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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

18 Jul 1990: Fismer, Chris

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POM     In the last year there has been an astonishing degree of change in SA. Why do you think de Klerk moved with such rapidity after the last election?

CF     I think different factors contributed to that of which the most important were factors from within the NP. I think in a sense already in the region of 1987/88 within the NP certain policy decisions were made on different levels and the public, our electorate, the white electorate and especially office bearers within the NP were under the leadership of PW Botha becoming a little bit frustrated that there weren't any initiatives taken to implement policy decisions that had been taken with the NP. That caused people to question our sincerity in what we say in our policies because there were no real results as far as our policies are concerned which caused that when we repeated those particular policies in the 1989 election campaign people said, well, you can't be very serious, we've heard this for quite some time now from you and we don't see any action. The reason was that within our system as it is now the State President has quite a lot of powers and the factors surrounding him make him not too willing to move then there is not movement on the part of the government. In a sense de Klerk only interpreted what we in the party and we in the caucus of the NP really wanted to happen and he did that. I must say he did it in quite a fashion with a lot of personal style attached to it but he reacted to what was going on within the party. That's a part of the answer, I don't say it's the whole answer.

POM     On this next question we have got a number of varying replies and the question is: has the NP now conceded on not only one man one vote but on the principle of majority rule?

CF     In a broad sense I want to say yes as a starting point, then I want to immediately say that there are so many constitutional concepts that can be accommodated within one man one vote majority rule that makes it important for us to qualify one man one vote majority rule. It's not that we want to deny it in any sense or water it down but we just want to state the argument that what we understand under one man one vote majority rule is particular types of constitutions that would be acceptable to us, that we would like to co-operate to, that we would even like to not just co-operate in the passive sense, we want to take active steps to implement it. But there are other types of constitutions within a one man one vote majority rule phraseology that would not be acceptable to us.

POM     Like for example a simple Westminster type of first past the post?

CF     Yes, takes everything, winner takes all.

POM     Would the system envisaged by the NP be a federal system or a unitary state system?

CF     Let me say this from a starting point that we think that we, with everybody else, should abide by the results of thorough and properly constituted negotiations and that means that what the end result will be will be the result of negotiations and therefore we can envisage particular concepts that with every concept that we state we accept that in negotiations that concept can be different. At the moment I think there is a very broad definition on many aspects because we see instruments in constitution making that would be acceptable but not necessarily all of them could be part of it. So, yes, a unitary system, there are constitutional types that can be accommodated within a unitary system but there are many aspects of a federal constitution that also have a very good possibility that we think could be developed in negotiations and in our own thinking.

POM     Can I put the question in a slightly different fashion? In the NP's campaign literature last year it said the party supported universal franchise but it also said that it had to be a system in which no one group would be in a position to dominate another group. Has de Klerk and the party moved away from its emphasis on the protection of group rights?

CF     Let me start where we have moved away from. We have moved away from a dogmatic definition of groups and we have moved away from an enforced definition of groups on racial lines. That has no chance of acceptance in a new constitution on the one hand and we don't believe in it ourselves any more. This generation, this government don't believe in it and we won't support anything on that. So we think that people in SA on a spontaneous level already are defining them by different actions in different groups, if you want to me to use that word, I can also use other groups political ways of thinking may be a better phraseology and we think that a constitution should more or less give all of them a proper part in government and in decision making without one of those spontaneously formed groups or political ways of thinking having the upper hand and dominating the political way of thinking of other people. If something must be enforced there must be an enforced participation of everybody.

POM     How do you see the process itself unfolding? Let me give you two scenarios and tell me which one the NP favours. One would be one where the negotiating table would be brought into more more parties would be brought in and there would be extended discussions and that out of those discussions you would have a settlement arrived at and consequently a constitution drawn up. A second would be one where the ANC and the government get to a point where they more or less form an interim government and still in negotiation they draw up a constitution. And the third is the route of the Constitutional Assembly along Namibia type lines which would after an election draw up a constitution. What's the party's thinking on that?

CF     Let me first say that the middle one, the second one is not acceptable.

POM     The second one is?

