "enemy" with whom they had to negotiate.

A footnote to the who knew who was killing who, who was ordering the killings, and on whose instructions these orders being carried out, and who might have been in a position to call a halt to the carnage saga, it should be recalled that immediately after his release from prison, Mandela had telephoned Buthelezi to thank him for the unconditional efforts he had made to secure his release. Buthelezi responded by inviting Mandela, on behalf of the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelethini, to visit them both at the king's palace in Nongoma and to lay a wreath at King Shaka's grave.57

Mandela replied that he would be honored to make the visit. The oral invitation was followed up with a written one to confirm the arrangement, and again Mandela responded in gracious terms that he looked forward with great pleasure to making the visit and the pilgrimage to Shaka's grave. But when Mandela raised the matter with the ANC NEC, the KwaZulu/Natal members, under the whip of Natal Midlands leader Harry Gwala, an irredentist Stalinist, raised such a raucous of objection that Mandela backed down, being as he was prone to say at that time "a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC." Later, he explained that had he gone ahead with the visit, the ANC "would have throttled me"58 – a refrain Buthelezi would use time and again to underscore the point that Mandela "was not his own man but a puppet of the ANC."59 It would one year before a formal meeting between the two leaders took place, but by then the damage had been done. Their relationship would be cordial in the formal sense but strained – and would remain so. Mandela in subsequent years would go out of his way to say kind things about Buthelezi, but this was more a reflection of Mandela's way of wooing people to his way of seeing things rather than a heartfelt manifestation of his inner feelings. The Madiba mask was part of the Mandela magic.

But, given Mandela's royal upbringing, his understanding of hierarchy and adherence to traditional protocol, indeed, his continuing involvement with royal authorities while he was in prison, his actions giving the thumbs' down to the Zulu monarch and the monarch's invitation to share with him the great honor of laying a wreath at King Shaka's grave in order to show the esteem in which he held Mandela were an unpardonable breach of conduct and an insult to the institution of the Zulu monarchy and the hallowed place it occupied in African lore.60

For Buthelezi, for whom adherence to traditional precepts of how to address others in positions of authority was an integral component of his persona, the rebuff was unbearable: his admiration for Mandela was genuine, Mandela's place in the hierarchical structures that were the bedrock of traditional African authority was recognized and respected; his stature as an elder, a wise leader to whom deference was due was acknowledged. Hence Buthelezi's bewilderment and anger at what he could only interpret as a deliberate snub designed to having him seen as loosing face -- a snub he could not condemn Mandela for, if he too were not to fall prey to acting contrary to the protocols he so dearly clung to despite the encroachments of the filthy tide of less gracious modern ways of doing things. Adding to the insult was his own perception that Mandela was making the journey to visit him to thank him personally for his crusade for Mandela's release and his refusal to negotiate with the government until Mandela was released.61

The two, in Buthelezi's view of the unfolding world, would work in concert to charter South Africa's future and shape its destiny. Both in their own right were the stuff of history, the founding fathers of the new South Africa. Without Manuela to blame for the humiliating treatment he had been subjected to, Buthelezi turned to the in the familiar for refuge: The ANC had manipulated Mandela with their unending stream of lies, their fear that Mandela and himself might hit it off, as well they should, given their association before Mandela's incarceration, their joint mentoring by Chief Albert Luthuli, and the authoritative stature they enjoyed among their peoples.

And so the war between the ANC and the IFP intensified with Buthelezi's determination that he would not allow the ANC to marginalize him and preclude his meeting with Mandela, a meeting between equals, not of supplicant and master. Had the two met in the circumstances originally envisaged, and had they had the opportunity at that crucial point to apply themselves to the differences between the ANC and the IFP, had the two the chance to address their supporters as comrades in a common struggle for freedom, had any rapport developed between the two, one can only speculate about what might have happened, how many lives might have been saved and violence avoided. But whatever the might-have-beens, the machinations within the ANC that made Mandela's meeting with Buthelezi impossible for Mandela to make and the consequences of that failure do not have the imprints of a third force; only the ANC itself is accountable. And to a lesser degree Mandela perhaps. He can be forgiven for listening to and following the advice of the ANC NEC, since it had its fingers more firmly on the pulse of things, and he, after all was only shortly returned to a world he had not known for 27 years, and likely, therefore, to be more hesitant in taking steps that might be construed as out of step with ANC policy, and certainly out of character for "a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC." But one cannot help but to reflect on the passage in his autobiography where in the solitude of Pollsmoor prison, he took the lonely decision to explore ways to engage the government and wrote his fateful letter to Kobie Coetsee. In the silence of his cell he wrote:

I choose to tell no one about what I was about to do. Not my colleagues62 upstairs or those in Lusaka. The ANC is a collective, but the government had made collectivity in this case impossible. I did not have the security or the time to discuss these issues with my organization. I knew that my colleagues upstairs would condemn my proposal, and that would kill my initiative before it was even born. There are times a leader should move out ahead of hid flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way.63

The decision whether to meet with Buthelezi so soon after his release was another one of those occasions. The conflict between the ANC and the IFP in KwaZulu/Natal was causing thousands of deaths, it had torn apart the African people in the province, inflicted untoward hardship, the destruction of hundreds of villages and thousands of homes . It had pitted Zulu against Zulu in a brutal contest for control of land and the people who occupied it. Massacre was met with massacre; savagery with savagery, with each killing creating an exponential momentum that threw all distinctions to the wind. Between July 1990 and July 1993, an average of 101 people per month –3,653 men , women and children in total -- were hacked, mutilated, shot, or burned to death, due to " politically related incidents" as they were euphemistically referred to.64

It would appear that seeking to bring this conflict to an end should have been among Mandela's first priorities, and that he should have taken whatever steps were necessary, even if this included visiting Buthelezi. Besides, no one had coerced him into calling Buthelezi in the first place, nor had anyone pushed him to accept Buthelezi's invitation to meet. To take such actions and then renege on promise given were very un-Mandela-like, and his stomp rejoinder to questions as to why he left Buthelezi flat-footed i.e. that the ANC would have "throttled" him had he insisted on making the visit over the head of the NEC was uncharacteristic. Perhaps his statement that as a "loyal and disciplined member of the ANC" he would not – nor had -- the authority to override a decision of the NEC is more telling. Whatever the true motivations for his change of heart, the opportunity to start mending fences, co-opt Buthelezi as a partner in the process that would see them jointly negotiate South Africa's future was lost.

