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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

19 Jul 1990: Treurnicht, Andries

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POM     I'm talking with Dr. Treurnicht on the 19th of July in Pretoria. Over the last year, when I was here last year and I talked with Koos van der Merwe and he painted a scenario for me in which he anticipated a hung parliament where the National Party would attempt to form an alliance with the DP and that would result in a number of people leaving the NP and joining the CP and you being able to form a government. So he had high expectation as to how the Conservative Party would do in the last election. One, why do you think that those expectations were not met? And two, has the rapidity of change, has the rapidity with which de Klerk moved, surprised you?

AT     Well, first of all, I think we were a bit over-optimistic. As a young party there are certain people who are very, very enthusiastic. Secondly, the National Party, of course, didn't spell out precisely which changes it envisaged for the new year. The result was that many people still stayed with the National Party. The Democratic Party showed some progress. But the rapidity of changes introduced by Mr. de Klerk was astonishing to me. I sit in parliament, his speech was the most revolutionary I have ever listened to in parliament. I understand that not even his own cohorts were aware of what he intended by way of statements in his speech.

POM     I found his actions surprising, too, because, again, when we were here last year the media talked about de Klerk as being as conservative, as a pragmatic politician, as a man that wouldn't really bring about an awful lot of change and yet he has, or at least he has stimulated or he has been a catalyst for change for better or for worse. What do you think motivated him?

AK     That is very difficult to say. It may be pressure from abroad. It may be a change in the political philosophy of Mr. de Klerk himself and the National Party and his colleagues. There was a sort of what we would call a liberal onslaught on the National Party for years. I think Dr. Crocker was witness to that, he even wrote about that. Change in approach, a change in their estimation of success of the policy of separate development. There was a switchover from uncertainty to certainty that it cannot succeed. Internal problems, the agenda of the ANC, the violence, all those incidents, it had a certain effect on Mr. de Klerk's thinking. But we still cannot explain that because there were those incidents all over the years and they had to face liberal political philosophy all the time.

POM     You have to go back to the scenario of last year in which you had a hung parliament in which the NP might try to form a coalition with the DP and that resulting in deflections to the CP. Here you have a situation where de Klerk went even further than the Democratic Party and yet there were no defections from his party to CP ranks. What do you think?

AT     The defections were not from his caucus, that's clear. I think one of the reasons is that amongst those whom we suspect of thinking our way, there is not a leader, a man who will stand up and say thus far, no farther. And they always just toe the line. But they hope that Mr. de Klerk will do a trick and come forward with something, but I've told him openly, 'You have no formula, you have no formula for power sharing and the maintenance of self-determination for any people in this country let alone for the white people.'

POM     Could you point to, and this is informational more than a question because we'd like to interview a couple of National MPs, whom you think are extremely wary and could make the leap from the National Party to the Conservative Party?

AT     I have no expectations in that regard of any member of the National Party caucus considering crossing the floor to us. They are so compromised that I think psychologically it is rather impossible for them. The way the things are happening is that their supporters simply defect to us and support us at a very high level, chairmen of branches and committees and ordinary members.

POM     What do you understand de Klerk's position to be on the question of one-man, one-vote and majority rule? One, the position advanced in their election manifesto last year talked about a universal franchise but that it had to be a governance arrangement in which no one group would dominate another group, so we still talked in terms of groups, racial groups. Have you seen an evolution in his thinking since that time to a point where he now accepts universal franchise and the concept of majority rule?

AT     He was talking in terms of no simplistic majority which means probably sort of a qualified vote and a qualified majority.

POM     When you say qualified vote?

AT     It means everybody can vote subject to certain conditions. For instance, they may apply as sort of a pre-condition, a certain standard of education, a certain income. But the National Party itself will object to that long ago and will say that's just a temporary, would just be a temporary measure, it cannot in the long run avoid a black majority rule.

POM     So you would agree that the process that has been set in motion by de Klerk will lead inevitably in the long run to a situation in which a government dominated by blacks or just a black government would come to power?

