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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

31 Jul 1990: Sauls, Freddie

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POM     Since we talked the last time, Freddie, which is just about a month ago, some people would say that a lot of change has taken place in SA. First, would you agree that a lot of change has taken place and, whether it has or whether it hasn't, what do you think motivated De Klerk to move so broadly when he did last February?

FS     Well it's quite clear that quite a number of changes have taken place in the country since we last met and a number of these changes have in effect opened up possibilities for progressive organisations in the country. Some of them have also created what I would term 'traps for progressive organisations', but they will have to deal with this as time goes on and evaluate each of these issues and see how they could overcome these problems. I believe that the main reason why De Klerk embarked on the changes that he did in releasing the banned leaders of mass organisations and unbanning ANC/PAC/SACP basically because of pressures from western governments. That is what I believe. I do not believe that De Klerk actually made those changes, or his Cabinet approved of those changes, because of their belief in accommodating the aspirations of the masses here but more because of pressure from America, Britain and West Germany. The only solution for safeguarding the interests of the west lies in attempting to find a negotiated settlement with moderate leaders in the country and this was the time to move, if you delay too long it could jeopardise that possibility. That is how I see why De Klerk actually made that move.

POM     Do you think in a way that De Klerk acted from the best position of strength that he would have? In other words if he delays any further the government's position will just begin to the position of the white community would just continue to deteriorate so this is the time that he said perhaps that he could make the best bargain?

FS     I believe that for De Klerk the support that he was assured by western governments, I believe that that was the main thing, that if he had continued longer the west would have said unless you negotiate we're going to switch our allegiance, we're going to support the other groupings, we are forced to support the oppressed people in the country, and that would have placed him in a very, very difficult situation because it eventually came to a point where it was mainly Thatcher's government who was openly supporting De Klerk and you could see there was a swing from Germany, from the States because of organisations in that country that in their own way supported the oppressed people in this country. So those governments definitely were getting worried. But now what is the situation? It is clear that the western governments are in full support of De Klerk and he would have lost that support if he had not made that strategic move to say, look, it's in our own interests now to maintain the support of the western governments.

PAT     How do you see the western governments supporting De Klerk?

FS     Well the support is basically political, by statements that they make in support of him, the speeches that they make, We've got to give him a pat on the back for the moves that he's made' They talk about to a certain extent lifting sanctions and talking about lifting sanctions but those sort of things, it's mainly support on the political side. We believe that in the relations between De Klerk and the right wing that support is very important, the same way that the ANC are also looking for that sort of political support more so than just looking for material support.

POM     You said at the beginning that De Klerk's initiative provided for a number of opportunities and a number of threats. Can you run through what the opportunities might be and what the threats might be?

FS     Not threats, traps.

POM     Oh, traps.

FS     Well the opportunities for progressive organisations were basically that you could organise openly to a certain extent. OK, if a person noted what happened with the SACP the other day when they arrested Maharaj. It opened up the opportunities where organisations could address their constituencies publicly, like the launch of the SACP over the weekend. It opened up the possibilities that Mandela and the people can travel around the country. Chris Hani could address people in the Transkei. It opened up that possibility where the ANC, PAC can visibly, openly start to organise and mobilise in the country. Also in that process that people can start to seriously discuss openly where really are these organisations going. Those are the possibilities. They can restructure themselves, they can work at starting to have democratic organisations in which people can participate. So those are the possibilities basically.

     The traps basically are that by De Klerk actually making these moves he does create the problems of creating disunity among the organisations. As we see there's a difference in approach between the PAC and the ANC on the process of negotiations. If a person looks at what has happened in the developments in Namibia near to the end of the elections where you had a mushroom of political organisations, now in the short term those sorts of traps are there because the state apparatus, the security apparatus is still in the hands of the Nationalists. Through that apparatus a number of opportunities exist for organisations in opposition to the ANC and PAC to start to formulate and to get support and to start to organise and those are the sort of traps that are possible.

