About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Aug 1989: Sutcliffe, Michael

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POM     I'm speaking with Michael Sutcliffe on the 14th of August. Michael you were just giving a very brief resume of yourself.

MS     Well I suppose the four areas of my work, firstly politically, I'm the chairperson of Durban Democratic Association which is an affiliate of the UDF which operates in the white areas and we might come back and talk a little bit about the work that we do there. I'm paid by the University of Natal. I'm acting Head of the Department of Town Regional Planning which is similar to most Graduate Schools of Planning in the States. We'd probably be more radical than most of those, but it's a similar kind of programme. I'm also on the executive of the an environment support group which is an organisation we set up about seven years ago which consists of professionals and the work we do is mainly with UDF affiliates and COSATU affiliates. It's in their struggles against either the state or business, whether it is housing struggles or forced removals or a whole host of things that we do there. And then I would think another area of work that I do, partly through my work in the UDF, but also partly because of my links to Durban Network, which is an organisation that provides material aid to victims of violence in particular, and what I run there is a - well I co-ordinate a project which basically tries to analyse the state of emergency and the violence under apartheid. And then I suppose, finally, I'm a member of a church.

POM     As you look at the situation today and as it was the last time we were here, which was on the eve of the first emergency in 1985, what are the major differences between the two situations as it existed then and now?

MS     Well, 1985 was quite a significant year for the South African government simply because it was the first time that they recognised that they could not continue to govern this country and to rule it in the way in which they had previously. It was their first real recognition where they actually realised that some fundamental changes would have to come about, that their constitution couldn't continue to be modified and adapted to suit the changing situation in South Africa. Now the problem is they've taken three years to really start realising that that in fact is the case. And I think the changeover to FW that's the biggest choice that he has to make, is that how quickly does he actually, basically negotiate himself out of power? Do they allow that continued Lebanonisation, I would call it, of the situation in South Africa? In other words the downward spiral of violence, the economy worsens, the violence continues, the place just tends to deteriorate a lot more. And in five to ten years time they will then be forced to the table simply because militarily, and I'll come back to the balance of forces, I think that if one takes the three sectors of power in the country, the one would be the military power and I would argue that while the South African government is in terms of pure based military power stronger than the forces posed against it, in particular the ANC, strategically it's not. I think that its campaign of joint management centres, the whole national security management for example, is an indication ultimately of the fact that it's lost the strategic power in the military sense, the strategic battle in this country, of winning the hearts and minds of people. The Angolan situation where they lost, I think that was the first point at which that really became, where they lost the battle at Cuito Cuanavale which led to the whole process in Namibia.

POM     How do you spell it?

MS     Cuito Cuanavale. It was a battle that took place from October 1987 until March 1988 where initially the South African forces moved forward about 350 kilometres, I think, into Angola and then their supply lines were cut off and they lost the air battle with the Cubans and Angolans in particular, to a situation at which there was something like 3000 troops that were cut off from their bases in South Africa. Immediately that happened the generals went running and one had the unfolding of a negotiated settlement then in Namibia.

     The process, let's continue there, now, what I would say is that strategically I think the South African government clearly can't continue with its military drive any more. One even gets the generals today arguing that the battle is only 20% military and 80% political using the system similar to the Latin American situation. OK. I think in terms of the economic side of the balance of forces, clearly they've lost that battle. I think that they are subjected to enormous public pressures from abroad, enormous financial pressures. Sanctions aren't anywhere near as important to the South African government as the ability to roll over debt. And I think that is something that is hurting at the moment. It's also an indication of the power of the ANC, given that the ANC's strategy over the last 30 years has been to build up a diplomatic presence abroad and I think it's quite clear that that the inability of the South African government to roll over that debt is really an indication of the widespread, from Moscow even now I believe to Washington, the acceptance of the ANC as the leading edge of the liberation movement.