In retrospect, Mandela's failure to put the conflict in Natal in the larger context – to exercise that special sense of vision that shaped his strategic perspectives in matters that advanced the cause of liberation, which he so unsparingly relied on during the ANC's conflict with the government, his failure to see the conflict in Natal as one neither the ANC or the IFP could "win," as he had so presciently concluded in the ANC's conflict with the government, as not offering the olive branch, albeit one that might have been strewn with thorns, of negotiations, as he had done with the NP government, failure to persuade the Natal leadership to forego their rapacity for retribution for the rewards of reconciliation, as he had persuaded so many others to his point of view in the past despite formidable obstacles, is perhaps, the most significant failure of his political legacy. A man who devoted much of his tenure as the first Black president of South Africa to reconciling Blacks and whites overlooked the equal importance of reconciling Blacks with Blacks, perhaps in deference to the politically correct view that "Black-on-Black" violence was a phenomenon orchestrated and manipulated by unscrupulous and evil whites, not something Blacks themselves had to explore, mine for meaning, and come to terms with. It is much easier to forgive the wrongdoing others do to us than to admit to the wrongdoing we do to ourselves.

In divided societies, the commonalities subordinate communities share create a shared terrain in which deep societal cleavages flourish and invariably explode. At the heart of the beasts that debase and dehumanize us and unloose demons of evil are issues of justice, equality, equity, and the inviolability of the individual's human rights. Not that all men are created equal – an absurd proposition – but that all men are equal in the eyes of the law and in terms of the rights that are their birthright. The challenge is how to devise a system of governance that protects minorities yet does not abrogate the rights of majorities, that creates confidence in the administration of justice so that justice dispensed with an judicious hand is not only done but seen to be done, judicial and legal processes dispensed as instruments of impartial remedy, where the law is the agent of justice not the agent of the state, where difference is a symbol of diversity, not the arbiter of disunity.

The ANC represented the great majority of Blacks and were engaged in a genuine war of national liberation that would give their people the voting franchise they were denied and the right to elect a government of their own choosing. The ANC resorted to an armed struggle only as a measure of last resort when all other avenues of redress of the inequalities, inequities, and carte blanche discrimination were closed to them. Mandela himself at the Rivonia trial, explained why the ANC turned to violence: The hard facts[he said] were that fifty years of non-violence had brought the African people nothing but more and more repressive legislation, and fewer and fewer rights…It was only when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe.65

The ANC fought a just war, although the means it used to pursue a just aim were not always themselves just..66

All South Africans –African, Coloured, Indian, and White shared a common identity – they regarded themselves as South Africans. The basis for the conflict was that whites did not – at least until the mid 1980s -- regard Blacks as South Africans but rather as citizens of designated homelands, which had been carved out in piecemeal fashion to meet the requirement of an indigenous ethnic homogeneity. Hence the design of grand apartheid and separate development. Blacks were denied the franchise in South Africa because whites had designated them as citizens of their respective homelands, not as citizens of South Africa. Thus, what Black liberation movements in South Africa sought was universal suffrage – one person, one vote. However, universal suffrage would ensure that the Black majority would rule the country, erasing the privileges and power of the ruling white minority. In short, Blacks aspired to the rule of he majority and the white minority was not prepared to go to any lengths to prevent a Black takeover."


In South Africa, the first formal meeting between the ANC and the government began on 2 May 1990 at Groote Schuur in Cape Town, and lasted for three days.

The discussions were characterized by openness on both sides. A commitment to making the maximum effort at finding common ground to eliminate tension, and a desire to make a success of the meeting were equally evident in both parties. By the second day, delegates were asking why these talks had not taken place years ago. According to Thabo Mbeki, within minutes of sitting down 'everyone understood that there was nobody there with horns.'

The meeting produced an agreement, hailed as a major breakthrough.

The Groote Schuur Minute showed that problems which were previously perceived as being intractable really could be amicably resolved. Within three days, a remarkable rapport had been established between parties in an experience described as 'cathartic.' The government delegation learnt of the frustrations of being banned and why the ANC was forced to take up arms, while the ANC learnt about the economic implications of sanctions. Both sides realized that they had to rethink some of their assumptions.67


Humour was also a great binding force, with jokes made about the most unlikely subjects. Former prisoner chuckled with their captors over the circumstances of their arrest; terrorists showed off their prominent ribs, and joked that they had grown thin evading the security police; captor and captive reminisced about mutual acquaintances.68

The Sowetan -- the only Black paper in South Africa with a mass circulation – commented in an editorial that: " Last week's breakthrough talks between the ANC and the Government have shown it is possible for even the fiercest antagonists to sit down and discuss their problems."69

In August 1990, the government and the ANC met in Pretoria. The result was the Pretoria Minute, an agreement that all the obstacles identified by the ANC as obstructing negotiations would be removed or addressed.70Before the meeting took place, Joe Slovo had propose to the ANC NEC that the ANC should unilaterally suspend the armed, giving the ANC the moral and political high ground . Mandela himself was at first dubious, but on reflection fully concurred, and subsequently persuaded the NEC to carry the motion unanimously. When the Pretoria meeting began Mandela announced that effective immediately, the ANC would suspend the armed struggle "in the interest of moving as speedily as possible towards a negotiated settlement and in the context of the agreement reached."71 Mandela, however, was to say over and over again to the ANC membership – and perhaps it was necessary to do so to keep the hawks in the ANC who had opposed the NEC decision to suspend the armed struggle that " we suspended action; we did not terminate the armed struggle."72'

This had a number of salubrious effects. It took the issue off the negotiating table and thus precluded the spectacle of the ANC having to accede to the NP's demands in this regard since there was little prospect of the government negotiating under circumstances that would countenance the continuation of the ANC's armed struggle while negotiations were under way. Second, it gave de Klerk more political breathing space to maintain the cohesive support he needed in the NP to ensure that the process would continue without it appearing that the would not come from the "barrel of a gun," it would have been foolhardy for the ANC to take an uncompromising position on an issue that would not advance their strategic objectives, despite the fact that the armed struggle was essentially a myth, a powerful symbol of mass mobilization, particularly for Black youth for whom militancy was an essential part of the culture of resistance. Advancing the process had become more important than the promulgation of putative symbols which had served their purpose.

