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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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

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POM     It's the 19th of July and I'm talking with Mr. Leon Wessels the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. First, to backtrack to the election campaign of last year, the National Party, the campaign manifesto in which it promised a universal franchise but on the basis of there being the right of no one group not to dominate another group. Dramatic changes occurred in the last year. What motivated Mr. De Klerk to move so quickly and so broadly?

LW     Well, I guess, one, to understand de Klerk and to understand the election campaign, one really would have to go back to the previous election 1987 and 1986 when a good decision was taken, namely, that South Africa was going to be an undivided South Africa with one citizenship. But that policy really was not implemented vigorously and in a very imaginative manner. And I guess ever since that policy phrase, or that concept, was mooted in National Party circles people like de Klerk and like myself and others had been looking forward to the opportunity to really implement that and to evolve strategies to launch that particular policy stance. And I guess that what one must also remember is that President de Klerk did have a couple of months, contrary to other prime ministers or heads of state, in which he could prepare himself for the actual moment when he did take office.

POM     Yet the rapidity and the scope of the change caught everyone by surprise.

LW     Sure. Well, it did take everybody by surprise, but it was, in spite of everything, a process of reform which, for various reasons, had stalled a little bit. And when de Klerk came out of the starting blocks, he came out with a flash.

POM     This next question I'm asking because I've asked it of a broad number of people and I get different responses, or different understandings, each time I ask the question, and that is the question of the principle of majority rule. Has the government conceded on the principle of majority rule or is it still holding to some other system in which still no one group would be given the right to dominate another group?

LW     I don't want to duck this issue but I believe that your first question really has not - there is so much to that first question that I believe I have not answered that in full complexity. In other words, I'm saying it was the policy stance of 1986, it was the power sharing of 1987, it was de Klerk's preparation for actually taking office, and mainly two very important reasons. The first one was that the old policies were not working. And de Klerk came to that conclusion over and over again and realised he had to start de novo. And once you start with a clean slate, that's how, that's why he could move so rapidly because he changed his framework completely. And the second one virtually was a deep, hard look at the moral base of the whole policy. And in that respect one could now look de novo, afresh, at such issues as majority rule, the entrenchment of minority rights, one group not dominating the other group, etc., etc. I believe, as we proceed and as we develop, all these concepts will get greater clarity on them because we had not really been thinking in terms of a unified South Africa. And I believe that we still adhere to the policy, that it should not be a one minority form of domination changed for another form of domination where the minorities are subjected to the tyranny of the majorities. And in that respect, we are looking at entrenchment of rights. We are looking at one group not dominating the other, etc.

POM     I still don't quite understand what the answer is. Is it for majority rule where there would be instruments developed that would put restraints on the manner in which the majority could exercise that rule?

LW     Absolutely, because if you look at western democracies and you look at minorities, liberal minorities, a liberal minority in Britain and a liberal minority in Germany have not had the same influence on the people in power.

POM     You are not for simplistic majority rule, in reference to type, first past the post?

LW     I believe that the Westminster type of democracy will not suit our needs.

POM     Can you envisage a type of democracy in which, just say, for example you had a black majority government but there'd be either a second chamber or some other instrument, some other governance instrument, that would put checks on the manner in which that power could be exercised?

LW     Absolutely. Absolutely. I guess that the kind of democracy that would suit us now is where people really adhere to democratic principles. Democratic principles being a multiparty state, sovereignty of the justiciary, regular elections, certain distinct rights as cultural rights, linguistic rights being taken care, of etc. I'm sure that that kind, there are precedents for that kind of democracy and that is the kind of democracy that will suit our needs.

POM     A phrase I've heard again repeatedly, either in the newspapers or speeches and sometimes from other people associated with the government or the National Party, has been the phrase "power sharing" and very often they will talk about that there will be a power-sharing government. Could you tell me what the government means by use of the word power sharing? I'll tell you why I'm asking you that. In Northern Ireland, the British Government have been adamant that in any future internal governance structure in Northern Ireland, there has to be power sharing between Catholic and Protestant because the Protestant population constitutes 66% of the electorate, it would always have a majority. The government says, that's not democracy, you must share power. You must share it at an executive level. When government people here or members of the National Party here talk about power sharing, do they mean power sharing at the executive level in government?

