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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

03 Aug 1990: Giliomee, Herman

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     I'm talking with Hermann Giliomee on the 3rd August. Herman, a lot happened since last September, at the conference at Bonn, and I suppose I'd like to start by asking you whether or not you were surprised at the rapidity of and breadth with which De Klerk moved and what do you think motivated him to move so broadly and so quickly?

HG     I met De Klerk and had an interview with him in August last year and came away quite impressed. I wrote in a column in which I compared him to Gorbachev and said that he is of a new generation of the kind who can take the leap. The article attracted quite a lot of criticism at the time. Good friends criticised me for writing such a thing just before an election because it could affect negatively the Democratic Party's chances. I was in Jerusalem on February 2nd, 1990 and I must say, I had thought that he would unban the UDF but not the ANC. In retrospect it was a very shrewd thing to do because ANC would then simply have come in under the UDF banner and obviously De Klerk would have gotten no credit for that.

     As far as the reasons are concerned, I think there are three reasons. The first is the declining demographic base of whites. De Klerk's said openly that the numbers of whites relative to blacks are becoming fewer and fewer and that his bargaining position is slipping away, purely through demographic pressure. Purely through demographic pressure, the police cannot control the townships any more. In Afrikaans there's a very short word, a very powerful word, we've got a 'magsoorwig' which means we've got a preponderance of power but if you wait longer it will come down. So that is the first reason, demographic pressure. Second reason is that the white conscripts are increasingly repelled by the idea of suppressing blacks in order to defend the apartheid order. We haven't got a large standing army and there are not enough white conscripts willing to shoot blacks without blinking an eye. Thirdly, you can't get enough blacks willing to shoot other blacks on behalf of whites. So, these, I think, are the three main political reasons.

     When it comes to economics the standard interpretation is that South Africa cracked up because of the sanctions pressure. I think that's wrong. There was a scare last year, August, when our reserves were down to a few days, but in fact I would argue almost the opposite. I asked De Klerk also whether he would have negotiated six or nine months ago when the sanctions pressure was still very tough. He said, "No, we had already come out of that trough, we were feeling strong again, we felt that we were strong enough to negotiate." If you look at the actual figures the value of South African trade doubled in real terms since 1985. This was because, of course, of the low value of the rand. And as far as the financial sanctions, these were the most important sanctions, are concerned they will not easily be lifted. What South Africa needs as a developing country is the kind of soft loans where you would pay low interest rates over fifteen, twenty years. Now, that is not available not only because of the opposition to apartheid but because South Africa is a really high security risk at the moment. They just look at this country and say, 'Look, it's going into a period of transition, it's going to be rough, and even if the ANC comes to power peacefully, it is still going to be rough for the next five or ten years.' So, this is not an ideal country to give soft loans to. What De Klerk is hoping for is loans from the IMF or World Bank.

     So, I think there is an example of where the foreign factor does play a role. The sanctions factor also plays a role in an intangible way. South Africa is a pariah state. We are excluded from the world, we can't play sport with the world. Whenever Cabinet ministers go abroad, they often have to use some kind of subterfuge. And when De Klerk came back from overseas he said, "Look, we are being treated as leaders again."

     Even with severe suppression the whole thing was stalled, getting frayed at the edges, and the whole idea is to try and get the ANC as a major partner in government and together with the ANC try and maintain stability and promote economic growth.

POM     You use an interesting phrase, "with the ANC as a partner in government". Two things. one, do you think that De Klerk has conceded on the issue of majority rule?

HG     I think that you have to disaggregate it, you know. He has conceded on the notion of an electoral system where everyone's vote will be the same. It would have to be a universal franchise, it would have to be in a common structure. So what he conceives of is a kind of a general assembly, something similar to the General Assembly at the United Nations where the majority could pass resolutions. But that, in fact, will not count for all that much, like in the case of the General Assembly. Then you will have an Upper House, now that's the difficulty at the moment, where he wants to try and persuade the ANC that it will be in their own interest to give the minority party over-representation. So you're talking about a majority party and a minority party which would have over-representation. The analogy being used is Maine and New Hampshire having the same kind of representation as California and New York in Senate. The crucial one that they really are insisting on is the Cabinet. The minority party must have assured representation there and one must have consensus decision-making by the Cabinet. In any Cabinet you do get consensus decision-making on any major issue. If someone were to walk out of Cabinet, it is a sign of serious crisis in government. I think that is what they are trying to sell to the ANC, and signs are that some members of the ANC are nibbling and others are not.