     So the second area where it cannot overcome its problems is economically and it's partly to do with sanctions but it's mainly to do with a recognition that the South African government is illegitimate, in fact has lost any credibility it might have had.

     The third area is social power. Social community power, that in spite of the mass of detentions and repression of the UDF, in particular in the post 1986 period, it has not been able to break the back of the UDF. And in fact I would argue that that organisation is today stronger than it was four years ago, that the South African government has not been able to co-opt any groups through this period of repression and the result is that organisations have begun to mobilise and organise on a much stronger basis than ever before.

     So if you take those three aspects of the balance of forces I think we're at a period now where the balance is shifting at all three levels towards the liberation movement. And so the option open to FW is either you allow there just to be a general destabilisation, a general deterioration of the economy, or do you actually get down and negotiate? But there is only one question about negotiation, it's negotiating away your power and that's a tough decision.

POM     What intrigues me a little is the fact that in1985/86 you had a brutal crack down, thousands, tens of thousands of detentions and it seems the government had suppressed the liberation movement at least by locking away most of its leaders. And suddenly you have this constant talk of negotiations. When did negotiations start, a negotiated settlement come into use? Like the shift seems dramatic over a rather short period of time.

MS     Well I think that little tipping of the scales it is always over a short period of time that the actually tipping of the scales occurred. Three years ago the government - economically it's only problem was sanctions and sanctions busting. It has two decades of experience of sanctions busting so that wasn't as much of a problem economically. There was the potential that the economy would find it's way out of the recession that we were going through so it wasn't too much of a problem. It thought that by detaining leaders in the leadership of the UDF the problem would go away. I think it's come to realise in fact the difference between the National Party, if you got rid of all of the ministers in the National Party you would have a party that actually is suffering very strongly. In fact all the white political parties are like that. Well it's very different in terms of the liberation movement generally. You can take away one layer of leadership but there is still leadership, there is still organisation. I mean the ANC is not exactly a young party. It's been around for over seven decades. So one has then a problem that the government has faced. It's partly that tipping of the scales. But it's also I think that all negotiations have to be seen as a process. I think that if you took the situation in Rhodesia in its transition to Zimbabwe, Lancaster House is often put as well, gee, that's when the negotiations occurred but actually there was a process before that, a process over a decade, and one doesn't presume that the South African process of negotiation is going to be very short and sweet. I mean even in Namibia when they were defeated it still has taken 18 months and we don't have independence yet. It will take over two years until there is political independence in Namibia.

POM     What do you think is going to happen in the forthcoming election?

MS     Well this is where I disagree with a lot of colleagues of mine. There is a lot of sort of hype at the moment and I suppose in three weeks time you'll know if I'm right or if they are, but there are a lot of stories around that there might be a hung parliament and there are things like that. I don't believe that. I believe if anything the National Party might lose up to about ten seats. They have 123 seats I think at the moment and my estimate, guesstimate, whatever you want to call it, would be that maybe they could lose about ten. I would see the Democratic Party making most of those gains, possibly even becoming the official opposition. The Conservative Party I've never been a believer in so it might just be my own prejudice coming out, I've never been a believer that they have much base, that they've probably reached their potential and quite a lot of their support is more protest support, protest against the National Party than necessarily a fundamentally racist vote. I think that the proportion of racist is very small in this country, relatively speaking. I mean there is hidden racism which one finds in the US which is our longer term problem. But those sorts of people that are the kind of Treurnichts, well Treurnicht on the one hand but Terre'Blanche on the other, is probably relatively small. Maybe ten percent. There's that subtle racism. I think the majority of South Africans, and white South Africans in particular, are racist without knowing it consciously. But I'm talking about the conscious racism. So I would say if I had to make estimates there that maybe the Democratic Party could get up to about 30 votes and the Conservative Party probably staying around where they are, maybe picking up an extra seat or two in the Northern Transvaal. Some other people, Laurie Schlemmer is one for example, who argues there could easily be a hung parliament. I think that that is way off the mark.

