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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

22 Jul 1990: Moodley, Strini

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POM     I'm talking with Strini Moodley on the 22nd of July in Durban. Strini, when Patricia and I were here last year, as I had just indicated to you, we had talked to about 50 people right across the whole political spectrum and not one person that we talked to was anywhere close to anticipating the degree of change that has taken place. One, would you agree that there has been a significant degree of change? Two, why do you think everyone was taken by surprise that there was that change? And three, what do you think motivated de Klerk to move so broadly in the manner that he did?

SM     First of all is there really change taking place in this country? At a certain level, yes, there is change. It is change within the context of certain value structures and in our interpretation of conflict in this country that change is well within the definition as laid down by not only the Nationalist Party but all those around it within the ruling class, that's from business to opposition parties and to what people generally call reformists. In our view they are merely cosmetic changes. They're cosmetic to the degree that they simply unlock some of the locks that were put in place by this government many decades ago. So that we are being restored to the status quo ante 1948. Although we recognise that there are certain things happening like the release of Nelson Mandela. We understood that that would have happened a long time ago. If you had spoken to us last year, we would have told you that those things were bound to happen. Now why, why these cosmetic changes?

POM     Before you get to that could you tell me, you said the changes had taken place within certain value structures, now obviously those value structures are not the value structures that AZAPO adheres to. Could you delineate what you think are the value structures in which the changes are occurring and the value structures that you adhere to?

SM     First of all in terms of the changes that have taken place, the release of prisoners. In our view those shouldn't have been prisoners in the first place. So for us what they are doing is, they are restoring themselves to the position that they were before 1948. But that doesn't make them legitimate. Our value structures are based on the principles, first of all, that the people in control of power in this country, that's political, economic, even social and cultural are people who have wrested the power illegitimately. They have taken it by force and they had no right to do that. So for all the years that they have been in power they have been there illegitimately. Secondly, the way in which they have structured the society is based on values laid down by them. They have created a white world, what we call a white world and I think we must come to terms with that, a reality that in this country they have devised the world in terms of white people and everybody else remains appendages to that particular set of values, where black people have no role to play in determining how the values in society are determined. The moral values, political values, the social values, the economic values, all of those are determined by white people.

POM     Could you just run through what you think of the principal values that underpin the white structure?

SM     Alright. Separate development would be the most important. The recognition of a race as a predominant precept in determining where people are positioned in society. Those are the major underpinnings. The Population Registration Act is one of the key legislations which maintains the kind of society we have today. The degree to which this society has developed into a, what one could call a military-cum-business complex. A series of complexes, whether it be Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pinetown, wherever you find large business complexes you'll find large army camps, you'll find black people being kept in reserves, townships, largely by reservoirs. That is the basic element in this society. The other question for us is the whole way in which the capitalist world has taken advantage of that for its own purposes and at the expense of black people. So that it is a norm in this country for white people to be well educated in their terms, and I still want to deal with that, secure, well fed, and provided with all the comforts. That's white society. Black society on the other hand is powerless. It is forever hungry and they are denied any access to education. In fact the education they are given is education in order to dominate them. To lock them into prisons.

POM     But wouldn't both the government and the ANC say that the process underway now is a process to change the powerlessness of the black people that you're talking about?

SM     I'm not so sure whether the negotiations that are being talked about now are going to elicit any kind of change. I think the ANC itself is beginning to admit that. And this is why someone like Chris Hani will say that they want to wrest power. But we hold a different view from the ANC in that respect because we don't think that you can negotiate for as long as de Klerk is in power. Because de Klerk is illegitimate, he's never been legitimate. He's been legitimised only by white society and to a degree by the international world, particularly the United Kingdom, the United States, West Germany, and those countries. They have legitimised him. Black people haven't legitimised him.

POM     Do you think the ANC by negotiating with them in a way legitimise them?

SM     Well, that is one of our criticisms of the ANC going to the table. And that is why we want to get them away from it. That is our position. We think that the ANC is in fact legitimising de Klerk and putting de Klerk in a stronger position than he was six months ago. So those would be, that would be our position in so far as what they are doing. Now you look at the education system it is devised by them. It is controlled by them. You look at the way in which they have divided our society. We have a total of twelve governments in one country and those twelve governments have twelve education departments, twelve police forces, twelve armies, all of them. But all of them held in place by the Nationalist regime.