CF     The NP/ANC going on into some form of an interim government, keep on negotiating with each other. There is a broader spectrum of political thinking and political participating which is developing more and more by the day that is broader than the NP and the ANC and to think that you just would like to suit the power because you have two strong forces and then keep on with some form of domination over the rest and say, "Ha! These two strong forces have come together now so forget about the rest." It will be a recipe for more and more and continuing chaos in the country. That's not at all acceptable.

CF     May I stress the fact that in our viewpoint we haven't as yet started with negotiations. What we see happening between the ANC and the NP now is, some people call it talks about talks, more specific it's discussions to remove obstacles that exist from both sides that avoid each other to meet around the negotiation table. It's interesting that we have gone through such a process during last year with Inkatha that hasn't attracted much attention but for a long time the government and Inkatha couldn't get together. In due course last year they appointed an ad hoc committee I think with three or four members from the NP, three or four members from Inkatha, to identify obstacles and to give attention to the removal of those obstacles which in the end resulted in a lot of things that have been done but it also resulted in Inkatha and the NP saying to each other, "We are ready to enter negotiations with each other". So that process has been completed with them. We are ready to start negotiations, I think from both sides and we still are but we weren't in that position with the ANC and from both sides a lot of obstacles have been stated that avoid each other to negotiate with each other and we were really seriously trying with what President de Klerk has been doing since the end of last year to remove these obstacles and we believe and we hope we're right that within this year we would come to a point where we think if they don't think and state new obstacles that the past stated obstacles as far as the ANC is concerned have been removed and that we will be in a position to start negotiating also with them. Then we have covered already quite a broad spectrum that most definitely there are other parties and people representing other people who have even before that been ready to start negotiations.

POM     Such as?

CF     I think of the different white political parties.

POM     The Conservative Party.

CF     I don't think they are interested but they're in a process now where they can participate and I specifically speak of the Democratic Party. There are no serious obstacles preventing us or for them to be present, different of the so-called homeland national leaders who want to participate under their own banner, I think for quite some time we've been ready to enter negotiations with them. There are other parties that I think there are still serious obstacles that have to be removed. I specifically think of the PAC. We don't believe we have serious obstacles negotiating with them but I understand from their statements that they have particular problems, obstacles to enter negotiations. But at least I think a less main important part is if the white electorate with their representatives, the national states, Inkatha and ANC and the national states whether they are on their own or whether they're part of Inkatha or part of the ANC, that if those parties are ready to start then we can really start with serious negotiations which if I have to foresee a scenario I think that those negotiations must decide on a process from there on. We believe, up to now it's been stated at different times by the State President, we don't believe in a Constitutional Assembly like Namibia where for the first time you have to create something for the people locally to decide about their future. We think that from people within SA representing in some form or another a support base that they can enter into a final constitutional debate and that that final proposals, or interim proposals, can be put to the different electorates in whatever way each party believes it wants to do it. We would like to go back to the white electorate because they have given us in a sense a blank cheque and we've promised them in the election we're going to say please give us this blank cheque, we will come back with you as soon as we've filled in something.

POM     Mr de Klerk made that promise specifically. Do you think he has to keep that promise? Can you envisage a circumstance in which he would not go back to the white electorate?

CF     Look things might develop in such a sense and, I'm stating a very negative scenario which one would try to avoid, things might develop in such a I want to use the word 'chaotic' manner in SA that it might become impossible for us to do that. That would be very sad for the country because the moment it becomes impossible for us to do anything in a sense then there has been a take-over, a successful revolution, then we're out and there's no way that we can go back.

POM     But you would still be talking about four separate elections, the NP going back to the white electorate, the black parties going back to the black electorate?

CF     We face the severe difficulty of having the opportunity in the future again for one specific nation group to do a particular thing on its own, specifically if it's the white electorate, and it might be that there must be some form of concessions in preliminary negotiations of how that can be accommodated. There are different possibilities that must be negotiated so one is that you have a general referendum of the whole country of having to accept something that may be a particular question only for people that's on the voter's roll now, that they can also that you're doing both in one.

POM     But what if you, the obvious question here is what if you've got a situation in which a proposed constitution was rejected but accepted at large.

