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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

10 Jul 1990: Malan, Wynand

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POM     Has anyone anticipated a change this radical, or just how far have things gone in one year?

WM     Our period of reference - let me take it back to Feb 1989 when de Klerk was elected as leader of the party, when Botha made the major mistake, the blunder in his own thinking by trying to split the offices of President and Party Leader believing that he would still maintain the loyalty of the party. He was totally unaware of the levels in which they resented him or the stagnation of politics as it was perceived. I know de Klerk fairly well.

     Secondly I take the position and analysis of history in temporary terms and also in future terms that individuals, because of their basic make up and character play a much larger role simply to forces in society to which they react. The first period from February 2nd to September 6th the day of the election was a very uncomfortable period for the NP. They had the two philosophies not really knowing who was in control, trying to sort out the dominance. It became clearer towards the end that Botha would not be in active politics especially not in control after September 6th. But the party was demobilised in terms of coming with a new initiative, an election campaign. Having been out for some time they couldn't find a way to switch the nature of the campaign to a more positive one. It was still in the old idiom of the holy war system versus struggle, but it was clear to people who knew de Klerk that there was an end to this. This was reality, simply because of the person of de Klerk and not so much a response to the environment but a need to live out his basic make up, his basic being, his rule of law [a "Rechtspart"(?) to use the German word,] type of person from his legal background. That's not to say that he's not an idealogue. He was at the same time in an idealogue group in a neo-Verwoerdian way and I argued at the time that he would only chanqe over a period of time through exposure to other political views, groupings, forces, where he would recognise the society did not primarily consist of groups in the way he saw them, understood them and that he would resist the shifts in his policy position, his basic departure, but that he would come around in a period of time which I at the time thought would be approximately 18 months. He's shown that he achieved that in a little more than 8 months.

POM     Have you underestimated him in terms of the rapidity of change. Why did he move so boldly?

WM     His February 2nd 1990 speech, the opening address of parliament, it was no problem to make that speech. He was very relaxed, he could make the speech, that was de Klerk. He had the confidence that he could negotiate and in a civil way find solutions to the problems still within the framework of his idealogical thinking that firstly he couldn't live with the security rule approach and secondly, he couldn't live, not emotionally, intellectually, but also not practically. He knew both so it was easy for him to make that shift. The more difficult shift was to drop his idealogical position on group rights and that he achieved over this short span of time. By April this year he was fully over the group thing but he has not made it clear to the public yet.

POM     So you're saying that he's over the idea that there must be no domination of one group by another group?

WM     Yes, beyond that idea, not looking in terms of groups anymore. He may still use the rhetoric to some extent but he is understanding that a future constitutional position is clearly a universal franchise, an honest voter's role approach, a bicameral system, an alternative base of representation for the second chamber or senate.

POM     This is an astonishing shift-over for the whole NP away from the very underpinning of their ideology and their group structure.

WM     That's passed. Not the whole of the NP but then de Klerk is not the first to come around to this kind of thinking. He had a number of people within his party who really argued this over a period of time. I argued it when I was still in the NP. I argued it when he was Minister of Internal Affairs and I often decline to speak in some of the debates on his vote, on the basis of not being allowed to address the group concept in a western frame of mind where you could accommodate some autonomy on what is really peculiar to a specific group, but not as a basic departure from political rights. Other people in his party, a number of so-called verlighte Nats, but I think especiallly since 1987, the person who really lead this debate was Tertius Delport who is, now deputy Minister of planning Provincial Affairs. He was a Professor in Constitutional Law at the University of Port Elizabeth. He had a major influence on de Klerk and Viljoen.

POM     Can you put your finger on what has made that change in such a short period of time?