LW     May I - I hope you don't find this strange, but I have a problem relating to Northern Ireland and Britain, contrary to some other South Africans who believe they have answers to that. But I can relate to power sharing in an African context, most definitely, the experiences that I've had. And I think it's important that one should, as you are doing in your study, have a particular understanding of what people said and what people say, because what was dominating the international environment or the South African scene at that moment has a bearing on how you should interpret that. For example, and I'm not referring to the National Party now but, for example, if you read the Freedom Charter you should read it against the background of the heyday of apartheid and socialism. And you cannot really interpret it without remembering that it was a mid-fifties document. Power sharing was coined in the days, the concept of power sharing, in 1982 when the National Party believed that this country should be a partitioned, divided South Africa. And that whites should have all the power on the executive, legislative, and administrative level. And the idea was initially, first mooted, not to embrace the black political aspirations of South Africans but only those of the Coloured community and the Indian community. And it definitely had in mind sharing, in an executive and legislative manner, power. And when it was broadened also to embrace black South Africans, it definitely had that in mind. In other words, not the relinquishing of power and, may I say, at that very moment the concept that was dominating ANC rhetoric was the seizure of power. And we said we were not prepared to give up power and we would not allow people to wrest power from our hands, but we would be prepared to sit down and discuss and work out a constitutional framework in which we could share power with all South Africans and as things have developed, most recently we are saying, louder and louder, that in itself does not mean we want to cheat anybody in any particular manner. It is a sincere approach in which we want to let everybody have a stake in decisions that affect their lives.

POM     President de Klerk, and, again, the National Party manifesto, gave a promise that any new constitutional dispensation would be placed before the white electorate. Can that be done?

LW     It depends on the nuances. One looks at that statement because what President de Klerk has clearly said is that he has a mandate to negotiate a new constitution. That was what he said. He has a mandate to negotiate certain principles to be incorporated into a constitutional dispensation. If there should be a new constitution and this present dispensation should be changed for a next one, he would seek the opportunity to be mandated to do that. And anybody else who wants to do that could also do that, whether they be whoever, whatever political party. But he himself feels that his mandate is not to implement a new constitution. And one should not look at that, I believe, only in a white framework because one way or the other, the Mandelas of the world, the ANC of the world, are also seeking ways and means and opportunities to be mandated. And to be sure that they are representing the views of their constituents. So, that is the beginning of a long debate. How will people be mandated to implement the new phase?

POM     A very obvious question is, what happens if the white population turn down the new constitutional dispensation and it is overwhelmingly endorsed by the other populations?

LW     Well, that in itself is the art of negotiation, is that you reach a settlement and an agreement that does not meet with all the demands that you set, but that it meets with a majority of demands of everybody. And we have always said that you will not have peace and tranquillity in this country unless you have in harmony at the very same moment the aspirations of South Africa's citizens but also have instilled a feeling of security amongst people, whoever they are, that need that form of security.

POM     I know, to repeat the question, it's a "what if" question, but the "what if" is, if, in fact ...

LW     You won't get peace and tranquillity if you have a dispensation which is not endorsed by the majority of South Africans and a majority of whites, for that matter. There's no question. I don't have any doubt in my mind about that.

POM     How do you, as part of the government, and the government itself, distinguish between its role as one of the parties around a negotiating table, among equals so to speak, since all the parties at the negotiating table would consider themselves to be equal at the starting point, and its role as government?

LW     Well, we have drawn a distinction by saying that whilst you are negotiating, government has to proceed. The needs of the people have to be taken care of and therefore, you need a government in place. How and what the negotiating table will look like is something that will still have to be thrashed out, not only in our own circles but also in the broader South African scene. I believe that you may possibly find that the National Party will participate in the negotiations and not the government, as such. In other words, that the people who are representing the National Party may be government leaders but they will not have the authority and the sanction of the government. They will be mandated by the National Party to negotiate.