CF     That's a most definite possibility that one has to take into recognition. That will be the same if you don't have such a referendum at all and the majority of the people at large accept a particular constitution and the government say no, we're not interested in it. What will we have then? We will have chaos and we will have opposing forces staking themselves against each other which must then fight it out. I cannot see that, I don't think the black majority will accept something else apart from fighting it out and the government or the white people saying no we do not accept it, I cannot foresee then having a different option than enforcing their will or trying to enforce their will. More or less in a sense what we had up to last year of us enforcing a particular type of constitution on the people which would have been becoming more serious and more serious with more conflict in it but that's something that every white individual, we believe, therefore of this negative scenario, we as an NP accept the importance that we must come to an agreement with them because we don't want that negative scenario.

POM     Come to an agreement with?

CF     The black majority. But now we say it's not only for a few individuals of us who accept that to go finally through with that. We have been elected by people with a mandate to negotiate something for them and we must put it to them and if their reaction is that we're ready for consultation, we don't want to go into one or other solution or agreement with the people, we will spell out to them the consequences if they reject it, we will spell out to them what will happen to the country if they reject it. We will spell out to them the different alternatives and then if they accept the other road unfortunately then this country must go that particular way, not that I am fatalistic about it, but I accept the fact that we must have a convincing power and we must test it to convince the majority of white people in this country that we cannot go that way, we must go that way.

POM     Would it be your opinion that on the question of a Constituent Assembly that the government will simply hold to it's position, in other words that that is not in a sense negotiable? It can be put on the table like everything else but that they won't move on that.

CF     I am now not talking as a member of the government, I'm not in the executive government of the country, I'm only in the legislature, if I may use that little bit of distance from the government. I think that there might be interim phases or interim agreements like in a sense we have some form of interim agreement already, releasing of prisoners, releasing of further prisoners that had to be negotiated with some criteria set for the release of more people. Those are interim type of things that are allocated at ad hoc committees to negotiate it. It might be that there will be interim phases and a Constitutional Assembly will be a form of an interim phase. So I don't in my mind see it as complete impossibility but I accept the argument that what we have against a Constitutional Assembly at the moment is that within the present atmosphere if you have to elect a Constitutional Assembly on a one man one vote system then it's quite probable that a constitution will be written by one particular party.

POM     That you conceded the principle of simple majority rule.

CF     Yes, yes, and then that simple majority rule, if they once reach the winning post by a margin of one then they write the constitution in the way they would like it so the rest is out for ever before they've even started. We still have quite a strong atmosphere at the moment although that's a declining tendency of all the black people that have a common denominator against the present government because they are excluded but the more we move the more that common denominator disappears and political differences among them come to the fore. So if you move too fast with a Constitutional Assembly while they still have this common denominator they might have a large majority of people supporting one political party but I am sure that what you will get then is that within two or three years after that you will start to have very serious factions going to the foreground which will just put the country in another round of problems.

POM     Looking at the right for a moment, you're in an area which I think is pretty heavily supportive of the Conservative Party, if an election were held today do you believe the Conservative Party would get a majority of the white vote?

CF     Taking the scenario that if we have to have an election today, I think the Democratic Party as a particular factor will not disappear but it will be minimised to a great extent and with that taken into mind I think we will still be able to get a majority. But it's questionable and I can understand why people from the Conservative Party at the moment believe that they might be able to get a majority. I think it's a definite possibility that must be taken into account right at the moment, which is not unpredictable. Who would have thought I could have told you that last year without being wise after the fact.

POM     If by 1994, the time at which a new election is due to occur, this process hasn't completed itself, would there be a possibility then of the CP winning that election? In other words is 1994 the limit on the time span in which something must be accomplished?

CF     That's more or less, and it's still our way of thinking since the election last year, that's why we've called our manifesto a five-year action plan, that by 1994 there must be a very clear picture or a much clearer picture than now. We must be at the winning post or close to the winning post for people to have quite a clear way of thinking that they must realise the absolute consequences of deciding one or other way. I would have hoped that before that we can already be in a position to go into something new with the different phases that we have to go through, a referendum or something like that. I wouldn't like that we have to go through another standard three-chamber election unless it's set we are so close to the winning post that the majority of the country accept the fact that these people must have their election now, but then if you're so close to the winning post there are other possibilities, that you can extent the term of office of this parliament for another year or so, so that it can then disband to go into for a new constitution.

