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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
21 Aug 1989: Jack, Pro
POM. Pro, as you look back to the first emergency, at the beginning of 1985, in July and compare it with today how do you think the two situations are the same and how do you think they are different?
PJ. Can I start by saying, (i) the first state of emergency was imposed. It differed from region to region in terms of execution and in Cape Town even after it was imposed you were still able to go ahead and organise rallies, mass rallies without encountering problems. I think that reached a point whereby they realised that since Cape Town has been on the move all the time for political groundwork we were able to bring people in in thousands. What civic organisations that were affected by the state of emergency were unable to do in their areas was done at the regional level by in the form of rallies that we had, church meetings and church services. I think the guys came from the security forces they simply moved into our structures, they infiltrated into our structures. I would say when it comes to the question of infiltration Cape Town is one area that is highly infiltrated by security forces. And when we started to do things they came down and became extremely harsh towards our organisations and the leadership of the people.
. We saw a situation where there was another type of leadership that emerged when they took away the leadership, there was another leadership that emerged from the grassroots but this leadership that emerged from the grassroots it emerged without a direction and the Boers were able to clamp down on it. Then there was this lull that existed. But in terms of the political word, rallies and actions that we saw, I would say that they were able to neutralise the democratic movement in SA but in terms of changing the way of thinking of our people. The government, they were always talking about the political and the military aspect of our struggle. They always say the political aspect accounts for 80% of our problems and military only 20%. I would say on the question of political struggle we are outmanoeuvred and the aspect of the military struggle with the battering that they received in places like Angola and the fact that they are keeping away in Namibia and they are presently engaged in developing what used to be ... at one stage they were thinking they were invisible. They must change their way of thinking which was good for them.
PJ. I think now between the period in 1986, because of the international community, this government has become extremely unpopular, people were being killed in the townships by security forces who were wearing a brown uniform in the form of Security Police or South African Police and in the form of the South African Defence Force and they happened to be white guys and there was this international community's outcry or pressure that they exerted on these Boers that has pushed them into adopting strategies or tactics that we will take the burden or the responsibility away from them. I can think of a kitskonstabel about the Crossroads crisis in 1986, that was a military operation in 1986 because the very same people who have been vigilantes or witdoekies, people who were identified by their white head bands or white arm bands, they fought shoulder to shoulder with the security forces in this country and in a way they almost portrayed a situation whereby they were intervening but in reality they helped those people, they organised those people, they armed them, they gave them all the sophisticated apparatus that they needed to drive away or to do away with the democratic movement.
POM. Now these would be black people, armed by the security forces to really attack?
PJ. The comrades or all the communities that reject the government structures, the community councils or these town committees. But I think what this whole situation of this new dimension that they introduced of vigilantes, the security forces themselves, I would say they are responsible for more than 60% of all the deaths that took place in the country, and of course for some people who are missing today who cannot be traced, 60% of those are ... And the vigilantes because they are the people who constitute part and parcel of the security set up. I would say they are responsible for about 40% of these activities but whatever they are doing they are doing with the blessing of the security forces. I think between that period and last year, 1987 and 1988, we saw that the structures were almost completely destroyed because they were able to infiltrate our structures, we had massive trials of politicians, political trials in the country. We saw some people turning against their own comrades and we saw hidden cells or the ANC military cells being uprooted. I think that was because of the sophistication that they had, the sophisticated methods that they had of simply moving into our structures.
POM. Why would you think it is so easy for the security forces to infiltrate democratic movements?
PJ. Well we have got some areas in our communities that are not well defined and we have got some areas of our communities that support but they constitute a section, a constituency. The cause of the situation that can make the government structures operate does rather take those people who were supporters of the government to go and join our structures. Also, you must also understand with the absence of the leadership, people who are able to give guidance, some people who are not politically mature they become extremely vulnerable in terms of their being co-operative with the government and this massive unemployment that has been taking place, this government they are able to provide or find incentives to some of our people. But they are not working. Today we are seeing a situation with repression. You can repress any community up to a certain point and then you will reach a point whereby that community or that person will say enough is enough. When the present situation that you have seen, I attended some of those different campaigns that were taking place over the weekend, those different campaigns in the present situation, they serve in fact as a witness to a scientific principle that there is always reaction for every action. The more that they become repressive, and they ban our organisations, the more our people will opt for sophisticated methods of addressing the problem. I think now we have reached a point whereby actually our people are able to come up in big numbers in a very sophisticated manner and drive forward in whatever form they wish to drive forward. That is why today, especially in the Western Cape, not only in the Western Cape, we will see that young people of today they regard themselves as soldiers of uMkhonto weSizwe, the Spear of the Nation. It is precisely because they have reached that melting point whereby they are saying the question that we are facing is the question of do or die. And of course they have opted for one position which is to face the enemy.