WM     I think it is the ability to recognise reality, I certainly underestimated de Klerk but you must bear in mind that he has had, especially since the 2nd February, a large number of discussions with an extremely wide spectrum of the South African political scene, the same day meeting right wing as well as AWB people or Boerevolksraad people, and later in the day COSATU delegation, finding that his ideological frame of mind was no longer valid, if it ever was, but in his understanding it wasn't valid for the society anymore. The society was not, in his understanding, any more a society of clear cut groups and it was impossible to achieve that. The second is clearly the fact that he earlier already had to move away from the concept of race determining group, because that was clearly the basis of apartheid. Having discarded that he was forced to look at alternatives which he couldn't find. In the beginning he argued, there was not only nothing wrong with groups but it was absolutely necessary to accommodate groups, but he did say that they need not be defined on race. You would have to look at other measures to define groups and he advanced the concept of culture and language in some time but he found it impossible to apply that in constitutional terms, as a departure for political rights and separate political institutions across the board. It is a fascinating and unexpected change but the pattern or the speed with which it took place is the only fascinating part of it. He had to go forward, simple majority rule, democratic principle, accepting that principle.

POM     Where does this leave the DP? Are they in a sense pre-empted?

WM     The DP is suffering from its own success. It is irrelevant now, or marginally relevant so far as it could still find access to the process of the beginning. Yes, but they are clearly not any more the party that is identified with negotiation as the order of the day, so that image is lost. Secondly, insofar as it placed itself on basic democratic value systems and liberal at that to a large extent the majority of the party, although not fully so on the platform. De Klerk is fast taking over that platform as he steps back from the group. He needs some of the entrenchment of the security of the haves in a fairly passive Bill of Rights, the Bill of Rights approach and very strongly so (the passive human rights) so he moves with some aversion about any talks about distribution politics, economics, assuming for himself the position of the free marketeer, the have-man arguing that the goose that laid the golden egg needs to be fed. When asked about redistribution he says that's a socialist concept. Here we must cheer for the poor but from a position of the rich and so the DP in terms of those positions to which to a large extent it was associated with because of its power base coming from the PFP side has lost whatever position there was for it to get definition for itself.On the platform at the time of merger we agreed a social democratic position without any of the emotive jargon, but the commitment to capital, to big business to haves of too many of the leadership figures made it impossible to project ourselves as a social democratic force, where in any event a few others would find themselves, in a social democratic (western European sense). It's too late to try and develop that platform; the focus of politics for the moment is on the constitution, and finding a constitutional political settlement that people will not get involved in debating of policies of positions for the government for the society post-settlement. The inability to look beyond 4 - 5 years, how many people can see more than 14 days?

POM     There would have to be a settlement first, a constitution drawn up and then the ANC ?

WM     The ANC will get its way. It's aimed at this for quite some time. There's no way people will agree with the present balance of power situation, that they will agree to go for election straight away. They will agree to meet. There will be some multi-party meetings, i.e. expounding the discussion group and as soon as some mutual trust develops even on different political positions they will agree to shift over to Constituent Assembly elections, that will also be a good way to move over to a parliamentary and democratic transition that will be a good way to draw in other parties that may want to opt out of the process. They will be finally bound into the process; we will see that shift in about two years time.

POM     Are the government and the ANC continuing discussions?

WM     They won't start serious discusssions until some time next year. They will start to talk about the framework of negotiations, most probably trying to agree that the first objective should be to settle principles within which the priciples of the constitutional framework are to be cast such as the 82 Namibian principles. I think that kind of line is the perception on both sides. It's a wise approach. There will be quite a delay in agreeing and the ANC and NP will fairly easily find each other but they will have to accommodate the more extreme groups and draw them in because they can't finalise principles which will by definition exclude the participation of more extreme parties that could effectively veto the successful outcome for whatever process is to be developed. I would think that they will, somewhere in 1992, be ready to go for elections on a PR basis and that somewhere in 1993 we will have a new constitution agreement.

POM     What if there is an election on the basis of a universal franchise for the Constituent Assembly? Is the issue of majority rule already set on that point?