POM     So, when you use the phrase "partnership", this is a form of power sharing, more than - ?

HG     I think power sharing is a concept that has been discredited by this tricameral parliament. The NP went through the motions of sharing power but kept all control. But certainly, I think what De Klerk was rumoured to have said to some foreign bankers in private, "Mandela can pick almost any constitution he wants as long as we can keep the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Finance." If someone like Du Plessis is not in a power-sharing Cabinet, South Africa's chances of getting loans from the international banks would be very low. They would want to have someone who can exercise very stringent controls. Otherwise, with the massive expectations that any transfer of power will bring about, inflation may go through the roof. And, of course, the Ministry of Defence, ultimately the army, is the ultimate safeguard of whites and the constitution. I don't expect them to give up on the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defence.

POM     Would this be as part of the transition process or would this be put in terms of the final?

HG     No. I believe one cannot get in South Africa a final, once off transition because the explosive forces of this society would simply wreck everything. There must be a period of transition. John Hume, when I interviewed him, had this wonderful phrase that you cannot have a final solution between groups who have been fighting each other for centuries. When I spoke to senior members of government they wre adamant that they don't want to put a time limit on the transition period. They don't want to say, "We are going into a transition for seven years." That was a lesson that they learned from Zimbabwe. If you give, say, white representation for ten years, then immediately after ten years this is seen as something which could be scrapped. I think the idea that De Klerk and his ministers have is the ANC and the National Party growing together and in a mutual educational process.

POM     Could the way in which the EC developed be a paradigm of sorts? Where, when the Treaty of Rome was formulated, it wasn't formulated with kind of a set of objectives to be achieved. It simply evolved along a path, as mutual trust and consensus developed.

HG     They would be reluctant to use it because in the classic apartheid ideology that was used as an attempt to justify homelands, separate homelands, and 'white' South Africa as a separate entity with the idea that they would work together in the constellation of states. No, this is quite something unique. I suppose, if anything, if I think back on South African politics, the best analogy is the old United Party of Hertzog and Smuts in the 1930s. It had a substantial Afrikaner segment and a substantial English-speaking segment which they tried to maintain a certain duality. One had the dual national symbols, the flag and the anthem. The Cabinet was a mixed one of Afrikaner and English-speakers and it very much tried to promote a broader South African (white) patriotism, not a sectional or exclusivist nationalism. That is probably the image that they would have more powerfully in their mind.

POM     The promise De Klerk has given, that any new proposed constitutional dispensation would be sent back to the white electorate for their approval, that's not really a promise that he can keep, is it?

HG     So you think he cannot keep it?

POM     I don't think it's a promise that he can keep.

HG     No, I think it's a promise that he cannot dare not to keep.

POM     So, how do you see it? I mean, he can't do it simply on his own. He can't say, 'We're talking about a dispensation for universal dispensation and the minority will have a veto over it.'

HG     Well, I think what they're thinking of is one referendum where everyone could vote on a proposed constitution but that the vote will be counted together and separately. What one must stress is that this is a government resting on a constituency, a white constituency, that has a tradition of free politics for 80 years; a tradition of giving mandates to the government and of a government that must come back and which cannot really exceed its mandate. To now enter into a kind of an agreement with the ANC where the whites would have no say as a separate electoral entity on whether they approve or disapprove is simply to throw the entire white constituency in turmoil because then they would say, "Look, we've been sold out." In the most recent white election the constituency simply said, "You can start negotiating on power sharing." But there was a clear promise given by De Klerk that he would come back with whatever he would negotiate. To fail to do that would be like John Hume and the British coming to some kind of arrangement, and then imposing it on the entire Northern Ireland population. For it to have any chance one must have some referendum where one could get both the Catholics and the Protestants to vote on it. I asked De Klerk about that, and about whether he intends to stick to that. He said, "Look, I've got no desire to outflank this particular promise. I'll have to go back to the electorate."