POM     But they're wearing two caps simultaneously.

LW     Absolutely. Well, that is a very interesting question, because will Mr. Chris Hani, for example, wear the ANC cap or the SACP cap? Those are issues that I believe have to be asked and have to be raised. But I confess that in the broader South African scene, there is not clarity exactly whether that will be a rectangular or an oval or a half-moon table and who will sit as chairman and who will sit where.

POM     But does the government see this as its process, that it is controlling the process?

LW     Well, it is definitely in charge of the process at the moment, but it wants the whole process, it does not want to hijack the process. It wants it to become the participants' process more than the government's process. To cite an example, the government has stated over and over again, it is not their prerogative, the government's prerogative, to decide who will sit at the table. That will be the prerogative of the participants. In other words, the participants will say, 'Well, we hear a voice out there who represents somebody and who would like to be present at the negotiating table.' And it would then be the participants or the ad hoc committee of the negotiating forum to decide who would be there.

POM     Well, then, will it essentially be the government and the ANC who will decide what those legitimate voices or who those legitimate voices are?

LW     Well, that is a good question, but that is not the way we see it because we have said in the past that there are more players than only the National Party and the ANC. And the ANC themselves have conceded that point by saying, initially, at least, that there is a place for Buthelezi, and echoing and endorsing the fact that there is a place for the PAC, for example. The parliamentary parties will also have to find a position. We believe the ANC's argument on this one is not the correct one: by looking at everybody who participates in any form of government, that they should be represented on the National Party side or the government's side. And it would be the ANC versus the rest, so to speak. I think that is a simplistic and a premature approach.

POM     But the ANC hasn't said that it's the sole representative of the black population.

LW     It has not said that in public but it has clearly said that people like, it has definitely said in private that Buthelezi is welcome at the negotiating table but as part of the government's delegation and definitely not part of their delegation or as an independent delegation.

POM     Would they see the other homeland Presidents or Chief Administrators, that's if all of the objectives in this being illegitimately ...?

LW     That's a good point. I believe that, this is my view, it is, I believe that the self-governing states, some of the self-governing states, will be represented at the negotiating table, but not as homeland leaders but as leaders of people or as leaders of political parties. For example, Enos Mabuza, one may argue whether he would arrive at the table as part of the ANC delegation or as part of his particular constituency, party political constituency. For a fact, he will not arrive there as the Chief Minister of Kangwane, for example. As far as the independent states are concerned, the Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, Ciskei, they have expressed very interesting comments, passed very interesting comments to me, personally, where they have said, amongst others, two of the four have said they don't want to be part of the negotiations. The third one has said he would like to part of the negotiations, and the fourth one has said, well, he does not want to participate in the negotiations. So, he does not want to but he will not recognise the negotiating process. I'm sorry, I did not make myself very clearly on this one. Two of them have said the negotiations will take place between political leaders. They are not political leaders. Therefore, they will view the negotiating process with interest. But they would not like, they don't have a particular wish to be part of that process. A third one has said, 'No, I would like to be part of that process because I would like to influence the process.' The fourth one has stated that his territory is independent under Mangope of Bophuthatswana and therefore, they will not recognise the process, as such.

POM     When you said that the ANC would concede a role for Buthelezi but it would be one where they would be sitting with the government, and that suggests that the ANC is seeing this as negotiations between parties sitting across the table.

LW     That's true.

POM     And do you see them, and does the government see them in a similar way, or does it see it terms of parties sitting around the table?

LW     That is an interesting point because it has been raised over and over again. I believe that the negotiating partners should not look at one another as adversaries. They may not agree on all the issues, but I believe that you would find they may agree on some issues and differ on other issues. That's the way I would like to see it. In other words, the consensus may go from one to the other. I don't think it will be in the interest of the process if we arrive as adversaries, people sitting across the table from one another.

POM     There's also a suggestion in that particular motif, the government is on one side, that the government is the master.

LW     Yes, that could be.