POM     When the CP talks of partition or even a white homeland does anybody really take them seriously?

CF     Yes, I take them seriously for one. I say we are wrong to say that that is not an option or to say it shouldn't even be considered. I think if they want to do it they must start doing it tomorrow but then there's two preconditions that puts the ball in their court. The one is they must define where is this area where white people can go and live and then they must get the white people to move there and if they do that, if they say there's one person, like Professor Carel Boschoff who said it should be in Namaqualand, North Cape, if they decide that's the area then they must move there and they must get the white people from Pretoria and Johannesburg to pack up their things and move there and once they're there in numbers of 1 million, 2 million, I am sure nobody would be able to ignore the fact that they put them there, they will be able to make their presence felt there.

POM     They would talk in terms of not a vacant piece of land but perhaps that covered with an area where there was already an infrastructure like around, say, Pretoria.

CF     Yes, but then they must start to and what other means are there to negotiate with the black people to get out of Pretoria if they must move out of Pretoria? What I think is it's not for the government to give either money or to use force or use taxpayers money or anything to promote what we think is an unrealistic idea, but if they promote it by defining borders and by moving there and by negotiating with black people to get out and there is any degree of success on any of those three things, defining the area, getting white people to move into the area, getting other people to move out of the area, then they have a case but I promise you not on one of those three legs will they have the slightest success. They will not define the area because they know it's just an emotional issue without any standing. They will not get white people to move in because I'm telling you now if you tell the white people, even if they're CP people in Pretoria that they will move to the Northern Cape they will laugh at you. You might find one or two, an insignificant number, but the people of Pretoria want a solution where they can stay in Pretoria. I can tell you now that they will have no success and you know it better than I, to convince black people to move out of any particular area. So it's a stillborn argument but we must not tell them that. We must say go ahead, do it.

POM     What threat, if any, to the government exists from the right or is it a threat which in a relatively short period of time will simply fizzle out into maybe a sullen acquiescence of what's happening.

CF     In the short term one is a bit perturbed by terrorist type activities that show in the behaviour of right wing people. But I am really convinced and I haven't any particular information from the Security Police in this regard but my gut feeling is that it is a very small number of white people who are involved in that type of activity and if I say a small number I would guess in the region of 50, 100, 200, 500, which still makes it a small number that are really in that frame of mind that they would gather arms and ammunition and really use it. I don't think that, although they are a threat in the sense of what the outside world see on the TV sets about SA, it can affect investment if a naïve person thinks that that is what the majority of white people think. I really don't think that they will be able to divert the train of the future in a different direction. May I just add, there are a lot of other white people, many, many more that will be against what is happening but they are people that I think if the majority of white people accept it in a referendum and they accept it's unavoidable it will take them five years or ten years and they'll just accept it and live in the new situation.

POM     In the last election, do you think the CP got a majority of the Afrikaner vote?

CF     It's not a majority, I don't think so, it must be very close to fifty/fifty.

POM     Would you say now that it is probably ...?

CF     They have increased on that I believe from a gut feeling point of view, but they have also increased their support among English speaking people in SA. Don't make that mistake, whatever dissection one had of the English speaking community in SA before, we've seen in Umlazi, I've been there, it's a very English speaking constituency and there's a lot of English speaking people which I now really realise that they have always been against the government maybe from the history of being from England and especially ten, twenty years ago what had been important for them might have been the Union Jack and God Save the Queen and things like that and they were just against the fact that Afrikaners ruled this country and they looked for something more British, they would have liked. But they have never been to the left of the government on racial issues. That was a things of I'm against the government but thank God for the government. Now that they realise, well, this government isn't going to keep on with that sort of thing, now they jump right over the government to the right wing, or they leave the country with some idealistic argument why they should leave the country but they don't want to live in such a situation. They've liked, without saying it, they've liked the situation as it was. That's a broad generalisation.

POM     Just looking at this bi-election that's going to occur in Randburg, in the last election the CP got 655 voters, 4.7% of the vote. How well do you think it has to do to be able to claim a victory and what has it got to do in order for the election to be seen as a defeat for them?

CF     Not any result in Randburg would detract us from what we would like to do.

