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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

21 Jul 1990: Seremane, Joe

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POM     Joe, we just came from a meeting with Cunningham at NACTU and from the manner in which he spoke he suggested that even though this negotiation process has begun, that in a certain sense it has thrown the national liberation movement into disarray, that many elements of it feel left out and not consulted. What is your sense of that?

JS     I would also add 'not prepared'. If I can give a really unbiased analysis. This whole process has caught many of us with our pants down, we are not prepared yet. I speak from personal experience here in this department. We have a network of what we call field workers, people on the spot in the different regional councils and the regional councils are subsidiaries for the South African Council trying to reach out to the very grassroots communities and churches. Some four years ago I was proposing to the field workers that we run self-improvement workshops or attempts to recreate the network so amongst the things that I was proposing were negotiations skills because we do conflict intervention. You can't just intervene in a conflict without having the skills of negotiation. One of them put it very well, "Joe are you asking us to prostitute our souls?" That puts the whole scenario in a very simple way and now it's the other way because they are saying, "Joe don't push your luck too far, stop", and I stopped. Now it's the other way round, whole massive demand from the network to say "We want the workshop on negotiation, please, please, please". So in other words I agree.

POM     That very point was made that the government has chosen a time of strength to enter into negotiations and they would have experienced diplomats and people who have negotiation skills whereas the ANC negotiators, or for that matter whoever would be on the negotiating team, don't have the benefit of those skills. You would agree?

JS     I would agree but everything has got it's point. If you are to wait until you are well equipped then maybe that day will never come.

POM     To back up a little, you said this de Klerk speech in a way on February 2nd caught almost everyone by surprise. Why do you think, what motivated de Klerk to make this great leap forward particularly when most of the assessments of a year ago were that he was a conservative man, he might have a more pleasant personality than his predecessor but would probably not do a lot more?

JS     I like talking in simple terms. I would say it's a mixed bag, there are several reasons for that. First he is his own person. As a person one cannot discount that aspect that somewhere along the line, conservative or not, I think he has a good nature, he has the desire to do well and good. That is his personality I think and he is courageous to the point he can be courageous. That's his personality or the personal characteristics of the man that he could take the plunge into the dark. Maybe it is the quality of leadership, the preparedness to take risks. The other element that I would be saying is that the reality of the situation, the pressures that have been building up against the kind of policies they are following. Nowhere in the world in spite of the factors, underhand methods are being supported but I don't think anywhere in the world today they agree with the policy of apartheid. It's totally rejected, it's indefensible, and afterwards our wonderful person now named Worrall who was once Foreign Minister in London (actually Ambassador in London) I said I wish I could have met you in London, I would just take my boy, ten year old boy and put him next to you, you wouldn't stand on one leg defending apartheid. My boy can assail the whole policy of apartheid without even using any political or diplomatic language because it's indefensible and that's the reason I believe. And the other one, I think there is an awareness, the whole question of the economic situation in the country once pressure was beginning to build up along the economic front and there were these moves so that once there was this whole pressure of the economic issue it started biting. Just the mention of economic sanctions did something to our economic health and so one or two of those, some people may count as token withdrawal or whatever but it had an effect and right now we all reflect our gold price going down all the time and that has an effect on interest rates, people who run the country need something there. Maybe that's de Klerk's trump card, if he could get that one right he could even persuade the right wing here.

POM     Do you think that de Klerk has conceded on the principle of one man one vote majority rule or do you think he and his party still want to work out some form in which you would have no group, as he puts it, no one group dominating another group?

JS     Yes, well they have recognised the need or the clamour or the call for one person one vote. That's the hard reality, that much they have recognised that apartheid is indefensible. The next sub-strata or layer is that the element of survival we have to have and they have their doubts and fears that they are going to be swamped over but they need to survive and they will try everything outside of the Broederbond. The Broederbond is the Nationalist Party, it is where the Afrikaner belongs, and it has over the years been exposed over and over but it had adapted because of this whole syndrome of survival and they will try everything. At the same time they would like to, I believe, as people, politicians, but that cannot be sustained indefinitely but rather being part of the process and being in control then you can ensure your survival because there are chances that you can release that. I would do that myself but you can redirect it towards what suits you 100% but if not then you evolve with it and appear to be part of it but I believe if they can, like you're talking, they don't want it, they would like perhaps minority rights or group rights. Remember they start off with minority rights and that's unacceptable to the international community then they change, almost like newspeak, all these group rights and they've still got to change. So sooner or later the argument of the oppressed people living there, when you have an entrenched bill of rights ensuring that each and every individual is protected, their rights are protected, you don't need minority or group rights because you have ensured that the individual irrespective of race, colour or creed.