POM     If there were a hung parliament, what way do you think the National Party would go to form a coalition?

MS     Well it would have to form it with the DP, with the Democratic Party, in the sense that it knows that its future does not lie in the Conservative Party. It cannot lie in the Conservative Party. So firstly it would go there. But that's why I'm not too much of a believer that parliament these days, as part of their shift in the balance of forces, is necessarily that significant in South Africa. Ultimately, no matter who is in power, whether it is the Conservative Party, National Party or Democratic Party, they have to address the question of negotiating away their power. And that's why I don't really see very much difference in a qualitative sense between those three parties. That might sound a bit outrageous but there's not. Fundamentally they all have to face the same reality.

POM     Does the National Party really know where it stands on some of these issues? I raise that because we talked briefly to the Minister of Education and he said South Africa, they believe South Africa is already in a post-apartheid era. We talked to one of the candidates in Pretoria, Chris Fismer, who said, no, it was not in a post-apartheid era, it was not a democracy and he even advanced as party policy the implementation of a bill of rights which came out of this Law Commission report. How seriously is that report taken?

MS     Well the report is doing the rounds probably more amongst intellectuals than it is amongst rank and file people. Again, you know there is a tendency in politics here, probably similar to politics in the States, for people to be followers rather than leaders. And I think that is where the liberation movement is quite different. I think that ultimately a ... is a product of what lies underneath. That's in the ANC. In the UDF, the UDF leadership is ultimately that. So that while one could put a lot of import on what leaders say within the UDF, I don't think that that necessarily characterises what the movement is as a whole. Now if one takes the question of the bill of rights and think we're clearly not in a post-apartheid situation, political independence won't necessarily also signal the movement towards, (by political independence I mean a situation of one-person one-vote) that will not necessarily mean that we're into, or fully into, a post-apartheid era. There is a lot to be done before we can actually enter that post-apartheid era. The first thing is clearly political independence. There would need to be a situation where every person in this country has an equal opportunity to shape the destiny of our country. Now that might actually occur. Political independence in South Africa without resolving the Bantustan question, the fact that three or four of these places are so-called independent, that might have to be a second stage at which they are brought back into being part of our country.

POM     What is the barrier against bringing them immediately?

MS     A barrier might just be a group of officials who are living on the fat of apartheid. It's nothing more than that.

POM     These would be black officials?

MS     Yes, people like Lucas Mangope who has bought himself some houses in Paris and London and he's looking for one in Washington now.

POM     He's Transkei?

MS     Bophuthatswana. It's those sorts of people which might potentially be a little bit of a problem. That will be a second area. The third will clearly be, in order to enter seriously the question of a post-apartheid era there has to be affirmative action and redistribution of resources. You cannot have, and we will not be in a post-apartheid situation until there is effective redistribution of resources and affirmative action programmes, not token affirmative action. I'm not talking about affirmative action where one simply sticks it on your letterhead. My university has it on, we have it on our letterhead at the moment, that we are an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer and that we reject apartheid. But that doesn't mean to say - I think that my principal would certainly not argue that we are in a post-apartheid era. Clearly that's a process, something we're working towards. And we are not working towards a set of tokens, we're working towards a liberated society. So I would say those are the three minimums that would have to occur before we are in that era.

POM     In Natal you have the impact of Gatsha Buthelezi and Inkatha. What role does he play? What role will he play?

MS     Well the role that Inkatha plays at the moment is a role that I would say has on the whole been deviant, divisive, within the liberation movement. Inkatha will disappear in a post-apartheid context, there is no doubt in my mind. It's founded on tribalism and it's founded on the patronage that results from the apartheid state. Now if those two things go there will be no foundation left for Inkatha as Inkatha. That doesn't mean to say that member of Inkatha will all suddenly be out in the cold. I would argue that the majority of those members of Inkatha are fundamentally, and will be fundamentally, part of the ANC once the ANC is unbanned. So in a sense Inkatha, I believe in a post-apartheid sense, will become irrelevant.