POM     That it is there to give things out after concession, but it's not there as an equal. Does the government see itself, again I'm going back to, as an equal in this process or as somebody who is both a convener of the process and a controller of the process?

LW     Well, I guess that the government is the convener, is the generator of the process right now. But that is not the way it should develop. It should develop to become the process of the participants.

POM     How would you like to see the process?

LW     And it will be sad if there are many people who don't participate.

POM     How do you think the process will unfold in the next year? You are now at a point where the ANC and the government have nearly gotten rid of the obstacles to negotiations and are coming to a position in which they can talk real talks, rather than talks about talks. Just how would you like things to develop from that point?

LW     This is now, before our next meeting, what will happen in the interim.

POM     Yes, I want to come back to you next year.

LW     I wish we had this maybe off the record. I don't mind speaking on the record for that but ...

POM     This is all off the record, for about five or six years anyway.

LW     No, but what I really want to say is that I don't want to waste your tape or your time, but maybe we should just talk a little bit of how things developed over a longer period. I guess right now, contrary to what other people have said, the process, I believe, is irreversible but it is not a question of us having arrived at a point where things will just develop smoothly and rapidly without a lot of exciting moments and moments where we have doubts whether we will be successful. Right now, I believe one will find a consolidation of the positions, hopefully consolidation of positions but not polarisation of the positions where organisations such as the ANC and the National Party will go back to its supporters, go back to its roots, explain what it has been doing, what it intends to do, and get greater clarity on certain constitutional principles. What do we mean when we say, "the entrenchment of minority rights"? What sort of rights do we want entrenched?, etc, etc. What sort of economic dispensation are we looking at? And looking at the obstacles, I'm sure this process will take the rest of the year and hopefully we will get going in 1991 by engaging ourselves in a debate surrounding constitutional principles. I don't believe we will, within this year, come up with a model.

POM     To take it from there, there are two broad scenarios painted of the ways forward. One is one in which the parties at the tables, after discussion among themselves and consultation with their constituencies and whatever, reach a settlement and from that draw up a constitution. And the other is one in which, at some point, there is an election for a Constituent Assembly and the Constituent Assembly draws up the constitution. Now, I understand the government is opposed to a Constituent Assembly. If the ANC were insistent, if it became a stumbling block of a type, what forms of leverage has the ANC got at its disposal? I mean, in negotiations, you play a card because you can't ...

LW     If South Africans, the ANC and the National Party in particular, have not really indulged at great length into a debate with regards to the options of a Constituent Assembly or the particular form of the negotiating table. That is something which will be high on the agenda in a post-obstacle era, in other words, after the obstacles have been removed and this is part of the negotiating table, is trying to put yourself in the other man's shoes. The ANC has two trump cards. But two cards, whether they are trump cards I'm not so sure, and namely the armed struggle and international pressure.

POM     Well, take the first one. I mean, most people regard the armed struggle as a joke.

LW     Well, yes, absolutely. But for them to give up the armed struggle, the rhetoric of the armed struggle, will really be to play a major card. In other words, they have to play that card in a situation where they feel it is safe to play that card, where they have to feel secure it is the opportune moment to play their card and not to lose face in any way. I've been looking at the papers this morning and rushed out but I, in passing, heard that Mr. Chris Hani had said yesterday that the ANC should be positioned in such a manner that if the government would hesitate to carry through this whole process of democratisation, that uMkhonto we Sizwe should wrest power from the government. I've not read it, so I'm not sure whether my context is correct, but that is the way I've always understood the armed struggle.

POM     It's pat rhetoric.

LW     I believe so, too, yes.

POM     But to move back a point, there have been hints from Mr. Mandela that if an agreement is reached on the release of political prisoners and total amnesty for exiles, that the ANC would perhaps be in a position to be able to renounce violence. What you are suggesting in a funny way is that they should hold onto that card. That there might be, I mean, if they give it up now, what card do they have left to play in the future?