AT     That's what we tell them quite frequently. We've told them that you are on the way to a black majority rule. There were some American journalists who asked Mr. de Klerk about the equal votes for blacks and the possibility of a black State President and his reply was, 'I have just received a mandate to do exactly that.' Now that was most surprising to me. Our approach is one-man, one-vote system for each people, community you might do it but especially for the white nation, one-man, one-vote distinct from similar democratic one-man, one-vote systems for the various peoples. Bophuthatswana can have their own, KwaZulu can have their own, it's up to them to decide that way. But in a unitary system where the numbers, 6 against 1, black against white, a one-man, one-vote system would mean immediate black majority in such a system, then we say, 'All you can say at this moment is there should be no domination of one over the other.' Not a minority group over the majority and not a majority over the minority. And we say, 'You have no formula to avoid that.' Not in a unitary system, any unitary system.

     And then we have certain problems with Mr. de Klerk's use of the concept "group". Traditionally in South Africa, speaking of groups, you refer to racial groups, colour groups, people's ethnic groups. But now all of a sudden they indicate that that distinction has got to disappear and it's all groups could be formed on the basis of voluntary association. We don't understand how he is going to protect groups, whether we as a white nation would have to re-establish ourselves as a group. How does he envisage us doing such a thing? Simply to be disbanded and tomorrow you find out that you are only a simple individual and I have to contact my neighbour and say, Look here, now we are waiting to form a group and establish representation in parliament.

POM     Could he not just be talking about political parties as groups in the same way as in countries that have a multi-party system, in some way each party is a group, represents a constituency, i.e. represents a group?

AT     Might be that he has that in mind but he didn't spell it out, he didn't elaborate on that. His reference to groups, what does he mean by protection of minority rights or the protection of a group? You see, a minority right may be just one political party as not having the support of the majority. But in our way of speaking, groups refer to racial groups, ethnic groups, etc., basically.

POM     To leap-frog a couple of questions. Couldn't he say that when you talk about a partition and a homeland you are equally as vague, it's ill-defined, one doesn't know where it is, doesn't know how it will come into being. Would that be a valid critique?

AT     Well, let me put it that way, speaking of homelands, they are there, you can determine their boundaries, you can determine the people who live there, how many people are living there. They are recognised, some of them are recognised, at least in South Africa, recognised independent and self-governing states. That is partition.

POM     Well, so when you talk about partition do you mean partition according to the formula that was put together in the 1950s or do you talk about a situation in which all of South Africa could be one nation if it so wished to be but that you want to carve out a white sovereign state in some geographical area? I mean, there's a difference between the two.

AT     Yes, certainly, certainly. Well up to now the position is that there are various geographical units already. In our words what we say is that South Africa has been already partitioned to a certain extent and that many people, or ethnic groups, even accept the result of that partitioning. Mr. Buthelezi accepts KwaZulu. I think he won't part with his land belonging to him. I think he would like to have a stake in the rest of South Africa. But land belonging to KwaZulu, I think he simply accepts that is land belonging to the Zulus. But from our point of view, we say it will be wrong to continue prescribing to various black ethnic groups and say, 'You have to run your affairs this way or that way.' But only insofar as our own ideal of land belonging to us and governed by ourselves also brings other ethnic groups or peoples into the picture as to the final border between us. That's where the negotiation is.

POM     So, let me back up a bit. First of all, how do you see the process itself unfolding in the next year or two? You now have talks between the government and the ANC and after obstacles are gotten out of the way you have a movement to formal talks between the party, the government and the ANC. Other parties will be brought into the scenario. Some people think there will be a Constituent Assembly election, others think that the parties will reach some broad consensus on the settlement. How do you see the process unfolding?

AT     We are building up our support amongst the white electorate. We have in view that according to certain polls, certain tests which you can apply, that is at a certain stage, I think we have reached that stage already where we can tell Mr. de Klerk, 'Mr. de Klerk, if you want to negotiate on behalf of the white nation you don't have the support of the white nation.' According to a very recent poll of which there was a report this morning over the radio, the larger part of the black people of South Africa are in favour of his political initiatives, but according to the poll only 27% of the whites. Which indicates that Mr. de Klerk has lost support, tremendous support, lost by Mr. de Klerk on account of the vagueness and the insecurity and the uncertainty which people associate with his old reform process. So far, that is what we intend doing, that is, building up our support for the Conservative Party so that at a certain stage we can.