The D.F.Malan Accord, confirmed at the D.F.Malan Airport in Cape Town on 12 February 1991,effectively removed most obstacles, especially with regard to the meaning "of the suspension of the armed struggle," that stood in the way of a multi-party conference. The ANC undertook not to carry out armed attacks or infiltrate South Africa with men or weapons. Recruitment of cadre within the country for training would also cease. There would be no statements inciting violence, threats of armed action or the creation of underground structures. There was no agreement, however, on the surrender of ANC weapons, the identification of arms caches, the demobilization of cadres, or the establishment of self-,defense units. Furthermore, it was agreed that membership of Umkonto we Sizwe would not be illegal. That participation in the democratic process implied and obliged all political parties to participate in the process peacefully and without resort to the use of force, and, hence that both parties "accepted the principle that in a democratic society no political party or movement should have a private army.73

However, the goodwill that had been so pervasive between the ANC and the government in their initial contacts following Mandela's release began to erode when an eruption of violence, almost all of it Black-on-Black, began to envelop the country and spread at frightening speed. Random shootings, mid-night massacres, civilians, commuting to and from the townships, shot dead at train stations or on the trains themselves, in shebeens ,or common places of congregation . The violence was aimless, yet obviously carefully orchestrated to instill much fear. The appearance of aimless violence leaves everyone feeling vulnerable, has a crippling impact on how society runs, and creates a degree of uncertainty among ordinary people that ultimately paralyses social interaction. If the objective was to make people feel that no one was safe and that there was no one on whom they could rely to protect them, the perpetrators were spectacularly successful. If the objective was to drive a wedge between the ANC and the government, they were even more successful.

Mandela blamed the government for the violence and for the failure to bring it under control. Although he did not implicate De Klerk personally, he pointed his finger at the Nation Intelligence Service(NIS), the Civil Cooperation Bureau), and Military Intelligence and other clandestine security groups were behind the carnage.74 He even provided De Klerk with affidavits supporting this claim.75 On one occasion, he angrily declared that " while the Government is talking about peace and negotiations, it continues to wage war against us"76

He could not understand why De Klerk, with the far-reaching powers of the state president at his disposal, could not get to the bottom of matters, why with the immense resources of the state at his command, he could not bring recalcitrant elements in the security forces under control. He wondered whether the government had actually lost control of the defense forces or whether the violence was a deliberate ploy on the part of the government to destabilize the ANC, undermine its support base, and prevent it from organizing ANC branches on a country wide scale. In short, Mandela believed – and repeatedly charged that the government was going nothing to counteract the atrocities. Perhaps what bothered him the most was what he perceived as De Klerk's apparent lack of concern about the loss of Black lives in contrast to what he believed De Klerk's re-actions would be if similar attacks were being directed against whites. Black lives were cheap and counted for nothing.

The ANC NEC met to consider the situation and issued a statement:

If the government does not carry out its duties [it said] we will have to find ways and means to defend our people against these criminal attacks…. Then we will have no alternative but to concede to the demands of our people for arms. We are reluctant to do this because we are committed to the idea of peace. But we will not stand down and se our people mown down like dogs. We will have to defend them.77

And an ANC document, For the sake of our lives, bluntly stated that "in the wake of the ugly violence unleashed against our people by security forces, vigilante groups, and hit squads, it is imperative that our liberation movement takes responsibility for guiding and building people's self defence movements"78

As a result, Self Defence Units (SDUs) were formed in volatile townships and rural areas.79 They were comprised, for the most part, by the "comrades," many of whom had been active in the UDF's campaign to make the country ungovernable in the latter part of the 1980s, and by the youth. Few had had any training in the use of weapons, and many were as intent on using their arms to enrich themselves at the expense of the communities they were supposed to protect. as they were in protecting the communities from violent onslaughts. Many formed gangs were formed and fought among each other for territorial control of sections of their townships; many townships were virtual hostage to rampaging SDUs and the surrogates they spun off.80 In the following years, the ANC found itself saddled with a problem it found difficult, and at times, impossible, to handle.81 The genie had gotten out of the bottle and had no intention of passively crawling back to its former habitat. Moreover, the arming of the SDUs flooded the townships with weapons creating a stash of the wherewithal necessary for engaging in criminal activity. If a weapon couldn't be used for one purpose, there was always another in waiting.

Supporters of The IFP were quick to follow the lead of the ANC and formed Self Protection Units (SPUs) on the pretext of protecting their communities from onslaughts from ANC cadres. Once again, weapons proliferated in IFP strongholds, with consequences similar to those in ANC controlled communities. The violence took its heaviest toll in KwaZulu/Natal where the war between supporters of the ANC and the IFP, which had erupted in1983 when the UDF began to "invade" IFP areas the IFP regarded as being part of its territory. More South Africans – almost 14,000 were killed in South Africa during the four and a half years following the release of Mandela in February 1990 and his inauguration as President of South Africa in May 1994 than had been killed in the previous 42 years of the apartheid.