LW     No, I'm not suggesting that that is what they should do. I tried to understand their rhetoric, because I was present at that press conference and I saw Mr. Mandela, in his body language, he was uncomfortable when people pressed the question of the armed struggle. Because if you read the small print of the Groote Schuur Minute, it virtually says, "This is now the end of the armed struggle", without saying, "We are now disbanding the armed struggle". And I saw there that they were grappling with this issue because how can you be committed to a peace process and be committed not to destabilise a country and yet, at the same time, embrace the armed struggle? And when he was pushed on the armed struggle, contrary to what he had said yesterday and abroad, he was really trying to move away from that.

POM     Well, if they were to renounce the armed struggle, after the release of all political prisoners and the return of exiles, in a sense, then, they have only one card left to play. That's the international pressure.

LW     Absolutely.

POM     So, if they reached an impasse with the government and said, 'We just can't negotiate any further', the only card they have to play is outside pressure, in a real sense?

LW     That's true. I believe that's true. And they will have to, and they find themselves not on the moral high ground at the moment when it comes to issues such as the armed struggle. And because Mr. Mandela very emotionally and, I'm not saying that I agree with him there, but I try to understand what he's doing when he explains to people why they should still support international pressure and still support the sanctions campaign and isolation of the country. I'm not agreeing with him but I try to understand what he is saying. He is successful because he's projecting the issue in a very emotional manner by saying, 'Well, I went to prison 27 years ago without the vote. I still don't have the vote.' But that is what the negotiation is all about. Twenty-seven years ago, we said, Nelson Mandela, there is no way that you will have the vote in South Africa. You may have the vote in the Transkei where you come from. Now we are saying, Mr. Mandela, we agree. You are a South African citizen as much as we are South Africans and, therefore, you should have the vote, but we are not sure what the constitutional dispensation or framework should look like. Now, I heard over the radio this morning that somebody is saying that the concentration span of the Americans are pretty short.

POM     Thirty seconds. I'm Irish.

LW     And I believe they're right, because six months from now, six months from now, six months forward, will Mr. Mandela, in his plea for isolation and sanctions, will he still be on the high ground as he is right now, given a possible scenario where the de Klerk administration keeps on moving forward with this whole process of negotiation, reaching out, nation-building, reconciliation, democratisation? You see, his position may also change and, in that respect, may possibly end up, as I tried to indicate, that the armed struggle and the call for international pressure may just only be rhetoric.

PK     Doesn't international pressure, it appears to me that the international pressure extends beyond sanctions and that part of what Mandela may have achieved in his last trip was of his own person, his personality?

LW     Absolutely.

PK     So, walking away from the table is a condemnation of the process. That is, where the path has been rejected, and that would be even more severe in terms of public reaction.

LW     That is a valid point you're making and I guess that was the benefit of his visit, was that he has sold Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela has successfully sold Nelson Mandela as a reasonable moderate, wise statesman-like figure

PK     With dignity.

LW     With dignity, etc. That's absolutely true. But in the whole process, he has never knocked de Klerk. He has said, 'Well, de Klerk has not done enough', but he's always said, 'De Klerk is a man of integrity, I respect de Klerk, I want to go back, I want to talk to de Klerk.' Contrary to what other liberation movement leaders have said. They've all said, you know, 'We want to fight the government, tooth and nail', etc., etc., etc. In other words, de Klerk's image has also grown.

POM     I want to turn, because I think it's related to what Patricia was saying and to what you were saying, to the right. Here you have the Conservative Party which everyone concedes their strength has been growing. You had an opinion poll today which shows de Klerk's approval among the non-white voters at about 27%.

LW     Wait. What paper did you read that?

POM     I heard it on the radio, in fact, 27% for de Klerk and 43% for ...

PK     Forty-three percent for de Klerk in the black community.

POM     And 27% in the white community.

PK     It was reporting a poll.

LW     Oh, yes, I know of that poll.

POM     The poll is not that important. The question would be, there seems to be increasing support or apprehension in the white community that's translating itself into at least temporary support for the Conservative Party. How seriously does the government take this swing to the right? How does it propose to deal with it?