POM     Surely he is entitled to answer that, 'I was elected, another general election isn't due until 1994 and no leader in a democracy resigns when his or her policies become unpalatable, they go their way to when the next general election is due and if the people don't like what has happened they throw them out at that point.' So how the white electorate might feel now may be very different from what the white electorate will feel in 1994 when he has moved these initiatives further forward.

AT     Our perception is that there is a tremendous swing away from the National Party at this moment. Secondly, there was an opinion poll conducted by the National Party itself in April and according to its own poll, the suggestion was if you call a general election now, at that time, the beginning of April, the National Party would lose. Now that report, or that opinion poll was published in, I think it was the Washington Times. But nevertheless, it would demand some very strong belief or trust to accept that even for me. But in our own political history, although a certain party was elected, say, for a period of five years, well, quite a number of times it happened that in a by-election the governing party was defeated or nearly defeated and it was an indication that should that be applied, that result be applied country-wide. The government does not have the support of his own electorate. Now on paper, the National Party can continue until the next general election. On paper he could do so. But I think the situation may also arise that the moral pressure from the electorate, and not only from people who are traditionally now conservative, even Democratic Party members who have seen that in Midrand last night, the government's policy as to squatters squatting, which is totally unacceptable, even to large numbers of former supporters of the Democratic Party. The government gets the message, begins the message. Now people are considering, of course, not armed, the armed struggle of the ANC, but very strong demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations. If that is successful in the case of the ANC, for instance, forcing the government to the negotiation table, that we may do something similar.

POM     But the reality is that de Klerk does not have to call an election until 1994. Assuming that there is no general election between now and 1994, what do you think, how do you think the process that de Klerk has begun with the ANC is going to unfold?

AT     Well, as a process in itself, that is talks between Mr. de Klerk and the ANC, well, first of all, the question is, now what exactly is the status of the ANC in the South African set-up? There are certain factors, mainly certain leaders in South Africa who have strong influence on the black opinion.

POM     Like?

AT     Like Chief Buthelezi, Robert Mugabe, the leader of the Zionist movement Lekganjani, and certain moderate church movements, I've spoken to a number of them. Their opinions are not published so widely as the comments of Mr. Mandela, but there is a strong feeling amongst them, the blacks, that Mr. Mandela is not their spokesman.

POM     Would you say this is true for a majority of blacks?

AT     Very difficult to say.

POM     But at least a substantial number of blacks?

AT     He has the support of a substantial number of people. In our opinion it is not only voluntary support but also support on account of intimidation. It is difficult to say because the armed struggle continues and they intimidate people and treat them worse, you know, the matches, etc. And the armed struggle continues, the PAC etc. They are let loose on the black population. But I was referring to factors which can inhibit the process so that should they continue and Mr. de Klerk eventually overcome the obstacles just for the set-off of the talks with the ANC, he may discover that there are others hidden amongst the blacks who claim to be the real spokesman for, shall we say 12 - 15 million blacks in South Africa. Somebody told me there was contact between Mr. Buthelezi and President Mugabe, Mr. Lekganjani of the Zionist church, which means at least an understanding amongst leaders of people representing about 12 million blacks. And then, of course, there are other more conservative or moderate church movements besides the official churches like the Methodist, the Roman Catholic, the Anglican, representing about 4 million.

POM     Could you name some of those or give them to me afterwards so I can go and talk to them?

AT     Well I had an interview, on his own request, with Bishop Mokoena.

POM     And his church is?

