About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

29 Nov 1999: Maharaj, Mac

MM. Each would have a say. We argued that the distribution of cabinet posts was a prerogative of the President and that we would not agree to a categorisation of cabinet posts, such that each, all of them, would belong to each cluster because we saw that as a subtle way of saying irrespective of the election results if you had three clusters each party would have a minimum of three ministers, or if they qualified for less than three ministers there would be a minister from their party who would sit in two cabinet posts and at the end, therefore, they would have, each partner to the coalition, would have a say in what they regarded as each of the three centres of crucial power. So that became the last day.

POM. This is what Roelf was proposing?

MM. Roelf proposed it.

POM. So Roelf was not this kind of advocate of majority rule?

MM. No, no, no.

POM. He saw the inevitability of majority rule and so in that sense Van Zyl Slabbert's argument is essentially, fatally flawed.

MM. It's flawed. It's flawed that it says his chief negotiator, Roelf Meyer, once morality and ambition had led him to the road to majority rule, pursued it with vigour and commitment not shared by anyone else in the NP. Yes, I think Roelf Meyer pursued a resolution and an end state to the negotiating process with vigour because it had dragged on for three to four years. He was himself becoming insecure of his position in the NP and therefore in the debates the sort of issues that arose as trade-offs, he was inevitably led and pushed into a position where he had to balance what his party was asking for. One of the things that he had to balance was that they still saw their constituency power as resting within the civil service. They also saw their future control base of government resting on their constituency in the civil service. Now they had extracted a five-year security for the civil service. Then the question of amnesty came up which is what features in the post-amble which was the final resolution of the outstanding issues. There was the question of the structure and function of cabinet and there was the outstanding issue of the past and the amnesty. In the post-amble we resolved the problem by inserting the words 'there shall be amnesty'. Shall. On that basis the bilateral meeting which cracked the problem was to say cabinet will be functioning as a normal cabinet. We didn't spell out simple majority in the wording, and we inserted a post-amble that there shall be amnesty. That resolved the issue for him which was how do they assure the security forces which had served them so loyally to come into the deal. And at that time he was keen to see a resolution because there was –

POM. Security forces would be eligible for amnesty.

MM. Amnesty. He was keen to resolve it because they had driven themselves into a corner, hence the friction between De Klerk and Kobie Coetsee because initially over the amnesty it is Kobie Coetsee who rejected a general amnesty and Kobie still held that position. So when he was able to go back to his cabinet and say to De Klerk, "I have extracted, there shall be amnesty", he was able to neutralise the objection from the Kobie Coetsee faction.

POM. He says, I've talked to him at length with a lot of problems because I can verify nothing that he says, but he says the first time he saw the clause on amnesty was when he read a copy of the interim constitution, that he had nothing to do with that paragraph and he believed that had been negotiated in London months beforehand by Albie Sachs and somebody from the NP side, I forget if it was Leon Wessels or somebody.

MM. That is a fantasy. The reality is that at the World Trade Centre the issue of cabinet and its functions was outstanding in finalising the constitution. A bilateral meeting took place in the NP offices at the World Trade Centre. The bilateral meeting was Roelf Meyer, Leon Wessels, Fanie van der Merwe, Niel Barnard and on our side was Cyril Ramaphosa, Joe Slovo and myself. It was around the question of cabinet. Mandela was explicit in his guidance to us, majority rule, a cabinet that functions by simple majority rule. None of this council, troika council, none of this categorisation of cabinet positions into clusters which would hide a veto. We met at that bilateral, talked around the problems. The question of amnesty also came up as an outstanding issue that the constitution had not addressed and the meeting adjourned on the basis that it mandated Fanie van der Merwe and myself to draft something. We reassembled that night with a draft that Fanie and I presented. Now, the draft - I had gone to Cyril and Joe and I had not shown the text but Cyril had asked me, "Are you chaps ready?" I said, "We are ready with the draft." He said, "Do you think it resolves the problems?" I said, "It does in my view." He said, "That's fine."We went into the meeting.

. Now I'm assuming that Fanie did the same minimum with either Niel Barnard or with Roelf. I say Niel because Niel was always everywhere and in selling the solutions preceding this point to the security forces. Often in my discussions with Fanie they would go off to have to do things and come back and give a feedback and I accepted that in addressing the security forces, the Generals, often it was Fanie and Niel who had to go and explain matters and lay the basis and report back to their principals that they had taken care of issues. So I am saying Fanie must have at least shown it, or without showing the full text, have said has it addressed their concerns?

