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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

17 Jul 1990: Salojee, Rashid

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POM     In one year a lot has happened. When we were here last year we talked to a lot of people but none of them even remotely anticipated the degree of change that has happened in a year. In your view has a lot happened and why do you think De Klerk moved with such rapidity?

RS     Well I, like everybody else of course, didn't think that the changes would come as rapidly as they have come. I think there are multiple factors which have created the situation as far as De Klerk and the NP are concerned, a lot of internal resistance and mass movements within the country and a lot of international pressure. My personal view is that the armed struggle was contributory but I don't think that was a very significant factor in it because if you look at the armed struggle elsewhere in other countries I think the extent of their armed struggles has been to a such an extent that our armed struggle here, I don't think, came anywhere near it. It was a bomb here and a bomb there, isolated. I think the international community and especially the business community have lost confidence in SA and not so much merely the question of sanctions itself but probably profitability, whatever the reason was, and as a result of that I think the countries opted out to invest within SA and I think probably people like Pik Botha, Viljoen, De Klerk and a few others must have seen that leaving the situation as it is for very much longer is going to create a situation of economic chaos within the country and it was better to salvage something at this stage while still in power. One cannot otherwise understand how a government which was totally opposed to a political formation such as the ANC, they were not even prepared to mention their name, suddenly were prepared to do all sorts of things which they have done, including release of Mr Mandela, plus the question of lifting all the bannings on all the organisations and so forth.

     I think one other thing which might have been a contributory factor is that with the contact between, say, some of the Cabinet ministers, and I think Kobie Coetsee and a few others, with Nelson Mandela in prison, and having realised the capacity and the capability of an individual like Nelson Mandela, they probably felt that it was judicious to try and reach some sort of a compromise now under a leadership which was still, I wouldn't say conservative in that sense, but not that radical than to wait for a date having to then negotiate with the unstructured and undisciplined radicalism that has more or less taken over the political formations in the country.

POM     Do you think that De Klerk and the government have now accepted the principle of majority rule or whether they're still equivocating for it to one extent but on the other extent still adhering to their concept of no domination of one group by another group?

RS     I think it's still wedded to the idea of no domination of one group by the other group but at the same time, my personal view despite the fact that I have opposed this government so vehemently all this time, that one has to take into account that I think there is a certain degree of sincerity in what is going on and I think they have accepted the question of majority rule being inevitable, but of course they need the protection of the minority groups such as the whites in this country who have ruled the country, have enjoyed all the privileges in this country and to possibly reach some sort of a compromise where certain levels of control can still be maintained. But I think a lot of rhetoric and a lot of belief at the present moment in radical society is that they are dishonest and they are still trying to maintain apartheid. I personally, in my own view, don't think that that is really the case.

POM     Where do you hear that sentiment from, that the government is dishonest and are still trying to maintain apartheid?

RS     Well if you look in the radical circles it's still unacceptable.

POM     This is the PAC?

RS     Such as the PAC and I think there is a fair percentage within the ANC formation, especially the youth and the younger people within the ANC formation, who are wedded to that sort of idea and this is why I think there have been these recent surveys which have shown that there has been a level of shift towards some of the PAC thinking and we must also appreciate another fact, that until very recently most of the radical youth were brought up in the time of the Black Consciousness Movement which was very close to PAC thinking and it was only very recently that they began to, let's say, convert into accepting these so-called broad democratic movement policies. If you look at a lot of the top cadres within the ANC at the present moment, they are people who have graduated from the political ideology of the BCM into the broad democratic movement. So there is still a lot of sentiment at very many levels and a lot of times you do find that there is no clear understanding between the broad democratic movement's agenda and, say, the PAC's agenda. There is still a degree of linkage between the two that I find in many conversations and in many addresses which I have attended and shared platforms with people.

POM     In this regard how much time has Mandela got to maintain the solidarity of his support? What must he start producing fairly quickly in order to show people that?

RS     I believe at the present moment it is in the interests of both the ANC and the NP to come to some sort of an accommodation as soon as possible because the longer you are delaying this whole process of change and reform in this country, or the transformation of society in this country, you are going to find that there is going to be a level of disillusionment within the black community that nothing is coming forth, similarly as we are now witnessing the greater support for the Conservative Party and the very violent right wing response that is coming across. So I think it is in the interests of both these parties and I don't think either of them now can afford to disengage and say we've reached this and no more, we're going out of here and we're fighting our own struggle.