POM     But in your understanding so far is that the government hasn't moved from the position of the protection of group rights to saying the bill of rights would be sufficient?

JS     No they have not moved from that. It's being talked about, primarily the bill of rights and many people are trying to ... These things you cannot expect them to happen just overnight.

POM     How do you think this process is going to unfold? Let me give you three different scenarios that have been told to us and see which one you think, from your experience in talking to people, is the way you think is most likely. One is the Constituent Assembly route where the negotiating table is expanded at some point but at some point in the process there is an election for a Constituent Assembly along the lines of the Assembly in Namibia and it draws up a constitution. The second is one in which the negotiating table is expanded, many groups representing as many different constituencies as possible sit around the table and consensus arises as to the form of government that should be arrived at and you then have a constitution drawn up. The third part would be where you have some form of interim government comprising both the NP, the ANC and perhaps others that would govern while a select commission would put together a constitution. Which of those, or do you see any of those scenarios as the most likely?

JS     It's highly speculative. I cannot read a crystal ball of such a country like South Africa. But I would want to believe that it is the first option, the process is going to lead to the Constituent Assembly. We have now the parties that are engaging, the ANC and the government, the NP, and just in that arena many things are beginning to take place and if they have not emerged they are going to emerge, we're going to find lots of realignment taking place and that process, I believe, is very important, very necessary to sort of say simmer down some of these distractions.

POM     What kind of realignments would you envisage?

JS     In terms of party, in terms of policies, adaptations and modifications?

POM     Like, for example?

JS     Oh like for instance right now one thing like this agreement, ANC and the government, hostilities. Others are saying we continue, we have nothing to do with that, we're going to attack the country and it's a fearful thing to think about. Where now we say OK, because we are busy working and creating something new that hostilities have ceased, we are under attack, who do you think must guard the border? It is the SADF and the ANC I believe because we want to build something [and not ... but out of reality. But that causes ... in terms now even of ...] One, these forces now have to meet their own forces, they have been comrades all the time, there's got to be a lot of new thinking, and just in terms of justice. The public itself changing, forcing them to change their attitudes towards certain stereotypes.

POM     Would it surprise you if in a future a dispensation a considerable number of black people voted for the NP?

JS     Not at all, not at all. I was on Robben Island I don't know how many years ago, I think when I went to Robben Island in 1963 right at that stage we used to say "You know these white people don't understand. There are many of us, including us activists, who would vote some of them into parliament. They are not aware." And that's what I call the goodwill of the people. This is what I call goodwill but in this little article I'm talking about ubuntu, the human ubuntu is Xhosa, Zulu, no matter who you are and what you are you're still a human being and again you can't be a human being without other human beings. So that thing is the one that applies to people who hardly think very much political. They say, no, it is good, fine, we just don't like the method.

POM     Do you think that if, from talking to people who assess the government's position, they say that the government would never concede on the issue of a Constituent Assembly because it's essentially conceded on the fact of majority rule and they would like simple majority rule in fact because the party that got the most number of votes would in fact have the largest say in how the constitution looked. The government believes that it is something that should be negotiated and not conceded before the negotiations take place.

JS     I don't know whether I'm going to talk or I talk like a politician but I see far much myself, something far much more than it's made out to be. I would agree that they would never agree to that but that's a different thing, never do it. The provision and the actions that you have to take, they did not want it and never come to say we want it but do it. They have never wanted to accept that apartheid is wrong because they have come to learn to do it. It's the same I think with the operatives and they delay as much as possible the ultimate and they will try as much as possible to modify the ultimate, that progress to the ultimate but depending on prevailing ... they may succeed for a while or not.

POM     So you would see the process evolving as the government would try to make it as slow as possible?

JS     As slow as possible.

POM     And make the minimum concessions.