. So we then met, we met that evening and the draft was put out, the post-amble and the question arose, does this meet our concerns? And the response from their side was yes, it meets their concerns. We did not go into the word 'shall'. Fanie and I had disposed of it by inserting 'shall', not that there may be amnesty but that there shall, a mandatory form. And it was of course couched with ubuntu, reconciliation, in this spirit and that spirit, but if you read it that's what it means. Their response was yes, and my memory of that meeting is in body language and everything, that post-amble says nothing about how cabinet shall function but I was observing what is happening here because that is the issue that we met around. We sent out Fanie and Mac. Well, you gentlemen, what have you got? What have you drafted? Is that the thing? And the body language said relief in their minds. That relief immediately translated itself to the rest of the issues because Cyril had said, "Now let's get back before we finalise this thing and say done, now let's get back to the cabinet question. Do you have a problem still because I want to tell you that we will not agree to any form of veto and troika control." And they said, "We're satisfied."

. Now the date of that meeting would perhaps be the evening of the 15th November because we had a similar problem in the ANC but of a different order. There had been a team of our people negotiating various aspects of the constitution and a whole think tank. They were sitting in the ANC office unable to resolve certain particular issues and when Cyril, Slovo and I went off into this bilateral there was concern in the ANC office at the World Trade Centre amongst some of the comrades. What are these people talking? Because we had not discussed with them this bilateral. When we came back having reached agreement after the drafting and everything, when we came back into the office to celebrate they were there and we read out the post-amble and their response was – fantastic! Because they asked the same question, what about the cabinet decision making? We said that's as it stands in the draft that we have put out, and that in the cabinet decision making we said decisions will be taken, if I remember correctly, in the spirit of consensus building. But it went on to formulate it in such a way that it said that if cabinet was divided it would function in a normal way that cabinets do, in the normal way where the chairman guides and goes for what is the majority view and the majority view prevails.

. So our team was happy but earlier there was a bit of restiveness. What are Cyril, Slovo and Mac doing? Where are they? And the concern that would we compromise because everybody knew that it was the last element to finalising the constitution. So my memory says probably the evening of the 15th or the 16th because the next day we went into the negotiating chamber to put that formally before all the parties, got it signed and that is why on 17 November we had an impromptu celebration at the WTC which coincided with Cyril's birthday. So it was not the evening of the 17th, it could be the evening of the 16th that we then went into a session on the 17th and finalised the constitution.

POM. In a way, and just to ensure that I am not misreading you in any way, you are conveying the impression that in that bilateral in a certain way the NP were more concerned with getting an adequate response on the amnesty question than they were on how decisions were made in government and that once they were reassured on that everything else was then OK. Let's go with what's on the table, let's argue no more.

MM. That's my interpretation, Padraig. My interpretation is based on not a strategic meeting in the ANC. My interpretation is based on the fact that I perceived my role and not to worry about technical detail. Sure I was the Joint Secretary looking at the process but I perceived part of my task as constantly listening to the debates and trying to find out what is their bottom line because a clearer definition and concretisation of their bottom line would tell you what spaces you need to address. Now that was a constant exercise with me.

POM. And you never did get it.

MM. And the only discussion in the ANC that took place took place around the sunset clauses. The sunset clauses were part of that concretising what's their concern and their concern was their personal position and the civil service. Now sunset clauses addressed that and things went on and there were still clearly blockages in the system emerging and in my mind the amnesty question became crucial for them. And the relationship with Cyril was such, but as I say, I did not show the text of the post-amble because I simply went back and said Fanie and I are ready. Are we ready to go back into session on the bilateral? And his question to me was, "Have we got a deal? What do you and Fanie say? Is there a deal on the table?" Now in my discussion with Fanie we concentrated on the post-amble and I said, "Fanie, when we finalise, the two of us, is there a deal?" He said, "I think so." He didn't raise the cabinet decision making. All these were clues to me, indicators for me to take to my principal: Cyril, there's a deal. And as I say what happened in the room was there was a deal. I know that in the preceding discussions between the ANC team and the negotiating team and with government this whole question of reconciliation, etc., was getting all the time bogged down but that's because they were singularly addressing that issue without seeing the trade-off that we want to do and the trade-off for me was how does cabinet function versus this last item that they are concerned with but they can't say it outright. That's why I say to you if you check with Cyril you will find that that meeting did not even spend five minutes after we settled the post-amble on a discussion which is what agendas on the cabinet decision making.