The ANC, on the one hand, pointedly accused the IFP of fomenting violence in order to broaden its support base albeit, always in the context of the IFP being in complicity with the state security forces or behaving Uriah Heep-like at the bidding of the security forces reinforcing their relentless allegations that the IFP were stooges of the state, and hence in some manner in cahoots with the apartheid regime. In short, the IFP were enemies of the liberation movement and had thrown their lot with the oppressers of Blacks.82 The ANC wanted to marginalize the IFP, the only credible Black organization that commanded a substantial base of support and to keep "real" negotiations the exclusive preserve of the ANC and the government. In Anatomy of a Miracle, Patti Waldmeir writes that "Both men emerged from the [Groote Schuur] talks thinking they could cut a deal among themselves – a sort of power fix between African and Afrikaner – in which there would be no losers. The nation's mental timetable was drastically revised, to take account of their unexpected optimism. The idea was to present South Africa with a fiat accompli before radicals from both sides could mobilize against it."83 On television, Mandela admitted that "We have started some sort of alliance already84. De Klerk's account of the meeting hardly lends credence to such unbounded expectations.85

Buthelezi had no intention of being left out of the pre-negotiations loop. Hurt by Mandela's refusal to accept his invitation to visit him -- on receiving the invitation, Mandela had responded that he would be honored to meet with both Buthelezi and King Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulu nation, to lay a wreath at the tomb of the legendary King Shaka, founding father of the Zulu nation – Buthelezi publicly stated that there would be no cessation in the violence until he and Mandela met.. Buthelezi expected to be thanked personally by Mandela for his efforts to secure Mandela's release, his steadfast refusal to engage in talks with the government until Mandela was released and the ANC unbanned, and his resistance to the government's attempts to coerce him into accepting independence that, had be bowed to the government's overtures, would have given Grand Apartheid a degree of legitimacy it hitherto lacked .

"Put under pressure by the Natal leadership," writes Johannes Rantete, " the ANC was compelled to block a meeting with Buthelezi and Mandela on the grounds that such a meeting would accord Buthelezi the recognition he did not deserve."86 Ironically, the more the ANC dithered on the issue of whether Mandela should meet with Buthelezi, the more it undermined its own credibility, and the more it begged the question as to why Mandela who had committed himself and his organization to a peaceful resolution of the national issue would refuse to meet with Buthelezi since it was obvious that without Buthelezi's cooperation neither a peaceful nor stable settlement could be reached.

Eventually the two did meet. after much needless loss of life on 29 January 199187– almost a year after Mandela's release -- but other than mollify Buthelezi's ego, the peace summit, despite coming up with a number of practical steps to bring about an end to the violence in KwaZulu/Natal, did little to change the situation on the ground. There were no "winners" in this prolonged standoff. Mandela's stature as a strong and decisive figure, as the key leader in the ANC, suffered since it appeared that he was willing to bow to the wishes of cliques within the liberation movement even when the actions they demanded were counter to the ANC's long term interests. His remark that if he were to meet with Buthelezi over the heads of the ANC in Natal they would "throttle" him provided grist for his enemies that he was not up to the task of negotiating South Africa's future, and conveyed the image of a leader who was either weak or could be easily pushed around by his underlings, of one who would be eaten alive by the National Party mandarins when real negotiations got under way.

De Klerk, stubbornly, even passionately, defended his government's reactions to the violence. Most of it, in his view, was being perpetrated by supporters of the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Part (IFP)88, the security forces were being unfairly pilloried by the ANC to undermine their authority, and hence the authority of the state, the ANC's constant reiteration of security force involvement in the killings was an attempt to undercut his growing popularity in the townships. In the early days, after the release of Mandela, De Klerk was treated as a liberator in many Black communities and it was not uncommon to hear him referred to as "Comrade De Klerk". (Indeed, a number of opinion surveys at the time indicated that De Klerk would, at the time the polls were being taken, command a relatively strong level of support among urban Blacks and a smaller, who accounted for approximately 60 per cent of the Black population. A Gallup-Markinor poll found that nearly half the urban Black population could be classified as 'potential' NP voters: 6 per cent said they would 'definitely' vote for the NP, 22 percent said perhaps, and 18 per cent said they felt 'quite good' about the NP even though they would not vote for it.. The ANC, in contrast had a support level of 68 per cent among urban Blacks.89)

These were De Klerk''s salad days. Received abroad as a statesman who had the courage to end apartheid and opt for a negotiated settlement rather than some violent cataclysmic confrontation with Blacks, regarded by many Blacks as one of their own for having released Mandela and unbanned the ANC, to de Klerk all things appeared possible – even winning an election conducted on the basis of a common voters' registrar.

But Boipatong brought whatever support he had among Blacks to a screeching halt.90 Every case, according to De Klerk, where there was credible evidence of police involvement was thoroughly investigated , and prosecutions followed whenever there was a prima facie case for police collusion. He, he was always quick to point out had issued a statement in December 1989 in which he instructed the minister of justice and the minister of defence to investigate allegations of politically inspired assassinations, and to use all means at their disposal to apprehend the guilty and bring them to trial: he had established the Harms Commission in 1989, and the Goldstone Commission on Public Violence91 and General Steyn's investigation of the Military Intelligence Unit of the SADF in 1992.92 De Klerk's view was that no stone was left unturned in the pursuit of wrongdoers in both the SAP and the SADF. " In 1998, after the report of the TRC implicated him and his government in the gross violation of human rights, De Klerk would write that

I reject without qualification that my government was ever behind the violence. Although it is now indisputable that some elements in the security forces were secretly involved in instigating and perpetrating violence , their actions were in violation of my explicit instructions… In the end the actions of such elements within the security for that were as much directed against the government and its reform policies as they were against the ANC and its allies. The question that Mandela should have asked himself was why the government and I should instigate – connive at –violence, which seriously jeopardized the initiative into which we had sunk all our moral and political capital?93

We, from our side, regarded Mandela's representations as the height of hypocrisy – given the ANC's own deep involvement in Natal and throughout the country – as well as its apparent unwillingness to rein in members who were clearly involved in violence. If Mandela was so concerned with violence why would he not agree to meet with Chief Buthelezi to try and resolve the issue?94

But despite De Klerk's disavowals, indeed, one might regard a number of his comments regarding the sources of violence and the covert activities of the state as a classic state of being in denial, something rotten had poisoned the roots of the Afrikaner's state apparatus. In the end, even De Klerk, while defending himself and his government colleagues – all honorable men – had to add the damning caveat: "The conclusion, he wrote ,"that I now, regrettably, have to draw is that somebody must have been lying to us – or at the very least had not provided us with vital information to which we, in the cabinet, and I as commander-in-chief , were entitled.