POM     Now you are someone who has been detained on many occasions by this government and your wife was just telling us how your house has been invaded by security forces who go through all your belongings, even your most private and personal things, and yet you talk about compromise. What, to you, would be satisfactory compromise? What structure of government would satisfy you?

RS     Look, as far as I'm concerned I believe, of course which people in power don't believe, that a majority form of government in this country will offer us the best solutions to the problems of this country because if you are going to create a situation where it is seen that there is still white control or white influence to that extent where they are maintaining power over this country, I don't think you are eventually going to reach that state where there is going to be satisfaction even from the black side and that the whole cycle of violence will suddenly disappear. Then it will then be a question of another government of another colour in the majority having to do the very same things which the present Nationalist government did. Of course they did it with a different ideology, but now to maintain control over that particular government they might have to go through the same cycle, and I think we have seen this in very many parts of Africa. One can see that if one doesn't take this precaution now and have a fully democratic society in which it is seen to be totally democratic then I feel we are going through the same cycle.

POM     So you want majority rule?

RS     Yes, I have no problems with that. For example you have your bill of rights, I've got no problems with that.

POM     When you talk about the government and the ANC must reach a compromise?

RS     I said they have to. I don't know at what level they're going to reach that compromise but I think they're going to have to because the Nationalist government and the whites are in power and whether we like it or not in terms of armoury, in terms of strength, at the present moment they will be able to control it for a much longer time even at the expense whatever the economy, whatever it might be - and for them to give in it is going to have to be necessary at some level to make some compromises.

POM     That's what I'm talking about, what compromises would satisfy you if, for example, there was a power-sharing government?

RS     As long as there is no discrimination, no exploitation, there's equality, there is no well the usual term, apartheid, equal opportunities, the upliftment of the millions that have suffered as a result of the excesses of apartheid. So in effect to work towards that form of society where we can redress all the inequalities that exist in society.

POM     Maybe I'm stating this poorly, on the one hand you have the ANC which is looking for one man one vote majority rule in a unitary state situation where most likely you would have a government dominated by the ANC, if the ANC were to constitute itself as a political party. On the other hand you have the government looking for some form of government that would not result in whites losing their say in political matters, they are looking for some form of power sharing where they would still have an influential say in the process of government itself. Do you see, emerging out of the discussions that are now going on, some kind of compromise between those two positions or do you see an inevitable move towards simple majority rule?

RS     Well you can listen to Mandela himself. He stated very recently in this last leg of his tour, over and over again, that we will have to consider the question of white fears as a real entity and we will have to address ourselves to somehow or other bringing about some form or some measure which will allay those fears. Now I can't see how you can allay those fears on the total concept of saying just one man one vote majority rule and finish. I can't see that, and on that basis whether this government is prepared to continue the negotiations to such a level as just handing over the government, I can't see that either.

POM     There are two scenarios that are painted on the way in which the negotiating process could unfold. You have one in which the negotiating table is broadened, more parties are brought into it and these parties who are representatives of various political groupings in the population arrive at a settlement and draw up the principles for a constitution and the other is one which envisages an election for a Constituent Assembly and that Assembly draws up the constitution and the government is formed. Which one do you think is likely to emerge?

RS     Look, I would like the Constituent Assembly method to be adopted but seeing the circumstances and the government in power I can't see them agreeing to a Constituent Assembly because that would be saying that it is an illegitimate power, it no longer can govern, in effect it is then going to surrender all the cards of advantage which it's had and I can't see how any government in that position is going to surrender and say, well fine, we're moving out of position, we're having a non-racial Constituent Assembly election and we will decide what constitution. Already the government, if you look at it presently at the local level, are already circulating options on local government, it's already beginning to talk about a two-chamber parliament and various other forms of representation. So the government has already, I think, a bottom line beyond which I don't think it will be prepared to go and then the only alternative would be do we accept that or then go on to a full scale blood bath whether it's immediately or in another five or ten years? I think that is the scenario if you are not going to accept some form of compromise at some level even if it might be for a short period of time.

POM     What kind of leverage do you think the ANC has in its talks with the government? What can it do to advance its position other than saying if we don't get our way we're going to walk out or we're going to have our friends abroad exert more external pressure?