. Now what was happening with Roelf now? What was happening with Leon Wessels? I think Leon saw the inevitability of majority rule. I think he saw that for their constituency they had satisfied the security force requirement. The amnesty requirement, their mindset was Kobie Coetsee has messed it up, he's driven us in a corner.

POM. There's general agreement on that.

MM. Because Kobie was seeing this as an instrument that they would hold to blackmail us but it had now turned around because once you viewed the constitution the question becomes: what happens to the safety of their side? Our side was a different issue because we would be in government. Their side was they hoped to be in government, the expect to be in government but they knew that they were going to be a minority part of that government. So how do they assure themselves of their base? And that's why when Roelf says he never saw it. He's wrong.

POM. Not Roelf, Kobie.

MM. Oh Kobie Coetsee.

POM. Kobie says he never saw it.

MM. Kobie Coetsee would have seen it when the cabinet met, before that.

POM. OK, because he wasn't in the room at that bilateral.

MM. No he wasn't in the room but Roelf would have had to take it back.

POM. To cabinet. So that would be the first time to say –

MM. Deal.

POM. That would have been the first time that Kobie would have seen it.

MM. Yes, because it was adopted that night.I think that Roelf would have phoned De Klerk that night and may even have gone to his residence and shown him and explained. But there were very high tensions in that cabinet at that stage and the tensions were that Kriel on the one side and Kobie on the other, not working together but from different individual positions, were under criticism.

POM. Under criticism?

MM. Yes. And that criticism was: Kobie what have you done to us? Because Kobie if you look back what history is showing, had conducted everything even from the talks with Mandela, not by reporting to his principals. He was keeping all sorts of things up his sleeve and was a sort of eminence grise within that cabinet, the wise man who would say, no, no this and that and early stages, no, no, not general amnesty. He wouldn't reveal his position and if you look back at cabinet records one of the first clashes in the government that arose between Mandela and De Klerk was when we discovered that De Klerk in his position as State President had signed off amnesties, indemnities, for a whole group of security force members including Vlok and Magnus Malan. Now that was contrary to the law because the TEC had taken a resolution which it asked Fanie and I to convey to Kobie Coetsee that they could process indemnity applications but it could not grant it in that interim phase. De Klerk signed on 25 and 23 April. He then brought it to the new cabinet to say this is done and I objected saying, "You have acted outside of your powers." Yes the elections took place on 27 April but it was outside of the powers both in letter and spirit of the TEC. Kobie had processed those indemnity applications and passed it on to De Klerk to sign and there were two dates for his signature. The last batch was signed I think on 23 or 25 April and the earlier batch two days before.

POM. Now you've talked, this is for research purposes, of various documentation and whatever. Where is this documentation available?

MM. You can't get access to the cabinet records but in the public discourse in the media, I cannot remember which ones have referred to this public spat, major spat around the indemnity.

POM. But there's no record. You have mentioned other documents regarding the ANC's discussions.

MM. Again, I'm saying preceding that night there had been various interruptions, in working groups, etc., and bilaterals in different teams. So Kobie's vision of it that it was negotiated by Albie and Kader in London – no. Yes, discussions were going on between the two sides but that night to address the matter it was a completely different framework.

POM. I am going to revisit for a moment, and I don't want to spend much time on it because we did this the last time, is Vula and I'm going to take where it came to the attention of De Klerk. He says: -

. "In July 1980 the security forces (this is from his autobiography) uncovered a major ANC plot code named Operation Vula which (contravened) the organisation's undertaking at the Groote Schuur Minute and its professed commitment to a peaceful and negotiated settlement. In terms of the plot the ANC had infiltrated the operators into SA, including Mac Maharaj and Nyanda in 1988 and Ronnie Kasrils in 1990, to organise an underground network to prepare for revolution. Maharaj and co-conspirators were caught and charged with attempting to overthrow the government by violence. For a moment the whole negotiation process was in jeopardy. The securocrats felt that there were some (doubts) regarding the real intention of the ANC/SAPC alliance. I asked Mandela to come and see me urgently and informed him with some of the evidence that the security forces had acquired. During our meeting on 26 July he seemed to be genuinely surprised by these revelations. In his book Long Walk to Freedom he says that after the meeting with me he questioned Joe Slovo of the SACP about the operation. Slovo shrugged off the incident with the explanation that documents that I had shown Mandela were taken out of context and the whole operation was moribund."