POM. I want for a moment to compare the activities of the IRA to the activities of the ANC. The IRA has mounted a military campaign against the British security forces in Northern Ireland for the last twenty years. At most in the Catholic communities the IRA might have 20% support. It's among the worst class people, the poorer people. For 20 years the IRA has been able to exist within the community, come out and strike at a military target, shoot a policeman or soldier, go back into the community and be protected by it. When we as outsiders look at the ANC and it seems that the armed struggle is sporadic at best and that incidents are few in number and that there's not an effective armed struggle being conducted, is that perception wrong or what role does the armed struggle play in the whole scenario?
PJ. Well I had an opportunity of talking to some people who were involved in ANC structures, that is people who were involved with the military wing of the ANC. The armed struggle as it is today, it is waged as a means of pressurising the present regime, it is waged as a means of bringing to the white community the fact that they are not invisible, bring to the white community the sentiment that their security does not lie with the present regime. The South African newspaper regimes always portray the situation, especially when they portray this, when they try to win over the hearts and minds of the whites, that all is well, all is under our control. I think in SA today we have reached a point whereby the military struggle, although not directed towards the civilians, we are also seeing a situation whereby the multinationals in the country they seem to be supporting the government, they seem to be keeping life of this government for as long as the economy of this country is fine. That constitutes problems because they will always be able to provide these incentives, not only to the work community but also to the very same oppressed masses. That is why today we had kitskonstabels, people who are trying to overrun us, it is because these guys have got that surplus that they are able to use and buy over certain people from the oppressed masses of this world. But I would also say, to be quite honest, I think the way the ANC is conducting its struggle, especially the military struggle, it is conducting it in a very sporadic manner, otherwise with the youth in the townships as they are today the ANC can come inside the country, big numbers, arm those youngsters and engage in open war with the Boers, but because they understand the sensitivity and the importance of not harming civilians they would rather opt for those, as we have said, sporadic actions that we will from time to time hear about. One other problem, if we depend entirely on what the press has to report, on what we read about in the press, we will miss it in the country.
POM. The press won't report?
PJ. The cause of repression, whatever has to be reported about military activities in the country it has to be approved by this Bureau of Information which is necessarily a Bureau of Misinformation, it is misinforming about other people but the reality is that of this country. I was talking to some people from the press and they were telling me in the Western Cape alone the activities that took place between January and June they exceeded, they doubled the number of activities that took place last year but whenever we hear from the press, from the news, All is well guys, all is under our control, don't worry we will handle these guys. I think also that has also helped to drive a wedge within the ruling class in the country, within the parliamentary movement in the country. They have just come back from Lusaka to meet with the ANC. It is because of some of their installations that are regarded as targets, military targets, and that is significant, serve as a pressure or as a weapon to drive some western people into becoming extremely concerned about the situation in the country.
POM. When you talk about young people in the townships, and we were talking about Student Representative Councils, how radicalised have they become in the last two or three years and how far can that radicalisation be continued? In other words if there are no negotiations, if things proceed at an incredibly slow pace, what's going to happen within the townships themselves? Could young people start taking matters into their own hands?
PJ. The security forces, that is - you know there is this JMC structure, this Joint Management Committee, it is a military structure and each governmental department is represented in that JMC structure. The JMC structure is meant to filter down to the grassroots level so as to keep the guys up on top well informed, well to be informed in advance about the issues that are to take place at grassroots level. The unfortunate part of the whole situation is we are living in a distressed state, in a military state that can only be maintained through viciousness or military activities and the unfortunate part about it is the fact that introducing white teachers in our schools, people who go around carrying with 9mm on their waist belt, deploying soldiers, deploying police people who are carrying guns on the school premises, white police abusing the institutions; there is a policeman who is carrying a gun who is going up and down the corridor, that on its own constitutes a problem, it militarises the kids in the townships, it angers them, it makes them feel that facing a person who is carrying gun is like taking a spoon and eating your food. As long as the authorities, this is my fear, the authorities they seem to be deliberately engaged, their own authorities, I'm talking about all these departments of youth regime, they seem to be engaged in a concerted effort or campaign to impart hatred and to impart, drive a wedge between the black and white in the country. They understand that the non-racial principle is still popular, especially in the black community. When they deployed the whites in the township in the form of SA Defence Force, our fear has been always the fact that especially from the non-racial movement, here are these guys, they have to blame whites to change the perceptions of our people towards white people. They wanted to change the foundation of our struggle which is non-racialism into a racist conflict, but fortunately the non-racial fought that, extremely strong institutions whereby people from the white community, especially the comrades, they were able to move into the townships and help people in the townships. That on its own, it allayed some of the fears or negative values of quality were in that way imparted.