RS     Now you see, there again I'm not too sure that the ANC has that sort of leverage to say that the international community is going to continue to support it in all its demands to the end. I believe that if De Klerk is prepared to take the initiative, as he has done, and I being a supporter of the ANC have found that he has on many occasions recently virtually taken the carpet from under our feet. Let's be very honest about it, and he's taken initiatives which have found the ANC, I think, in a lot of disarray at very many levels, the economics thing and everything. If he is prepared to go to quite a considerable extent I can't see the very western powers, which I think presently are prepared to support you, I can't see them continually giving the ANC the type of support they're giving at the present moment. So I think if you are believing that we can depend upon the international community to take us through that phase where they've got to give us everything then I think we're living in a fool's paradise. This is my personal opinion of the matter.

PAT     Well then, what kind of leverage can the ANC have?

RS     You see the ANC has a leverage up to a level where it will satisfy the international community that the present government has gone to an extent that that's again the question of apartheid is replaced with a more just form of society without all those inequalities which we've been talking about. I think that is the furthest the international community is prepared to go. I don't think they're prepared to go beyond that. Of course some of the things I'm saying, if I said it in my own circles they would say you're wrong, but this is my personal assessment of looking at the situation.

PAT     If when you have whatever the negotiating table is, a kind of Constituent Assembly, and the ANC will continue to push as far as it can for majority rule, a simplistic majority rule, what do they say to the government? If you don't give us something here we're going to do - what?

RS     You see there again it's not as easy as one seems to think. For example, you're saying that largely we are going to continue with the armed struggle and my assessment, as I said previously, is that the armed struggle has been partly contributory, but I don't think the ANC has got that sort of strength to be able to overthrow, on the basis of an armed struggle, the present regime. I'm a bit sceptical about it. Maybe I don't have enough information from the external side and so forth and so on but this is how I view it, that I don't think they have had that sort of strength to be able to do so because if you had that strength then I don't think there was any need for the ANC to have even agreed to come to the negotiating table. You are prepared to come to a negotiating table fully realising that as stronger as you are it's not going to be enough to bring you that sort of change that you are expecting on this thing and if you don't have that then you begin to say, well fine, let us begin to talk and let's extract as much as possible out of this whole situation.

POM     Again going back to the question of time, if, as you say, there is this (I won't say division) but differences in the black community among say the radicals and the more moderates, how much time does Mandela and the ANC have to bring about a degree of change that the people as a whole see that something is emerging from the process?

RS     I think time scales are usually very difficult to predict. In political situations I think one would be a fool to predict any particular time scale so I won't put a time scale but I feel that it will have to be fairly soon, it can't be dragged on for too long.

POM     De Klerk gave a promise, or the NP in its campaign literature gave a promise that any new dispensation would be submitted to the white electorate for their approval which implies in a way that if this referendum did take place then the white community would have a veto power over it. How do you interpret that promise and can De Klerk keep it?

RS     At this stage it might be very difficult. It depends upon the level of negotiations and if you arrive at a stage where considerable progress is made, then I think he would be prepared to do away with the question of a white referendum. But I think if the question of talks, having become completely bogged down, reached a no-go situation where there is no progress at all, then I think he would then be able to confidently be able to go to the white electorate and get a mandate to continue in the manner that he is and then he would probably have a mandate to continue negotiating with other groups in this country as well. And whether we like it or not people like Buthelezi are an equation in this and we can't wish that away and no group can wish that away and the longer you delay then organisations like the PAC are also going to become a far more important equation, a far more important partner in this particular equation as well.

POM     Three questions. How do you assess the threat from the right, from the Conservative Party? Do you believe that if there were an election held today that the Conservative Party would in fact gain a majority of the seats? Do you think support for the right is increasing or decreasing? Who in your view should be sitting at the broadened table? You mentioned Buthelezi and obviously the Democratic Party, the Conservative Party, the NP, the ANC; who in addition to those do you think should be there?

RS     I believe that every group that has an adequate constituency, it's very difficult to define that, but who has a fair support should be allowed to sit at a negotiating table. But if you are talking of a democratic society in the future and if you are saying a democratic society can provide all the answers and there will be no discrimination then I can't see why we should limit that to, say, the ANC and the NP and leave out the Conservative Party or leave out the Black Consciousness Movement, or, say, even going further, even leaving out constituencies such as the Labour Party in the so-called coloured group, for the simple reason that in the elections, as racist as they were, they have a considerable constituency. I will be very honest with you, that the Mass Democratic Movement, except for the Western Cape, have not been able to make the type of inroads one would have hoped them to make. I even forecast that if the NP, this is having sat for the last four or five years at home and looking at the scene around me and just meeting people, that if the NP was prepared to open its doors to a non-racial (well for membership it has to if it's going to be a democracy) but on the question of alliances I wouldn't even be surprised if you will have a similar situation that you have in Namibia, that an ANC government will not have that level of majority where they can impose their will on it.