     Also the issue of putting conditions on the table that we have released, we have unbanned the ANC, the PAC, SACP, so let us negotiate. It opens up divisions within organisations like the ANC, that some people disagree whether the time is right to negotiate now. Should they first mobilise, reorganise, restructure, gain more wider support before going into negotiations? Should it be a struggle to continue for a take-over of state power or should it be negotiations? These are the sort of traps that progressive organisations would have to deal with as it goes on.

POM     How do you see the process unfolding? Let us assume that the obstacles in the way of talks are gotten out of the way, what do you see happening after that?

FS     Well I think it will be quite a bit of time before the talks would really get down to serious issues. I do not believe with the current situation that the talks, serious talks on negotiations about a transfer or a sharing of power, because it won't be a transfer of power, I don't believe that that time is near. I think it's still going to be quite a while before we even reach a position where there's a clear understanding of what De Klerk really wants, what does he mean. I cannot accept that De Klerk or the NP will in any way negotiate the handover of power so if they prolong talks for the next two, three, four, five years it creates the opportunity for all of the divisions to be supported by his own state apparatus. It can create problems for the future.

POM     So one scenario you're painting is of De Klerk taking his time with these talks and the more time that elapses without real discussions under way or real negotiations under way, the more apparent the divisions in the other organisations, the ANC, PAC and even perhaps the trade union movement itself, for the cracks to show?

FS     And strengthening De Klerk's hand in what the eventual outcome would be.

POM     Do you think he has conceded on the issue of majority rule?

FS     No I don't think that he would ever concede on that point. I don't believe it.

POM     Do you think he's conceded on one man one vote, universal franchise?

FS     No I don't think so, I don't believe that. Because if it means one man one vote, universal franchise, what does it mean? It means actually black majority rule and I don't believe De Klerk would ever concede on that point.

POM     Yet you have Nelson Mandela sitting at the table. What impression is Mandela under?

FS     Well I believe that Mandela understands the situation of De Klerk, that there is not going to be a negotiation to hand over power or to take over power and I think within that situation he's trying to strengthen his own position, just to strengthen his own position to gain a strong foothold in what is taking place. But I am clearly under the impression that he understands that no government is going to negotiate to hand over power to a black majority in SA. I can only believe that he must realise it sooner or later. The talks, if it's going to be negotiations about one man one vote that it's going to break down and eventually there's got to be pressure from one side or the other for control, whether it's the right wing state apparatus that is going to clamp down like they did on the leadership of the SACP recently or is it going to be Chris Hani who will put more pressure on De Klerk? I am sure Mandela must realise that that is a very strong possibility.

POM     But Mandela is careful to say always that, I am a follower, what I do is that I listen to my executive committee and I implement collective decisions. So is it the collective decision of the ANC to talk with the government at this point in time? And they must have an expectation, and you're saying that expectation can only be at best a sharing of power. Am I right?

FS     That is correct yes. But I also believe that in a process of political development they must also use the opportunities and I understand that they also see that they have to use the opportunities that open up to strengthen their own base and if that means that gives them a base where they can get more wider support among the youth, among the broader community, stabilise the ANC as an organisation, where in the past it used to operate underground, they should use those opportunities. If in that process by showing that they are very reasonable and De Klerk is the unreasonable one win over political support from western governments I think that is part of politics.

POM     What role does the trade union movement play in all of this? The trade union movement had a special significance that in the eighties it was the only part of the black population that was free to organise openly, conduct negotiations. It had a large following. Where do they position themselves?

FS     Well I think the current situation with the trade unions is that they are analysing and evaluating actually what their task should in fact be in this new process that is unfolding, that the clear support for the ANC, support for what the SACP stands for, and I think that at this point the trade unions would basically say that in supporting those two organisations we can safeguard the interests of the working class here. But it is a process that is under discussion, evaluation, to better position the trade unions within those organisations. What the eventual outcome of these discussions and evaluation is going to be is anybody's guess.