It seems to me that there must –at least in the initial stages –high level authorization for the establishment and funding of the units involved and of the general nature of the operations they were intended to carry out. It is possible that that in the murky world of need and plausible denial within which these units operated, those higher up the chain of command were subsequently not fully informed of all their operational activities. It also appears that these units soon acquired a high degree of autonomy and often carried out operations on their own initiative.

At some further stage, probably about the time that I became president, these murky elements in the undercover structures of the security forces began to formulate their own policy. In particular, they appear to have been strongly opposed to the fundamental change of direction that I initiated.. My colleagues and I were openly accused of being soft and of being traitors by our political opponents from the right. It is likely that some of the elements involved in illegal security force operations supported this view. Many of their later clandestine operations appear to have been directed against the transformation process that I had initiated. These operations included the instigation of violence between different segments of the population with a view to creating a general climate of conflict in which it might have become impossible to hold elections." And , he concludes "It is difficult to understand how such aberrations could have been allowed to develop and continue within the security forces, despite my express orders and clear steps that I took to ensure conformity with accepted standards.

The revolutionary threat of the early eighties was countered, not by illegal clandestine operations, but by the lawful – though draconian – powers that the state assumed during the State of Emergency. The relative stability that it achieved created a platform for the commencement of comprehensive and inclusive constitutional negotiations."95

One wonders whether it has ever crossed de Klerk's mind that much of the information he relied on regarding the violence Mandela was incessantly begging him to do something about was coming through channels that involved some of those who were lying, concealing covert operations from him, themselves part of the "Third Force."

Yet, despite, the constant recriminations on both sides regarding the violence, both the ANC and the government remained as committed as ever to getting real negotiations off the ground. And it is this commitment that underscores the real miracle that occurred in South Africa. Both sides were under no illusions: a terminal breakdown in negotiations could only lead to a self-inflicted civil war neither side could win, with the added likelihood of further escalation of the conflict in KwaZulu/Natal to unmanageable levels that in the end would force the ANC, the government and the IFP back to the negotiating table, much having been lost on all sides, nothing having been gained by any of the protagonists. They would be presumptive heirs to an economy in ruins, commonplace destitution, and internal population displacements that would pose a consuming threat to peace and a powder-keg of instability. Even when the warring parties called a cease-fire, they would face the same problems that had led them to go to war with each other in the first place, compounded by the multitudinal new problems their armed belligerence had left them to deal with.

However, despite the bellicose noises coming from both the ANC and the government, both were more aware than ever that multi-party negotiations would not get underway unless both were seen to be working together to brig an end to the violence. A start in this direction was made in August 1991when an initiative led by the Consultative Movement (CBM), an organization representing business and church interests, convened a meeting of all the parties who would participate in multi-party talks, if they ever got off the ground, which resulted in the signing of the first ever multi-party agreement, the National Peace Accord (NPA) on 14 September 1991,96 thus opening the way to all-party talks.

In South Africa, the first multi -party constitutional talks took place on 20 and 21 December 1991 in the World Trade Centre at Kempton Park, Johannesburg. This forum was called the "Convention for a Democratic South Africa" (CODESA). Its deliberations continued until May 1992 when the failure of the ANC and the NP to agree on the weighted majority that would be required in an elected constituent assembly to ratify a new constitution brought negotiations to an abrupt halt Nevertheless, CODESA 1 achieved much, and most of the measures agreed to in its working groups were incorporated in the final settlement97.

The Boipatong massacre in June 1992 collapsed the process.98 In order to maintain some conduit of connection between the government and the ANC, the two decided to establish a "channel bilateral" 99 -- a line of communication between Cyril Ramaphosa, Secretary General of the ANC and the ANC's chief negotiator, and Roelf Meyer, Minister for Constitutional Affairs in the NP government and the government's chief negotiator. As a result of their personal and professional rapport100 and the fact that Derek Keys, the avowedly apolitical Minister for Finance, had informed their principals, Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk, that the economy was tottering on the edge of bankruptcy and that unless they got their acts together, and swiftly, there would be precious little for either of them to govern, Ramaphosa and Meyer were able to convince their principals to participate in an indaba that led to the signing of the Record of Understanding in September 1992101.

This agreement led to a further series of indabas to iron out remaining details in early 1993, and the resumption of negotiations at Kempton Park in April 1993 (CODESA 11). These negotiations resulted in an agreed settlement in November 1993, the country's subsequent first non-racial elections in April 1994,102 and South Africa's first Government of National Unity (GNU), although the final text of the agreement called for voluntary not constitutionally mandated power sharing.103

Intra-party rivalries for political control of the community on one or other side of the divide often prove to be more troublesome to whatever parties are predisposed to negotiations than inter-communal rivalries over the division of power. Thus, moderate parties in negotiations are frequently obsessed not with positions taken by their counterparts on the other side of the divide, which they may share, but by how their being seen to share similar reconciliatory positions may be used against them by parties opposing them within their own community to undermine political support among their constituents. Hence, they find themselves, having to take measure of proposed initiatives not out of their being opposed to them but to preclude the perception of their being weak, easily manipulated, and not representing the best interests of their community. This makes the process more intricate, progress slow and incremental. It underscores one of the most important principles that are the hallmark of successful negotiations: always put yourself in the shoes of your opponent, for without an understanding of the difficulties he faces in his community, you cannot help him overcome them, and hence, you cannot advance your own position.

In this sense -- given the complicated dynamics that drive negotiating processes, dynamics that for all their manipulative tactics, no protagonist is able to manage and control to his own advantage -- the refusal of the Conservative Party to participate in CODESA 1 and CODESA 11 – was a catastrophic mistake on its part, which worked to the advantage of the both the government and the ANC, and later to the advantage of the NP.