     What role it is playing now is a role that has two potentials. The one potential, and I don't think that we must ever put too little import on it, is a potential that they could, together with FW de Klerk or PW Botha if you want to see it that way because I don't see too much difference between those two, it could play a very disruptive role. You only need a hundred or two hundred thousand paid Africans in an army to disrupt things substantially in South Africa. The state still has enormous power and it could in fact, together with an army, and many of these people have had training in Namibia already, they have started building up what they would see as a kind of Zulu army, the state has, with the blessing it seems of the KwaZulu government, have started building up such an army. Now that could be quite disruptive. I would tend to take the view that, given that the majority of Inkatha supporters are really fundamentally supporters of the ANC or at least sympathisers with the ANC, I suppose to become supporters they would have to move into a little bit more action orientation, but there are fundamentally people who will be and become part of the liberation movement, play their role within that liberation movement. And I think that that tension will unfold over time.

     I have no doubt that people Frank Mdlalose, Oscar Dhlomo, those sorts of people, have always attempted to remain within the traditions of the ANC. In the case of the Chief Minister Buthelezi, I don't know whether, and it will be the next ten years will give us an indication of whether there is the ability for people who, and here I mean particularly the people most affected by what they would see as Chief Minister's Buthelezi's policies, see whether they would allow him to actually come within the liberation movement. I don't know whether that would occur. I can't say either way. My own gut feeling at the moment would be that there is not much support for Chief Minister Buthelezi. That people would say there is no problem with Inkatha supporters and members becoming part of the liberation movement but there is a problem that they would have with Chief Minister Buthelezi.

POM     What has been the source of the violence between the UDF and Inkatha?

MS     I think the first thing one has to say is that there is no violence between Inkatha and the UDF. I think that it is apartheid induced violence. The reason I make that distinction is that there is often a tendency to start believing the government and believing foreign governments when they say there is black on black violence in South Africa. That's nonsense. There is not black on black violence in South Africa. I mean to say we don't walk around if two whites kill each other and say that was white on white violence. That's nonsense. What you find in almost every instance of it, it would be supporters of the status quo, either people wearing uniforms, members of the military or of the police forces or whatever, or members who are doing the same thing, there had been no violence in the area for about eight months, almost none. There was a total lull, and it was one of the trouble spots, serious trouble spots in South Africa before that, but when the control was vested in the hands of these police they were fair. They picked up people who were involved in violence no matter who they were. Secondly, they argued that in fact these people were not supporting them in particular, them as individuals in their attempt to recruit members for Inkatha. It would then appear because the new Deputy Commissioner of Police in KwaZulu is an ex very senior member of the security forces who, the stories we have of what he did in Pietermaritzburg and they believed that when he was involved in Pietermaritzburg the violence escalated rather than de-escalated you know, there was just a lot of tension about who he was, so he came out of being a head or a chief person within the security forces in South Africa to then go over and become the new Commissioner of Police in KwaZulu. So whether it was him or whether it was someone else, but someone ordered new forces to go into the township then, who then worked with the South African police who went in. Because theoretically there should be no South African police in that township. And yet there were over that period.

POM     Because the township falls within KwaZulu?

MS     That's right. Now, obviously under the state of emergency we don't know precisely what happened. We do know there was very heavy machinegun fire. There was heavy gunfire on that weekend. We don't know who it was and that would mean that it would be unlikely that it would be UDF and/or Inkatha who tend to use small weapons and things like that. We know that 25 people were killed and again it's very difficult to make out.

POM     If you look at both white politics and black politics, what are the major divisions or what are the major potential sources of divisions among blacks and what are the actual or potential sources of divisions among whites?