     If I look into my own community I would say quite clearly at a conservative level that at least between 60% - 70%, if there was an option, a lot of them would vote for an alliance with, let's say, a non-racialist NP, if there can be such a thing as that, but non-racial. Similarly with 60% - 70% in the coloured community, and if you take the Buthelezi equation, and if you take the black equation, you will find that between 15% - 20% of the black electorate might also support it and this is why - somebody was trying to tell me that in the front line, I think Denis Beckett showed if they vote for De Klerk, something just to that effect if the blacks vote for it. And it is not a farfetched idea that a percentage will vote for it and that will create a situation where the ANC will not enjoy the level of support which we think.

     If we look at all our rallies a lot of the support that has been there are very young people. Now in an electoral situation, say if you had 100,000 at the First National Bank Stadium you would find that 50% or 60% of the crowd would be possibly 18 and under and that would not be an electoral sort of support. Now the ANC still hasn't been able to convert their rally support into constitutional or structural support as far as party politics are concerned. If you look at Lenasia, for example, we've always been, our elections have been 3%, 5% and so forth and yet over the last three  months we've been able to garner 800 membership, registered membership of the ANC. There you have a population with black and Indian probably about 200,000 and you've got about seven to eight hundred.

     I went to address a June 16 meeting out in Wattville, the Benoni side. At that stage, about a month ago, they had 150 card carrying members in the Indian community and the black community. So they still haven't been able to translate that rally support. Now I've always said, and they've disagreed with me, that your rally support is people who are interested in what is happening in the country, want to see their future, want to see Mandela, want to see the people who are coming into the country. It does not necessarily mean that the 100,000 that are there are your committed supporters.

POM     If you look at the Indian population, who should represent the Indian population at the table?

RS     If you say that if you're allowing the Conservative Party to be able to stand, then if a conservative Indian group is able to get enough constituency behind it then I see no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to participate. And this has been my other argument within the movement as well that whenever it has come to discussions they say we cannot speak to the so-called coloured group, we can't speak to the Indian group, but we can speak to the NP. Now I find those standards a bit wrong. If I'm allowed to speak to De Klerk, if I'm allowed to associate with him at various levels then I can't see why a man's colour because he's classified Indian or coloured should be different. So as much as I support the ANC I also believe that if it comes to this community and if there has to be representation at that level, which I believe we shouldn't because we should have non-racial, then if they have got a substantial, a fair degree of constituency then I think they should have the right to sit at the table, whether they support my view or they don't I think they should have the right.

POM     Would you see the Indian community dividing between a percentage that could in fact vote for the NP, a number that would vote for the ANC if the ANC became a political party and then a number that would vote for an indigenous Indian party, an Indian Conservative Party?

RS     I would say if the NP were open, the ANC well the ANC is open so that's not a problem, the PAC has always had Indian membership as well, they have been open, the BCM, so on the side of the oppressed in this country the Indians have always been members of all the parties and they have played a fairly substantially important role in organisation and structure in all these groupings, so as far as that is concerned there is no problem. Now if you are going to have the NP opening and with Inkatha now opening you will find that a fair percentage of Natal Indians because of whatever it might be, of fear or whatever it might be, will vote for Inkatha as well and if there are going to be Indians who are going to vote for, say, the NP then I can't see whether there will be enough people to support a separate Indian party. I don't think so.

PAT     What about the Indian Congress itself?

RS     Well the Indian Congress is virtually ANC, there is no question about that. As a matter of fact this debate we've been having, and I've been in the minority of course, we've been having this debate all along that the word 'Indian' should be taken out of the Congresses and I've lost out on that issue. They felt that traditionally because of the question of Gandhi's role in the country we should maintain it for strategic purposes up to a point. My argument is that we need to change people's attitudes, we need to change perceptions, and by remaining Indian, no matter what your real policies are, people still see themselves as Indians in terms of their loyalty to India and that sort of thing and I said that has to be broken down. But the far more vocal majority have said no, for strategic reasons we need to keep the term 'Indian' in the Congresses, that's why the Congresses have survived.

POM     When we were here in 1985 there were a lot of evictions going on outside Durban, areas that had been declared apartheid townships for Indians and the houses were in fact just being bulldozed down, they were being forced to move and there was a lot of sentiment that the government had become quite skilful in exploiting and using the Indian community as a buffer between itself and the black community, where the black community would take its anger out on the Indian community rather than on the government.