. My question is, the last time we talked, which is in the transcript that I have with me of our meeting, you went through in detail how when you got news that somebody had been arrested in Durban you went to Madiba, you explained the situation to him, you met him at the airport. It was his 70th birthday, you went to his house in Soweto and you talked to him about it and briefed him so he was fully informed.

MM. Fully informed.

POM. My question is, at least De Klerk says he feigned surprise, then it was a 'rehearsed' feigned surprise? He wasn't surprised.

MM. Now it has emerged in the TRC hearings in Durban around the death of the two first operatives of Vula to have been arrested because they disappeared, the security forces have acknowledged that they did arrest them. Some contradictory evidence of the date of their arrest but it is incontrovertible that both were arrested around 7/8 July. In that evidence the security force officers say that they flew off to Pretoria immediately and briefed General van der Merwe and he kept them behind in Pretoria in order that they should participate in briefing De Klerk. That's number one.

. Number two, as I say, Mandela arrived on the evening of his birthday, which is 18 July, from the east. I had already been in touch with Mandela and had met him with the underground here so he knew about the operation.

POM. You told me, we've gone through that.

MM. But I briefed him on the morning of the 19th at seven am at his Soweto house and he immediately phoned De Klerk and set an appointment for that day. I then briefed Mandela on 22nd, I think, of July, three days before my arrest, that they were definitely now coming for me and it was agreed that I would stay behind and I would remain -

POM. So this account is?

MM. I was then arrested on 25th. He is saying here that he asked Mandela for a meeting on 26 July and that Mandela was surprised. I think he was surprised by what De Klerk told him on 26th. There was such a meeting I believe. I was already in detention. I think that they put the evidence before Mandela claiming that the evidence showed that I and others were planning to eliminate Mandela. That's what he thought and for that you had better read the book by Stadler, Colonel Stadler.

POM. What's the book called?

MM. I don't know what the book is called. It's gruesome with pictures of killings done by the ANC.

POM. Where is this?

MM. It's in the bookshops.

POM. What is his first name?

MM. H – Herman, he's a former security force so-called expert and he's with the group that is called Justice & Equality for All which Van der Merwe and company created to try and oppose amnesty for the ANC people, including the TRC process.

POM. Fanie van der Merwe?

MM. General van der Merwe. Now in that book, and it has been in the papers, they quote an extract from a communication in Vula in which they identify myself and Jacob Zuma and allege that we were planning to eliminate Mandela. We have chosen to keep quiet on it altogether. We have never responded. But at the TRC hearing in Durban when I went to give evidence, the advocate on behalf of the security forces tried to extract something from me and I again, very deliberately, skirted that because it's a misreading of the communication and I have chosen to leave them to continue misreading it. My aim is a different long term one. Colonel Stadler was a member of the security forces. Much of the documents from the security force archives have disappeared but Colonel Stadler in writing his book and making his submission to the TRC implies that he has the records of Vula. And the day he comes to that point I will demand that he puts that property in its fullness that he has on the table because it's not his property. I have still hidden away the authentic records of Vula, going beyond what they captured. So I will force them to say that they stole state property and I will force them to return, resurrender, to the state its property. When I have done that then I am ready to explain that paragraph.

. But I know that Mandela told me on his two visits to me in prison, during Vula, at Sandton on 7 August and in Durban in hospital somewhere round October, that they have reneged on promises to release me and my colleagues and he was now fed up and the only thing that they are saying is that they have pending against me several murder and attempted murder charges. So De Klerk, I have reason to believe, on 26th would have put this sort of thing to frighten the hell out of Mandela and Mandela when he says 'genuinely surprised' would be surprised that Mac Maharaj and Jacob Zuma wanted to kill him, but he wouldn't betray anything more to FW. He wouldn't. What De Klerk really questioned Mandela on was the right of Slovo to be part of the ANC delegation.