POM     I know that but I'm talking about what would give the CP the moral high ground. [that they see once more and ...]

CF     Look they are going to get more votes than they got in 1989 and they are going to claim that as a victory whether it's one more or whether it's a victory.

POM     People we've talked to have been at least consistent in saying that in order the bottom line they would say they have to get in order to claim a victory would be 2000 votes but they have to at least triple their vote before they could claim a victory and if they only doubled their vote or less it would be a defeat.

CF     If they triple it it's irrelevant, it's a nice discussion that we can have now, it's rally irrelevant. I know that they're going to claim victory whatever happens, whatever they say to you in the chambers of their offices that's a different thing. They are going to claim victory, not going to deter us. I must say it will be quit a shock if they form it and that will really bring home the point that we must very seriously think of how we approach white people in this whole process and black parties would also have to take that into consideration, but I think that's unlikely.

POM     What kind of concerns have your constituents expressed to you in the last year? All of this will have come as a severe surprise, the rapidity of it at least. What are they afraid of?

CF     I think drawn down to the bare essence they are afraid [... commonly as law and order but I don't think that creates ...] They are afraid of the country falling back into just another third world African country too fast, without controls, without making it an attractive place any more to live in, to bring up their children. Everything connected to that in some sense, which also then affects law and order and uncontrolled squatting, if we find the golf courses of this city tomorrow morning, a tremendous rise in criminal statistics, uncontrolled, unstoppable strikes with intimidation and violence, burning of vehicles in the street, that sort of thing is the thing that disturbs people. But I think apart from that, if that can be kept within a broad, projectable framework, the whites will accept it.

POM     What kind of assurances will they be looking for that this won't happen?

CF     I'm afraid they want assurances indeed and the NP have difficulty already in convincing people only in words. So if we say we must do this or that, they must really understand why we must do it and they must see it in practice that we are really doing it. So if we say we want a strong Police force, they want to see a strong Police force. If we say we want to bring down criminal statistics they want to see it. If we say we want to do this in the economy to help the poor people, to give more job opportunities, they want to see those results. If we say the outside world will look more favourably upon us and will come to the aid of our economy, not in any paternalistic way but in the way of normal business and investment and uplifting of sanctions, they want to see it, they don't want to hear our promises from us.

PAT     That sounds like you've put a cap on very fast movement of all these things by education. Others would say it is better to move fast and put people into a new SA and let them see what it's about.

CF     Yes. That means that you will in some way by some force just present them with a fait accompli which they have no say in and I'm afraid it's not going to work for black people, it's not going to work for white people. We have said many times when we know it, blacks aren't just going to accept a constitution being drawn up for them and say, there, that's the way that you are going to be governed in the future. The same applies to white people. They want to have some form of say in the process and of the end result.

POM     Can I go back to the white fears? In a sense most of them that you have expressed are really concerned with the quality of life and maintaining the standard of living that one has had. On the question of the economy, on the one hand you have had COSATU and the ANC and the SA Communist Party which over the years had a heavy investment in socialistic ideology or nationalisation or other things associated with a socialist or Marxist state. Do you think that the government will look for some provisions to be written into a constitution on questions regarding nationalisation, look for safeguards to be provided? Do you see differences between the trade union movement and the ANC on this question? When Mandela has been abroad, and he has been very careful to avoid the phrase 'nationalisation', the ANC document calls for a mixed economy, COSATU still uses the hard line rhetoric, what is ...?

CF     Let me say that as far as the debate and arguments being put forward by us and by the ANC I am very positive about the future. I think there's a lot of rhetoric on both sides and if you really look behind definitions and you look to what is really wanted in practice I think there's a broad base of possible consensus and of a possible coming together on that particular issue between our viewpoints and the ANC. I think in many instances they use rhetoric to justify their movement from where they have been to where they are now and I accept that. In politics one must accept, give them breathing space to change their arguments, just as we have needed in many instances. So I'm quite satisfied how that thing is developing. am more concerned about what's going on, if I may say, black politics between the ANC and COSATU because I'm quite sure from what I see and the different strikes, and that's how I try to explain it to my own electorate of people who are trying to understand all the strikes that we have now and stayaway actions and so on, that it's not really something that we had in the past of blacks against whites or blacks against the system. What we have is a power struggle within black politics trying to determine who are really capable of moving the people. In a sense the ANC called for it by maybe not giving the recognition to COSATU or people like Cyril Ramaphosa right from the beginning. I think there's from the ANC leadership as it is a bit of a rejection or a cold shoulder towards Cyril Ramaphosa which might cause him and COSATU to say, well we'll show you that we really have some political muscle in this country, and that's why we see different things. I hope that in some sense they will be able to flex their political muscle without ruining the country. That's the challenge.