LW     I don't want to duck the issue so, if it looks as if I do duck the issue, you are welcome to come back, but the way I understood the questions was that it boiled down to this, that the blacks were more excited about the reform politics than there was excitement amongst whites.

POM     I'm not interested in that.

LW     OK.

POM     Let's set that aside. What I'm interested in is that among white voters ...

LW     No, no, but you should be interested in that because the whites are not as excited about the reforms as the blacks, but that does not necessarily mean they don't support de Klerk. Because I've been, just the previous week, in the most awkward areas of this country, rural areas where people have said to me, 'You know, with my heart, emotionally, I don't feel excited about what's happening but mentally I realise de Klerk does not have an alternative.' So, what I'm really saying is that although people may not be standing on the sidewalks clapping their hands for what he's doing, and they may have hoped and wished for another option, many of them, and the majority of them I believe, realise that there is only one way out and that is the way and the road of negotiation.

POM     Let me qualify the question.

LW     OK, sorry.

POM     Among the, I think at this point, maybe 25% to 30% of the people that I have talked to so far, are pretty well-informed people, every one of them conceded that there has been a shift to the right in the white electorate.

LW     Yes. I don't dispute that.

POM     OK. My question is, How seriously does the government take this threat?

LW     Well, it takes it pretty seriously. But against that background I've just given you they realise that there is not an alternative. In other words, what I'm saying is that you are dealing with two groups of rights virtually. You're dealing with people, whites, who want to embark on an armed struggle and you're dealing with right-wingers who say, 'Well, I don't like what this man's doing, but maybe he hasn't got an alternative.' We do take the armed struggle right-wingers pretty seriously.

POM     Professor Sampie Terreblanche last week in a Sunday paper indicated, I don't know where he got the information, but that over 50% of the Afrikaners voted for the Conservative Party in the last election. Is the Conservative Party increasingly becoming a party for Afrikaner nationalism and does the government see Afrikaner nationalism, again, as a threat, this whole idea of homeland?

LW     No. No, I don't believe that. I don't believe, to start off with, that the Conservative Party represents more Afrikaners than do the National Party. I come from a constituency where, and that is part of my whole outlook and the way I've changed, where I've won two elections where everybody and every single newspaper predicted that I would not win those seats. And the first one I won with 55 votes. And I did not stand against another Afrikaner, I stood against a Roman Catholic Englishman with a wife from Australia. Twice, in 1987 as well as in 1989. And in the second 1989 election, the majority, it was the second biggest swing away from the Conservative Party towards the National Party, where once again, there was not a single paper that had predicted a National Party victory in that constituency. So, what I'm saying, its early days, to say who's representing the majority. And I don't believe that the National Party does not represent the majority Afrikaners. But we do take the Conservative Party pretty seriously. They are a major political force. But I don't believe for one minute that they have the potential to run or to lead the white electorate.

POM     What do you think the white electorate is most apprehensive about?

LW     Right. The economic system is important. I'm not citing them in order of priority. The economic system, issues of law and order, matters of security, and, in general, the quality of services rendered by the government. Three things, virtually.

POM     Looking at the economic ones, I guess the fear here is that Africa will, or South Africa, will quickly degenerate into being a third world country with unemployment.

LW     That is a fear.

POM     And then you have COSATU and the ANC which, over the years, have a heavy investment in socialist, or Marxist, or communistic ideologies of economic structures. And today, you have the talk about nationalisation and all of that strikes fear into the heart of a lot of white people and also into the heart of the business community. Do you see, or do you think it will be necessary as part of the negotiating process, to get agreement, not just on a constitution for political dispensation, but also that you would have to have, concurrent with that, broad agreement on the economic framework in which the business of the country will be conducted?

LW     Absolutely. That would be the ideal situation. I have no doubt about that. If you look at, normally one would say that you need a constitutional framework, you need a constitution in which political parties operate and then they sell their economic policies. But in this country I believe you need more than that. You need sort of basic economic principles. Maybe one would, it would be impossible to spell it out in detail, but you would need some form of security.

POM     Do you think these principles would be embodied in the constitution?

LW     I would certainly hope so.