JS     That's right. I think that's all in the process, that's the game of negotiation. You are hoping to get more than the other side but it's an overall principle that both of you should come out of it equally satisfied.

POM     What about de Klerk's promise that he would submit any new proposed constitutional arrangement to the white electorate? Can he do that, can he keep that promise do you think?

JS     Maybe he can do it but I'm not very much in favour of that. To me it feels like paternalism. Why should anything that has to be done be approved by the white electorate all the time. If he would say we are going to work out something, look and then present it to the people, all the people in SA, that's better. As soon as they want to get ratification and accord only from the white electorate it still smacks of racism, it still smacks white domination. Not until they do everything they want to do with the people, when I say the people I mean all the people in this country, and do it with them and for them. But he can test it out. What if they say no? That will stop the process.

POM     They would have a veto power. That's simply not acceptable. What about the right wing, people who support the Conservative Party? Do you think that if there was an election just in the white electorate today that a majority of the white electorate would vote for the Conservative Party?

JS     Well the majority would be, yes, in that sense and I would say the majority is still a minority because I'm looking at the whites. People who are likely to be right wing are from a section of the population, the Afrikaners, and they have a long history of hard-boiled attitudes and once they feel threatened they will back up, the danger of the swart gevaar, the black danger in the world but, again, depending on prevailing circumstances, but I guess they would vote but now of late I've come to believe that they cannot have such significant support that can stand off de Klerk's initiative. History has gone so far, that is why they become so desperate to try and spoil it all, to polarise as much as possible and apply tactics so that everything just gets muddled up and you have a racial conflict because that's their trump card, their only trump card, when all whites feel threatened they will protect them.

POM     The next election is due in 1994. Do you think if settlement has not been reached at that point that it puts de Klerk in a real difficult position?

JS     At the next election?

POM     Yes. He has to call an election according to the constitution.

JS     The present constitution?

POM     Yes. If no settlement has been reached.

JS     He will have little difficulties but I think he can still win. I believe he will still win.

POM     So you don't see the increasing support for the Conservative Party as something that's not reversible, that it's a threat?

JS     It is a threat but it cannot be sustained. I can't see it being sustained beyond this point that you have mentioned, four or five years. It can go only then simply because people are not yet certain where the process of the country is heading to. It's only on those variables that they can depend on but it cannot be sustained once it is clarified.. And that not only applies to de Klerk. On the other side too, in our section, the whole question of the negotiations, once the process is set up and positives are seen some of us are going to keep quiet a little bit more and if it fails some of us will have to shut up a little bit and say, well, we miscalculated. So that is what it is. We are all in it, we're spelling it out and trying to be as objective as much as possible.

POM     If you look at the black community, how would you objectively assess the potential points of division as this process unfolds?

JS     I would say in the black community the thing really, what I've discovered, is not the whole concept of negotiations that people reject negotiations outright. It is the time factor. Is it the appropriate time or not? I think it's quite clear in their minds even though it is not expressed. Somewhere people have to negotiate and in African culture you fight not necessarily to obliterate or totally eliminate but you fight to point where you have to talk and say we're together and not to inflame. I think that's the question. That again, like some creature called ubuntu, that's what it is, right at the back of the minds of people. I think many people are saying if we can get it the less conflict the better and I guess also maybe that was paramount of fundamental in the ANC's mind. People get weary of fighting. Any clever commander should know that you cannot expect them to fight on and on and on and if you can get results by talking that's a better option.

POM     At the negotiating table?

PAT     When we talk about the point of division, the time factor here, I don't understand. I understand what you say about the struggle, you have to talk, but where are the divisions between them?

JS     The divisions come in some sector of the oppressed people who say it is not yet time to speak to the government to negotiate because they have not shown us yet their sincerity in wanting to see a new society emerging. They still want to play the government role. They want to be in authority, to churn out things and draw the blueprint and sell it to you. They are not saying let's get to the drawing board together. That's the point. We have to push them to a point where they really say, now we recognise the need that we should be doing things together. When we say change we mean to change radically and fundamentally, not cosmetic. People are released from prison. That's change, they are no longer prisoners, but they come back to a situation that's still the same so they see no changes and those who articulate that pain of the shack dweller, I think there's no change. You still feel, you still tell us there's no land to build but we see land standing vacant, you're still monopolistic. The resources are still not equitably distributed and neither is there an intention to do that. When you privatise you are actually trying to exchange the resources from the government into those who still have capital and can buy us all out, multi-nationals, so we don't have a stake. That's the argument so nothing has changed. Not until you start looking in those places and they are quite convinced that you are moving to somewhere different from what - I talked about the time factor, and then the others say no, this is the time, we have made a point, we have pushed on hard, they have suffered losses, we have suffered losses, we must talk.