POM     You said that de Klerk must go, I assume that's one of your pre-conditions for getting engaged in negotiations. If he goes, what happens, there's a vacuum, is there an interim government?

SM     We have a mechanism by which that can be resolved. It's a very simple mechanism and it's a mechanism that can be enforced. All that has to happen is that de Klerk has to show a willingness to get rid of all the apartheid legislation, Population Registration Act, all of those. And there are many ways in which that can be done. He can do it now. He doesn't need us to go sit around a table to discuss that because those things are illegitimate. He must recognise that. And if he is sincere about wanting change in this country then he can do it. He can get rid of all those acts. Right. He can even resign as a government and call elections on a national basis. He can do that. He has the power. What we are saying is that there is a mechanism by which he does all those things, gets rid of all those, resigns and in discussion with the ANC, the PAC and all other organisations reaches agreement for an intermediate intermediary to the country, for example the United Nations comes into the country, takes control of everything, in the interim, and have elections for the Constituent Assembly. That Constituent Assembly sits around and works out the constitution for the future. Once that constitution has been agree upon we have elections . Whoever wins becomes the government of the day.

POM     Let me just back up to the third part of the first question I asked you that I got away from. What do you think motivated the government to take the actions that de Klerk took on the second of February?

SM     I think the crucial element was the economic situation of the country. For that economic situation deteriorated because of the impact of the struggle, the way in which the trade unions, the organisations had politicised to a large degree the black people in this country. The international pressures that were brought about by the anti-apartheid movement and other solidarity groups internationally to put in place things like sanctions and other measures against South Africa contributed to that as well. And I think what obviously is the third part of it is the realisation by the Nationalists that they could not continue to cling to power in its present form. They would have to find another mechanism by which they could do that.

POM     Do you think the negotiations, the talks they are now involved with the ANC are talks aimed on the government's part in finding a way to hang on to a portion of power rather than to hand it over to the majority?

SM     No, they are not going to hand over to the majority. They want to stay in power for as long as they possibly can. What they are prepared to do is change the way in which that's done. That's why we call these cosmetic. They want to shift the furniture around but retain those essential values that they have put into it.

POM     So in essence you are saying the ANC is misguided to negotiate with the government. Not only it is legitimising the government to a certain extent but also the object of the government's participation and talks are not to bring about majority rule but rather to create a new set of arrangements where it can hold on to a substantial degree of power. Could you say yes, or else I think I'm talking to myself on the tape?

SM     Yes.

POM     What do you think moved the, you know the ANC is a pretty sophisticated organisation, what do you think motivated the ANC to accept de Klerk's invitation to talks?

SM     We are hopeful that the ANC is seeking to increase space for itself out of it. One can only be heartened by what Chris Hani said at the weekend that we are not going to rely on these negotiations to actually result in power being transferred. We are going to continue to fight. That I think helps. I cannot for the life of me understand why the ANC did it in the first place because it was obvious from de Klerk's own pronouncements that there were certain key things that he was going to refuse to move on. Now that is a question of group rights, or minority rights as they called it, capitalist system as he called it or the free market system. Those are things that he said he wasn't going to move on. And the redistribution of land, he was not going to move on those. So once he had made that kind of pronouncement, what is there you're supposed to go and sit around the table and talk about because those are the essential elements that black people have been fighting against for so long.

POM     So would I be correct in saying again that while in these talks with the ANC the government might concede on some political democratisation of the process but there would be no corresponding economic democratisation, they'd hold on to the economic part even if they yield up some of the political part.

SM     Absolutely. That is so evident by the way in which, even while these talks are going on, the government doesn't stop or halt in its tracks on developing any of its old processes. It continues to privatise, it continues to do all the things that it has as part of its own plans. Irrespective of the negotiations. It's going ahead and doing the kinds of things it wants to do.