AT     The exact name, they've got various names, what his is - it may be Independent Reform Churches or something like that. But that isn't the exact name. He has an assistant, he has an assistant Mr. Radebe(?) who is living in Soweto, and then there is a Mr. Linda in Port Elizabeth. I spoke to him Friday before last after a visit to America. He was the guest of the John Birch Society. These people will represent more conservative moderate black people. Now that would have an influence on the talks between Mr. de Klerk and other people. And amongst the, as to the whites, we say we haven't made in principle a decision not to participate in any negotiations but we say the ANC, the PAC and the Communist Party, they are terrorist organisations, we know what their philosophy is or their lack of philosophy, we know what their intention is for the whole of South Africa, it is totally unacceptable, totally unacceptable to us. And we are not going to negotiate the future of our people and the land belonging to us with terrorist organisations.

POM     So are you saying that you would only enter into negotiations if the ANC were banned from those negotiations?

AT     Well, as a matter of fact, we do not recognise their authority for their claim to negotiate a constitution for our own people. There are certain claims they make which cannot be substantiated. They are organising a sort of military organisation which is, according to us, very dangerous and would create for Mr. de Klerk serious problems even at the negotiation table.

POM     I'm a little bit confused because having talked to a lot of people across the political spectrum there is now a feeling, a kind of certainty, that talks between the government and the ANC are in fact going to proceed, that a negotiating table will be set up. Now where that negotiating table will lead to, God knows, but that there will be a negotiating table with the ANC, the government, and other parties. Are you saying that if that did come about, that the obstacles to negotiations are overcome and this table is set up, are you saying that the Conservative Party will not sit at that table?

AT     Yes, I say that. I didn't exclude the possibility of negotiation with certain leaders, I didn't exclude that. But the situation being as it is now, the ANC, PAC, Communist Party unbanned and organising and intimidating etc., and will have demands to participate in a constitution in which our people ...

POM     When you say "our people" you mean?

AT     The white nation. I'm not excluding Afrikaners or English speakers as elements in the white nation, but we feel very strong about this, that is as the demands are and the strategy and the armed struggle etc., we say we are not going to negotiate with the ANC.

POM     What if the ANC abandons the armed struggle and publicly declares that the time for it is up and there is no need for it?

AT     We'd still say that the ANC, renouncing violence or not, we say they are an organisation which is not entitled to a say on the political aspiration of our all-white nation or the land or our constitution.

POM     So, in effect you are saying there are no circumstances in which you would sit at a negotiating table that included the ANC?

AT     Well, that is the position as it is at this moment. They say in politics "never say never".

POM     Well, that is what I was going to follow up with. Should I be surprised if I came back in a year's time and we talked next year and you had changed your mind? What kind of circumstances would lead you to reconsider that position?

AT     Perhaps, and I'm thinking, just thinking aloud, that you may probably distinguish between an informal meeting between certain individuals just casually and a formal negotiation. But I won't elaborate on that because it would suggest that you are opening the door for real negotiations as the National Party did. At first it didn't talk with the ANC, all the while they were talking for over three years. That is what estranged so many of their own supporters, that you lied to us in September last year, you said you don't talk to the ANC and all the while you were talking to it for years.

POM     So assume you stay out, you don't take part in the negotiations and the government and the other parties say, 'Well, that's too bad because we're going on without you.' And they do, in fact, come up with some set of constitutional arrangements which are submitted to the public at large, including the white electorate. And what if a majority, say, of the white electorate say, 'Yes, we go along with the proposed new arrangements.' Where does not leave you? What I'm concerned about is does your strategy not lend itself to your marginalising yourself?

AT     Not necessarily. We have to consider all the possibilities but we indicated that should we not turn up at the negotiation table in any case we will put forward as clearly as possible our view of the political future for the white nation alongside other nations and they can decide for themselves. But our basis is land, which now belongs to us.

POM     That's 87% of the land.

AT     Well, if you say 87, 80, 87% and we say that's a starting point. If you accuse us from abroad that the whites have 87% of the land, we say, 'All right, so be it', then you recognise the land belongs to us but we say that isn't the end of the story. That's where we can start negotiating with the real ethnic groups, with their claims to land or request for more land, etc.

POM     You at that point still would not negotiate with the ANC?

AT     That may be a technical question.

POM     The ANC are then part of the government, or become part of the government. Do you ever see a process where there can be almost a transitional government, ANC-NP government?