POM     It would seem to me that organisations like COSATU have a heavy investment, intellectual as well as emotional investment, in such things as nationalisation and a socialistic state with clear cut mechanisms in operation that allow for the redistribution of wealth and that there are some in the ANC who talk more casually of a mixed economy that would essentially still be free market oriented. Is there a debate about this going on?

FS     Well I think the union's position is clear that COSATU affiliates, the main affiliates have got a clear socialist position on looking at a future economy. The basic question under debate is how do we get there and what role and what are the tasks for the labour movement in the ANC and in the SACP in getting there and to attempt to ensure that the possibilities for reaching a socialist society are not jeopardised by the objectives of these organisations. I think that is currently under debate. I think what is not under debate is basically the clear objective of COSATU and the working class and that is the struggle for the socialist society.

PAT     The socialist society. I mean Great Britain is a socialist society, the People's Republic of China is a socialist society. There's a lot in between there.

FS     I'm not so sure that Great Britain is a socialist society in our understanding. Our understanding is basically a democracy where the people, especially the working class, would have effective rights and the abilities of the people in the country would be utilised in industry and in broader society in their own interests, not where a bureaucratic state would control the everyday life of the people but where the people would participate in that. We believe that having an educated working class not just controlled by intellectual leadership is the only safeguard. Looking at the South African working class we believe there are distinct differences between what is happening here in SA and what has happened in other countries. Maybe because of our late development in history where others have already passed that stage we can learn from their experiences and not go the same road.

POM     Is there any country that would come close to the model that you would like to follow?

FS     What is currently happening within COSATU, we have sent delegations to a number of countries to look at what has happened there, to discuss the observations on where the people are going now. We had sent delegations into Poland, into Hungary, into Russia, East Germany and all of these reports are under discussion what is happening. We've sent people to Sweden, to the United Kingdom, to the States and Canada and I can't at this point say there's any one specific society, a model that we are looking at, but the understanding that we have is that we want a democratic socialist country wherein the workers, or the ability that they have, would be fully utilised in the interests of the whole society.

POM     What in your own observation and view has been the reaction in white society since February?

FS     I would think that there has been quite a lot of confusion about the developments that have taken place. I don't think that white society, and even I think would say even the black society, were prepared for the moves taken by De Klerk to release the leaders, unban the ANC, the PAC and even the SACP and I think it was an absolute shock. There has been I believe an accommodation of the changes that have taken place in a certain sector of white society, some support for it, but I think there is still confusion about where De Klerk is heading and what is he prepared to do to give, to accommodate the expectations which have now been created by the opening for negotiations. In society, especially the whites who have had the privileges and the benefits of the apartheid state, they must be concerned also about whether the wealth that has been created and which they have had the benefit of, what is going to happen with that. Will they now have to give some of that away to blacks, are they going to be impoverished as a result of that, is the economy going to go down like other African states? I think these are the sort of concerns that a large number of whites would have.

POM     Would you agree with other observers who said that there has been a significant movement of support from the NP to the Conservative Party?

FS     There has been in certain areas. I do not believe that there has been a move that you could say that people have left the NP to join the CP or join the right wing. I think that because of the uncertainly maybe people may be more sympathetic for a person who shows a more stable situation, like Treurnicht, saying protect white interests. I do not believe that it means that people have moved over to the right. I believe that the vast majority of whites in SA, given some more time to understand the process that is unfolding, would see that their own salvation actually does lie in reaching an accommodation with the representatives of the black masses and that means finding an accommodation with the ANC and the SACP.

POM     Do you think the government has been lax in this regard, that really De Klerk hasn't followed up his own initiatives with any broad scale education of the white constituency?