PAT     Do you think veterans have been a problem within the liberation movements because the government, if there is to be negotiation in the current process will have to have met the pre-conditions of the ANC and those pre-conditions have been on the table for a long, long time so it's not particularly this kind of factor but it could have been a year ago, two years ago. We met with the ANC last year and those pre-conditions were the same then as they are today, so how long will it have had to take before the various parties of liberation movement got together to decide what the conditions were or until one of the stronger elements said we're going to move?

JS     That's a very beautiful question but when we talk of the liberation movement we want to capture the feeling that we're talking of a homogeneous unit and it is not so. That is what I call the point of difference in terms of approach. One sector of the effort towards liberation says it is not time. Maybe in the background of the very pre-conditions one sector, they don't consult each other and say now what do we do? No they go on on their own, they are in competition hence the decision to start talking and saying in terms of the pre-conditions this is the time, we reject even those pre-conditions, we are certain that they have not been met. They have not defined something that they say you're going to negotiate with them in 1992. No they want to see the emergence, indications of the willingness to move into a new society, change, transform society. So those are just relative terms to talk of time, state. The whole thing is what do we see of the project, what is tangible that we can tell our constituency.

POM     We've been told by a number of people that especially among young people there have been signs of shift towards the PAC away from the ANC. Of course the PAC has said that it won't participate in negotiations at this time for many of the reasons that you have just outlined. Could you see a situation in which the ANC would become the dominant partner in a government or be the government in fact, but because of the awful economic conditions, the enormous housing shortage, electricity, water, basic services in the townships and rural areas, that even after four or five years most people wouldn't really see any tangible difference in the way they lived? There would still be a huge housing shortage, still no electricity, no water and that disillusionment with the government, i.e. the ANC, would grow to a point of where they could be a very significant movement to the only other alternative, the PAC.

JS     No, I think it is crucial to the process, at least assuming that the ANC can do this, that the government or dominantly ANC government will shift to the alternative. I don't see it happening in five years time. People are patient.

POM     How much time?

JS     It took people over 40 years to get completely disillusioned, not even completely disillusioned, about the Nationalist government and I would want to say in five years time that we will have dramatic shifts. Oh we must understand that people return and that takes you to ten, fifteen years.

POM     What about the young people?

JS     Yes, young people. I often say maybe young people, when we talk of young people it's as though it's a new invention, it's just hit us. No it's not bad as a phenomenon that has been there and I often say to myself, you know I'm not denigrating you, I have been young myself, I know in ten years time you will move, you'll be different. I swear, I swear. On your campus, in four years time when you still have that campus there's some different and this is what it's going to be and this is what is going to extend the time to go beyond the young people. But the truth is that people will start being very critical of what the ANC is delivering, or any government for that matter, and they will start talking about alternatives. And those who want to jump in, the same process goes on and in a normal democratic society that has to happen otherwise I don't know where we are. We must move. So the young people are not the absolute criteria so to say. At first they are in the forefront but sometimes we are afraid to tell them the hard realities because they can render us irrelevant. If they say you have no credibility then it's finished but that's not reality with an absolute, they still have themselves go through a process and majority where they see things differently.

     Now I want to say something about that. We are being motivated by concept after concept. We talk of non-racialism, and those are the things that are going to be the criteria of judging. When we see a non-racial government staying there but operating in a racial way, you start saying, uh-uh, that is if you are serious about it, because they have to go.

POM     Again, many people have said to us that in the black community there is an incredibly high level of expectations, people are beginning to expect big changes in their lives. Do you find that or do you find what do you find?