POM. If you look back over the years and pass book regulations and the influx control laws and see the shanty towns outside the cities and see how repressive this government is, I for one, I think, and I think Patricia too, am amazed that there has not been a greater degree of violence from black people to white. Walking into the township on Saturday as a white person I felt uncomfortable, I felt I should apologise and yet everybody was very warm and receptive. Why has there been, over the years, so little violent reaction against the repression of the state?
PJ. If you take what happened at Crossroads in 1986, that was a military operation because those people before they fought to scrap the pass laws, this influx control, they used to harass our people almost on a daily basis, move into the squatter camps, demolish their houses without even giving people the opportunity to take out their belongings, to take out some of their valuable stuff in those shacks, corrugated iron structures. It was really antagonising our people, it was imparting very, very negative attitudes, it was militarising them, it was revolutionising our people. They were only seeing one option which was the armed struggle and because of that the ANC cadres they moved into those areas, they started to train local people and those local people were the very same people who were hitting back at security forces. They would ambush, they would attack these police vans, they would attack police cars and all that stuff and then they used to win certain sections of the black community. They won over certain leaders who were extremely corrupt and those leaders who were extremely corrupt they were able to use their influence and organise the vigilantes who were then asked by the security forces to move into some of the settlement camps.
. But in reality this had something to do with the popularity the non-racial principle. I think the position, that is the freedom charter, those who have written the freedom charter, the ANC, Mandela's people here, and they see people of a different pigmentation from them being prepared to put their heads on the block and that has helped in imparting non-racial principles or entrenching the non-racial principles amongst our people. I know at this point in time that everyone, the fear of everyone in the western countries included, that the ANC today is the only structure for blacks. They are trying to take some of our ... that is why I don't try to divide people or impart negative or racist attitudes amongst our people so that the ANC, which has done extremely well politically with the assistance of people like PW Botha, Magnus Malan and Adriaan Vlok as the publicity secretaries of the African National Congress because each time they appeared on the screen they would talk about the ANC, how bad it is, how bad are the communists and all that stuff. And millions of our people they are listening to this guy who is telling us how bad is the ANC and whilst they are listening to this guy telling them that, the Casspirs are rolling down the street, the Casspirs are moving down the street and they are full of white soldiers who have been sent into the township, deployed into the township by Magnus Malan, Adriaan Vlok and PW Botha and the principle of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' then applies. Hence the ANC is so popular, that much to popularise the ANC.
POM. It was the government that popularised it?
PJ. It has popularised the ANC.
POM. If you look, again, at the last four or five years, what do you think are the most significant developments that have taken place within the black community and what do you think are the greatest actual or potential sources of division?
PJ. Can I say about the developments, (i) repression, strong resistance, and (ii) the government structures have been proved to be extremely useless and ineffective in the townships, (iii) the constant resistance that has been waged on all sides of our community in the form of a rent boycott, school boycott, in the form of workers taking up positions at work, in the form of teachers ganging up against the hand that feeds them. It is obvious that you must never bite the hand that feeds you. That on its own is an indication, those are some of the major developments that we have seen in the township. At the same time I am also fearful because there is also anger, this anger that has been suppressed. My fear is that when it emerges it might be in a form that can never be controlled. Fortunately we are still having a few people who are still capable to control issues and to calm down some hot-headed people and the fact that our struggle, the way people wage their struggle, they always try for a peaceful way of waging their struggle. They always tried in what they wish to do taking into consideration the question of avoiding conflict, of commanding people.
. And besides those things that I have mentioned I think there is one important aspect that I must mention, after all these years of the regime being able to divide us all on racial, tribal and a regional basis, people are coming from Transkei to Cape Town and some years ago they were regarded as dumb, as people who are stupid, by the very same local people from Cape Town, black people. But today now we are seeing a situation whereby those different communities, the migrant labour community has almost moved swiftly and it has become part and parcel of the Cape Town community or Cape Town society. To me that is one of the major achievements that we have done, that we have moved away from that situation. We are from town, we are Capetonians therefore we are here to provide labour and after that you must be going back home. I think those few things are interspersing this one. It is the most important aspect of whatever has taken place.
POM. So it's like increasing solidarity among different sections of the black community itself?
PJ. And of course the fact that teachers and parents they seem to be coming more and more involved in student issues.
POM. What do you think are the greatest social divisions or potential sources of division for the future?