FS     I think that De Klerk, with the pressure that I believe was put on him, made moves that he was not totally and completely prepared for as well and that in that process he also has, and his state, to find some ways of accommodating the developments that are taking place. I believe personally that if De Klerk had another couple of years to delay the process he would have done that but I believe that he did not because of the pressure by western governments to find an accommodation with the ANC, he did not have the opportunity for that. So now that he has unbanned the ANC, he has got to move fast. The more expectations are created the faster things start to move and sometimes you have to follow, sometimes you can't leave these initiatives and they find themselves in the same way. Sometimes the same happens for the ANC, that things move so fast that they are behind the events instead of leading it.

POM     Are you saying that the more time that elapses, the higher will be black expectations and at the same time the greater would be white fears and that it's both in the interests of the ANC and the government to move as quickly as possible so that black expectations are dampened on the one hand and white fears are levelled off on the other? Am I getting you wrong?

FS     I'm not saying that that should actually be the process because it may be in the interests of the ANC that the expectations of blacks should rise and the government should not be able to accommodate the black aspirations. That would be in the interests of the ANC. What I am saying is that in the process that has developed that the white government did not adequately, did not have enough time to make all the necessary preparations to meet the expectations already there, educate the white community, try to undermine, establish a black middle class, establish more black, conservative black political organisations. They did not have the time to do this because of the pressures that were put on them to move and move fast.

PAT     Are these the type of pressures ...?

FS     That is how we see it, yes.

PAT     I didn't see that as an American living in the US, those pressures on Bush, but pressures at home politically or from outside?

FS     I don't accept that.

PAT     Where do you see that pressure?

FS     Well it's been clear that the pressure, the link between pressure and the Nationalist government has been there all the time, no question about that. The situation in the US as we see it has basically been that the sort of activities that took place in the US were not by the American government, it was mainly by organisations in the States, the anti-apartheid organisations in the States who voiced their support for the anti-apartheid struggle in SA. We believe that in that whole process that looking at what is happening in SA, looking at the support for the ANC and the SACP, looking at the development of the black trade unions and the class consciousness of the people here, must have created in the minds of the leadership in Western Germany, the States and in Britain the understanding that, look, we have to do something because unless we do something now these people are going to move to the eastern bloc and it's clear that with the support from the eastern bloc and Cuba, the struggles of the ANC have been there.

PAT     What about those events in the eastern bloc? Would they have had an impact?

FS     I believe that had an impact, not so much on the western governments. I think it had an impact on De Klerk here and I think that also assisted him maybe in coming to the conclusion that it's not such a bad thing to just maybe unban the ANC and the SACP and that its own constituency can then start to follow the same road as in the east. Unfortunately the constituency are not Hungarians or East Germans, they are African and maybe slightly, in the current political situation they would react slightly different from a constituency in the east.

POM     How would you like the process to unfold?

FS     I've got absolutely no view on how I would like it to unfold.

POM     Well would you hope that there would be a Constituent Assembly elected within the next couple of years? Or do you think De Klerk is going to manage this as closely as possible, insist on the ground rules, insist on having his ground rules followed? Where do you see things going from where they are once the so-called obstacles to negotiations are gotten out of the way? What then?

FS     What I hope for any peace loving person would hope for, an interim government going to a Constituent Assembly and one person one vote to democracy in this country. But I do not believe that that is a possibility and that is the road things are going. I do not believe that De Klerk is going to negotiate away his own power.

POM     Well do the ANC at some point walk out? And if they did would that not put De Klerk in a position of risking even more wrath from the west? The ANC has some cards to play, mass mobilisation, return to the armed struggle. How much power do you see the ANC having in the process?