WM     The issue of majority rule is already settled. Even the majority of the CP support us. They are looking at small niches for themselves in the constitution autonomy limitedly so, but they accept majority rule, they accept a black government. Even as a so-called right wing their resistance is more against the government than against blacks. Their argument is that de Klerk has sold them out. They realise that the NP switch by de Klerk on the 2nd February did secure the principle of majority rule.

POM     De Klerk had talked about the campaign literature of the Nats. Has he talked about any constitutional settlement being put before a white electorate? That too is gone?

WM     No it's still in their thinking, but I would argue that they are already looking at outs, not because they feel they won't get the backing of the majority - they will clearly get any endorsement that would be asked for, would be given, even again by the,majority of the CP support base because the position would be clear to them. The question is, do you want to gamble on continuing on this road or do you want to risk total civil war?

POM     Isn't there some kind of contradiction here: on the one hand majority rule on the other the mandate for majority rule for one segment of the electorate?

WM     No its not conflicting. Its saying this is what I want. I will put it before my electorate to reinforce my mandate. This is the thinking of constitutional transitions, the thinking that parliament is sovereign and that you need to go through the processes via parliament as the eventual gamut of our constitutional government.

POM     But the assumption is that the white electorate would give de Klerk that mandate. Is there a possibility that it would not?

WM     They are already toying with the idea that they could employ alternatives to a white referendum, i.e. they would argue that even a Constituent Assembly in concept could replace the referendum. If you have participation there which is more or less complete then that signals the endorsement of the root, or confirms the endorsement. I would not favour a white referendum for different reasons, not because I believe we won't get it, or the whites won't give the endorsement to such a process, but because it's devisive in its conception.

POM     What role do you see for your party in this process as it unfolds?

WM     I'm resigning from both parliament and the party to-morrow. There is no future for the DP and they won't recognise it. There could have been a future in terms of a positive role. They could have taken themselves towards developing a clear image, a niche where they say we accept the constitution is for all practical purposes already written, the negotiations are complete, the process is healthy, we can only marginally contribute to the birth of the new South Africa which we will be doing, we will move on now to start developing the politics of 1994. Then really move into a viable debate, not the stale type of thing of socialism, capitalism or market nationalisation, but programatically moving to the kind of socio-economic programme that would fit the whole spectrum of a future South Africa. It could acquire for itself that image and if ... would call on them to accept that there won't be white elections or tri-cameral elections anymore.

     Intellectually they accept it but they continue to gear the party towards elections. The whole structure 100 staffers, all working with records, cards on people their movements, loyalties, support, accommodating a large number of old ladies in the mornings, 66 work on these cards, and give them tea as if it were a welfare organisation. We have an extremely expensive programme which I don't think we can get through, in any event if we have or could have a specific clear image we will estrange another 50% of what's left of our support. We would certainly estrange our major donor support especially when we move in with anti-trust programmes which they don't perceive to be in their best interests. We can't get some key players in the party to make that switch. I have little doubt that I can mobilise the party at grassroots level, the activists, to win a leadership struggle but I don't want the task of being undermined by a good 25% - 30% of the support base, having to fire 90% of its staffers, having to find an alternative source of funding, and not even being sure that the party has a life really beyond a new constitution because it cannot exist as a white party even though technically it is non-racial. It cannot grow to a real South African party from the white base. There wouldn't be a ready alliance partner.

     The divisions, socio-economically speaking, will be really the NP with maybe the system groupings of the few outsiders becoming a real Conservative Party in the new dispensation with the ANC fairly radical - left of centre with the strong socialist slant on its policies with a void in the middle. So there will be an organised group with which you can merge in order to get a new image. The best for the party would be if it could get itself to do that, to simply disband, stay back in order to be able to jump better later to get that through.