JS     I would say black people talk about you can't quantify these things. Everybody wants to see big changes but for most people big changes is the chance to lead a decent life, the chance to say this house is my own, not Empire State Building. That's what it is and we differ, those are relative things. What I am trying to say is, yes, many will be disappointed to see that this new society, this new government, this new status quo is not heaven on earth. You've got to struggle for it, you've got to accept disappointment. Other things actually are starting to be renovated, the whole process, because they were expecting something so big, out of reach, that they were not realistic. But on the other hand too, quite a big proportion will say, no, that's nice, things are really changing, now my son can be a pilot, the opportunities are there, the facilities are there and I'm in a position to earn something to make him a pilot, to help him to be a pilot. But some of these things need training, we are baying at the moon.

POM     To go back to whites for a moment. It appears that the biggest white fear is the fear of the economy declining, of a dramatic fall in their standard of living, of South Africa becoming what they would say 'like every other country in Africa, an economic basket case'. How would you address this?

JS     I would first say when the economy, the standards go down, the economy collapses, where would they be with all their wonderful expertise and knowledge about how to run these things, where would they be? Who told them they're going to go away, they will be chucked into the sea? And if they are - what if they are wrong? What are their responsibilities? When the economy is declining and you've got the expertise and you say this is my country, what do you do? All I am saying, I'm dismissing that racial prejudice, that's all nonsense. And yet I'll accept it if they say they want if you could come and liberate. There will be a decline in terms of their privileges, that's for sure, and they're going to have fewer cars, fewer swimming pools, fewer investments in the banks because their resources have to be redistributed, opportunities created where there were no opportunities and somewhere, even opportunities for redistribution. You can't man that post alone when there are hundreds needing the post and they've been facilitated and enabled and empowered to qualify for those posts. We have had job reservation, I couldn't be what I want to be because I couldn't qualify for what I want to be. Almost like starting from a point of - the economy has been shaken because of what has been happening, because of the wrong economic policies that have been dictated or directed mostly, or motivated by apartheid, the economic policy.

POM     Taking the question of land, you now have a situation in which 87% of the land is owned by 13% of the population. You couldn't have a more skewed distribution if you invented it. Will there have to be a significant redistribution of land?

JS     Oh yes. When you talk of justice, 87% and you're talking in terms of population, 13% occupies the majority of the land. 87% is squeezed into the smaller portion. There will be redistribution to satisfy that, it will be very, very significant, very significant, but now the realities will say, do you just remove land from the 13%? No. Maybe even if you're still going to operate in those boxes, separate boxes, there are pieces that will have to be extended themselves. Who knows? As you redistribute land you see but I don't think that's the criteria post-apartheid, you don't have to operate using the criteria of racist South Africa or apartheid society. You've got to be realistic, you're dealing with all our people and take into cognition land that can be utilised. The 13% house being used, if it's not productive in use you start doing something to it and if it is productive by those you recognise that and say, no OK, we shift the furniture both sides, we house them here or we encourage them to form consortiums so that they learn the skills of using the land productively. That's a very idealistic way but somewhere in this article I tried to say that where you have two concepts at play in this country in terms of land, where the original communal concept still prevails, this is my father's land it cannot be sold, you come over with that. Yet in the western concept land can be made private property and can be sold. So you've got to have those two, you're dealing with these two people who have these outlooks and we have to work out a way in redistributing the land. I think the most appropriate term is to say equitable redistribution of resources including land. So of course you can't satisfy everybody all the time or even at one stage but that's just what it is that justice should be the criteria.

POM     It seems one of the most critical points, the debate about new structures, political and economic, what form the economy should take. Organisations like COSATU and the ANC for that matter, have been lessoned in the rhetoric of socialism and Marxism and very worker oriented to pick some agendas. In the ANC that appears in some way to be moving towards talking about a mixed economy, less emphasis on nationalisation. Do you see another potential conflict, that between the unions which will still be demanding a socialistic type of economic structure and the ANC that might move more in the direction of a free market economy?