POM     There is the possibility of a proposed new dispensation being passed and the Coloured, Indian and black community have been rejected by the white, so where does that leave one?

HG     I think what De Klerk would simply to say to the ANC is, "We must get a constitution that both whites and blacks could approve." Some of the most recent polls of blacks in the Witwatersrand don't demand black majority rule. Majorities are in favour of a kind of power sharing formula in which all groups participate in government. The ANC could sell that to their constituency. If the whites are simply left out, are suddenly confronted with a fait accompli when it came to a constitution, you may actually drift into a state of civil war. And then there will be numerous whites who would feel there is no constraint on using violence anymore. And I think Bernard Crick has got this phrase, that where there's been a tradition of free politics, the only way you can move ahead on major issues is through persuasion. If you cannot persuade people, you must simply realise that you will have to hold back. If simply De Klerk would use the promise of a white referendum as a bluff and when it comes to the crunch say, "Let's forget about the whites and let's just pass a constitution", it that will be disastrous. It'll be absolutely disastrous. I think that will be an invitation to civil war.

POM     How do you at this point assess the threat of the Conservative Party, of the right wing?

HG     The right wing consistently gets in the region of thirty percent of the white support in public opinion polls but when it comes to the right wing, there is a huge lie factor. People underplay their Conservative Party affiliations in polls. I think it is at least 35-36 percent. The National Party won the election of 1948 on a 40 percent vote. So they are within four to five percent of a victory. If De Klerk and the Cabinet agree to a constitution with the ANC that makes the whites feel vulnerable, I have no doubt that if there is an election the CP will win, that they will get that additional five, six, seven percent from people who fear having been sold out. The whites will definitely insist they have the opportunity to approve or disapprove either certain constitutional principles or a constitution itself.

POM     Do you see the threat of the right wing being a threat that could evolve into violence?

HG     At the moment, the Conservative Party is still playing a constructive role in telling whites not to resort to arms and to stick to constitutional methods. This is based on the assumption that they could defeat the constitution in a referendum. Or, if there is no constitution within the next four years then the government will be obliged to have an election and that they could win that election. But if the Conservative Party gets any idea that the government would try to renege on that, it may will encourage whites to resort to arms.

POM     Let me give you a very loose analogy and tell me whether you think it has validity or not. I've often thought that in Northern Ireland one reason why Protestant paramilitary organisations have never enjoyed any kind of real support in the Protestant community or never really caught on is because, one, the security forces to a considerable degree have been in the hands of Protestants. And they see themselves as a law-abiding people because invariably the laws have been on their side.

HG     Yes, yes. That comes through.

POM     And that's kind of a tradition, they kind of pride themselves on being law and order types. Would there be any kind of similar analogy with Afrikaners, that even if the right did go violent, in fact ?

HG     Yes, Afrikaners, in Afrikaans there is a word called "ordentlik", that is a cross of fashionable and civilised, and acting in a proper kind of way when it comes to public violence and things like that. That's a strong tradition. I read that book by Shara Nelson Ulster's Uncertain Defenders and there are a lot of parallels there. That, of course, presupposes that the government is playing ball with you, that is your kind of law and order, and that there has been no treason that has rendered you vulnerable.

POM     What I'm getting at is that there was that bomb that was planted in the garage in Pretoria last week that had gone off, and if it had been planted by a right wing paramilitary group there would have been an outcry from the Afrikaner community regarding the action itself. There would be no sense of, well, this is what happens if you start talking to the ANC. Moving too fast or too slow, there does seem to be ... Well, let me move first to a Constituent Assembly. You have the government, it appears, being adamant on the point that there will not be a Constituent Assembly and, to date, the ANC talking almost exclusively in terms of their being a Constituent Assembly. One, how do you think that will resolve itself?

HG     Now, that is a key issue. The government is insisting on developing common policy positions and implementing them together with the ANC. The ANC is insisting on procedure, on democratic procedure. If you do have a Constituent Assembly the party with majority support can sit back and say we will make some concessions but finally we will decide. For the NP that means giving up on the game even before you start playing it.

POM     You concede what you wanted to negotiate.