AT     There wouldn't be any sense for us to negotiate with any one of these black nations if we are not in power. If we remain a minority group. But perhaps we skipped one stage here.

POM     That is correct. I'm looking at it now, these negotiations are going to go on. The conditions that you have will not be met, let's assume that. The parties come up with a governance structure, it is submitted to the electorate and a majority, including a majority of the white electorate say, OK, we go along with it. Where at that point does that leave you? You claim to be the representative of the white people and a majority have voted against your position. As a democrat, where does that leave you?

AT     Right. First of all, we are not included in the negotiation, in formulating a sort of a concept constitution. But they promised either a referendum or a general election. And I have told my people, 'You work for a majority support of the white electorate, be it a general election or a referendum. That's what we need. That's what we are working for.' And it seems to me, it seems to me it is probable that we can win. If we do not get the majority of the whites to support us that will be very bad luck. But there are other things to consider and that is what will be the perception of the white electorate after the introduction of such a new system. Would that mean that once and for all you're included in a system which is irreversible? That is the favourite word with the government, Mr. de Klerk and others, the irreversibility of the thing. And we say, you cannot say that such a thing is simply irreversible as long as there is an Afrikaner people and broader white nation in South Africa distinct from the various black people etc., so long I think will there be an urge or a striving towards some form of self-determination for the whites.

POM     I suppose then the question is, if you did lose a referendum or a general election, that you would accept that and still participate in the constitutional process, go to parliament, take your seats but work for and continue to advance.

AT     I don't think I'll elaborate that far. That would be, shall we say, a hurdle we will cross when we come there. I think we work towards a victory in an election or a referendum.

PK     The government maintains, many people that I have talked to in the government maintain that you are part of this process already. That they are working to bring the ANC into a process in which you and other parliamentary parties are already participating. That they will work to bring in Inkatha and they think that will happen. So that it is not simply, as Padraig has been saying, a process between them and the ANC but you are already participating in a decision-making process, democratic decision-making process. So you would have to actually, or as I understand what they are saying, is opt out of what you are already participating in, i.e., they mean by running for elections, they respect the parliamentary system.

AT     Well, that would mean that our own position would amount to something like that of the whites in South West Africa / Namibia. A helpless minority. At this stage we can still participate with the possibility of gaining a majority of the white electorate. And that is the stepping stone towards recovering our own parliament. But should a system be introduced where you cannot in any democratic way get the white majority to decide for itself because you are simply submerged into 30, 36 million people and the majority who are black simply decided for you? We've warned them, then you will have to shoot your own people. Because then you offer no possibility whatsoever for a people to achieve political power over itself. And then it makes total nonsense of any idea of protection of minority groups.

POM     How do you interpret the vote the Conservative Party gets? Do you interpret it as being support for the concept of self-determination or really a reaction against the policies of the government? That you are the alternative. People don't like what the government is doing so they will turn to you, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they support the concept of a white homeland.

AT     There are certain supporters of the Conservative Party who are in reaction to certain steps by Mr. de Klerk but who are very clear about what petitioning in the long run will amount to. That may be so. But basically it's a choice between the self government, self-determination for the white nation apart from alongside that of other nations. Basically.

POM     How about alongside another nation? Would it be acceptable if all of ...?

AT     Well, that is what we already indicated. For instance, in the time Mr. Vorster, he said, 'All right. There's nothing in the way for the Transkei, for instance, and Lesotho to become one nation.' But they haven't. They can move in that direction. They told Mr. Matanzima after they had consulted at the airport, and he told Mr. Vorster that they have come to the grand decision to form one great unity. And they asked him, 'Now are you going to govern?' Yes, we are going to do that all together. They ask you, 'Now, by the way, the Zulus have a king. Will the king be the king also of this new Azania of yours?' And he said, 'No, over our dead bodies.' What I was trying to say is, on paper it is possible for sort of a Azania. Somebody said that means land of ignoramuses, the literal meaning, they can form their sort of Azania but we say, starting from our position of certain land at this moment, we say that is the political and constitutional basis for a white nation entitled to self-determination.