JS     Yes well, I was going to say - but pretty soon all the actors in the scenario, again, will have to take with them the realities. If the socialist line is counter-productive it's going to hurt even the actors, all those who espouse it, and they are bound to make adjustments. Probably COSATU wants to go purely socialist and it's not working. Talking about workers and the government or the ANC is going with that kind of mixed economy and materially it's delivering the goods. What do you think they will be worrying about, a concept that they're talking about that the country is ... If they can go away and provide for their families that's what they will be talking about, more important. But at the same time maybe again we are at this point where we have not really got a democratic society at all - where the reality is that COSATU cannot be the sweetheart of ANC for ever. Once ANC gets into power COSATU will be forced to be a real trade union and say we are part of the management, we've got to check them. You see experienced alliances, we talk of we must unite, the differences must not fragment us, we have a common enemy. Huh! What happens when the apartheid regime is gone? You have got conflict again, differences and our interests as workers. People who are parliamentarians, we must get as much as we can get from them for our workers and they too ... get as much as we can for our projects. There will be differences and when badly handled then they culminate in these conflicts.

POM     Nelson Mandela. Since he's been released what's your assessment of his performance?

JS     Well I think he has performed very well but something tells me, I don't know, may I don't have the facts, but I think he was performing like somebody walking on a tightrope, simply becomes - but deeper than militancy it should be quite clear in his mind that much work has not yet been done. [negotiation. ... yesterday by the militant force,] Now he is going to negotiate. Can he carry them along quickly? They are bound to slow him down because people have been denied freedom of expression, dialogue all along. That's why we are caught with our pants down and I guess those are the realities so that he's moving as fast as possible, a bit slower than he would have liked to move and he would be very careful to maintain the unity of the fragmented constituency. It's not as easy as just leading one group of people with one kind of common mind and saying that is our perception in terms of development. So you've got to do it differently.

POM     Are there things you think he should have done up to this point which he hasn't done yet?

JS     I am personally satisfied that what he has done is the best that he can do given the circumstances, but so far I would say so good.

POM     We have found from listening to a not very wide sample but at least a sample from all over that de Klerk's standing in the black community is much higher than Mandela's in the white community. Would that surprise you?

JS     I doubt it. Depending on where you make the assessment from, from which level. If you do it from an upper level, let me call it the elitist level both white and black, maybe that can hold water but below that I don't think de Klerk's profile is that high in the black community that you can say it's higher than his own profile in his own constituency.

POM     No, no, I'm not saying that, sorry. I'm saying that the proportion of blacks who think de Klerk is doing well in this process is higher in the black community than the proportion of whites would approve of Mandela.

JS     Yes, I think I agree with that. Yes I agree with you that that could be the case.

POM     Why do you think that is?

JS     For all sorts of reasons. I think the situation is like that because the blacks through their suffering have come to see how much they have on the previous people, that is the white sector. They have come to know their country more than the whites know their country. The white sector knows the white world and for most of them the black people, the black world and white world because I'm using this that South Africa is divided into two, as though it's two countries in one, and it gives them a better way of understanding development. They are trapped in their little cocoons out of privilege but it is hard for them to see anything outside their world.

POM     What role do you see for the Council of Churches?

JS     Well the role that I can see for the Council of Churches is that it should continue to try to be, I don't know what it's doing, facilitator of a process to a normal life country, a democratic country, all the positives that we can think of. It must be the process also that when a process seems to be going out it must sit down against whoever, against Mandela, against de Klerk, to say you are deviating from that wonderful dream of yours. It should be that. I think that's the continuing role. I was just preparing a paper about this, of reconciliation. People are saying now we have come to the end of this department, when things fall into place what's your business? That's popular among people and I say I think it's the beginning of our work. We've been talking, talking, now we have to be doing, doing to guard those things now and to check our own. It has been easy to talk about the oppressors. It is another ball game to check you or your own. ... to me I've done nothing. You have spent years on Robben Island, Joe, and I said, "No, that was in the past. I was telling you your people, you can do it, check your own." That is the role of the church now. We have also here, we are beginning to talk about ideological theology, the role that's been given to us and that's the role that the church, one of the things that the church has been. Where are we now? Where are we? Yesterday we didn't like the stars and stripes next to the cross. We said that's manipulating the thing. What do we see now? Is it out there or not? Are we going to have it there now next to the cross, the black, gold and green? That's a challenging thing to play, the road to play. And yet that is what I think the church has to continue playing, to say justice, who told you always as people that because I am me, black and oppressed, I have been unemployed. The wisdom of how to use power, I don't have and Mandela doesn't have. Somebody has to say, OK, Nelson you're doing well, no you're doing it wrong. And that's the role of the church to continue to play an effective role without fear of friend or foe. That's how I interpret it, I don't know if it is correct.