FS     Well I think currently the ANC has the possibility of increasing the power base that it had in the past and that possibility has been opened up by De Klerk making this move. I do not see that a negotiating process has given the ANC any further possibilities and I think that it would eventually come to a position where it's either going to be De Klerk and his structure is going to say that, look, we cannot negotiate our power, we've got to suppress the movement, the ANC. I just hope that by that time the ANC has mobilised to such an extent that De Klerk cannot return to the PW Botha era with the support from western governments that the ANC and PAC and other progressive organisations and maybe some elements within the white community could just move ahead. I do not believe that the NP would negotiate away its power. Some other forces would have to arise from that and maybe there would be some people who would do that. I do not know. At this point in time there isn't but in the process forward I just see that it's the only possibility, the disintegration totally of the NP with a different structure operating and the right wing trying to rescue what has already been lost. The ANC, we hope, at that point in time will be strong enough to move over and take power in the country with some progressive whites, maybe with the support even of some big business who have got their own interests to protect.

POM     So is this a correct summary of what you're saying? One, that De Klerk was compelled by external forces, particularly pressure from the US, Britain and West Germany, to move when he did? He might also have been influenced to some extent by the events in Eastern Europe. But essentially what he's doing is playing a delaying game. While he's unbanned these organisations he has no real intention of bargaining away white political power, that he will try to play a pretend game for two or three years but real negotiations will never get under way. That at that point either one of two things will happen, either he or a right wing government will move to suppress the ANC and the SACP once again or the other possibility is that the ANC at that time will have so organised itself that mass mobilisation and armed struggle can overthrow whatever white government is there and seize power.

FS     Yes, I think that will be correct.

POM     You're not very trusting of the future at all. Is that from bitter experience?

FS     Trust in the future? I'm trusting that that is the way that things will go and I don't see that as not trusting the future.

POM     If De Klerk doesn't move, reach some kind of settlement, he will have to go back to the white electorate in 1994; and if they kick him out of power?

FS     What I said also is there are traps in the struggle, the trap that De Klerk is in a lot of smaller organisations would be established, church groupings, smaller conservative black political organisations, and maybe with this he hopes that he could with some base of support. To counter the traps in my mind means the ANC has to mobilise, they've got to win support of the broader base of people. They've got to restructure themselves as a democratic organisation to counter the traps by De Klerk. So at the end of the day when De Klerk finds he has lost his base the ANC should move. It's not that De Klerk will just sit there with the white constituency. He would definitely try to use Buthelezi and the Indians to try and (influence) the groupings, to have a conservative base aligned with him in the process. I do not believe that it's going to work. I believe at the end of the day that the white political base of the Nats would disintegrate depending if the ANC is ripe to move at that point in time well and good, if they do not use their opportunity effectively then it means De Klerk is going to win the day.

POM     Could you, for example, see the government encouraging indirectly the PAC?

FS     No.

POM     Using it at a way of fragmenting ...?

FS     No I don't see that at all.

POM     Do you think they will attempt to fragment black mobilisation essentially?

FS     Yes but not through the PAC or the ANC. Maybe Gatsha Buthelezi, through church groups, other civic associations. They would start maybe even with organisations like the BCM, starting to speak with certain leaders, to co-opt certain political leaders and through that attempt to create certain power blocs inside Africa and as a result of that weaken the bargaining position of the ANC. As long as we realise that these are the traps, the ANC would have to organise against them. Not organise against them through force but organise through that democratically and with the support of the working class seeing that they must be based within the ANC or the SACP to safeguard their own interests. The ANC would have a stronger position to outmanoeuvre or to by-pass the traps created by De Klerk's move.

PAT     Do you think the ANC will bring into its family the PAC and AZAPO and the Black Consciousness Movement?

FS     I don't think they would bring it in but I think there would be an alliance between these forces as the whole scenario unfolds forward and the situation, De Klerk's plan starts to unfold that there would have to be some sort of alliance between them. It's clear that it should be and I think that even in there that like the Indian grouping currently in the tricameral parliament, I think there would be tremendous pressure on them to come closer into that alliance. There is already in that area a mass movement from so-called Coloureds, from Hendrickse's Labour Party, into the ANC so it's a matter of time when some of the people in the Labour Party are going to say, But hey, that's for us to move closer to the ANC, let us start to talk. I foresee that's going to happen. But I don't think it's going to be just so clear that people are going to say, Look let's move to the ANC. I don't think that's a possibility, no.