RS     I think that probably initially, during Verwoerdian times when the failure of the NP to repatriate the Indians, because that was their policy to repatriate the Indians, and initially very many group areas were set down very near the black communities. But I don't think subsequent governments, their real policy was to put the Indians in that sort of situation. I think it was a question that a lot of the Indian communities were very close to the black communities, in any case as far as the residences were concerned, the trading patterns were concerned, and I personally think, much as I detest the Group Areas Act, the Indians haven't suffered as a result of that sort of thing because they were now nearer to the group which could sustain it economically in that sense. So I don't think the present day group areas, the areas that have been set aside, were intended to do so using the Indians as a buffer. I think initially that was the case, after 1948, because there were NP policy statements and documents which showed that if the Indians are not prepared to be repatriated we will create locations in the same manner as we have created with the black and we will keep them as near to them as possible and we will also introduce influx control for Indians and the pass law for Indians and all sorts of things. I think initially that was the policy but since the development of the Indian Council and the tricameral system I think that was no longer the case because now the government itself needed at that stage to co-opt so-called Indians and coloureds in opposition to the blacks in this country and it couldn't afford at that stage to create that sort of fear.

POM     But you've talked about potential sources of conflict within the black community between the ANC and the PAC and the more radical groupings and the moderate groupings. Are there any similar points of conflict between the Indian community and the black community as a whole?

RS     Basically, no. I think the conflict situation that you can define is a very nebulous one, it's not a clear cut thing, it is that the black community have always looked at the Indian in terms of its economic position to be exploitative of the black community and I think this has been shown in the history of Africa, Uganda and all these countries. The first line of contact in the economic level between the average black person in the community has always been with the Indian trader and they've always perceived the Indians as exploitative in that sense. I think the Indian, being a very closed extended family sort of cultural thing, kept within themselves possibly giving the impression that they were what they were perceived to be. But if you look at the total economic thing I think it wasn't based on sound economic reasons because the Indians constitute a very small percentage as far as economic power in this country is concerned and these little shops, if you look at it probably a chain store like Checkers would constitute possibly 80% of the Indian traders in total.

POM     But given their historic trading position one would, at first glance at least, believe that the Indian community would be in favour of a free market economy or be more motivated to a free market economy than the black population?

RS     Oh yes.

POM     So in terms of the economic structures that will emerge in a new SA would there be potential points of difference between the Indian community and what it would advance, i.e. a free market economy perhaps, and an ANC government that would perhaps say nationalisation or a more socialist oriented state?

RS     Basically the average Indian is living in a free market system. That is why I said that if the NP opened up and there was an open election there would be 60% - 70% of Indians supporting an alliance with the NP for the simple reason that when it came to the communist ideology or the totally socialist ideology, in terms of the last ten, twenty, thirty years the Indians, despite the Group Areas Act and despite the policy of the government to get rid of them from the country, they have risen in the social classes and as far as class structure is concerned today there are far more Indians who would support a free market economy than there would be otherwise.  The socialist aspect still exists among university students, a small percentage of radical youth, that sort of thing. The average person wouldn't support it.

POM     So this is a possible point of divergence where again, to rephrase what you said, the Indian community or a significant part of the Indian community might find itself that in terms of economic ideology it would be more aligned with the white community than it would be with the black community?

RS     That's what I would say. If the rules were changed and the regulations were changed and the laws were changed and you had an open thing then I would certainly believe so.

PAT     How much will change for this Indian community? Where in a new SA when apartheid is taken off the books, will it make much difference? Will people move? What does it mean?

RS     I even told you in the hall yesterday, when it came to the Group Areas Act the Indians have always been asking for the removal of the Group Areas Act. When they said removal, mostly people have moved from Lenasia into places like Mayfair, they've moved into white areas like Houghton and Bezuidenhout Valley and all these areas, these are all white areas. None of them have said that they were going to move into the black areas. Secondly, none of them, there's always a question, even the Congresses have been afraid on many occasions to call for the opening of all Indian areas for black residential and economic occupation. They've always called for the total abolition, they've never said, well, fine, if the state is not prepared to open up the white areas we ourselves will do so. The Indians have never responded to that and the Congresses themselves would be afraid to call for such a thing for the simple reason they know that their constituency would either not support them or if they supported them it would be because of the fear of reaction from the black majority in this country.