In March 1982, a rupture occurred in the National Party (NP) when 16 MPs, under the leadership of Dr. Andries Treurnicht, leader of the NP in the Transvaal, abandoned the NP – they saw the structures under consideration in the NP for some limited form of power-sharing with Coloureds and Indians as a fundamental betrayal of the principles of Verwoerdian apartheid104 – and formed the Conservative Party (CP). In the 1997 elections for whites only -- Coloureds and Indians had their own elections, the CP increased its representation to 22 MPs. In the 1989 election, with De Klerk at the helm of the National Party, the CP further increased its representation to 39 seats and secured over 50 per cent of the Afrikaner vote.105 If an additional 600 votes in each of nine marginal NP constituencies had swung to the CP, the NP would have wound up with 82 seats, one short of an absolute majority, leaving the balance of power with the liberal anti-apartheid Democratic Party (DP). While De Klerk hailed his victory (93 seats out of 165) as an endorsement of the NP's platform, the fact that both the CP and the DP had made inroads into its constituency meant that it was being squeezed from both the right and the left., and that the results did not constitute a radical shift in white opinion, but rather that support for the right was growing, albeit at a slow rate, slower than might be expected, given the broad outline of reforms the NP had proposed.

When CODESA 1 opened, the absence of the CP gave the government more maneuvering space than it would otherwise have had. Hence the degree of consensus that was emerging in the early months of 1992 from the five working groups augured well for eventual agreement on the way forward. The negotiations were not strung out by the presence of a right-wing party that would have but an obstacle in the way of every proposal advanced by either the NP or the ANC, and stretched the concept of "sufficient consensus" for decision making to its limits. Indeed, such was the level of collegiality among the working groups that in February 1992, "the ANC argued that sufficient progress had been made, constituting a major breakthrough. It seemed possible to complete CODESA's work within the next six weeks.106 The government , however, did not share this optimism."107 Since the crucial by-election in Potchefsroom, a hitherto bastion of National Party support was due to be held the following day, ton which the media had cast as a mini-mandate on the government's performance at Kempton Park, it might be expected that the NP would go out of its way to squash any suggestion that the country might be ready for elections within six weeks or that it was anywhere close to agreement with the ANC on the major constitutional issues.

But even though the CP were not part of the process itself, its continued barrages of criticism that the NP was selling out the Afrikaner nation began to exact a toll on the NP. De Klerk:

Every effort that we made to launch negotiations and every agreement that we reached [with the ANC] were dismissed in Conservative Party propaganda as concessions and deviations under pressure that the election promises that we made during the 1989 election campaign. The ongoing political violence and the ANC's inability to control its followers were energetically and often deftly exploited by the right wing to sow fear , suspicion and doubt in the minds of white voters.

At the end of 1991 the National Party suffered a painful defeat in a by-election in Virginia, a gold-mining community in the Orange Free State. In 1989 we had held the seat with a narrow majority. In the 1991 by-election the Conservative Party had won with a majority of more than 2,000. It was a large swing and, according to the experts, indicated that the Conservative Party would be able to win a general election among white voters.

The mandate that I had received from the white electorate was visibly slipping away from me and the National Party. Our credibility was being seriously eroded.

A second by-election in Potchefstroom, which had for decades been a safe NP stronghold was scheduled to take place on 19 February 1992. Both the NP and the CP used the election as a referendum on the course the NP's reforms were taking. The NP was trashed by the CP; the result was widely interpreted as a an indicator of the level of white antipathy toward the NP's constitutional reform proposals, and ass compelling sign that a country wide election among whites would lead to a Conservative Party victory. The Conservative Party demanded an immediate election.108

De Klerk, cleverly, opted for a referendum, and put a simple question to the white electorate: " Do you support continuation of the reform process that the state president started on 2 February and which is aimed at a new constitution through negotiations?" The wording was brilliant in its vagueness, yet so implicitly direct in the implications of a no vote that it didn't give whites a choice, rather it presented them with a subliminal ultimatum: Armageddon or else. Indeed, de Klerk was confident enough of the outcome to promise that if he lost, he would dissolve the NOP government and force an election.109 And he had the support, albeit grudgingly given, of the ANC and the media – indeed, of all institutional organs of opinion and influence. 110

De Klerk won the referendum convincingly111 and no longer had to look over his shoulder. The CP returned to the trenches and complained about the unfairness of it all. But the CODESA participants did not want the CP to marginalize itself, or perhaps fearing right wing violence lurking in the hinterlands of the Transvaal and Orange Free State, attempted to woo it into the process. Indeed, the working group dealing with constitutional principles agreed to discuss the principle of self-determination and its application in the South African context. In the hope that it would alleviate the concerns of the CP and others further to the right and provide the space they needed to convince their constituency that there might be merit in joining the negotiations , if only to act as a watch guard for their interests.112

But the referendum altered the chemistry of CODESA 11: Rather than seeing both the government and the NP as being unchained from the shackles of the right, De Klerk according to a number of political observers,113 interpreted the results to mean that he could slow down the pace of negotiations and dictate the course of the transition.

"Coetzee's [Kobie] role changed noticeably after the referendum," says one WG1 participant. 'It was as if he had decided the government could not get either the decisions it wanted in the group, or scupper it. It was probably the size of the yes vote that did it. Had the result been narrower, we would probably have made more progress. Asmal [Kadar] agrees: "The referendum sent inappropriate signals to government. A week before they were trying to resolve issues at Codesa. Thereafter there was a perceptible change in attitude."114

De Klerk had run on the platform "Vote yes, if you're scared of majority rule,''. On the campaign stump, his unconditional guarantee was that no NP government would be party to a negotiated settlement that would mandate majority rule. Perhaps, the ANC's acquiescence to the referendum and the fact that it did not publicly repudiate de Klerk on the question of majority rule led De Klerk to think that the ANC would be less than insistent on simple majority rule, or that he could cobble together an anti ANC coalition in a power-sharing government. Hoping that the NP would at last rid itself of the albatross the CP had become with a convincing victory, the ANC could not afford to be seen to be at odds with the NP since that would only buttress the position of the CP that the ANC were only interested in a winner-takes-all settlement.