HG     Yes, you concede what you want to negotiate. And I just can't just see how the government could enter into a Constituent Assembly at the early stages. You can do so only after you have developed some common policy positions. The government can then say, these are the compromises I've made, both sides have conceded something, now I want the electorate's stamp of approval.

POM     If you don't have a Constituent Assembly how can you broaden the negotiation table in the sense of being able to choose participants who reflect, who should have different weights attached to their participation because they reflect ...?

HG     Yes, I just don't know. I am happy I don't have to make proposals. Whether you could simply do that on the basis of opinion polls or whether you could actually say to each political organisation, look, this is not a numbers game, I've identified five or six major organisations, I want you to nominate your own representatives for the Constituent Assembly.' The government may also throw the ball back to the ANC, and say, "Look, why do you want an election? Because through all the years you have claimed, and the international community has claimed, that the ANC enjoys the support of the great majority of blacks." So we are prepared to work with the proposition that the ANC is the strongest black political force. So if there are, say, twenty black representatives, the ANC must have ten or twelve or whatever. We will give three or four to Inkatha, three or four to Black Consciousness, and so on.

POM     How do you think the process will unfold? Let's assume the obstacles to talks are gotten out of the way before the end of the year and you enter next year with kind of a clean slate, there are no obstacles per se.

HG     This, for me, is so extremely difficult to see this process because, first of all, the ANC must first get some kind of proper organisational structure. They have got this National Executive Committee but according to all accounts there's enormous problems in getting decisions through to the grassroots.

POM     Getting phones answered, we know!

HG     It will take at least a year or two for the ANC to get its show on the road. The SACP is much better, and COSATU as an organisation is much better organised than the ANC proper, you know. But this is an unsatisfactory situation because the government cannot really negotiate with a trade union federation and doesn't really want to negotiate with the Communist Party, so you would need a strong ANC, an ANC proper, now. The National Party is intact at the moment, De Klerk is certainly in full control, and he's got the support of his Cabinet and caucus. But negotiations will take time. Look at what happened in the case of the talks on amnesty and release of political prisoners. The ANC people in the subcommittee came to agreement with the government representatives, but when they took it back to the ANC at large, they just rejected it again and the whole thing was sort of up in the air for two three months which simply meant that some people stayed longer in jail than they would have if they had agreed to it in the first place. I must be quite frank that I have difficulty in envisaging a smooth negotiating process before the ANC is a tough, well-disciplined, well-organised movement.

POM     Two related questions. One is, again, that there seem to be two extremes of opinion: one, that change should be made as quickly as possible, the ANC and the government should kind of cobble together an agreement, go to their respective constituencies, and say, 'This is it. Implement it and let people react to it.' The other envisages a much slower process of where the white constituency is educated to changes introduced piecemeal, and the same thing in the black community, Mandela brings along his constituency, stressing the need to compromise, keeping expectations within reasonable bounds. Which do you think is the more likely course? Which would be the better one? Which do you think is more likely?

HG     From the white point of view, I think that the prize would be to get it over as quickly as possible and get a compromise and get it accepted. The current uncertainty is really very detrimental to the economy because it feeds the lack of confidence. If I'd been an ANC leader, I would stretch it out and wait until I get a better deal, and don't let them pin me down.

POM     Do you not think that the longer it drags out for the ANC, the more likely that internal divisions that are festering will come to the top, more likely that youth will say Mandela isn't delivering, that he begins to lose his aura?

HG     Or if he dies.

POM     Or if he dies, then there's a power struggle.

HG     That could happen to the ANC, but the great danger to South Africa has never been a violent revolution but having the kind of disintegration that the Soviet Union is now experiencing, the disintegration of government authority breaking down like in Lebanon, of growing pockets developing of political anarchy. And this is the threat that will be confronting us, of moving to the kind of Natal type of situation in many other parts of the country.

POM     So, if you were advising the government, you would say, go for the quick one?

HG     I would probably, yes.

POM     If you were advising the ANC?