MS     OK, amongst whites the source of division I think is primarily economic. I think in the sense that for whites politics is just a way of improving or stemming the decline of - either improving or stemming the decline of your personal situation, economic situation. So people might vote more conservative or whatever simply because they are tired of the way in which their life as they are used to it is deteriorating. There is also to a degree amongst whites, and I think it's quite small, is many whites are the gatekeepers, as if it were, or they were mostly a buffer. And in the Transvaal, part of the reason for the growth of the Conservative Party in the Transvaal is linked to the fact that in the Transvaal working class whites are a kind of buffer between the African majority and white management, as it were, in Natal and so I think that that's where some of that racism comes about. In Natal, Indians played that role. So that one does find a kind of anti-Indian amongst Africans to a degree, not necessarily whites but you do find the kind of racism that has emerged there partly because Indians become the supervisors at jobs and things like that. So whites on the whole are still retaining something of a colonial kind of position as it were, which is not seen as being an immediate source of one's problem.

     Amongst blacks usually people make out the distinctions, and Americans in particular, because I suppose this was significant for Americans, as a kind of distinction between the Black Consciousness groupings and the Charterist groupings. The African National Congress, for example, being a non-racial movement, the UDF being a non-racial movement, COSATU being a non-racial federation of unions whereas on the other hand you have very small, I would argue, I think that most estimates would put it probably anywhere from two to maybe six or seven percent support in South Africa for the Black Consciousness Movement; probably bigger amongst intellectuals than non-intellectuals the Black Consciousness Movement embodied in the form of AZAPO, the BCM, Black Consciousness Movement, the PAC, etc.

     Now those ideological differences are not, I would argue, that serious as they might have been in let's say Zimbabwe. If you look at Zimbabwe around the time of unity, it's taken a long time to get unity going in Zimbabwe between, ZAPU and ZANU, Patriotic Front and the nationalists, for example. Now, the reason I would argue for that is partly because of the strategy that the white Rhodesian's used during the war. What they did was they had separate jails for people. So it meant that each of those aspects of the liberation movement was separate. And it meant that I think a particular culture within ZAPU was born in that environment and a particular culture within ZANU was born in that environment.

     South African policy was quite different. When they jail people they jail them and consciously during the 1960s put the PAC leaders within the same cells as ANC leaders etc., so I would say that is part of the reason why the ANC strengthened and in fact has become the single dominant major part of the liberation movement whereas the PAC has declined substantially. In the late 1950s the PAC in some senses could have been seen as at least an equal partner in that liberation struggle. I don't think it is today, and that was partly because people within the PAC became, this is probably a very arrogant term, politically mature one might argue or the term might be that they became more realistic or whatever it is, but they certainly changed so that one finds many members of the ANC for example being old Black Consciousness people. I think that for me is an important thing because I don't think the ideological differences are very great. They might become great in the post-liberation sense, post-political independence sense, simply because that is what a democracy is all about. You see it in your Democratic Party where you go from people I would class as fascist right through to the leftwing. And I think that's what a democratic grouping, or a democratic front is about. It's about tension and divisions and struggles and so on.

POM     Do you think to the average white that there is now an acceptance of the fact that fundamental political change is around the corner and that you no longer have that siege mentality of at all costs we will hold on to our power of privilege.

MS     Oh yes, whether it's a very conscious thing or not a conscious thing I think does exist.

POM     If it's unconscious?

MS     It's unconscious, it exists, I mean that's why there wasn't much stir. If you think of it, if you look at a year ago the classing of Nelson Mandela as this unbelievable terrorist and here you have the President of the country having tea with him, I mean that for me is just amazing and the fact there's not much outcry. Hardly anyone, a couple of the conservative parties raised it just as a political thing, but I mean really, fundamentally, you haven't had letters being written to the newspapers, I mean that should outrage people. I grew up believing that here was Joe Slovo, a white person, a member of the South African Communist Party, I grew up that he was the man behind the struggle, I mean behind the African National Congress, this communist, white communist, blah, blah, blah. And yet two nights ago, three nights ago on television one hears a very significant senior member of the National Party, on television debate complaining to Wynand Malan, who is a member of the Democratic Party, complaining that Wynand Malan goes to Lusaka and talks to the nice guys like, and I quote, Joe Slovo and Thabo Mbeki. He doesn't talk to Chris Hani who's a member of uMkhonto we Sizwe, etc. Now that for me is just unbelievable. Here you have a person saying that here's the most evil man we ever had in the form of Joe Slovo, now being cast as a nice guy. I mean that just amazes me.