POM     Do you think whites would be prepared to bargain away political power in order to retain economic power?

FS     You're not talking about the Nationalist government here?

POM     The real intention here is to preserve economic power, to preserve the economic status quo and if that means giving up some political power, sharing some political power, so be it as long as you hold on to your main objective which is economic power.

FS     My idea is that in SA unless you hold economic power you're not going to have any economic power. Your economic base is going to disintegrate because it's clear that with the close alliance between the SACP and the ANC and a clear labour movement with a socialist objective, that if you bargain away strategically your political base there's no safeguard that you're going to maintain your economic base.

POM     Could you see, for example, De Klerk saying to Mandela, OK, let's negotiate a new constitution but we're going to have, we, the whites, the white population, we're going to have provisions in that constitution that will specifically restrict areas of nationalisation, that will have specific provisions regarding property rights and redistribution of land, that will have specific provisions relating to a number of other key economic areas so that even though you might have an ANC government the constitution of the country itself would prohibit nationalisation, prohibit redistribution of land, prohibit a number of other things that would bring about some degree of equality and equity.

FS     To me it's not really that relevant because I don't believe that De Klerk would move that far so I can't see where even that he would go that far because I don't believe he would accept that in going for a position of majority rule that whatever is in that constitution or a Lancaster House sort of agreement is going to hold sway. If a person looks at the support that Chris Hani has got amongst the youth then it is clear that the people are sure what they want and it's not going to be in the hands of De Klerk to negotiate away only certain elements, certain parts of political power to safeguard other interests. I don't think it's going to be that easy. I don't think there is going to be some sort of a Lancaster House Agreement here. I think it's going to be a push to take state power, it's going to be one person one vote majority rule and the majority will decide which direction the country is going to go and if the majority means the ANC with an SACP alliance or COSATU alliance ...

POM     Something almost, or maybe it is - that was the launching of the SACP at a time when it might be hard to get 100 people to turn up to a Communist Party rally anywhere, you had 30,000 40,000 people showing up. What does it mean, what defines the SACP, what makes it distinctive?

FS     I don't believe that the people who went to the launch of the Communist Party so much identify with the Communist Party as that organisation. I think they basically see that their objective in struggling for a socialist SA could be achieved and their aspirations for a socialist SA are voiced and supported by that organisation. If it was that the ANC was doing that they would do exactly same. I see it basically that ...

POM     My question is, for example, why would one join the SACP rather than the ANC political party? What is the differentiating, ideological belief?

FS     I think the SACP is clearly propagating the struggle for socialism. That is what it is putting forward, the class struggle, even in its alliance with the ANC. I see that as a clear difference between the ANC and the SACP and this is how different workers basically see the situation.

POM     How is that different from, again, in fact the rhetoric? For the last 50 years one has heard about the class struggle and the workers. I suppose what I'm getting to is that many people would believe that the ideological battle is over and that communism lost. Did it just do things wrong and if so how must it correct what was done wrong?

FS     In SA the Communist Party, the labour movement did not have the opportunity to do something wrong, we still have to see if we're going to have the opportunity to go that road. We believe that because of the lack of democracy in eastern Europe, the lack of the involvement of the society or using the values of humanity in that country, in participating in the country, that has created a problem where the participation of the people, although it may have been provided for in constitutions or the rules of the country, there was not a practical participation of the people in the running of the country. I think, unfortunately, in SA, look we have not had the experience to be part of that so we feel that there are lessons to be learned from what has happened. As I said earlier we have sent delegations to investigate, we brief on what is taking place. We feel that mistakes were made but we do not believe that it is socialism or communism that has gone wrong. We believe it's basically how people have implemented the structures of socialism and communism that has been wrongly implemented, where bureaucracies have taken control instead of actually trying to democratise the organisations and democratise society.