POM     We talked to Johan Heyns, the Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, and one of the questions that came up was whether or not the church was a member of the South African Council of Churches and he said that the Council wouldn't admit the DR Church yet. What are the differences?

JS     Well the differences are the DR Church has been bed partner of the Nationalist Party. When you talk of the Broederbond, the Broederbond is a secret organisation within the Afrikaner community that has called the tune for the church, the DR Church, the government. All that we see here, if you read here the exposé of the Broederbond you will see they have been moving on, they are responsible for everything, that's always been their bulletin, and those things have brought problems. They have divided their church into three sectors, the Indian, the so-called Coloured, the blacks, and we cannot keep family members outside and say we're going there. The challenges among their own reformed churches, we cannot have you until you have your house in order. The SACC has always said we keep an open door..

POM     Do you think it has come far enough now or has still a way to go?

JS     Well maybe it has gone quite a distance that they have owned up that yes we are aware of apartheid, we agreed that apartheid is wrong but they have not put their house in order.

POM     One question.

JS     About the Dutch Reform, it still wields tremendous power on it's churches because of money, just money. If they don't toe the line they can't get the support.

POM     I asked Dr Heyns whether the DR Church had ever condemned apartheid as being evil and he said, "No, but that the church had said that it was wrong and if it was wrong it was evil." I thought that was a poor reply. Do you think it's a poor reply?

JS     Yes. If you speak, it's newspeak, doublespeak, like we have been doing, we are not right, we actually want to - oh we are not apartheid, we are separate development. Oh we're not separate development we're separate ...

POM     Do you think that most churches would make the distinction between something that's wrong and something that's evil? That in fact something can't be wrong without being evil?

JS     Now you talk of degree, we have to judge. It's wrong to break your cup, it's wrong to cut your neck off, but when you deal with those two things you deal with them differently because of the degree.

POM     You wouldn't say you took an evil turn, that you were driving some place and you made a wrong turn, you wouldn't say you made an evil turn?

JS     You would say that yes, you would say that. And of course even the government won't send you to the guillotine for that.

POM     One would say the horrible cost of evil.

JS     Well maybe Tutu would say it was wrong. But the biblical thing, it's just heretical. It is evil, it is wrong and they have not wanted to accept the fact apartheid is a heresy. It is wrong. That's my opinion. Again the requirement in terms of change in faith they have to say we confess our guilt and we therefore repent. The concept of confession and repentance have embodied in them action to redress, to undo the harm they have done, to negate what you've built.

POM     Last question. This time next year where will things be in terms of how the process has been going and where do you think it will be?

JS     This time next year it could be a little heaven. This time next year it could be a little hell, depending on what we do now because I don't want to discount the various actors, I don't want to discount what the right wingers are doing as nothing, it is something. If they continue that it is going to change the picture. I would say next year it could also be hell. I don't want to discount that they are writing a new constitution or it is only themselves that are going to polarise people and also whether or not the government is willing to act against them. On the other hand if the process goes on only involving two parties that's going to cause problems too. Others will say well we've messed it up maybe, on both sides who will want to shoot down everything. The fear for change is not the monopoly of black people or white people, it's prevailing humanity, always reluctant to move into the unknown so those who have that fear will always want to stop the process into a movement into the unknown. It doesn't matter whether they are white or black people.

POM     Thank you.

JS     On the other hand, too, I don't lose hope. Next year this time will be a different time in terms of the process, but it will be another time. There is no turning back I believe. All we can do is slow down the process but we cannot reverse it. It is a fact that Mandela and the many other leaders and prisoners who are not even known have been released and that the SA Police can actually form a Guard of Honour or wherever protecting the terrorists. You don't tell me people will go back and say there is no black man that can ever jump on a plane. On both sides they no longer believe the stories that they have been told all the years. They can't go back and they can't continue to teach the children because they will say "But Father I saw the black man driving the train. Why do you say they are stupid?" I mean those people think and for me, always I tell people I've been an activist, maybe I am still. I have been like an arrogant downtrodden person. What must obtain is what is burning in us and when we know they are not going to get away with trying to stop us.

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.