PJ. At the moment with the non-racial movement extremely popular and some of them coming from outside the country and the white structures in our community, they are not gaining ground at all. In a way that they work with them, I have on a number of occasions been told by people, by the police themselves and a number of occasions when this boils up it is handled by police. If they say they are part of the ANC perhaps the police will let them out the following day, even if a person has committed a murder. But those divisions they are problems that can be addressed. They are not problems that cannot be addressed, they can be addressed and the opportunity, the present system and strategies that are being employed like this question on broad alliances, that is going to put us together again. Even some people who were at one stage anti-white, they are becoming more and more open and being very accepting when it comes to the question of whites. But it is a given fact, it is nature that if I was being anti-white it would really be difficult for me to change. There are very few people who have got such guts to come out openly and say, Now when I think what I was doing was wrong, we need to think in a new way.
POM. We've met a couple of people who have said that the situation here is now one in which on the one hand the ANC recognises that it can't win a national war of liberation through military means and on the other hand the government recognises that reform imposed from above can never succeed and that both sides recognise the limits of their own power, so to speak, and this has created room for negotiations. Do you think that's an accurate observation?
PJ. The ANC, it has not started to stop, it does not have the feeling that it is weak militarily. Maybe if people are judging the ANC on the basis of how many people they are bringing down the country and on the basis of how many skirmishes will they have with the security forces, then our analysis is wrong. The very same military things that are taking place inside the country are the very same things that are able to shift the white community to the right place. So the ANC, as far as I'm concerned, ... extremely capable guy and also the ANC is very, very patient, very, very diplomatic, but if those guys they can be simply mad bulls then they can see a different situation in this country. I think they would like to preserve most of the things that are here in the country.
POM. Most of the?
PJ. The materials and in terms of building, in terms of everything, but they will still opt for taking cadres.
POM. I am going to give you three possible scenarios and what I'd like you to do is to tell me what policies might emerge from each one. One is one in which the NP is re-elected with a comfortable majority. The second is one in which the NP is re-elected with a slim majority where the vote has shifted to the Conservative Party, the Conservative Party is breathing down their neck. And the third is one in which you would have a hung parliament. What do you think would be the policies of the government in each of those three cases?
PJ. I've got a feeling that with all these guys from above this new approach ...
POM. The NP we're talking about.
PJ. They have always come up with new approaches. When they talk about a new approach they actually mean changing the form and maintaining the content. It would take a balloon to build, inflate wind, you know balloon, close it up front, you can press it in whatever form that they wish to press it; it can take whatever shape that we wish to take it. If you want it to be oval it will be, if you want it to be round it will be, but the content of the wind that is inside doesn't change. That's exactly what is taking place in South Africa today. Other parties, especially the parliamentary parties, they can always take over from the NP but they are not the type of parties who will be able to address the massive problems that are facing the country.
POM. So you wouldn't really see any difference between the Democratic Party and the National Party?
PJ. The difference is that in the DP would try and engage our people in some talks, talks of some nature, and it will allow me to stand as a candidate or to vote. It will apply certain human rights. OK, it will also apply certain aspects of the human rights constitution but in terms of addressing the apparent disparities that are a direct result of apartheid I don't see them coping because of the massive unemployment.
POM. If you had to look at the white community over the last five years, would you see any significant shifts in their attitudes? Would you see any growing realisation on their part that the days of white minority power are running out?
PJ. To some extent yes, but a very interesting thing, you will find all the Afrikaans speaking people moving towards the left and you will find all the English speaking people moving towards the right. This is because of their economic interests. They would rather be part and parcel of the regime and protect their interests who happen to be the NP. On the other hand you've got the Afrikaners who are emerging from a Calvinist family who will say we have seen - you know there is one thing about Afrikaners, when they have realised that what they were doing was wrong they won't change for something that is in between their present position and the position of all the people that they regard as the enemy. When the Afrikaners change they won't change for anything that is in between their previous position and their present position. When they change they won't become liberals, they will wish to be involved in real change.
POM. Do you think that's a good thing?
PJ. As far as I'm concerned it is a good thing because of the ... between the Afrikaners and the Africans irrespective of how they are classified, whether they are classified as white skinned or coloured.
POM. Do you think there is a category of whites who are anti-apartheid but not pro the mass liberation or democratic movement? They want to give it economic apartheid but they don't want their vested interests at the same time to be interfered with?
PJ. Yes there are those people. Most of them they happen to be English speaking but our job is not to simply say they are dangerous but it is also to try and get into their skin, bring them over to our side.
POM. I know you're tired, I'll let you go in a minute. What role, if any, does the emergence of a black middle class play in the democratic movement? What do you see as you look at the next five years, what do you think is going to happen? Do you think within the next five years the government will actually get into a process that will involve negotiations with the ANC?
POM. OK, stop at that optimistic note. Thanks a million.