POM     Since it's unlikely that the government is about to just take the very steps that you've taken, i.e. get rid of all the apartheid legislation, resign, bring in an organisation like the UN, that's very unlikely, so what do you do? What do you think must be done in order to bring the situation about where they will do that?

SM     Well as an organisation we've already spoken to all the others. We've spoken to the ANC, we've spoken to the PAC, we've spoken to the Workers Organisation for Socialist Action, we are intending to speak to the South African Communist Party, to the trade unions, to say to them, as all of us pull away from de Klerk, get ourselves behind closed doors and work out a programme of action as to how we are going to force de Klerk to his knees. And I think one of the things we need to do is to restore this country to the position it was before February second. And that is how whatever plan we work out has to be worked along those lines. And we are meeting on Friday with the African National Congress in order to continue discussions with regard to setting up what we call a consultative conference in order to work out a program of action for the future.

POM     Two questions. One thing is you said you were pleased at Chris Hani's remarks over the weekend, that the people might just have to wrest power from the government and that implies a much more intensive armed struggle. To be honest with you, everyone we talked to last year and this year, on every side, including members of the ANC, will talk about the armed struggle really as being rhetoric rather than a reality in a sense that an armed struggle is conceived of. So how do you interpret the phrase 'we will wrest power' if you don't have the means at your disposal? What means are at your disposal to do so?

SM     Well I think for a long time armed struggle has been misinterpreted in this country. It hasn't really been armed struggle it has been exactly what everybody been saying, something for rhetoric. Young people have gone all over the country expecting something to happen and it hasn't happened. We think there is a mechanism by which that can be put in place as well because we have to shift the definition from what it was to what it ought to be. Because we have the manpower, we have the people, we have politicisation. The townships generally can be organised very easily if all the organisations come together instead of fighting each other, start looking at the real enemy. To put in place the kind of armed struggle we think of won't be that difficult, I'm not saying it's an easy thing but it has to be worked out quite in very, very detailed form as to how we are going to work that part of it out. But it is not only in the armed struggle that can bring de Klerk to his knees, there are a whole lot of other mechanisms that have been used already which have been successful.

POM     Such as?

SM     Such as the strikes, boycotts, stayaways, all those things have worked. What we need to do is sit down and work out a way by which we can be so effective that it can put de Klerk in a position where he has to make far more radical shifts than he is making at the present time.

PK     Could you go back to the point you were making before that about the mechanisms of an armed struggle? Were you saying that what you are beginning to formulate here is the more traditional armed struggle that is known as opposed to the rhetorical one?

SM     What we think, up until now this country didn't have anything called an armed struggle that you really talk about in the sense of a revolutionary war in the way that it occurred in other countries.

PK     Yes, and now you are saying it's time.

SM     It's time for us to sit around and do that.

PK     Practically, how do you think that gets done? Where are the training camps? Where is the supply of arms? I mean you're not going to tell me who you have the contract with do you really think that's realistic at this point in time, right now, given what's going on in the rest of the world?

SM     Well, it depends upon the degree to which we as people can reach agreement. How united we are. And how committed we are to wanting it the way we want it. It might be idealistic at the moment to think about it because it is simply an idea. But we believe that if we can sit around together and look at our resources, look at the gains we have made, look what we have in the townships and what we have in the rural areas, there certainly are ways and means by which what we want to do can be achieved. Nothing stands in our path.

POM     Do you think to a certain extent the ANC taking up the government's invitation to talks has split the black community?

SM     I think to the extent, yes, that it has confused a lot of people. Hardly 12 months, 18 months ago the ANC was talking about seizing power. Today it speaks a completely different language and we think that has confused a lot of people. That has created serious question marks in the minds of many people who are beginning to wonder what is happening to the struggle for liberation in this country.

POM     It has been suggested to us by a few people, particularly in the trade union movements, that the ANC should have sat down with all elements of the liberation movement and that among all those elements a consensus should have been developed as to the way forward. And then if the ANC did talk with the government it should advance the programme of that consensus rather than proceeding as it has which is really, at least so far, a go it alone approach.

SM     I have no argument against that position. In fact that is the position of AZAPO. We have taken that position continually in all our discussion with the African National Congress, have said to them that that is the route we think we take. In principle they have agreed with it, that they must sit and talk. We are hoping that it will come off in the next month.