POM     To go back to the negotiating process again, when you look at how that process may unfold, what are the major obstacles do you think that De Klerk faces? I asked you earlier about the Conservative Party; is the Conservative Party a real threat and do you think today that if there were an election the Conservative Party would command a majority of seats in parliament or close to it?

RS     I don't think so. There might be a fair percentage of Afrikaner support, maybe 50% especially in the rural areas, and even there the Conservative Party support, as I see it, is a lot to do with the socio-economic class in the Afrikaner community as well. If you look at the more affluent Afrikaner they would support De Klerk, I am certain of that, and I can't see beyond a 40% or maybe 45% of the total electoral support in terms of seats in parliament, say if there was a white election, for the Conservative Party. I still would believe that the NP would command a majority of white support in this country.

POM     So how would you enumerate the obstacles that De Klerk might have to face and get past in order to advance this process forward?

RS     I believe that if the negotiations reach a certain stage I think he's going to have to take the chance and accept and understand that he will get the support that he feels he's going to get and go for an open election and I can't see why not. Look, he said three to five years, three years, four years. One must appreciate that within three, four or five years he has got to call an election and this is why we again said that both the NP and the ANC has to see that something should happen within that period of time. You're brought up in a traditional Afrikanerdom De Klerk himself was never known to be a very verlig Afrikaner in the past. He has changed course. You have a tradition of affiliation to your own community, your own traditions and I am sure there must be doubts, there must be fears, the question of losing a tremendous amount of the support of his own people and I feel possibly any human being in that situation would see those as defining.

POM     Do you ever see a situation arising where a significant proportion of the Afrikaner community would attempt to mount their own 'armed struggle' for their own state, actually bring violence into their fight against the new order?

RS     I was in practice in the Northern Transvaal which is the hotbed of Afrikaner conservatism, J G Strydom, and I practised in the same town that he was when he was Prime Minister, he was called the Lion of the North. If you look at the Afrikaner character you are going to find a certain percentage who will go for the armed struggle, as you are seeing now. But I think in the end there will still be a substantial percentage of Afrikaners dissatisfied with what is going on but I think would be prepared to accept some of the concessions or compromises made by De Klerk and accept that as an eventuality and I think they will go along, under protest, but I can't see a right wing armed struggle to an extent that they would rally become a total threat.

POM     Like you would see the state security apparatus holding with the government, of there not being any kind of significant defections from it?

RS     If you look at the question of the state administration in this country I would say that a vast majority of them are very, very conservative Afrikaners and up to this stage, all right you've had your death squads and you've these other elements that have done what they have done, but they could have already aborted De Klerk's momentum of change and direction of change by crippling it already now in terms of the amount of conservative Afrikaners that constitute the state administrations at various levels, the army, the police, the provincial administrations, call it whatever level of administration that is, and if they wanted to, and if they were motivated with that action, I am sure that they could have already halted De Klerk to the extent that he's already gone.

POM     Do you think the demands of the Conservative Party for a white homeland, ill defined as it is, is a reasonable and just demand if it could be accommodated?

RS     You know to me it's like living in Alice in Wonderland. It can't be a reality when you're living in a part of the continent where there are so many blacks in the country and how do you function as an autonomous state within that sort of thing? And if an Afrikaner eventually has to choose, the conservative has to choose a living standard of whatever, well maybe not as lavish as now, but scaling it down a bit and having to live in a multi-racial or non-racial SA, I think in the end he will choose that.

     You know I've found the Afrikaner, as much as I've opposed him, at very many levels I have found that when it comes to the crunch he is fairly adaptable. I have learnt that, I've had a number of experiences. For example, when I was in prison, the security and the police function at different levels. When we were in prison the function of the police is merely to look after us there. The rest of the time we were under the control of the security apparatus of the country and they could do with us anything if the Lieutenant Colonel, whoever is in charge of the prison, and if they wanted me out for interrogation, no matter what, some little junior, Security Branch officer here in Protea, there in one little office in the back, they would wake him up and take us and bring us there. Now when it came to that sort of situation we were being under the control of the police and it so happened that a number of times we had discussions with some of them because once or twice some of these top chaps used to come around to see how the prison is going on, and having had lots of discussions with them because they felt they needed to discuss things with us. After a while they began to feel guilty that people like me were in prison, to the extent that the said, "Look, man, we can't see how cultured people like you like we Afrikaners opposed the British and we opposed this thing similar to that, your struggle has some sort of a basis and we are merely carrying out our functions here. If there is an ANC government tomorrow we would have no difficulty in working under an ANC government." This is the police.