Less than a year earlier, the ANC's soon-to-be former Secretary General Alfred Nzo had provided delegates to the ANC's first annual congress held in South Africa in 33 years with a confidential assessment of the shape ANC was in: "We lack creativity, energy, and initiative," Nzo wrote. "We appear very happy to be pigeon-holed within the confines of populist rhetoric and cliché." Attendance at ANC rallies had plummeted. Preparations for rallies were incompetent; Rallies were poorly advertised. Organization was shoddy, and rallies frequently started hours after the time they were supposed to. Recruitment of new members was an ongoing problem. In the first year since its unbanning, the ANC had managed to sign-up a mere 200,000 members. Among many veterans of the struggle there was a joke : it had been easier to join the movement when it was banned than when it was legal. And Nzo concluded with the damning observation that "Clearly we have not utilized our full potential to mobilize millions of our people into effective action," and a warning that the ANC itself was in danger of being "removed from the leadership pedestal it now occupies."115 One can easily understand why de Klerk thought that he might, perhaps not have to surrender power at all or that if he did he could do it under circumstances highly favorable to the NP. Indeed, a number of polls, taken around the time CODESA 11 was winding up, indicated that ANC support had at that point leveled off at 45 per cent reinforced that kind of thinking.116

Or perhaps, the fact that his actions heretofore – the gamble to release Mandela, unban the ANC and the SACP, his popularity in the townships, the approving receptions he received in various capitols around the world when he first ventured overseas, his even more daring gamble on the referendum – had made him feel invulnerable, had him believing that his political instincts always paid off in handsome dividends, that he could still coerce the ANC into substantial compromises on basic constitutional issues.

The question that brought matters to a head leading to an irresolvable stalemate in CODESA 11 was the question of the percentages that would be required in a constituent assembly to pass the new constitution. After a great deal of haggling and compromises on both sides, WG2, which dealt with constitutional issues, agreed that the CODESA parties would write an interim constitution, and that they would also should agree on constitutional principles that would bind the elected constituent assembly, that is, principles that no party or combination of parties in the constituent assembly, no matter what proportion of delegates they represented could amend. These principles envisioned as being carved on tablets of stone, immutable, and above the constituent assembly's mandate to rewrite the interim constitution as a final constitution.

Hence, the bottom-line decision for WG2: what percentage of delegates in the constituent assembly would be required to ratify the final constitution, and in the event of deadlock what deadlock-breaking mechanism would the assembly employ to break the deadlock?

Obviously, the ANC would be looking for a lowest threshold it could bargain for, the NP for the highest. And obviously, the ANC would want to see as few principles as possible, drawn up by the unelected and unrepresentative CODESA in which De Klerk could count on as many allies, entrenched in the final constitution drawn up by the elected constituent assembly in which the ANC could reasonably expect to have a representation that would be much higher than its CODESA representation, and the smaller parties' overrepresentation at CODESA much whittled down. And obviously, the government/NP would see matters in a diametrically opposite way. The ANC wanted to agree to a set of procedures that would ensure that the final constitution unequivocally mandated the rule of the majority;117 the NP government a set of procedures that would result in a final constitution that would mandate entrenched power-sharing.

Both government and the ANC faced each other across a political chess board, each player keenly aware of what the other's thinking was, each looking at every proposal put forward by the other no matter how tempting or conciliatory from an analytical perspective that sought to determine not what was in it for themselves, but what hidden advantages might accrue to their opponent. The key to success, like in chess, was in being able to think through the implications of a permutation of moves, both on your part and your opponent's, and to discount those implications before you made your next move. And like chess there could be no trusting of your counterpart's intentions. Indeed, if you were gave in to the impulse that a gesture to accommodate did not have a hidden agenda, you had already lost. In this sense, neither side could win since whatever tenuous bonds of trust that had been established between the two in the run-up to the plenary session of CODFESA 11 had to be discounted. The fact that the continued proliferation of violence, which each side blamed on the other added to the climate of 'prudent' suspicion and wariness was not conducive to compromise emerging, especially when the deadline for reporting back to the plenary session that passed and could no longer be ignored.

Three percentage markers were put on the table during the final frenetic days –and -- hours of negotiation. First, the NP (and the IFP) insisted on a 75 per cent majority for the adoption of the constitution, 80 per cent for the bill of rights, and the entrenchment of power-sharing among the immutable constitutional principles. None of these proposals were acceptable to the ANC. It countered with an offer of a two-thirds majority for the ratification of the constitution and a 75 per cent requirement for the bill of rights, and no provision for mandated power-sharing. The latter was simply out of the question. The government came back with a new offer: a two-thirds vote to pass most clauses in the new constitution and a 75 per cent majority for matters referring to a bill of rights, devolution of power and multi-part democracy. But the offer was contingent on the ANC agreeing to there being a Senate representing minorities, whose membership would be appointed by CODESA, that would also have to pass the constitution by a two thirds majority Effectively ,this would give minorities a veto over critical clauses of the constitution, meaning the adoption of a final constitution could drag on add infinitum and making amendments to the interim constitution almost impossible to achieve unless the ANC had more than 75 per cent of the votes in the assembly – also almost impossible to achieve. For all intents and purposes the interim constitution would become the final constitution. Once again, the ANC rejected out of hand the government's proposals.118

At this point the ANC had come to the conclusion that CODESA 11 was going to fail, that their differences with the government over the question of the percentages that would be required to pass the final constitution had become irreconcilable, but they did not want to be seen as the spoilers, as the party that brought the process to a halt, thus damaging the image of the ANC as the party that, on the one hand, upbraided the government for not moving forward fast enough, and on the other, seemed quite prepared to pull the plug on the process. Ramaphosa and his colleagues brought the matter to Mandela late in the evening on 14 May. Having heard their analysis, Mandela made his fateful decision: postpone CODESA 11.