POM     How do you think the process is going to unfold? Let's assume that by the end of the year the obstacles, or the preconditions that the ANC have laid down are in fact met. How do you think the process will develop from that point?

SM     When you say the obstacles removed do you mean all the obstacles?

POM     I mean the release of prisoners, the return of the refugees, just the five ANC pre-conditions.

SM     I don't think it is going to be advanced any further. Because, you see, if you're thinking about negotiating, it'd be meaningless for anybody to sit around with someone who is in power, who has everything in place, except those five little points. Alright, he's allowed people to return, he's unbanned organisations, he's done all those things, but he's still in power and at the drop of a hat he can arrest all those exiles, arrest all those prisoners he's released, he can do all those things. He still has the power. If the negotiations fail, he can just resort to doing whatever he wants. What we are saying is if people are sincere about negotiations, they've got to put themselves on an equal footing with every other participant in those negotiations.

POM     But the ANC hasn't made that a pre-condition.

SM     Not at all.

POM     And do you, after these, say, five pre-conditions are met, do you see them then saying to the government, well if we are to, I mean what do you see them saying at that point?

SM     We're hoping the ANC will say right now resign, now that you've come this far. I think if I can interpret what the ANC and the UDF/COSATU have been doing over the last couple of years is that they have embarked upon a programme which they ask for something now and when they get that they shift the goal post and say, now we want that, maybe that is their strategy. I don't know, but this is what, if you look at it objectively, this is what it appears to be doing. So one can only assume that once de Klerk has given all that they are going to say, OK, now resign. It might be. If not, if they get hooked into negotiating with de Klerk, then I think they are going to find themselves in very serious trouble.

POM     But if they were to do that, if they were to say to de Klerk, negotiate now, and de Klerk said no, you're shifting the goal post, many people in the outside world, and many people who have been staunch supporters of the anti-apartheid movement outside would in fact see it as just that. The ANC would lose a certain degree of legitimacy and there'd be sympathy for de Klerk. What I'm asking you is, with your knowledge of the ANC, do you think it is likely that they will do that?

SM     I hate talking about the ANC in that way because, look, they have a strategy. We're trying to find out what that strategy is. We can't really understand it. On the face of it we are left with the conclusion and many people are saying to us, the ANC is selling us out. We are not yet prepared to accept that. We want to believe that the ANC has some kind of strategy. We're saying to them that your strategy is wrong because you are misleading a lot of people. You're misleading yourselves, you're misleading your constituency, you're misleading the people that you have secured as your supporters internationally. Once all of them turn against you it is going to make the struggle much, much harder for us. But if the ANC, I can't see them doing it because if they negotiate with de Klerk then they are going to lose all credibility in the black community. They will lose all credibility. They might be able to retain support in the liberal white community and in some of the bourgeois non-white community, you know your, some slices of rich Africans, Indians and Coloureds might support them but not on the ground. They are going to lose it on the ground.

PK     But what if they sort of take a different step then where are you? They can't get de Klerk to resign for whatever the practical reasons or not so practical reasons are, but they do get an acceptance of some form of a Constituent Assembly. Are your goal posts able to shift as well?

SM     It depends on how that Constituent Assembly comes about. If it comes about through their roots and ends up looking the same way we would like to see it, then we have no problems. I don't think we'll have a problem.

POM     What if instead of the government resigning the ANC were to negotiate some form of interim government where there would be black participation along with the current government participation in the running of things?

SM     You know, we have a serious problem with that because the role of the police, the army and the large measure of the role of ANC supporters in the township is indicative of wanting to entrench political intolerance. The interim government would be obviously made up of the ANC, the National Party, Inkatha. And you put those three together, there is no way you are going to have elections for a democratic Constituent Assembly. It's just through intimidation, harassment and all the kinds of things we've been seeing happening in the townships so far. So we are very, very suspicious of that kind of thing.

POM     What has been the mood in the townships since these talks began? Has the ANC been consolidating its support? Are people trying to just waylay or is there a movement of support to organisations like yourself and the PAC?