POM     So you would see Professor Carl Boshoff's idea of a piece of land like in the Northern Cape being set aside and whites migrating there if they wish to establish their own separate state?

AT     I'm glad you referred to Professor Boshoff. In principle, we agree with him on land of our own and a government of our own. But I've told Professor Boshoff, 'Your piece of land, that's very small. That is out of proportion, it totally disregards the present claims for whites to land which belongs to them.'

POM     Let's move to a situation to where there has been this election and a new government has taken power. It may be a power sharing government, or it may be a black majority government. Do you at that point say, 'OK, we want to negotiate with you? Why should they negotiate with you?' Or what happens if they don't negotiate with you?

AT     We haven't got that unbelievable belief in negotiations. That is why I say we are working, most definitely, towards getting a white majority. If we don't get that, we will have to consider the position at that time and say, what next? But we are working for that majority amongst the white electorate. And if we receive that, well, you can start certain steps implementing your policy.

POM     Under what circumstances would you see the white people resorting to an armed struggle, or do you see this entirely taking place within a constitutional process?

AT     That's something which is very, as we say in Afrikaans, up to you. It's very - I can't ask you what it is in Afrikaans - it is very relevant because on the one hand that is what the ANC, PAC, and the Communist Party are doing and promising and that is armed struggle. If they cannot get their way, then force, violence. Now I told Mr. de Klerk, it isn't I who was stirring up the people, you've done so by your decisions and by unbanning all these organisations and creating a fearing of uncertainty and instability in the country. And in spite of all the sounds, encouraging sounds from abroad, they still want to have you deliver the goods inside South Africa for the sake of stability and faith in the country. But as to the whites, there are certain, already certain incidents which indicate their vow, white people who become very impatient and they have lost faith in a democratic system. But I would say that may apply to certain individuals and certain small organisations, Piet Rudolph and others. But as a political party we say we are a political party and our strive is towards, to get the majority at the polls. That is our political aim. Should the government make that impossible for us to gain a majority at the polls and to be overruled by blacks, then he will create a situation which calls for very strong resistance. And my second statement will be, our people have fought in the past, we don't encourage them to take up arms, we say wait a bit. It is you as an individual, you are not entitled to take up arms but we had a very, very strong resistance from 1877-1880. That strong resistance against the British in 1899-1902, it may become a liberation struggle for a whole people under the guidance of its elected leaders. But we don't encourage speculation in that direction. We don't encourage it. That would only be in the extreme, in the extreme circumstances.

POM     I'm glad you brought up the British. Given the historic antagonisms that existed between the Afrikaners and the British and the fact that the British subjugated the Afrikaners who fought a war of liberation on behalf of Afrikaner nationalism, why do you talk of a white nation as distinct from a Afrikaner nation?

AT     Maybe that's a concept that is a bit ambiguous.

POM     The concept is?

AT     The white nation. Because, strictly speaking, we distinguish between the Afrikaner people as a people, as an ethnic community, cultural community, and English speakers as a cultural community, but in various spheres linked with the Afrikaner people, socially as to residential areas, in politics and business, etc. So that it is not possible to draw a line between the two communities. And then, of course, we consider ourselves as more or less first world communities and with strong feelings of race consciousness, cultural consciousness, distinct from the black peoples and even the Coloured people. So that is our distinction. I know, strictly speaking, all the whites in South Africa aren't, what you would call in German a volk, a people in the ethnic sense of the world. We have to stretch that a bit. But there are so many things which we have in common that I speak in terms of the broader white nation.

PK     Do you think your value of separate nations, racial distinctions, is shared with the rest of the first world?

AT     Maybe that they are not so conscious of the racial distinctions as we are in South Africa on a count, shall I say, of numbers. But it seems to me, according to what I read and I've visited a few places, it seems to me that you cannot really eliminate race consciousness. I talked to an American group visiting us the beginning of the year, and there was one black lady amongst them, and I made the mistake of referring to so many Negroes in America. And she corrected me by saying 'black'.

PK     There they would say Afro-American.

POM     To go back to the white nation, how do you think the value system of the white people differs from the value system of black people?