     So I'm moving out and I will be developing especially this debate on the concept of multi-party democracy with a few others that I will be speaking to but I find this phenomenon, I haven't spoken to these people. You see people leaving the constituencies and they can't explain that. Dhlomo having retired from Inkatha making some distance from his teacher's power base and Slabbert already out, Chikhane taking a different line. A number of people who I got to know over the last few years as really social democrats don't have a political home, but it's certainly not the time to try and set up a political home for social democrats. It"s the time to develop the need further by not providing the home and yet get the debate going so that more and more people - this you can achieve across political parties if you don't move into competition with them of in so far as you are not perceived to be moving into competition with them. This is the innermost thinking of the moment.

POM     In your talk you mentioned that the DP were for a federal structure, the ANC was for a Westminster structure of government. Do you think this argument is going to resolve itself?

WM     It's going to be very difficult to have a clear decentralised federal system, but that a guarantee to further decentralisation could most probably be achieved by allowing some regional power to tax as a minimum in decentralising, some regional authorities even with very limited constitutionally prescribed powers. The ANC are cLearly not too hostile to the concept of a federal system but a they are extremely suspicious that the idea of decentralisation would simply be to leave them out of power to do the necessary distributive steps perceived to be indispensable at the moment for maintaining their power base such as nationalisation or a real transfer of wealth, whether through taxes or whatever state participation in the economy, to stress the mixed economy. Is there an argument going on within the ANC itself over this issue? There is not a serious debate yet within the ANC about programmes. It's still at the level of slogans. I think Mandela is far too concerned with winning the support of the US. In terms of choosing his jargon - he clearly doesn't want the U.S. to lift sanctions. I'm against sanctions and looking at where we find ourselves presently it shouldn't be touched. Neither a total embargo or a lifting of sanctions will necessarily aid the process and the balance of power internally is such that it may even harm/disturb the beneficial status quo which forces negotiation. I don't believe Mandela should be at too much pains to please the West.

POM     Your understanding would be that the ANC still believes in a significant degree in nationalisation and state control of the economy and redistribution?

WM     If you say nationalisation, one pre-supposes a specific action. I don't think they are so committed to that action but they are committed to the result of closing the gap between rich and poor by specific executive intervention. Whatever mechanisms they would use they are quite prepared to debate, but that is the focus. They have no focus whatsoever in developing markets or developing growth or whatever.

POM     Is there tension between the standing of Trade Unions and the standing of the ANC? Is it significant that there is no senior leader of the ANC negotiating team?

WM     It is significant but for different reasons. It's not because of the economic debate. It's really because labour especially in COSATU is divided - this is my interpretation/rationalisation between the Charterists and the Workerists or Marxists/Stalinists. They are looking at what is going on in the rest of Africa. They want their independence, they don't want to be limited in terms of their own activities so they want to maintain their independence now. They are not so sure that the ANC will negotiate beneficially for the struggle, that they may be making mistakes and they would rather retain their credibility. Beneficially in terms of their perception of what the struggle is about - liberation with what it brings. They're not so sure that the ANC may not be selling out and lose its constituency and therefore they would rather not be part of it because COSATU, whenever they find themselves in the ANC level they in a sense respect the leadership of the ANC National Executive and they wouldn't challenge it.

     But as far as the debate on economic policy is concerned it's virtually absent within ANC structures but it's developing within COSATU especially driven by the economic trends group of Steven Gelb and Alec Erwin but to the extent that there is a real effort to look at achieving the objectives without necessarily controlling assets or owing assets they are looking at controlling the production process or the outcome or directing it. That's already a shift in the position and the ANC is simply following that more or less as their position, being told and persuaded that it will have the desired effect of redistributing wealth. The Economic Trends Group are trying to meet the arguments about growth and markets but they are doing that still by rationalising and not lookinq at it as a primary motivating force. As far as the economic debate is concerned, COSATU will have a major influence on whatever future the government is to come across.

POM     Authorities have said that South Africa needs at least a 5% growth rate to keep pace with the population growth. What difference would a black majority government have on the life of the average black person? What are the people in Soweto expecting?

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.