SM     Oh, since the unbanning we've been in the process of reconsolidating. It's been impossible for us during the period of the banning to operate properly. We've been consolidating, reactivating our branches and our regions and we found that right across the country our traditional support is still very much with us. That is growing all the time. And I think it is not so much, our support is not so much a support that is reacting against the ANC in as much as it is the support that has always been there, which has always followed Black Consciousness and which is now finding its home because we are able to operate freely. Certainly we are getting a lot of young people who are coming from organisations that have been affiliated with agents provocateurs. I think they are fed up and they want to join to us. We have not welcomed large groups like that with open arms. We've asked them to qualify what they mean by it because we are in the game of recruiting disciplined and organised people. We're not in the game of wanting people who when they go back into the townships become irresponsible and in fact turn the community away from us. We don't want those kind of agents provocateurs to come into it. But certainly we are noticing that there are a lot of people who are showing a lot of interest in AZAPO who hadn't been doing so previously. I don't know about the PAC, they say they are but I'm not in a position to say that.

POM     How would your vision of a democratic South Africa differ from the ANC's vision as set out in the Freedom Charter?

SM     Well first of all there has been no group or minority rights. And I think the Freedom Charter does imply the protection of minority groups. We would want to build up a national culture in which all people would contribute to that culture. We would want to see a government that is elected on the basis of one-person one-vote.

POM     But surely the ANC stands for that too.

SM     Well I hope so.

POM     What leads you to believe that it may not?

SM     Well because they don't talk of a unitary state they talk of a united South Africa. And a united South Africa can mean a number of little fiefdoms coming together in the federals on that.

POM     So you would be opposed to any federal solution?

SM     Yes, completely. We certainly would want to see a complete democratisation of the economy. So that we would want to get rid of all the elements of capitalism, particularly monopoly capitalism in this country as fast as we possibly can. We would want to re-divide the education structure completely. Our view is that all education in this country, including white education, is inferior education. Because it is all education for domination, not education for liberation. We would like to see a position where housing would become a right for all people. Where transport, health, education, all of those are rights that would be afforded to all individuals.

POM     When you talk about capitalism and capitalist society, economic democratisation, and monopoly, you know the experience of the last couple years in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union forever, is that socialist economic models don't work and there has been a rebirth of interest in Eastern Europe, Central Europe, the Soviet Union in the free market system and a rush on behalf of these countries to get there. In the light of the failure of these experiments in socialism or communism or whatever, what economic model would you turn to that would democratise the economy and still ensure the inflow of capital and resources, of the utilisation of capital, that will bring about economic growth?

SM     I think in the first place, we are really and have always been very excited when the upheavals took place in Eastern Europe because we have never been convinced that those were socialists by any stretch of the imagination. They were by and large bureaucratic dictatorships or state capitalists. They simply changed the way in which capital would move, and the way in which it was all controlled by the state. So there was no democratisation of the economy. The reaction in Eastern Europe now is a reaction against state capitalism in the same way that there is a reaction in this country against the kind of economic system that this country has. So that we think that the socialist model hasn't failed, it just hasn't been applied correctly. Now we think that there is a way by which that can be done. We don't have all the answers now. But we have people who are economists, who are sitting together right now and working out a way by which that can be done. We want to see a way by which, when we talk about democratisation of the economy we don't have to talk either about nationalisation or privatisation but to look for a method by which we can achieve all those elements which keep an economy moving, which keeps it growing, which keeps it above all providing for the greatest number of people that it can. I can't give you the exact details about that because I am not an economist but we think that essentially something can be done to resolve that problem.

POM     Do you see a shift within the ANC on the question of the economy where, say, in the mid 1980's it was, in terms, at least in the rhetoric it used it was, it talked about socialism, the alliance with the Communist Party of South Africa and now you have them talking in terms of a mixed economy and of course there would be a role for the private sector. Do you see divisions there like, say, between COSATU which still talks more in terms of workers rights and things like that and again the way in which the ANC is moving and yourselves?