POM. I was going to just get to that by way of asking you when the total onslaught theory propaganda was being propagated throughout SA it was built around communism, communism, communism, the ANC really being just a front for the SACP and the SACP were going to use the ANC as a ruse, an enfranchisement of the black masses to establish an authoritarian communist regime. This would be the mid to late eighties. To what degree in ANC assessments and your assessments when you came back in 1988, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, that the NP thought that this country was obsessed with the fear of communism, that if the ANC came into power, and they were going to be in power, that it would nationalise everything including private property, that there would be a Stalinist-like regime imposed. Was this a consideration that so brainwashed the population that even De Klerk when it came to the Groote Schuur meeting objected to having Joe Slovo in the ANC delegation?

MM. At Groote Schuur he didn't object. He objected at the Pretoria Minute meeting of 6 August and the objection was - I was in detention but I believe that the objection was on 26 July because 26 July the real issue that De Klerk raised was he will not allow Joe Slovo to be in the meeting in Pretoria on the 6 August. And the reason for that was that his security forces had misread a Vula communication of a conference organised illegally, clandestinely in Tongaat on 18, 19 and 20 May.

POM. I remember, I was here at that time.

MM. In that a contributor in the discussion in the minutes was Joe. That was a discussion led by Siphwe Nyanda, one of whose code names certainly at that meeting was recorded as Joe.

POM. Slovo wasn't even in Tongaat.

MM. Slovo wasn't there. So at the meeting of 26th, because when I was arrested on 25th I am all night at Sandton police station with no sleep. On 26th I'm all day at Sandton police station. On 27th I'm brought for the first time to sleep at John Vorster Square and from the prison van I see a headline.

POM. That's on page 200 of his autobiography.

MM. Mandela called Joe Slovo and said, "Joe they are saying this", and Joe said, "I wasn't even in the country." Mandela says, "Are you sure?" He says, "Absolutely sure. Here, here's my passport. I was in a certain country and had gone out on a trip. Here's my passport stamp showing where I was." And Mandela then goes back to De Klerk and says, "I will not drop Joe Slovo from my delegation. Here is the proof that you are wrong to say that Joe Slovo was at Tongaat, but number two you're not going to dictate who is going to be in my delegation."

. Now your question, your obsession with the controversy, I think there were two manifest obsessions which kept interchanging. The regime had a mindset which said how do we break up the cohesion of this ANC? And there were two strands that they always pursued, unable in their analysis to determine what weight to give to each strand. There was (i) the communist strand. That was a more enduring one over time. But there was also one where they constantly analysed whenever the ANC was moving to some important event or conference or process or campaign, was to analyse the young versus the old guard. There was a third one now that I am talking, it's around ethnicity, the Zulu/Xhosa thing. These were three tactics that they constantly read intodevelopments in the ANC and moulded their analysis within those three frameworks because their starting point was: how do we split these (people), how do we generate tension amongst them?

POM. So they were looking for fault lines to be identified in their analysis.

MM. They were looking for a fault line that they could drive and here they thought they had found the basis of a fault line between the SACP and the ANC and that Mandela would be driven with his back to the wall to repudiate the SACP or a section of the SACP and that section would have had to be Slovo and myself, he could repudiate them. Now that's the mindset that gets him to cast things in the way he casts it and that's the mindset that makes him ignore certain events to pose the meeting of the 26th as the first engagement around Vula. The first engagement with De Klerk is on 19 July.

POM. If you look at the literature that I've reviewed on the total onslaught you will see this continuous reference, particularly by Magnus Malan, the communist threat, the encircled SA, the last bastion of Christian values, the bulwark between east and west. It's almost like they have a sacred mission to stand up to atheistic communism coming over their borders. Do you think they were successful in selling that to their white constituents?

MM. Yes!

POM. To a degree that even today you have whites who see things in terms of communism is around the corner.