AT     Yes, that would take some, shall I say, description, value system? Maybe as far as the Christian religion accepted by and large also by the black communities, there are certain values which we hold in common. But I think mainly, but even in the experience of Christianity, even in the, shall we say, corporate life in a church, where factors like language and emotional experience etc., way of singing, way of praying, that even in the sphere of the church there are certain distinctions where people say they simply do things differently, in a different way. That was emphasised by a man like Justice Tsungu, he is well known in the SABC. He speaks various languages, but he warned against over-simplification of the Christian unity, and for that reason simply including members of various racial or ethnic groups, languages., etc. in the same church organisation. That was a warning from a black man. Now that is our own experience.

POM     You have got religion?

AT     Religion is one sphere, one facet where the differences are quite obvious. Then, of course, when you come to language as such and a broad concept of culture, culture which can include every sphere of life, culture even includes to us, according to us, culture also includes political views and your political organisations, the way you treat, the way you organise your social life. Then education, when it comes to education, schooling, education. While I was Deputy Minister of Black Education for a couple of years, and you needn't only refer to South African education or would you call it scholars, but in Africa, in Nigeria, in the Gold Coast, and elsewhere, and even from the Indians, a few 100,000 Indians of Canada where they express themselves in terms of education. I've studied a memorandum by Indians from Canada and their basic terminology and philosophy. I would say that if you translate that into Afrikaans and you would replace Indian by Afrikaner it would have been acceptable in South Africa because the starting point is the ethnic consciousness and the urge towards looking after the interest of a particular community. So all those factors are relevant in this South African set up. One thing for instance. I don't know the language, for instance Venda, the language, they tell me, is much more different from, for instance, Sotho and Zulu than the difference between English and French. That's what they tell me.

POM     Three last questions. First a very quick one. When you think of yourself, do you think of yourself first in terms of a national identity or ethnic identity, or political identity? Do you think of yourself first as an Afrikaner and then as a South African or as a South African who happens to be an Afrikaner?

AT     Basically I'm Afrikaner. Afrikaner, the concept of South Africanism, is one which I share with all varying South Africans, all are South Africans. The Coloured is a South African, Buthelezi is a South African, in our situation it is of very great importance, this specific community to which you belong in the whole set-up. Because according to the numbers, we are a small community and a small community has more, shall I say, defined feeling of identity and the identity being threatened by numbers in a unitary set up.

POM     Second would be Randburg in the by-election there, how well must you do to be able to claim a solid victory, and how poorly must you do for it to be generally be regarded as, even by yourself, as being a defeat?

AT     Shall I say we can only improve.

POM     But by how much? If you doubled your vote would you claim that a victory or would you have to get more than that?

AT     Doubling our vote on paper would be a 100% improvement but that wouldn't be satisfactory. Not according to what we have begun to expect, looking at the political climate and seeing how many people, even former supporters of the Democratic Party, all of a sudden realise what the new initiatives and what the new South Africa boils down to.

POM     So what amount would allow you to, say, call for a general election?

AT     I'm not very good at predicting.

POM     You said a level of expectation had been set. What would that level of expectation be?

AT     Shall I say if something, if we could achieve what we achieved in Umlazi, that would be a tremendous improvement.

PK     What kind of increase would that be over your previous? Proportionally?

AT     We increased our own number of votes by about 112%.

POM     That would be only going from 700 votes to 1500.

AT     That would be disappointing, I would say.

POM     Last, how do you think the next year is going to unfold? When we talk again next year, what do you think will have happened in the interim?

AT     Well, I think you've touched all things in your questioning, that is the talks. We'll have to see how the talks are going, whether the talks can switch over in real negotiations and I see Dr. Viljoen does not envisage a sort of a final formula within two or three years. I don't think it will be a very easy thing for the government, moving between - now I nearly said between extremes but I think he is part of the one extreme - but having to look after its own support in the white electorate.

POM     Do you think the government is going to move a bit slower?

PK     In general, not simply abroad or here, but has he done what you expected him to do on being released from prison? Did he fulfil your expectations? Have there been things he has done which you ...?