SM     Yes, I think essentially because for a long time in my own view the ANC has been influenced in terms of economic policies and economic thinking by the South African Communist Party which itself was influenced by the kind of economic models we saw in Eastern Europe and thought that that was heaven when in fact it wasn't. They are all coming to terms with the reality that - I mean they were all being led by the nose. Now suddenly they are caught in the situation where they have to say, OK, what are the answers? And they are not prepared to say we made a mistake. That was all wrong and what we ought to be doing is looking at fresh ways in which we can democratise the economy without necessarily having to admit that capitalism is better than socialism. I mean that kind of argument we believe is a naïve argument, a very naïve argument, because we don't think they are truly addressing ways in which one can find a model whereby you democratise the economy in a way by which you know you can see democracy in action.

POM     If tomorrow morning the government were to say, were at the negotiating table and were it to extend an invitation to the PAC, to you, to other parties to participate in negotiations, what would your position be on that?

SM     At this stage no, we don't see ourselves going there. We would want to see some radical move on the part of the South African government before we can think about sitting around the table. We have had indirect overtures already being made to us and we have rejected them. We don't think that is a priority for us.

POM     If other parties began to participate and you find yourselves really being left out in the cold, if you can, if you want to say you can but you're are choosing not to, do you not think you are in danger of marginalising yourselves?

SM     Well we have considered that very seriously. We are thinking about that. We certainly are not going to allow ourselves to be marginalised. We will work out a strategy as to how to deal with that when that situation arises. People are working on that now. We recognise that possibility, that others will go to the table and that we might have to revise our strategy in order to deal with that contingency.

PK     How do you, in terms of the time frame, working out strategies that work, and is there a highly structured organisation where you have to sit in a consultative process and take it to local people and work it out? On three or four different areas that Padraig has questioned, you are in the process in working out a strategy. Does that mean tomorrow you might have a strategy? I mean what's going on today has now been going on for several months now, was anticipated a year ago in some dimension, the ANC's pre-conditions were on the table for a long time. It's not, it doesn't seem to me, things moved fairly quickly on the de Klerk side but nothing - if you were to have seen the ANC's pre-conditions you wouldn't be as bright people sitting around the table saying, what they perceive with this, this is what we are going to do. What is this we are working on the strategy process?

SM     After, when we were banned in 1986/1987, we had a congress in March this year, which was the first one after a long time, the last was in 1986 and we discussed all of these issues. We set up, we have a secretariat that is examining our economic model, a secretariat that is examining our constitutional model, a secretariat that is doing the planning. Now we were supposed to have a National Council meeting and all those secretariats would report then and it would be debated by our National Council. That is our regional leadership together with the national leadership and all the other formations within the Black Consciousness Movement, that would be our youth, our students, our women and all the other civic associations, residents' associations, all have representation at the national conference. And we would sit and discuss what the secretariats offered, or put on the table, and work out that final detail. It would also discuss it with our external movement and work out the strategy for the future. And that we hope will be in place by the end of August.

POM     On the reaction of the Conservative Party, talking about the white community for a minute, do you think if there were a whites only election tomorrow morning that the Conservative Party would in fact, win a majority of the seats in a white parliament or do you think the government would be returned?

SM     We see it as real possibility that the Conservatives can take power. But we think that white interests and white people generally will vote either for the National Party or the Conservative Party. The Democratic Party is a spent force. And there is nothing to the left of the Democratic Party. And that the vast majority of white people are in fact saying to de Klerk that you can do whatever you want to do but don't sell us, sell away our privilege, our power and our security.

POM     Do you think that the white community is more concerned with, again, preserving its economic power rather than strictly it's political power? It might go along with the in fact of majority rule if there were guarantees in the constitution that ensured that there could be no nationalisation or redistribution of land or some of the main things that would form the basis of their economic concerns?

SM     Well de Klerk is saying the things, he is saying simply because he believes that's the mandate he has from white society.

POM     Do you see him in negotiations attempting to build into a new constitution economic guarantees that would reassure the white constituency?

SM     Yes, absolutely.

POM     When you develop strategy do you take into account what the reaction in the white community could be to any given path or do you really find that the reaction of the whites is really irrelevant?