POM     Do you think this would give the ANC, again, a real problem because, I think you can distinguish on the one hand between COSATU and the more militant unions, and, you know, moderate ANC types who look at the world economy, see what's happened, and are more willing to make accommodations. Do you think that that might be a source of division?

LW     That will definitely be a source of division in those circles. The fascinating thing about the South African situation right now is that everybody who claims to be a player in the political field will have to look at his own position very deeply. There is nobody with a model or a set of political or a policy framework that will not come under pressure. That goes for the ANC, as well.

POM     So, what, this is a dual-part question, what do you see are the main stumbling blocks that the government will, or may, encounter as this process unfolds? And looking at it from the other side, what do you think are the major problems that, again, say, the ANC may run into as the process unfolds?

LW     This is, if we may take the process from the negotiations, in other words not the talks about negotiations but the real negotiations, the ANC will have a problem in explaining to their supporters that by instilling a feeling of security amongst the whites they are not settling for a sham democracy or a second-rate kind of constitution. And that is the matter, where will you strike the balance between the meeting of the aspirations of the people and instilling that feeling of security? It will have to be a genuine balance and both sides will have to explain without qualification why they are supporting it. In other words, it's no use if it favours the one side or the other. That is a major problem. The second problem in the field of economy, the economics of the whole exercise, a lot of people have expectations that cannot be substantiated and supported in terms of real economic principles. Just moving off to another continent, far off, if you look at the problems the West Germans have at the moment with the East Germans coming across and after two days saying, 'Well, we're working too hard.' If they experience that kind of problem in Germany, can you imagine what kind of problems we will experience here with regards to jobs, salaries, services, houses, etc.?

POM     Let's assume that tomorrow there is a black-dominated government in which the white electorate has a share of the power. What difference will that make in the life of the ordinary person living in Soweto or a person living in a squatter camp?

LW     Can I say what I believe what difference will it make and what difference they will hope it should make? I guess, starting with the second question, I guess that they would hope that if Mr. de Klerk moves out of Libertas and the Union Buildings tomorrow and Mandela moves in, they would presumably hope they would have the access to fresh water, housing, education, health clinics, etc. We all know that will not happen overnight. The benefit would be that they would be properly represented and consulted on issues, because we have made mistakes in that field. In another portfolio that I held, I experienced first-hand that people, for example, would build a golf course in a black township and people would not use the golf course, I'm just using it as an example, as that was not their need. Maybe if they'd built a soccer field that would have helped. And things like, bad decisions like that were taken, for example, because people were not properly represented. And I guess that will be the benefit. But from my point of view, from a white selfish point of view, I cannot explain to black children why we don't have enough funds to build them proper schools right now. But if a black government or a black member of parliament sits in the budgeting committee and he goes back, maybe they will understand better than they do right now.

POM     Well, again this is a hypothetical question but I'm interested for the future rather than for the present, if the PAC stayed out of the process, just stayed on the sidelines and you have an ANC-dominated government take power and, again, for the ordinary person living in a township, after four or five years there doesn't appear to be any real improvement in the standard of living, there's still a housing shortage, there's still an electricity shortage, there's still a water shortage, the educational system is still in semi-chaos, it's quite easily easy to envisage a situation in which disillusionment with the ANC would turn into support for the only alternative, which said, 'I told you so.'

LW     I totally agree with you. It is so important, therefore, that people should participate in the process. In other words, the process should not be hijacked by individual groups, and people should participate in the process in order to feel they have a stake in it because that is the rules of democracy, the ins may be out tomorrow, and they will have so much trust in the outs that they would be willing to hand over power to them, and if you have that kind of situation it will not be a democratic process, it will be the typical African process of wresting power rather than handing over of power after, grabbing power through the barrel, how do they put it? power through the barrel of a gun and not at the ballot box.

POM     The time span in which this process has to play itself out, again, one scenario seems to be an inclination to get it over as quickly as possible and to implement it, jointly if you like, by the government and the ANC being the two major actors and allow people to adjust to it. The other being one of where you have a more educated process, where white fears are alleviated through education or through how they see structures developing, and black expectations are lowered somewhat, in order not to want the impossible. Which do you think is the preferable way forward?