     So much so that with my last detention, we are allowed in terms of regulations to make a presentation to the security headquarters in order to say that, well, look, we feel you have held us unjustly for these reasons and we would feel that you should now release us, that sort of thing. There is a process. So we all felt that we should now do it. Now the chap who was in charge of the prison, normally what happens is when you do submit that document, that document first goes to the local security here and they vet it and then they decide that it's got to go to the HQ. So when I presented mine, the chappie came to me and he said, "Look, I'm going to do you a favour." I said, "I don't need any favours because this is a struggle and in the struggle there are no favours. It's my commitment against yours and we'll struggle it out to the bitter end." He said, "No, having seen you four times here I can't see myself not doing a little bit on my part to correct some of the injustice which I believe has been done to you. I'm not going to allow this document which you have presented to go to the local security because the local security will never allow you to go. None of the representations people are making ever get beyond these offices here. I'm going to see that the document that you have presented will be sent straight to the minister's office and I will bypass this because that's the little I can do for what I believe is a correction of the injustice that has been done."

     So there is humanity there, there is. I don't think we can lump all Afrikaners together.

POM     Looking at the other side, what do you think are the major obstacles the ANC will face in advancing their agenda in the negotiations?

RS     At the present moment, already I am very perturbed and despite the fact that people, Mandela and them have called for all sorts of things, they have not been able to control at the radical level any of the calls for peaceful protest, going back to school. If you look at Soweto which is the centre of the hierarchy of the ANC, the top leadership being there, there is absolutely no schooling at the present moment. So maybe the reverence for a personality like Mandela is not being translated into the disciplined organisation which the ANC wishes to have and as a result of which I think at the present moment the biggest problem of the ANC is to be able to have some sort of control over those who claim to follow the ANC.

     Let's be very honest, even if you look at the Natal situation I know Gatsha Buthelezi is probably responsible for a lot of the things that are happening there, but at the same time I don't think we should say that we are without guilt and we are not to be blamed. The leadership has got no control over very many segments of those who follow the broad democratic movement and I think this is the biggest problem. The other problem that I see as very serious, if they handed the government over to the ANC tomorrow - you must also realise that from 1976 to now we've had 15 years of no education, unskilled people; can an ANC government fulfil the expectations and the needs of the people? Already one feels that with 2,000 or 30,000 exiles coming back into the country now resources are being channelled to find them homes, to get them back, get them settled. Now that in itself you are going to find that there might be seeds of conflict in the sense that you are doing everything for everybody coming back, we've got no jobs, we are unemployed, our expectations are not being fulfilled, what are you doing about it? For me, as a supporter of the ANC I find we've got lots of problems.

POM     Again going back to the economic question, you have COSATU, in particular COSATU and the Communist Party, who have a big investment in socialism, socialist economic ideas, in communist economic ideas, and are slow to give them up and other parts of the ANC who appear to be more flexible in terms of the economic structure in terms of the economic structure they would look at, do you see the possibility of a split between COSATU and the ANC on economic structures?

RS     Look, sometime in the future I believe it will have to come for the simple reason that at the present moment whatever stayaways, whatever consumer boycotts, whatever has been happening, to me it's not ANC decisions. At the present moment COSATU, and I think the SACP, virtually dictates what is to be done and this is the other problem that I feel is a very serious situation. If we look at the SACP programme to say that this is the first phase of national democracy and the next phase is towards communism, now if that is so, once national democracy is achieved then how can the ANC then and the ANC has to decide on one or two things, it has to then say that we're also becoming totally socialist and communist and we will implement the system totally, or alternatively say, well no, we do not think this is the answer to it. And if you reach that stage, I can't see any sane human being telling me that you can't then have a conflict situation.

POM     Some people have said to us that one of the things that the white community will look for will be some guarantees regarding economic structures, that there won't be nationalisation, that there won't be large scale state intervention and that these things would have to be written into a constitution. Would this again aggravate the tendencies towards division between COSATU and the ANC and between, say, the ANC perhaps and a considerable section of the Indian community?