HG     Drag it out and then if they drag it out and there is no constitution by end of 1994, then, according to this current constitution, there must be another election for a tricameral parliament. Almost inevitably there would be a very good chance that the Conservative Party would win and then the whole world will throw up their arms in horror and there will be turmoil within white society and there will be a section of whites who would say, look, make a deal with the ANC, that kind of thing. I think, if I gave strategic advice to the ANC, I would have said to them, "Drag it out."

POM     At which point, and this is related to that question, does the process of change become irreversible? That is, at what point does - if you had a Constituent Assembly where the ANC was the majority, obviously at that point the process would to a certain degree, or to a complete degree, be out of the government's control, if it is in control of the process now. At what point does the element, will the element of change or participation by the ANC be such that the government no longer controls the process? it has a life of its own and that leads inevitably to the

HG     Well, I think a Constituent Assembly will be a clear-cut point, you know. Once you have a Constituent Assembly and the ANC is identified as the biggest party and if there is no prior agreement that the majority party and the minority party would have certain contractual obligations to each other, then that would be the point where it is out of control. Alternatively, I think, if you do enter into a power sharing arrangement, then the point where the government gives up control over the armed forces will also be a crucial turning point.

POM     But that would amaze you?

HG     That would amaze me.

POM     Looking at both Mandela and De Klerk, what obstacles or stumbling blocks lie in De Klerk's path as he tries to manage the process through and hold onto his constituency? And similarly for Mandela, what obstacles and stumbling blocks lie in his path that he must manage if he is to ...?

HG     De Klerk is an eminently reasonable and civilised person but no one really knows what will happen if you push him too far. I think that is perhaps the greatest question about him, whether he can be very, very tough when the interests of his constituency expect him to be that.

POM     And in that regard, how do you evaluate or assess his reaction to the Tongaat affair?

HG     I don't know if it is true that the SACP is bringing in a quite large arms cache. I believe that he has been very tough with Mandela and said that if this kind of thing continues, we cannot really go on negotiating. This is the talk, this is just rumours that I hear, that he has been quite tough on that. But De Klerk, I think his biggest obstacle is that he hasn't got the reputation of, say, a PW Botha who everyone here knew that he's a fierce man who would lash back if he's crossed. De Klerk, of course, is a much more reasoned and reasonable, and a fit kind of person. But his biggest obstacle is that some people may think that he can be won over without too much resistance. The rightwing refer to him as "Frederick Weggee", meaning "Frederick Giveaway". The suggestion that he is somebody that gives away without getting something valuable in return is his biggest obstacle and I think he will have to persuade the police and the army officers that his course is correct. His biggest challenge is to lock in the police and the army behind him, that they would believe that what he does is in the best security interest of South Africa seen from a long-term perspective.

     I think Mandela's major problem is that of becoming a canary in the golden cage. Everyone praises him because he's a martyr, an heroic figure, but while everyone thinks he's great, no-one actually listens to him; that he's unable to force through decisions. How long is he going to say that some of our decisions haven't reached the middle and lower levels yet? This is now three months after the Groote Schuur talks where there was this commitment to negotiations and here one member of his National Executive Committee is apparently being detained on the grounds that he has been involved in bringing in arms caches.

POM     When he says, "I'm a follower of the ANC", do you think he is somebody either that he wants to be, or yet is in a position of being able to impose his agenda on the ANC, or that, to a certain degree, he is a prisoner of the Executive?

HG     The reports that ones gets is that he hasn't got his own kind of line of decision-making. He is protected from the rest of the world by this wall and that people make decisions for him or they screen people. So he hasn't been able to assert himself.

POM     Sounds like Ronald Reagan.

HG     Well, you've heard that before?

POM     I said, it sounds like Ronald Reagan.

HG     Yes, yes. It could be like that, it could be an analogy that he hasn't built up his own position of authority with his own channels of communication. So, occasionally he goes and meets De Klerk and then he informs him, but for most of the time while things are going on, he is constantly being surrounded by this wall of people. Obviously, he's also an old man. He hasn't that energy. I believe he is going off on a month's holiday now, going in order to take leave of, take leave after his long overseas trip. But all this is the kind of thing which prevents him from stamping his authority on the organisation.

POM     What would your assessment be of him after six months?