MM. They certainly sold it but the point I'm making is that that was for the internal consumption and legitimately that was a problem for them. How do they maintain the cohesion of their constituency and put them in blinkers? But the second element was how do they interact with the western powers to keep them on side? It is now clear. You look at even the Irish question, the SA security force elements were supplying arms to the Ulster Unionists with the co-operation of certain officers in British Intelligence. What is the basis of this individual rapprochement? It was around the question of communism. What is the basis of interaction at a personal level with the CIA? It was around the question of the assessment of communism. So, even as the western powers shifted there is enough evidence that within their intelligence services, given the close working relationship and shared analytical framework, there was a close personal relationship which kept friends on board. Right? So that was important. But then take that against reality, they had signed the Nkomati Accord with Frelimo in 1982. Who was Frelimo and Samora Machel except the apotheosis of communism and they signed the Accord with him. How could they do that? It was against the self-interest of securing South Africa's borders. So when that self-interest reached that point this demon of communism you could reconcile with.

POM. My point would be, in their propagandising of their population did they do a very effective job of instilling the fear of what communism would do if there were a communist take over, so that there were instilled fears among large numbers of whites as to what would happen if the ANC did take power.

MM. They had gone so far as to say your daughters would be raped, that fear mentality goes right back to 1948. It was called the swart gevaar, the black threat, and the rooi gevaar, the red threat. So the red threat fell into the cold war framework and therefore could be propagated intensely so much so that it closed the mind of the white community, instilled a whole sense of fear. I had a group of black students who came to the first meeting that I went to after prison in Lesotho when I had a group of black militants come out to SA to that UN conference and seek a private meeting with me and they said, "We are shocked to see the Angolan delegation." I said, "What's your shock comrades?" They said, "We thought they would have horns." And they were not joking, these were black youngsters. They really thought that the MPLA Foreign Minister of Angola who would be there was a person who has horns growing out of his head. That's the extent of the propaganda and indoctrination that had been carried out here. You can look at by looking at the history books that were used in the schools to teach kids, to the material that was used at summer schools for the youth, to the material used in the army for people conscripted, you can see it in the police manuals. It was consistently that fear of these communists as an organ and drilled in from childhood and the result was that even the media could not find a way to handle this problem, they had succumbed to it. Even Van Zyl Slabbert defended the raid on Gaborone because PW Botha called him, and it's on record because we confronted him, PW Botha called him and said, "Here I am giving you a security briefing about the raid we've carried out in Gaborone. It was nest of terrorists that we attacked." And Van Zyl Slabbert's party supported Botha on the raid on Gaborone.

POM. When he says terrorists, it was communist terrorists.

MM. Communist terrorists. And then bought that briefing and then later on had the guts to stand up and say that PW took them for a ride.

POM. I know you're rushed but I've two more questions – well I've lots more. I'm going to ask you again before I go is there any possibility of us fitting in one more hour, one evening?

MM. When are you leaving?

POM. I'm leaving on the 15th.

MM. Ask Maria as you go out to see if she can't put an hour for you in my diary.

POM. OK. Last time I said that to you, you said, "Ask Ben", and Ben never fitted me in. So will you tell her?

MM. Tell Maria I said give you an hour.

POM. There are two areas and if you want to leave them to the next time do. One is the account, again your friend Patti Waldmeir's article.

MM. You call her my friend!

POM. Last time you said – I began by saying Patti Waldmeir was your friend and you began by saying she was, as distinct from she still is. So you've already caught me out. She talks about a meeting, this is before the last plenary at CODESA, the night before.

. "This is where the NP had come back with a new proposal, a two thirds vote would be enough to deal with most constitutional clauses but those dealing with the bill of rights, devolution of power, etc., multiparty democracy and minority rights would need a three quarter majority. It also proposed a Senate representing minorities which would pass the interim constitution by two thirds effect vote. The effect of this would be to give minorities the veto of crucial matters in the constitution unless the majority controlled more than three quarters of the Assembly, which seemed impossible in view of opinion polls showing the ANC was 45% popular support at that time. The NP's own internal polls showed it might get 26% of the vote, enough to block such votes entirely on its own. The ANC saw the trap and Ramaphosa immediately realised it. With percentages set so high the new SA would be stuck with a constitution written by an unrepresentative CODESA for ever because they would never get the figure of up to three quarters. Ramaphosa and his colleagues took the dilemma to Nelson Mandela. They arrived at Mandela's home in the white suburb of Houghton about eleven o'clock at night but were unable to get in. While Ramaphosa tried to phone Mandela's secretary on his car phone the others threw pebbles at the windows in an attempt to wake their sleeping boss. They only discovered later he thought someone was trying to shoot him, says Frene Ginwala another ANC negotiator who took part in the assault, giggling. "The new CODESA 2 was going to fail and we had to find a way of ending it. It was not going to show the ANC in a bad light", she recalls. Eventually Mandela came down, they explained the problem. "Postpone CODESA 2", he told them. The embarrassed negotiators explained that as the plenary session was due to open in a few hours this was not possible. Then Ramaphosa had to plan how to engineer a deadlock. He said he wanted 50% after six months."