SM     No. It's relevant to the degree that it impacts on the black community particularly in the way in which right wing federalism has impacted on black people, bombs at bus stops and threats to bomb places where black people gather and that kind of thing. We would certainly in our strategy take that into account. But as to their political position and how they would react, I don't think we would consider that a priority. And the Black Consciousness Movement has said a long time ago to white people that they must begin to change the way in which they think about the world. And the way in which they think about interacting with other people.

POM     You talk about the Conservative Party in terms of it propagating itself as the voice of Afrikaner nationalism and their demand for a white homeland, say in terms of it being an Afrikaner homeland where their culture, their religion, their values, whatever they deem to be important to themselves would be not only protected but practiced exclusively. Given the emphasis of Black Consciousness is there an understanding of what they want.? They would have a right to a homeland for Afrikaners the same way as the PLO?

SM     Black Consciousness is antithetical to tribalism or any kind of ethnicity, any kind, completely antithetical, so that we would reject out of hand something like Afrikaner nationalism. We think, you know, that's akin to nazism. We would reject it completely. Black Consciousness sees a society that is anti-racist and anti-capitalist. And that in that society people will be people, we will all be Azanian, irrespective of your colour, your creed, your religion, we would all be Azanian and that is the only alternative to what is happening now. There can be no other alternative.

POM     Let me give you a different model. Say the Soviet Union, for the last 70 years a monolith of different republics all headed under one central control, now on the verges of the Soviet empire you have nationalisms reasserting themselves all over, the Soviet Unions, the Armenians, the Ukrainians, the Georgians, the Maldavians, I mean it is just like, the Baltic States, whatever, would you find their nationalisms acceptable, their demands for self determination an acceptable form of nationalism? And if so why would you differentiate that from Afrikaner calls for self determination?

SM     You know I always find this kind of question, a kind of trap, but basically we have about 40 million people in this country. The Afrikaners are about three million. The land expanse here is - it's not the kind of, you don't have the same expanse as you have in the Soviet Union and we think that what governs the nationals, the so-called Afrikaner nationals, is simply racism. That's what governs them. If they were interested in protecting their culture they could do that without having gone on this whole programme of oppressing and exploiting and denying people their rights in the land of their birth. And this is what the Afrikaners have done. Historically they have been wrong. Morally they have been wrong. And you can't correct that by making comparisons with the Armenians or whoever else. You can't correct that kind of immorality. It's immoral and something that is immoral must end there. I mean you compare it, the United States is not heaven, but in United States the Jews from the Soviet Union went over there to become part of the United States, they make a declaration to the United States of America as Americans. Not as Soviet Jews who want to establish their own particular culture. Their first commitment is to the United States of America, to America. Same thing in the United Kingdom, same thing any where else in the world. And I think what is happening here with the Afrikaner nationalist is that they want to establish some kind of island for themselves. We think that is meaningless. It's meaningless because in the first place they have no claim to this land. They intruded. They must accept that. Despite all their distortion of the history of this country, they remain intruders. And consequently, if they want to participate in this community, in this society, in this country, they must subject themselves to the will of the people. That's all, I mean.

PK     In that design, while you don't recognise minority group rights do you recognise individual rights? Are individual rights guaranteed?

SM     Of course. Absolutely.

PK     Now as the government talks about that, some interpret that as simply another way of moving towards protection of minority group rights.

SM     How would you protect individual rights? The only way you would protect individual rights is by saying every Azanian will have the right to vote, will be accorded the right to independent judiciary, to schooling, to health.

PK     But you would also have freedom of speech, association, political association on individual terms, so what the traditional bill of rights guarantees to the individual you would respect?

SM     Absolutely. What we would not have is any clause in a constitution which would say Afrikaner nationalism or whites will be guaranteed this space and that space, or that kind of thing.

POM     Three last questions. One, how would you assess Mandela's performance since he has been released from prison?

SM     I know Nelson personally, I've known him from prison, Nelson is, I'd say he is a democrat who has a vision of this country that he has built up in his mind 27 years ago. And I think his problem is that he has been unable to come to terms with the way in which black people are thinking today. I don't think we doubt his sincerity or his honesty. We have serious concerns about his interpretation and his analysis of what is going on in this country. And because of his misinterpretation and his analysis he is far short of being able to come to reality.