AT     Yes, he is such a world phenomenon at this stage. But I think he has got certain difficulties and the one is to at the same time interpret the ideals and the demands of the more radical behind him. And on the other hand, to put it in a way which would be somehow acceptable and form a basis for talks. And I think it is very difficult to reconcile those two approaches. The one is to have the pose of image, the image of a democrat, and on the other hand to be democrat according to the communist idea of being a democrat of the people's democracy.

PK     Do you think that sometimes you can understand him perhaps better than, understand his position more than, say, others who participate in the democratic centre because you've had to go through some of that yourself with extremes on the right?

AT     Well, to a certain extent, maybe. Maybe, we have our organisations on the right like the AWB and others, talking very strong on certain occasions and then, again, putting certain conditions, that is if I say, 'All right, if the government cannot contain the situation any longer, if there is chaos in the country, then you say that AWB, you'll step in.' Say, OK, when that happens, then it would suppose that the Conservative Party wasn't able to establish itself and to gain a political majority. So that is speculation on the basis of chaos in the country. But that differs, I would say, that differs from the programme of action by the ANC, the PAC, etc.

POM     What do you think the ANC wants?

AT     Well, I think it is also a degree of double-talk. On the one hand, they demand the disregard of all ethnic reference, all reference to ethnic groups or own affairs. But on the other hand, he was speaking in terms of "own schools" which could be acceptable but which I think is not consistent. But basically, the demands of the ANC, as I see them, are in the one South Africa, that the blacks being in the majority should have at least the major say in the government of the country, in possession of the major part of the country, the land. And they may suffer, grant a certain existence to the whites in the country as far as in the interest of the economic well-being in the country, but basically they want surrender of the power.

POM     Would this be to a socialistic or communistic system?

AT     That's what is difficult in the situation with Mr. Mandela. That Eastern Europe, Russia, it seems as if the whole system of the Union of Socialist Republics, that it is disintegrating, and people say that communism is disintegrating. I'm not so sure about that. I think one should be very, very careful not to be deceived. But even if it were true that communism is disintegrating and the Soviet empire or something like that is disintegrating, it is astonishing that Mr. Mandela is still adhering to the basic principles of Leninism and communism.

POM     Do you see a comparison between yourselves, the Afrikaners, and the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union?

AT     In a certain way. We are inclined to draw certain parallels. I put that to Mr. Collins, the Foreign Minister of Northern Ireland who was the Chairman of the group visiting, the Ministers of the European Community visiting South Africa, and I said that that's one parallel which we see between the ideals of the Baltic States and ourselves. That is, peoples catching up, coming into step with what we envisage or have been practicing in South Africa over the past decade. So that is real self-determination for various peoples, and not to be dominated by any imperialistic power. Now, Mr. Collins does agree, but he said, 'No, the only reason is that they've seen the freedom of movement and the association in the western world of twelve countries and they want to be free, like that.' And I said, 'Well, you needn't come to my argument. My argument is that these people want to govern themselves in their own territories, have their own government.' Government, people, land. We say sort of a battle to achieve that. And I say the same applies to the Ukrainians, Armenians and others.

PK     There are people who make themselves from internal democratic processes and I think you are one of those people. And then when that process doesn't work, the comment you were making before about the strains from the AWB, when it doesn't work, do the people who take the more radical, violent positions, take control of the process? It would be very hard for me to see you, say, in the trenches with the guns or with the ball or sitting at a table as a guerrilla General with your shield, it is like you have dedicated a good part of your political career to participate in a democratic process and playing a leadership role so that people can achieve what can be achieved.

AT     I don't see myself as lying in the trenches with an AK47. I don't envisage myself in that role. I'm not the military. I'm not a General. I'm ex-minister of religion.

POM     Could you find yourself unwilling to condemn those who would do that?

AT     No, not unwilling to do so because my people are very religious people. They fought two, may I say two, liberation wars and there were ministers of religion actively taking part in that. But that is in the extreme. I see my role as a member of a people, and my party as conducive to the interest of that people, trying to achieve a majority at the polls to be in a position to apply certain policies which are in the interest of my people alongside that of others.

POM     Thank you.

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.