POM     To turn to economics for a moment. Do you believe sanctions have had an impact?

MS     Undoubtedly, I think that part of the shift in the balance of forces is our international campaign. There's no doubt that sanctions have had an effect, they've had an impact, they've been extremely effective but they've had some problems too partly because western governments in particular have not implemented sanctions as they should have been implemented and partly because the Thatchers of the world and the Kohls of the world and the Reagan's of the world have been a little slow in what they have done. But there is no doubt that those sanctions have had an impact. I think that we've still to target some of the key sectors such as the diplomatic area. For example, stop giving people the opportunity to travel broadly, inviting them, certainly the FW de Klerks, but then giving them a roasting when they get there, not being nice to them; the ensuring that there is a graded meeting of the people of South Africa; that one meets with the UDF and ANC first and then the South African government second. Those sorts of things we've still yet to reach, put them seriously on the agenda. But there is no doubt in my mind that sanctions have had an impact and will have an impact on South Africa. Obviously it's a problem in the medium term because if we're talking about a Lebanonisation in South Africa then we are going to run into problems because it means that it will be that much more difficult to reconstruct this country and the economy afterwards. But if we're looking at a timescale of a few years, which is what I hope we are, then sanctions are an added aspect of that pressure. There is no doubt that if you really talk to people and organisations that have looked at the question of sanctions, they have hurt.

POM     When you say the Lebanonisation of South Africa what do you mean?

MS     Well I think that term is maybe an unfair term to use, but it would be a context within which there would be an increasing civil war situation in South Africa, increasing deterioration of the economy, the economy never actually getting out of the problems it's in, sort of rising above them at times and then sinking and then rising but it's sinking faster than rising.

POM     We've noticed both in Durban and in Johannesburg a lot of construction going on, this city looks a lot more prosperous than it did four years ago with all the rebuilding of the Snell Parade and new hotels going up.

MS     Ah, no, you've got to be a bit weary when you look at that. Now I would argue in a planning sense that has probably been quite good for the city in a longer term sense, that kind of development on the beachfront. But if one was going to be cynical about it, I would say that it was partly the speed with which they agreed to those developments on the beachfront, for example, was a kind of fear I suppose the white dominated City Council had with the resources that had built up. And you must remember that this City Council has a budget of 1.7 billion rand which I believe is even bigger than the KwaZulu government, so you are talking about a base of enormous power here and enormous resources and the spending of those resources within Durban rather than having them redistributed to townships, into black areas, into Indian areas, into coloured areas and so on. So my party goes after that. The economy is a fundamentally a strong one so seeing building and rebuilding is normal. The unemployment rate, however, is going up.

POM     That's the white unemployment rate?

MS     And black, across the board, particularly so amongst blacks. The growth rate, the economic growth rate is far less than the population growth rate. So in that sense the economy is not growing. Yes you will see things superficially, but they are probably not as good as they could be.

POM     Do you think the ANC, its military wing, has mounted an effective campaign?

MS     Well you'd have to ask them that. I mean my view is that it probably has been effective given the increase in incidents. I think that the fact that there has been very little loss of life and yet people are very conscious; if you talk to most whites they are very conscious of bombs, and they are very conscious of the ANC, etc. Now one might say that's because the South African government raises their consciousness of it but I think that it's mainly because of the effectiveness of the military wing, it's not because many people have died. I mean far more people have died in the state of emergency or have been killed by the South African forces than have been killed in ANC activities. In fact it's a handful of people who have been killed there and yet it is in the consciousness of people. Now, I would think that if I was running the liberation movement that is what I would want. I would want people to actually have in their consciousness what military power can be about and is about.