SM     The violence in Natal has three broad elements to it. The first element would be the urban thrust and the attendant socio-economic-political-problems created by racism. Where you find the movement from rural to urban and peri-urban areas by black people in search of jobs, in search of homes, who are running away from the poverty that has been imposed on them by absentee farmer landlords who've kicked them off the farms because he's mechanised or because he's closed the farm down or because he's sold out to one or the other kind of multinational, has resulted in pressures on all the urban areas. And that has its own dynamic where people are oppressed and exploited, where they are in extreme need and in this country where racism has the ability to create a massive inferiority complex, a great deal of suspicion, mistrust and fear. And in that same cauldron where the ruling class is able to successfully divide and rule people it is not difficult for violence to erupt, that is internecine violence. That's the first element. So that the ground is well laid for the kinds of explosions that we see.

     What has impacted on that in the first instance the desire by Buthelezi to find himself political space. To give himself political credibility. He's been able to do this through his KwaZulu government, and through his KwaZulu police and through Inkatha where because of his power as a little warlord, he has the power to give you homes, he has the power to give you jobs, he has the power to ensure that you have schooling for your children. And he does that, he uses that power in order to get people to sign forms to become Inkatha members. Now the UDF/COSATU/ANC alliance thought that the way in which to deal with that was to confront it violently. So the political intolerance imposed by the racist regime which is reflected in the way in which Buthelezi conducts his own affairs, is also reflected in the way in which the UDF/COSATU/ANC alliance has endeavoured to take control of Natal. Natal is a microcosm of what the National Party, Inkatha, ANC alliance can do to the whole country. And that is to use political intolerance, intimidation, harassment and death squads in order to impose control. That basically is what is happening in Natal. And Natal is a microcosm of what can happen in the whole country if a National Party, ANC, Inkatha alliance interim government comes into pass.

POM     Finally, if I'm talking to you this time next year, when I'm talking to you this time next year, what will have changed?

SM     I don't know. I might not be alive. What we hope will happen is that the ANC will be forced to realise that its present strategy is not going to work. That it will recognise the reality that it will have to come to terms with redesigning a strategy. [in order to the black.] What we are fearful that will happen, and may happen, is that there may be an alliance between the National Party, ANC and Inkatha. And if that happens before next year this time then you might not be here to speak to me, because I might not be here. I might be in some prison or I might be dead. Those are the two scenarios. We never postulate what can happen in the future but these are the possible things that can happen. Particularly if Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and the old guard beg off, if they die.

PK     You think it is more likely to happen if they die than if they don't?

SM     It's very much more likely to happen.

PK     Who is that next level of leadership that would push for ...?

SM     I don't want to even think about it, I don't know, but I don't want to think about it.

PK     But you think they are more predisposed to deal with ...?

SM     The way in which they have conducted themselves all through the years. On the basis of the experiences we have had, it is that lower level of leadership that has inculcated attacks on our people, killings that have embarked on a programme of political intolerance and which we think will come forward if these older generations die.

POM     Would you think that one way or the other that de Klerk's February second speech unbanning the organisation, the PAC, has set in motion an irreversible process? That no matter what happens there is no going back to the old days?

SM     Yes, I think it has set in motion a process. Whether it is irreversible I'm not going to make that kind of prediction. It can be irreversible to the degree that the Conservative Party and its right wing alliance, its massive presence in the bureaucracy in the military, police force and the other elements in government, can take power, they can wrest power. We've known for a long time that the right wing has been stock piling on white farms, that the likes of Terre'Blanche and his AWB are not isolated but they spread throughout the country. So we can have a reversal to the Verwoerdian days.

PK     And you think in that kind of situation, the right strategy, you have the force to counteract it? To go back to what you were earlier saying.

SM     If we get together now. If we all get together behind closed doors and work it out, because we have to work out that eventuality as well, we've got to work it out now. If we don't work it out now, I think even the ANC is going to be caught with its pants down if that happens because they won't be able to do anything. The bureaucracy right across the board knows every one of the exiles that have returned. They'll lock them up and shoot them down. There's no doubt about that. A lot of us won't be alive.

POM     I hate to end on that note.

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.