POM     Again talking about black politics, what in your view are the major obstacles that Mandela has to overcome and what are the major flash points of difference in the spectrum of black politics itself?

CF     I think the major obstacle Mandela has to overcome is the obstacle of expectations that will be created amongst black people in this country, of what can be produced in a new system for them. Maybe he can put the lid on their expectations or fool them up to an election and then when he has to produce the results the country will just experience the same sort of problems after an election. If we are not going to be successful to really bring some form of realistic expectations for the whole of the community of SA then they are not going to succeed, the country is no going to succeed.

POM     If I were to ask you what difference do you think it would make in the life of an ordinary black family in Soweto if you had a black government tomorrow morning?

CF     Yes. If we have it tomorrow morning without a proper process?

POM     I mean even after a process.

CF     After a process, what difference it will make to them?

POM     In the way the average person in a black township will live his or her life?

CF     If we can bring it along according to, by we I mean SA, if we can bring it along according to a realistic economic policy and a realistic economic approach there might be a lot of advantages for them. First of all on a per capita basis they will be more prosperity in the country and then within a country of more prosperity they will have more rights as individuals than they have now and the limit of where they can advance to will be much higher than it has been previously. It will be the top where now there are ...

POM     I'm talking in terms of such things as a shortage of say 1.8 million housing units, two thirds of the houses in Soweto don't have any electricity and there's an inadequate water supply, the educational system has gone to bits, problems that will require massive amounts of money to address them and you're talking about a country which has a relatively small tax base. What redistribution mechanism could a government use that would materially change the conditions in which large numbers of people live without at the same time clamping down on the free market or inhibiting foreign investment or raising taxation to a prohibitive level or having companies like Anglo American begin to move out?

CF     I think there is a middle way of ways a means that in a sense we are already trying to implement that, and I carefully use the word 'redistribution', in our income tax system we have some form of redistribution, of the higher income paying on higher levels, but also in the budget of the country in this particular year where the trust of Jan Steyn(??) in English 'left behind communities' I think is a translation that can be used, where R2 billion has been put aside for them. I think next year in the budget I predict that you will see tremendous allocations for education. In this year's budget we have seen a tremendous allocation for housing which will be repeated, economy allowing, but even in the budget as is you will see a much high emphasis on the government supporting the lower income people, which means the black people than you have seen in the past. Now I don't think, if we go on in this way, in two or three years I don't think there will be a black government that would be able to improve on the way that we are doing it. So in a sense then if you say what will happen if there's a black government, it will be the same, it will just be black people in government still doing the correct things but that's also necessary. It doesn't help to do the correct things and you're not really representative of the people.

POM     Do you see your party opening up to become a non-racial party?

CF     Yes.

POM     And that efforts, definite efforts will be made to recruit members and have branches in black constituencies?

CF     No, not necessarily. That might be a waste of time. I think past experience has shown, and I think it might still be valid, that although it's definitely a pre-requisite that we have to open up our membership at some stage, you cannot go into a new dispensation saying that you are only for white people, but I think the fact on the ground, even if you open up, you will remain basically a white party and the answer will lie, in my opinion, to seek alliances with people closely thinking or broadly thinking in the same direction as you are.

POM     Who would you point to as a possible alliance?

CF     I wouldn't like to predict. At the moment it's possible, at the moment I see a lot of possibilities between us and the ANC. I see a lot of possibilities between us and Inkatha, to mention just two. It might be then that in the future, I'm not married with an idea of the NP, it might be in ten years time or something like that that such an alliance can grow into something new. There are many unacceptable things in the ANC but I think they will correct themselves, they're just in a process.