RS     I don't think the question of those sorts of guarantees will be included in a constitution. Once you're talking of mixed economies and you're talking about free market forces and so forth and so on, then I think those forces are going to take their natural course and I don't think any guarantees given or not given are going to stop that sort of procedure. I think Eastern Europe and the whole communist world has shown that 70 or 80 years of total communism as far as I am concerned, I have always believed that the communist countries that are monolithic structures and the people totally supported this thing and then this thing happened, you know it was mind boggling. So similarly I think in the ethos of the average black person in this country he believes in communalism, and Indians also basically have a large degree of communalism, but communalism cannot be identified or defined as communism. I think then a segment of the ANC will have to review its situation and will have to make the decision and then there might be realignment of forces in this country.

PAT     On purely political, pragmatic terms we were told by a couple of people since we've been here that for financial reasons, political economic reasons, the ANC would be very dependent on the Indian community. Is that true?

RS     True? No. If you look at the total Indian position with regards to what they hold in terms of economic power it's about 1% if not less. In that situation, how much can the Indian community really contribute? I think whether anybody likes it or not economically you are going to be dependent on the present white structure in this country.

PAT     Oh I mean just for the foreseeable future, for the next year or so.

POM     In terms of the national support for the party.

PAT     When one looks at raising money for the ANC in the country where do you go to your constituencies? You go to the trade unions but they don't have much money at all, they're borrowing from trade unions around the world. That internally a very important source of financial support for the ANC would be the Indian community.

RS     A fair percentage but I don't think a crucial percentage. I think if there was a crucial percentage then there was no need for us to be having seminars and discussions with business. What is this progressive business group called again? This consultative movement?

POM     Christo Nel's group?

RS     Yes, and I've been to a couple of his seminars as well. If you look at some of the content of these seminars you find that people who talk nationalism, people who have talked socialism, people who have talked communism, are prepared at that level, away from the glare of the masses, to say that, look, we are prepared to come to some sort of an agreement, we need your support. If you are prepared to help and to be able to create a situation of a different form where assistance is given, where upliftment is given, where contributions on the basis of social conscience are made, then we will be prepared to consider. Now if the Indian community had that much resources to be able to give, then I don't think there would be any need to go to that level at all and I think what we say from the platforms, that's politics unfortunately, and I find it very, very difficult because I really got into politics out of a social conscience and not as a politician. Somehow I got embroiled in all politics and just became part of the stream.

POM     One other thing we've been given to understand from some people in government circles is that they would envisage a process which you would speed up as much as possible, reach agreement as quickly as possible between the government and the ANC and you implement a new governing structure and you let people adapt to it. In other words you kind of say here it is, it's going into effect and you will have to adapt to it, the deed is done. On the other hand you have, again, a scenario where you have a slower process, where you try to educate the black community as to what their realistic expectations should be regarding a new government and you're trying to educate the white community to alleviate its fears and concerns. In your view which path would be best?

RS     One would like the process where it goes through the process of education, but has this country got the time to go through that sort of process? It's a very lengthy process and in that process how long is that process going to take and within that process what are the obstacles that might create conditions for more conflict in this country. Therefore, at a certain level you are going to have to take certain decisions and hope that your constituencies are going to follow you. I have noticed this over the last number of years in this country and since the unbanning of the ANC as well. We have educated people on the grassroots democratic process where decisions are taken first at your very local level, then your structural level; that's how the UDF has functioned all along. Suddenly we find that it no longer happens. A whole lot of things are being done and even people in the leadership of the organisations have had decisions thrust upon them. So what one talks in theory about democracy and what one practises when it comes to the implementation of this, I fear there is a distinct difference.

POM     The last question I have: do you think that this process must see itself through before an election is due in 1994 or do you think it could extend beyond that point?

RS     The basic steps of change and the basic steps will have to be taken before, an agreement will have to be reached at some level.

POM     You could not envisage another simply white, Indian and coloured election?

RS     I don't think so. This is why De Klerk is clearly stating three or five years because he also envisages that you can't have another Indian, coloured, white election. I don't think that it's any longer possible because if you realise that the whole momentum of opposition to the government was created by the tricameral system alone, which was merely bringing in the Indians and the coloureds, now if you're going through the process of another white, coloured and Indian election with the heightened expectations, with all the conscientisation that's taken place, with the overt political awareness even in the smallest places. When we started the anti-tricameral system opposition at that particular time we didn't have structures, we had launched the UDF and we didn't have structures except for the main centres like Johannesburg and Cape Town. Now today, if you go into the remotest parts of the country, there is such political heightened understanding of the situation that even little villages know about consumer boycotts, they know about democracy. Under those circumstances I can't see you going through another trauma of another election for the Indian, coloured and white, I can't see it.

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.