PAT     Would you say it is more in their consciousness than it is real materially?

MS     Sure, it's in their consciousness partly because it is reinforced everyday. When you go into a shopping centre they search your bag, when you're visiting the beaches, when you're visiting places, in that sense it is reinforced. And there are some negative aspects too. It is the people at times, instead of seeing it as a guerrilla movement, as a movement to liberate people from oppression, might see it as kind of terrorism in that sense. But, I would think that it is at the level that the majority of white South Africans would not know of someone who has been, even within sight of a bombing, or close to a bombing when it occurred, yet the majority of whites would have contact with a kid who has been hurt or kill or injured or somehow in contact with SWAPO on the Namibian border. Now in a sense, what's interesting about their consciousness in the case of Namibian it is that it is protecting our country from the evils of communism. In the other instance, which they hardly have any experience of, the same direct experience it is a sense of the terrorists are doing that.

POM     If you look at the next four or five years how do you see them unfolding?

MS     Well I have those two options. If it is the optimistic side of me it would be that FW comes into power in October or so and by early to the mid part of next year releases Nelson Mandela. The only reason he can't do it sooner is that he cannot do what he did to Govan Mbeki, he cannot release Nelson Mandela and then imprison him, so he needs some time to work that one out. But what will then happen would probably be a series of events that would then be, with Mandela coming out, with growing unity in our ranks in the sense of the Mass Democratic Movement, with growing pressure from the activities we had planned over the next years or so, from all of those things basically a situation created where the government is forced to the table. It's never been a question of getting the ANC to the negotiating table. Their principles are quite straightforward and basic, you know, no state of emergency, the release of prisoners, free association, organisation, the unbanning of those that are, and the removal of the defence forces from the townships. Those are things that are within FW's ambit of operation; I think that he could actually deal with those.

     The problem that I would see, the thing that might stop that is the decision that FW might decide that he wants to go it alone and try and cause divisions, further divisions within the black areas, and Buthelezi would be seen as an ally. It will be very difficult for Buthelezi, Buthelezi would have to almost give up Inkatha and give up his base amongst the urban areas in order to side with the regime because he has consistently come out and argued that unless those conditions, pre-conditions were met, he would have nothing to do with the South African government. So that's basically, my scenario would be, things would be set in motion next year in an attempt to get some talks about talks going. But, I would think that he doesn't have much time. I think that in a sense, unless they are going for the siege option, but in a sense I would say that FW has to begin a process, Maggie Thatcher is just happy with a process I believe.

POM     Is she a major player in all this?

MS     It's not so much she's a player, it's just that the South Africans like her to be a player because she is a rightwinger like them and in that sense. I think though that she is under enormous pressure back home and I don't think that she'd be able to survive toeing the line with them too much longer. I believe she started explaining to FW de Klerk that getting rid of apartheid does not mean taking down a few signs. I think even she is coming to recognise that.

POM     Finally, if you look at the last five years, what stands out in your mind as the one or two most significant political events?

MS     The last five years?

POM     Well take whatever time scale you want, but particular the last five years.