POM     Nelson Mandela, how have your constituents and colleagues reacted to him since his release? Has he exceeded their expectations in his public actions or has he disappointed them somewhat? Do they think he's calling all the shots?

CF     In SA he's fast becoming a human being. It's not yet so in the United States, he's still a god, something from heaven.

PAT     He's a lot different than what we're used to in our politicians.

CF     He's fast becoming a human being with human shortcomings and with human mistakes. I think amongst the upper circles in the NP of leadership there's appreciation for a lot of things that he's doing and an understanding for a lot of things that we think he's not doing quite the way we would have liked. There's a lot of understanding that he has to play for a particular audience or he has particular political problems.

POM     What specific things would you point to?

CF     I think we would have liked not so much a contradictory approach as in his economic viewpoints of wanting a strong economy, wanting investment in the country, but keep on with sanctions. There are a lot of things that just don't make sense but which you have quite an understanding for. While he still has not yet consolidated his political power base in the country it's been threatened within the country by different other political forces, I understand that it's impossible for him to go overseas and say, 'Please lift sanctions, help the government, praise de Klerk for what he's doing'. It's impossible, it's unrealistic to expect that so I understand that but it's not to say that I agree with him. But amongst the white people I think they have not yet really come to terms with what Mandela really is. I think even among their own people on the ground level I've experienced that there's still a lot of explanations that have to be done by us because they still see him in a sense as a criminal, a terrorist who has been in jail and he should be glad that he's released and he should historically know, and they're irritated by him.

POM     They're irritated by his reception abroad?

CF     Oh yes very much, which I don't worry so much about. I think it's also realistic that they must realise what world perceptions are about Nelson Mandela whether they like it or not. So in a sense Mandela must one day, I don't know if he will ever know a person by the name of Chris Fismer or meet him, he must thank him that somewhere there is somebody that moves amongst white people that is telling them that Nelson Mandela's quite important with very good qualities, you must not just be so irritated.

PAT     Does that reflect on your party? Let me tell you, you are unusual in that. We pick up a lot more respect for de Klerk in the black community than there is respect for Nelson Mandela in the white community. Many of the things that you reflect are not simply reflected by the ordinary white person on the ground but are stated by members of your caucus in parliament. They wouldn't go as far as to say he's a criminal who's lucky to be out of jail. [ but there's not much ... ]

CF     Let me put it formally just to say to more or less ...

PAT     What you're saying is not surprising. But how does that reflect within the party itself compared with obviously you, President de Klerk, Minister Viljoen, others there's a leadership element in the party that is far out ahead of the parliamentary party. Do you get that sense?

CF     No I wouldn't say that you would be able to find dissent or differences but as a whole between the leadership party, the people that you have mentioned, and the parliamentary party I think there is a great deal of consensus since de Klerk came to power up to now. I would even put it as high as 95%. It's a very strong support and accord amongst parliamentary party and the leadership party. I have no doubt about that. As we move forward it might become different, I don't know. There's definitely at the moment in the last six months the parliamentary party with its leadership, with de Klerk, has moved a little bit too fast even for NP on constituency level and therefore it's our identified past in the next six months for people like me to really work on ground level to get those people behind us. I am not afraid that we will succeed in that with what I have experienced up to now. With a little bit of explanation, with a little bit of background, with a little bit of growing accustomed to a new situation, there's no problems.

POM     Two last questions. One is, will the Group Areas Act be scrapped in the next parliamentary session?

CF     That's our promise.

POM     And the second is, this time next year how far will this process have advanced? How far will this negotiation process have gone?

CF     I seriously hope that during the course of next year we will be able to start with negotiations. That is the most important fact.

POM     That would be broad based negotiations?

CF     Broad-based negotiations and just ANC/NP talks at Groote Schuur or something like that, broad-based. And for once and for all my concern is not with the government, the government's participation, but whether Buthelezi will sit round the table with the ANC, whether Mandela will sit round the table with Buthelezi, will the PAC be there? If they're not there will they have created significant power bases to really keep on disturbing the process? What will happen there are so many uncertainties that I'm mentioning now what will happen with the COSATU/ANC relationship? Will they have settled that? Otherwise what you're going to find is that political players in the black spectrum will find excuses of not starting with negotiations and those excuses can be anybody, anything.

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.