POM     But where it involves, say, the break up of huge conglomerates like Anglo-American, Barlow Rand?

FS     It's difficult at this point in time to put forward a position on what would happen with big groupings like that. I think what would be looked at is basically how these big monopolies, or what role do they play in servicing of society. I believe if it does not specifically run services to the broader community or society like the electricity infrastructure, roads, like that, then there should be a different approach to how people participate in that and the control of those sorts of monopolies even if the issue were it must render direct service to the communities like water, housing and basically those should be nationalised and controlled by the state in the interests of the broader society. But these things are under discussion and being analysed and discussed by the trade unions and hopefully in the process we will come up with some answers and whatever answers are arrived at will not be answers for the next fifty years. It will be considered year by year, look at what is going wrong and to rectify it and not sit with mistakes for fifty years and then find out it's been wrong.

PAT     The difference in what you're saying is that you're trying to have a socialist society like the world hasn't seen and that you must have certain outlets in this society to do something that man doesn't know exists yet. What I saw, I spent the last six months working in Czechoslovakia, what was so much discouraging about it was there didn't seem to be much interest in saving anything of the old set-up. What people got is a political freedom and what we're going to give you is a totally different kind of economic structure, we have to do it. And the Communist Party consisted of most conservative farmers who didn't want to change their security that they were getting from the state, just like they had in Czechoslovakia, people were basically telling people what the future was going to be like and it is going to be hard. Don't you have to give some idea of what it is you're looking at here as opposed to something a new socialist state, a kind of communist socialist state that we haven't had a chance to experiment with? It's so nebulous.

FS     I think firstly, my understanding, I think a large number of people in COSATU and in the labour movement understand the problems in eastern Europe on the basis that the bureaucracies that have controlled those countries have been totally discredited to such an extent even where people who still support a clear democratic socialist position, if they come forward and put that forward as a position for discussion they would just say, Look, you're coming with this for 20, 30 years of oppression here and bureaucracy, we don't want to hear it. We feel as a result of that that new ideas on how to change those societies and maintain security for the people and participation of the people don't have a chance and it's unfortunate, we just have to accept that is how we deal with the situation. We do not believe that the people in eastern Europe have just turned their backs on socialism or communism. We believe totally that they've turned against the bureaucracy, the bureaucratic state but in what socialism can mean for the people, we understand the problems in the country. We also understand that there are people, there are organisations who are still fully in support of the same provisions that we believe that we hold dear to. We don't see why we should at this point in time bend our heads in shame because of what has happened in eastern Europe and we are saying that the things that have gone wrong there we should learn from that.

PAT     One of the assets that you have, you mentioned that you have a strong and you do have a strong labour movement, strong trade union movement, you do have an educated black ... is that right?

FS     That's correct. We've got a young a future workforce currently still in school who clearly understand the problems in the country and who share the views of their fathers and mothers in the factory and we believe that link between the workers currently and the new generation of workers, we believe that's very important. We have a long history of capitalist oppression here, that people understand what capitalist societies can mean, the same as in eastern Europe where people understand what a bureaucratic centralism can do to a society and on that we can develop something, not maybe from some other country but maybe a bit more progressive.

POM     My last question, Freddie. How would you rate Mandela's performance since he has been released? Has he succeeded your expectations, what has he done that was beyond your expectations and what has he done or not done that has disappointed you?

FS     I think what Mandela has done that I should say is outstanding is for a man of his age the way he has travelled abroad basically to gain support, I think, for the mass struggle in SA and even though he's the leader of the ANC I believe that whatever he has done is not just to gain support for the ANC but that any progressive organisation of the mass movement, the Mass Democratic Movement in this country, even I would think people that would not in the past, even supporters of the PAC, that if you align yourself in the struggle against apartheid, oppression in this country that as a result of Mandela's visit abroad that you would not get support. That is the main thing, he's created a more clear awareness of SA. I think he's put developments in SA on a very high priority internationally. That is what I would really give him a lot of credit for and for his energy at that age. I'm not even sure at my age I would be able to keep up the pace that he had to keep up.