. I talked to Albie Sachs who said he was part of that delegation that went there. Were you part of that delegation too? OK. Well he says Mandela never said that.

MM. Never said what?

POM. Postpone CODESA 2.

MM. I was sitting, as Joint Secretary of the process, so that night would have been the rush to prepare for the plenary and arrange everything. My memory tells me that the next day the meeting went on, of that working group.

POM. This is when Ramaphosa put forward his plan of 'we go along where if there is not a constitution in six months then we will have a referendum and there will be the 50%'.

MM. What I know was that a report reached me as the Joint Secretary because the plenary was due to start and it was not starting so I was receiving messages and the message that I received was – deadlock. No give on either side, Cyril is coming up with a proposal to try and break the deadlock. Mandela was already at the WTC sitting in a quiet office waiting for the session to start and the message finally came down, no deal. The night before, I am not aware of. I am aware of this story like the one that one night the team did go to see Mandela and they had to throw stones. What I am satisfied is that from the administration side I wanted the plenary to happen, it was a huge exercise. What I know was that the deal that Delport was driving was unsustainable and I knew that we had to take a position which politically would not undermine ourselves. And so when I heard that Cyril has tabled a compromise, I wasn't told the details, but I assumed that Cyril was moving out of the situation of being doubt, that the ANC broke up CODESA. That's all. What the details of that manoeuvre would be were irrelevant to me. What was important was tactically and strategically you had to take up a posture that appeared constructive and engaging but you had to get out of what Delport had said. Delport was critically ill with laryngitis and had lost his voice and I knew that Cyril would use all sorts of tricks, which anybody does. Even in trade union bargaining councils you do that, you exploit everything to the full. I have reason to believe that Cyril and Valli were steering that process very, very closely as a team. Cyril was not the sort of person who would say, now comrades, here let's hammer out the minute tactics that would be used. The precise tactics to be used you had to leave open to the chap sitting at the front table, but I think that he and Valli would have shared some notes. Either he and Valli, Valli was his deputy in that Constitutional Committee, Slovo I don't think was in the room but could have been in the room.

POM. I don't think he was. He wasn't on that committee.

MM. He was not on that committee, it was Cyril and Valli. So what Mandela said precisely I don't know but I know one thing that from the administration the message that it has collapsed was not a problem to Mandela, not a problem.

POM. He believed it had collapsed because there was no way around it.

MM. That it had collapsed, yes.

POM. So it had to go.

MM. Yes and he was quite happy that we had manoeuvred ourselves out of being painted just as the bad guys.

POM. Now she says, and you can read the paragraph here, that after CODESA had deadlocked she says: -

. "I and other Financial Times colleagues visited De Klerk in his office only to find him in buoyant mood. There was no hurry to get a deal, he told us. If compromise were required it would come from the ANC. De Klerk was confident he could get 51% of the popular vote by leading an anti-ANC alliance."

. Two questions, why would he be in a buoyant mood that CODESA had collapsed?

MM. He had misread that we had snapped out of the trap that we would be painted the bad guys. That's number one.

POM. He misread?

MM. The Cyril manoeuvre of the compromise that Cyril put on the table and the impact of that compromise. The impact of that compromise was that in the media we were not perceived as the bad guys but he thought we would be seen as the bad guys. Number two, he had been struggling to keep his whole Bantustan phalange in place and he thought it was still in place. Number three, the violence that was going on in the country was now effectively bought by the media as black on black violence, so he thought that too is in place. However much he didn't know about the details of the black on black violence what he didn't realise was that through that channel of hate there would emerge the Record of Understanding, which Record of Understanding I have described as putting the nail in the coffin of the relationship between the IFP and the NP.

POM. Was that part of, I'll get back to this, was that part of ANC strategy when you went into the Record of Understanding that you wanted to marginalise the IFP at that point?