LW     Well, I guess we have to move. The people, I'm trying to look at the phrase, people used to say take your time but never waste time. And I guess that's important. That we should not rush over very thorny and difficult issues but we should not waste time. I believe that it's a matter of moving forward as rapidly and as quickly as we possibly can but at the very same moment, keep on informing the public, getting used to one another, getting accustomed to one another, seeing one another over television.

POM     Does the elections due in 1994 set a ceiling?

LW     Yes, that is a very important date. It is a very important date from Mr. de Klerk's point of view. From the National Party point of view.

PK     What do you think? What would be your time frame when they get a new constitutional framework for South Africa if things work right.

LW     Well, I guess we need about two, three years, really, to construct and to build a constitution with the necessary support surrounding a constitution. But as we all know, that will not mean the end of our problems and the end of our mistrust and distrust. It will only really be the beginning of true nation-building and dealing with the various issues. But I must confess that I am looking very subjectively at this because I am a sort of a white politician that has moved from one election to the next. I think somebody who has not been subjected to the electoral process like myself may have a different opinion and a clearer vision than I have of it.

POM     When we come back here, I hope next year, what do you expect to have occurred in the interim and at what stage will the process be, do you think?

LW     I definitely hope and wish that we will have clarity, not only have clarity at the form and format of the negotiating table but you will actually see people around the negotiating table grappling with one another on thorny issues such as the economic systems, the role of the judiciary, etc., etc.

POM     What's your department's assessment of Mandela's performance since he's come out of prison?

LW     That's a difficult question to say what your department position is. If you would say to me, what your opinion is

POM     What is the prevalent sentiment?

LW     I think Mr. Mandela, contrary to what some people believe, has really come out as a moderate, dignified person. And, as some of us have predicted, it would take some time for him to settle down and really find his level of support and have clarity on a vast number of issues. He virtually has had no choice but to endorse the fine print and all the sentiments expressed in previous policy documents, such as the Freedom Charter, the Harare Declaration, etc., etc. And to change that overnight is a problem. It cannot be easy. So, I believe we are very pleased that he is out of prison and not in prison any longer, because the greatest asset of it all is that he is part of the debate now. We are not talking about him, he is part of the debate. In other words, he is making good statements and he's making errors as well, and that is part of the political process.

POM     What would you call the most conspicuous error that he's made?

LW     Well, the ones that come to mind, I just mention as a matter of duty, more or less. The ones with regard to Gaddafi, Castro, etc., etc., but the one I would imagine would one day reflect on him as his greatest error, and that is, really, that he's underestimating the goodwill that you'll find amongst the white electorate and by sort of playing this game and holding back his cards with regards to the armed struggle, etc., etc., he may find that the whole process may not be launched as smoothly as it could have been launched. I don't, if I make myself clear on this, I don't think it's fair to expect of him to make a speech the first day he came out of prison but, as times have proceeded, it is very, very important that he should really participate and try and get the support of, and win the support of, people who could be won over for this whole process.

PK     Don't you find in perhaps a much more sophisticated way that it co-exists, that you in some ways have to do the same things, like you were doing in the last week within the National Party constituency and even within the parliamentary caucus itself? While there is no reason to doubt the leadership of President de Klerk and you and others at the table, there must be resistances and political pressures that your members face when they go to their constituencies.

LW     Correct me if I don't understand you correctly, but I think you are right because we still have a lot of persuading to do. The issues are not so clear in our minds as it may seem to outsiders. But they definitely are not all that clear. I, looking back at my own situation, I'm not saying it is all that clear in my mind, but I think it's clearer in my mind than in many of the people who have supported me and voted for me in their minds, because one has always been, or over the last couple of years, one has always been in the forefront of events, and I've been exposed to a lot of thinking in black townships, in black thinking, and I have tried to read a lot and tried to understand a lot. And therefore, things that irritate my electorate and my constituents, for example, don't irritate me any more because I see it more clearly.

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.