     The second point is I do not believe that the ANC has given him the necessary support even though Thabo Mbeki was there but I think with that lack of support around him what he did was outstanding. A man who's been in detention for so many years to come out, not even six months to acquaint himself with the developments, and travelling abroad and putting a position and trying to be up to date with what is happening, it takes a tremendous effort on your intellectual abilities and for that I think even the assistance he would have got from Thabo Mbeki and those people wouldn't be a lot helpful. He depended on his own ability.

     What I think is problematic was that doing the one thing he had to neglect the other thing and the result of that is he did not pay too much attention resolving the issue of especially the killings in Natal. I think he should have paid more attention to that specific issue.

POM     Could you talk about that for a minute? One, your perception of what the problem is and, two, whether there can be any meaningful negotiations between the government and the ANC or anybody else for that matter as long as the level of violence in Natal remains as high as it is?

FS     I think the problem in Natal, as I understand the situation, is basically a struggle for Gatsha Buthelezi to make sure that he will be part of a negotiating process and until such time that he is accommodated that recognition, that he would use any force to ensure his inclusion in the negotiations. But in this process he is also losing a lot of support. He's losing a lot of support amongst the business community. The state will not continue to support him as they are supporting him now. At a certain point in time they are going to jettison him, they are going to drop him. I believe that eventually negotiations will continue even if the violence continues. The problem is that I hope there will be an accommodation by Mandela with Gatsha Buthelezi but as it continues now every day that is going past that opportunity is getting slimmer and slimmer.

POM     Do you think if the two of them did get together and made a joint appeal to their supporters to cease and desist, that that in itself would be enough or that other measures need to be taken?

FS     There would have to be other measures too. I think an appeal would not be sufficient because there are people in there who have their own objectives other than that of Gatsha Buthelezi. You have the warlords operating in Natal but I think a joint approach by the ANC together with Mandela and other actions, particularly also to get the SA state to become involved in that to deal with the warlords, bring the people to account for their deeds, I think that can resolve the issue.

POM     A question that I have: looking forward to next year, sitting around this table a year from now, what will have advanced, what will not have advanced?

FS     I think that from our side what I see would develop is basically that the trade unions would develop a more clear position on where they stand in the whole process, the whole development that it's taking forward. Also the position of the youth would have to be clarified and I think that it would be a clearer accommodation or alliance between the youth and the trade unions on the position of the working class in this country and hopefully they would be more strategically placed in any process of negotiations in future with the government.

POM     Do you see the trade union movement as being something that sits at that final negotiating table?

FS     Depending on how the Constituent Assembly or the interim government is structured it may not be necessary, depending on what happens. There are people who are clearly representing the interests of the trade unions like in the SACP there are people who are clearly trade union representatives. In the ANC there may be a lot of trade union people elected maybe at a certain point in time. It depends on history.

PAT     I just have a question on that point you made about the youth, what are the different objectives here?

FS     Actually as I see it, it's actually only a point of mobilisation. There's no point of political line. It's basically just for the constituency to mobilise now that the workers haven't got enough time to deal with youth issues, to inform them about what is happening in the factories, the class position, and that is the bulk of the youth to mobilise, to assist in building street committees. So basically that's the only thing.

PAT     Can the trade unions perform a function that the state education system hasn't been able to perform in educating young people?

FS     No I don't think the trade unions have the capacity to do it. At this point in time their objective should be to educate their own constituency and there are other structures which would have to deal with the issue of educating the youth. The trade unions don't have the resources or the capacity to do it. But they do have the capacity to assist the youth organisations in discussing the broader political issues but not in general education.

POM     Well thank you very much for your time. Very illuminating.

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.