MM. We wanted to, we constantly had in agreeing to the CODESA format realised that the majority of the parties there would be Bantustan parties. The NP was proceeding from the secure premise that these parties had been fostered by its Bantustan system, but principally it had Buthelezi, the IFP, siding with them on federalism, etc., etc., it had Mangope on another side, it had Oupa Gqozo and it had Venda. So these were the parties sitting around the table and it saw that as a simple majority jump. The ANC in the meantime, through the Patriotic Front process and at the negotiating table, constantly engaged all these parties seeking to make them support its positions and was making progress. A principal stumbling block from one point of view was the IFP which was present there and very vociferous but Mangope had been standing in, out, in, out. It was clear to all of us that the principal strategy of the NP was the alliance with the IFP because they were promoting the troika.

. So tactically and strategically you had to undermine that and draw the IFP on your side. The Record of Understanding in the context of the issues that it addressed, agreeing to a Constitutional Assembly which would adopt the final constitution, which would be constituted through an elected process, immediately said we would be in a different position in the final constitution.

. Second, the question of the black on black violence and the role of the hostels and the question of carrying arms in public, the Record of Understanding was very clear. That we knew would be driving a wedge between the NP and the IFP. As a consequence of that agreement - but the issues were not selected in order that they are to drive that wedge, the issues were selected in order to resume negotiation but certainly from my side I knew one of the fallouts of that would be a rift between the positions of the IFP and the NP. That's how I saw it.

. So we did not go into the Record of Understanding with a principal strategy to split, we went in with a principal strategy of the conditions that they would have to meet in order to move things forward and whilst the Record of Understanding began to emerge in its format and was signed that day, I was clear one of its consequences was that the NP now has a problem with the IFP. That was verified when we resumed it and called it the multiparty process. The IFP didn't want the name CODESA to be attached to it, the IFP wanted a new type of process and the IFP now was conducting itself in a way that was causing open rift and that is why at the multiparty process we expanded the Secretariat to say Ben Ngubane can serve on the Secretariat with Fanie and myself because that was bringing them closer but no longer making the NP the unique conduit of having bilateral relations with us and that's where COSAG emerged as a grouping between Mangope, the white right wing and Buthelezi sitting coyly to see is this going to be a big enough force for him to lead it. So that's how I see it.

POM. I know you've another appointment waiting. I'll leave this with you and you can give a yes or no answer and then we can expand on it. Do you think that De Klerk was living in a world of unreality to believe that in a one person one vote election that he might actually emerge with a majority, with 51% given that his party had systematically and ruthlessly oppressed Africans, Indians, coloureds for 50 years – never mind what preceded that? Was it just like, man, you're not even in touch with reality?

MM. If De Klerk was a genuine conduit to democracy and was able to sit down and strategise he could have given us a real run for our money.

POM. OK, we'll start on that the next time.

MM. He wasn't capable of doing that.

POM. That's what Barnard said and others have said that the question came up, they said De Klerk was very good at tactics, brilliant at tactics, but he had no strategic sense.

MM. No strategy.

POM. We'll use that as a start the next time, I'll know where to begin.

MM. I know history is full of what ifs.

POM. But that's what makes history fascinating because it runs in two directions.

MM. Otherwise politics would be too predictable.

POM. People say there's a flow of history that's inevitable. On the other hand at the other end you have kind of chance encounters between people, odd coincidences, chance meetings out of which things happen that can play an equally important role.

MM. It's what makes politics an art and not just a science. Art is a correct reading of the forces and how they are balanced and what's your opportunity and how you exploit it.

POM. Do you miss it?

MM. No, not at all.

POM. But you're so good at it.

MM. No. Thank you very much.

POM. Come on! Don't be so modest.

MM. It is a fascinating aspect but I think the what ifs of history are only worth talking about if you want to see the art element of politics.

POM. The art aspect.

MM. The art element. I think politics has a science element and an art element and I think when you look at the figures in history it's how that art element … of being at the right place at the right time and taking the right step. And that nobody can equip you, no science, no studies. It is how deeply you are immersed in these forces that are historically said to be …

POM. I look forward to our next hour and I will tell Maria that you said it was to be put in, OK?

MM. And she can check with me.

POM. And she can check with you.

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