HG     Look, I'm a great admirer of the style in which he does things. His greatness as a human being shows in his lack of bitterness about being in prison so long and is the way in which he projects himself. He is a remarkable person. So that is that part of the assessment. The other part is obviously I would have preferred him to stay at home and to get the ANC in some kind of proper organisational shape. I would argue that that is the top priority. I think the American visits have been an enormous success. What he has basically succeeded in is that the Americans now even more accept the ANC as a government-in-waiting. I think he has succeeded in saying, no sanctions being lifted. But in terms of the overall process in South Africa of the ANC and the National Party locking into some kind of centrist alliance, not much has been achieved yet. I think there is still an alarming lack of a new political centre in South Africa.

POM     What about divisions within the ANC itself? Do you see any serious divisions there?

HG     There are enormous differences in style. You've got COSATU, a trade union organisation with a certain condition of mandates, the workers giving mandates. Then you've got the UDF who is basically in on protest politics, local issues, local mobilisation, marches, city rallies, that type of thing. You've got a very small activist, 'leaderist' type of core trying to decide to mobilise people around certain local issues. Then you've got the ANC, the ANC proper, which has been a liberation organisation, an exile organisation, who has got an Executive Committee functioning, but who have got no real structures below them.  The whole drive to enrol members has not been really successful. The rumour is that the two white branches of Mowbray here and Rondebosch are the biggest branches in Cape Town, they've got about a hundred members each. And they've got no real success in the coloured townships. And in the African townships you've got Africans saying, 'Look, we've been in this', or those who have been, saying, 'We've been members of the ANC all along. Why must we suddenly pay for being a member?' And, of course, Cape Town has got a reputation that the Africanists, the PAC, is quite strong. So, all in all, the whole effort to establish branches, to establish regional types of organisations has been a very slow and laborious process without any major successes, so far.

POM     Do you see important divisions arising between, on a regional basis, between the PAC and the ANC?

HG     I tend to think the PAC is a bogey man. I tend to think what has the ANC really worried is going into government, being part of government, and then having to clamp down on PAC resistance, shooting PAC people on behalf of the government, and that then there will be this massive uproar. But in electoral competition, the PAC is really such an utter shambles organisation-wise that I cannot really think that the ANC could feel threatened by it.

POM     Just to switch a little bit. White fears, we've talked to a couple of people who would be white liberals and asked them about the reaction of their friends, colleagues, acquaintances to what was going on, and the general feedback we got was that white liberals are worried about the future, feeling very insecure, feel guilty about their anxieties, and some are either packing up or want to pack up and leave. And there seems to be a certain irony in the fact that the people who all their lives said that apartheid must go are going to leave and those who are for apartheid are going to be the ones who are left behind. Do you think that's a correct assessment?

HG     Yes, I think the well-qualified whites are thinking of leaving. I mean, that's what Afrikaners have always said of the English liberals, that they would be calling for the ANC to govern, but the moment the ANC is in government they will be the first at Jan Smuts airport to go. There is an article that you could look at, and this is by a man by the name of Pierre Hugo who's at Development and Administration, University of South Africa in Pretoria, and he had made some surveys over ten years of white farmers and white miners of what their kind of fears  of black government are, 80% fear that whites will be at risk, that their lives would be at risk, that white women would be molested, there will be a breakdown of law and order, fears of being a completely helpless, impotent group of people.

POM     To what extent do you think that those fears are fuelled by what's going on in Natal?

HG     Yes, Natal, but also I think it's the idea that you must be on top. It is the idea that if you let the black man wield authority you would be at his mercy and then something very horrible could go wrong and then there would be, the kind of analogies would be, the massacres in the Belgian Congo in 1960, clashes between the Ndebeles and the Shonas in Zimbabwe, I think Natal, to some extent.

POM     One other kind of thing that's coming through is that many whites, and these would be not Conservative, they would be National Party supporters, would begin looking at the Natal and looking at other disputes between the ANC and either the PAC or AZAPO at other times over the last few years, kind of believe that the ANC want to destroy opposition to it and are inevitably intent on a one-party state.

HG     Yes, I think so.

POM     Do you get that feedback, too?