MS     Obviously the first would be the growth of the United Democratic Front and the growth of the broad leadership. I mean there is no doubt in my mind that that has been the most significant aspect, and I don't mean the UDF divorced from the ANC. I think that for me the understanding and the development of an understanding of the liberation movement as it's existed. You know I, as a white South African, grew up not knowing of this thing called the liberation movement, and in five years I have understood what history means, what it means to actually have more than just numbers of people behind you, to actually have programmes, have leadership, to have understanding, which in all my studies - I'm learning more outside of the studies I've done from simply working with people who are part of that liberation movement. So that for me has been the first thing. I mean an understanding of the enormous depth and potential that the liberation movement has. I suppose the second thing that stands out in my mind is just the brutality of apartheid. And the fact that the whites can be so oblivious to what really goes on and how stupid, if that's the term, most whites are. Maybe it's not their fault. They believe the newspapers they read but that's not the reality. And so on the one hand just the depth of the liberation movement and on the other hand the incredible poverty I would think amongst whites and amongst white leadership in this country.

POM     Do you think five years from now that the process will have substantially worked its way through?

MS     It has to have. There is no doubt in my mind, the economy can't sustain the battering that it will have in four to five years time at this rate. So in five years time we'll have a twofold thing. Either we will be substantially on our way towards political independence or we will have a situation where there will be the South African forces, armed forces, sustaining major defeats on the battle ground.

POM     Against?

MS     Against the liberation movement.

POM     That, at that point, will be more organised in terms of an armed struggle?

MS     Sure.

PAT     Real as opposed to ...

MS     Yes, much more real.

PAT     Does that capacity really exist in you mind?

MS     Oh it does, yes, it wouldn't take very much for the ANC to move, not just the ANC but the UDF I would say and COSATU, to move from a phase of constructive negotiation, constructive struggle towards a situation of great fraction making, the creation of major fractions and so forth.

PAT     That's kind of my question, the integration of the UDF into the MDM, from whence does the MDM come, how do you identify yourself?

MS     The MDM has always been what I am part of. If you look at our liberation struggle it probably has four dimensions to it. The first is our international struggle. I don't know why I start there but let's start there. And that struggle has a variety of aspects to it. One would be a diplomatic offensive to ensure that we change the minds of the likes of the west in particular because I think the east have always been our allies but to start making them understand what the struggle for liberation in South Africa is. So the international struggle is the first. The second dimension to it would be the military struggle, the uMkhonto we Sizwe, for example. The ANC has taken the lead in that, that being the second aspect. The third aspect being the building of a movement in South Africa through it's underground, but the building of a very broad movement in South Africa. The fourth aspect is the Mass Democratic Movement. In other words the development of organisations and capacity for organising in the country that will lead to the liberation of our country. It operates at a legal level. So it's always been called the Mass Democratic Movement in that sense. Those activities that are legal, or at least quasi legal, at least operating in an above ground way in South Africa within the country in every sector of society from women's struggles through to civics through to you name it.

PAT     [about, in that type politics, upper case, MDM. But it appears now to have taken on a formal structure. When you talk sense you talk about the mass democratic movement, lower case movement the whole thing can be identified as. Now in the last couple of months its ...]

MS     Well it's not very different, you know they are not the same and I think that we are all of those four elements, we enforce each other so that the MDM upper case, as it were, is maybe just on the scene, I mean its spokespersons would be people that clearly have some status and are reinforced by all of those.

PAT     COSATU has then - what you're saying is that the UDF still has a prominent identity, a prominent identity.

MS     No, I think that one is realising that there is no point in having prominent identities as separate institutions because we are all part of the liberation movement and that caused problems for us where we started doing that. Now COSATU needs a prominent identity, identity over union matters alone. In other words aspects on the shop floor clearly have to have the ability to negotiate, etc. When it is outside of the shop floor it doesn't need that at all. Similarly the UDF needed, or organisations, affiliates of the UDF in particular work they were doing, needed a prominent identity for that. Because it would be absurd for an organisation geared around appropriate or affordable rents to suddenly be dealing with 2000 different aspects in its activities. It would still retain that particular sphere of organisation, influence etc., but outside of those two things so that broadly the unions within the homes, or the home setting, one then needs a political strategy and political strategising and that's what the MDM is. In other words it's an attempt to recognise that look, unity comes through action to actually work out that unity in action model and so that the unity is the MDM.

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