Hence Ramaphosa's machinations: make an offer to the government that it would have to refuse, thereby letting the ANC off the hook. On the morning of the last day of the plenary session, 15 May 1992, Ramaphosa agreed to accept the NP proposal that a 70 per cent threshold would be required to ratify all clauses of the constitution except for the bill of rights which would require a 75 per cent majority. In addition, the government would have to drop its demand for an appointed Senate in favor of an elected one. But he added a rider which he himself concocted without consultation with the leadership of the ANC: If, after six months, the constituent assembly failed to agree on a constitution, a referendum would he held at which point the votes of a simple majority of the electorate would suffice to pass the new constitution. The offer, of course, was rejected by the government, which foresaw a situation where the ANC would sit idly by for six months, have their referendum, and get a constitution of their own choosing. Stalemate. And to mix metaphors, advantage to the ANC.

De Klerk staunchly denies that the government was responsible for CODESA11's collapse. On the contrary, he lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of Ramaphosa. Indeed, in one sense, the final meeting of WG2 to try and resolve its differences was a charade. Ramaphosa had his instructions, and Mandela had little doubt that Ramaphosa's not inconsiderable ingenuity would rise to the occasion. Ramaphosa himself admits to engineering the collapse of CODESA 11, saying that he wanted to show "the people of South Africa that they were dealing with an enemy that would not give in easily."119

Mandela preferred a more contextual explanation: CODESA 11 ended in stalemate because of the "National Party's continued reluctance to submit their fate to the will of the majority. They simply could not cross that hurdle." 120 "The essence of the problem is not one of percentages or arithmetic," he told an audience in Sweden lass than a week later. "It is that the National Party is trying to hold on to power at all costs."121

But CODESA did not end in a bout of recriminations and invective. Agreements made would be honoured; the Management Committee was instructed to make arrangements for CODESA 111.

A number of different dynamics were at work, often at cross purposes. Once De Klerk had rid himself of the threatened white backlash, he should have been able to reach accommodation with the ANC on the outstanding issues. But the context of the government's thinking had changed. It was no longer thinking in terms of securing the best deal it could from the ANC, and was no longer willing to concede an outright victory to the ANC in a non-racial election. Rather it had begun to think in terms of building an anti-ANC coalition that would defeat the ANC. Hence the need to appease the ANC was no longer essential: it now began to lay the basis for a strategy that would take more heed of the parties it hoped to "woo" into the grand coalition it envisioned – parties which were already resentful of having to dance to the tune of the ANC/NP duet.

On the other hand, the ANC, having seen the NP shrug off the right wing – with its help, albeit reluctantly given, no longer saw the need to make the kind of compromises they had been making in order to help the government conciliate the right. Now it could be more demanding. Moreover, to an increasing extent, it had to look to its own, to pacifying elements within the ANC who bitterly opposed the suspension of military operations -- a breach of the Harare Declaration, taken without consultation with the grass-roots, and especially ill-advised in view of the escalation of violence; elements who were not proxy to the goings-on behind closed doors and the agreements being brokered that had to accommodate the realities of realpolitics; elements who only learned of such agreements from second-hand sources which were prone to the distortions that such communication encourages; elements who believed that the opinions of people on the ground who had borne the brunt of apartheid and were at the forefront of the struggle to bring down the government were being ignored by an elite that had spent the apartheid years in exile in comparative comfort and were now negotiating their future while practically ignoring their existence.

Hence, simmering discontent had poisoned the well of the initial goodwill that had greeted the beginnings of the CODESA negotiations. The rumblings of grass-roots rebellion in many ANC strongholds began to penetrate the confines of Kempton Park, much to the dismay of the ANC negotiators. The need for transparency in the process was exigent. This "tug of war" between factions in favor of a more aggressive, militarist approach to speed up the process and factions in favor of negotiations for the soul of the ANC had reached crisis proportions. The ANC needed to stand back and reassess where it was going, how it was going to bring its constituency along with it, what bottom-lines were simply non-negotiable, what it was willing to concede to bring negotiations to an expeditious but satisfactory conclusion and getting a grip on the spiraling violence before it developed a self-sustaining momentum that would make the holding of elections impossible and the transfer of power problematic without the further spilling of blood.

In South Africa, Blacks and whites did not trust each other. Their emotions were far more raw. Whites despised or feared Blacks, and Blacks hated the white-imposed system that oppressed them and feared the white-man's power over their lives. But raw and obscene prejudices, being so obvious, have a certain integrity, and can be dealt with, once they are acknowledged. Outright hatred lends itself to an antidote; lingering dislike does not.

The belief that divided societies share similar characteristics is not new.122 But most divided societies took umbrage at the idea for a very long time, each believing that its "special problems" were unique; that they were somehow "special," that no one outside of themselves could truly fathom the depth of their grievances unless immured in the centuries of their mystic and mythological historical constructs.

Indeed, in some regards, deeply divided societies are like alcoholics; both cherish the notion of their own "unique" condition: to maintain that supposed uniqueness becomes one of the psychic pillars that prop up their own sense of identity. Alcoholics believe that no on can understand them; that they are too different, either to self-absorbed in their own pain or too narcissistic to believe that they are in fact quite ordinary. Only when they join organizations do they begin to realize that that are no different than hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, and sometimes that recognition leads to recovery , or at worst some kind of relief. The belief that no one is able to understand what they endure is an essential part of their identity, and to give up that identity is to lose part of one's sense of self.

Members of divided societies live in the same cocoon – they share the same sense of being somehow special, of being in the Diaspora of the isolated misunderstood, of being victims.. And they, like alcoholics, or others addicted to their own powerlessness, draw on these senses of self to give shape to their identity.

With the collapse of communism, much has changed, but even more has stayed the same. Ethnic and inter-communal violence is increasing at egregious arms. We in the west are preoccupied with Yugoslavia or the former Yugoslavia or whatever bits of whatever is left. In Africa more people die every day in communal conflict,123 genocide has become commonplace,124 more displaced people live in what amount to prison camps, yet we can only turn our eyes to the east – at least to that part of it that is white. For reasons not difficult to fathom, we can only see the color of our own skins. We certainly don't see the stellar pundits of the political circus that envelops us in their combat safari suits on in Kigali or Goma telling us what an awful world it is.125

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.