HG     You would see Joe Slovo on television saying that we want a multiparty state, but does a multiparty state mean an Inkatha operating freely? Does it mean a National Party operating freely? Does it mean the CP operating freely? Because they've got this clause in the constitutional guidelines that there will be a free press and political parties could form provided they don't propagate racism, regionalism, racial and regional exclusivity. There were questions which some white youth movement asked of the ANC youth movement, and a senior member of the ANC Executive said, "Look, newspapers like the Zulu National Newspaper, Ilanga, or the Afrikaans National Party newspapers won't be tolerated. Inkatha and the National Party won't be tolerated." So, the ANC up to now has really been saying, 'Yes, OK, multiparty democracy, but does that mean National Party, does that mean, in fact, allowing the existence of parties whose guts you hate? That is the acid test, not the kind of parties that are small and congenial to your own ideology, but whether parties which are really at loggerheads with you will be permitted to function.

POM     What place does Buthelezi play in all of this?

HG     Well, I think he enormously complicates matters for the ANC in the first place because the ANC wants to go to the negotiations with the government exposed as virtually only the representative of the whites. So, it would want to prevent the government from presenting itself as the party representing the claims of minorities, regardless of colour. So it would have to be the Mass Democratic Movement vis-à-vis the racists. As long as Buthelezi's around, it is difficult for them to make that kind of case. For the government Buthelezi is problematical and this is the heritage of the homelands policies, that you have now the KwaZulu police force which effectively is Inkatha, who are supposed to police people in Pietermaritzburg who are UDF or ANC. So, if there hadn't been this government policy, if you hadn't had a movement like Inkatha, you could have easily effected the reintegration of the KwaZulu police into the South African police and present them as South African policemen. So, here, I think, it's the chickens of the homelands policy coming home to roost. The KwaZulu police is not strong enough to be able to impose order in Natal, but certainly it's strong enough to kill quite a number of people and to make the citizenry who are not of their political persuasion feel that the police belongs to the other side.

POM     Can there be meaningful national negotiations if the violence in Natal continues at its current level?

HG     It depends on, the only factor that will decide meaningful negotiations is whether the ANC and the National Party want to get together or not.

POM     Well, one National Party member, MP, had said to us, he is afraid that, yes, the government will have to co-opt the ANC.

HG     Co-option has always been a game in South Africa. It's the one side always tries to co-opt the other side.

POM     Well, sharing in the form of co-optation.

HG     Sharing in the form of co-optation, yes. My argument would be that neither the ANC or the National Party by itself is strong enough to govern the country.

POM     Black youth, let me end on that note. Here you have a whole generation of young blacks raised on protests, who know only the culture of protest, and now they see the ANC getting into bed with the NP. Would they not feel that they have been betrayed?

HG     That happens to black youth all the world over and to youth the world over. They are usually in the forefront of the battles against colonialism but once there is a changeover then they are exposed and the new rulers are becoming very impatient with them. So, what the government, in fact, really wants the ANC to do is to discipline the black youth. Of course, for them to do that, they must be given a share in government. It will have to be so obviously a massive improvement on what blacks at the moment have that they would be prepared to fulfil their disciplinary role.

POM     Finally, where will we be this time next year? I'm sitting here a year from now, across from you - ?

HG     I think they are probably near the stage where the ANC and National Party have formed three or four joint committees investigating certain areas of security, investigating certain aspects of an alternative constitution, and trying to come up with common policy positions. If there is consensus about these policy decisions then we could have a referendum on these positions at an early stage, something which the whites will demand. I have the picture of the ANC and the National Party as two drunks who can't stand upright without leaning on the other, and hopefully there would be some kind of drunken embrace within the next year. They need each other to prop each other up and they will increasingly be forced to enter into joint committees and to try and develop consensus on a whole array of disparate issues. That is the hopeful scenario. The negative one is that there would still be a stand-off, that either the ANC will still be in disarray and National Party will suffer defections from its caucus, the Conservative Party will be even stronger, will stage marches in the streets.

POM     So, in a sense, you are saying that rather than there being an election to an assembly which would formulate policy, is that you have the ANC and the government formulate policy and then present it to the electorate for approval?

HG     Yes, yes, yes.

POM     OK, thank you. Thank you. It's been terrific.

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.