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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

07 Aug 1990: Van Der Merwe, Hendrick

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POM     You had just begun to say that you were one of the first people who initiated the process of dialogue between the ANC and the government. Could you give a little background to that?

HVM     The contacts I have with the ANC actually go back to 1963. When I returned from the States, I was a student and I was out of the country for 5½ years, and in that period the ANC was banned and it was just a natural inclination on my part to make contacts with people in conflicts. I am a natural peacemaker so whenever I see there is tension or estrangement I try to mend communication. I mention 1963 because it was the first time I deliberately looked them up and nothing came of it because I just dropped in at their office in London and they looked at me with great suspicion and I made no contact at all. Eventually on subsequent visits I established more rapport and especially with the representatives in London over the years and then in 1984 I met Gertrude Shope, a member of the Executive Committee, in New York at the United Nations office and she invited me to Lusaka where I had been before but I hadn't made more formal contact with the ANC.

     On that occasion in 1984 I met with Thabo Mbeki and Alfred Nzo and out of that came a request on their part that I should arrange meetings with the government. I succeeded in getting MPs willing to meet with them but it leaked out to the press and then PW Botha stopped it. He then declared publicly that no Nationalist MP would be allowed to meet with the ANC and then I looked for somebody close enough to the government, to the decision making circles, who will not be tied to the State President's order. Then at that time Piet Muller, who was then the Deputy Editor of Beeld, the Afrikaans pro-government paper, he asked me to introduce him to the ANC so I took him up and he wrote two articles quite favourable about the ANC, comparing them with the NP, indicating that there were two nationalist parties which had much in common and in an editorial in Beeld asked the government to talk to them. That opened up many channels.

     It was followed up in the first place by the English papers. The morning papers asked me to arrange an appointment for their representative, which I did, for him with the ANC and with President Kaunda whom I had also met many times and with whom I co-operated very well. Then that led to many other visits. I had only some involvement in a few more visits but the organisation that took the lead in making substantial contacts was, of course, Idasa and the first meeting that caught most public attention was the meeting of businessmen and then subsequently the Dakar meeting, but there have been some hundreds of meetings since them.

POM     Going back to the 2nd February, did the breadth and scope of De Klerk's proposed actions take you by surprise and what do you think motivated him to go so far at that point in time, particularly given the nature of the NP's campaign and their rhetoric during the election the previous year?

HVM     I was not very surprised and that's partly, you will see from my writings and talks, I've always been more optimistic than anybody else and I've argued, especially since 1984, that the ANC is willing to talk and the government is willing to make concessions. So when De Klerk did it I was not so surprised although I didn't expect it at that time of course.

     The second question was what motivated him. I've argued, but I don't have confirmation about it, that he has undergone a moral conversion similar to what I had gone through at the age of 22, his just came a little later. I call it a moral conversion, there may be other better words, but he must have got a new vision of society. In my own case it was a simple thing of my brother calling a black woman a 'woman' instead of the derogatory word we used for them which is 'meid', it's the Afrikaans, it's the equivalent of nigger and we never used the normal word woman for coloured women and when he used it I suddenly overnight realised that black women were women in the first place and not black and I have the impression that both the State President and his wife underwent such a change and that I think also accounts for his moral commitment because there is clearly a commitment on his part. It's not just pure political opportunism, it's not just that he's trying to get the best out of it. He is morally committed to go through with the process.

POM     What assumptions do you think he made about the ANC before he embarked on the process? What assumptions did he make about the ANC? For example, did he make the assumption that the ANC not only spoke for the majority of black people but also could discipline them, control them and make them bend to its will?

HVM     In the first place the ANC cannot really speak for the majority of the black people because the top ANC leaders are exiles who have just returned after 30 years in exile and my impression over the years meeting them overseas was that they were not well informed of what's going on here. Furthermore they had no way of getting a mandate from the people so, therefore, I would say that they are, shall we say in a formal sense, not representing the people. On the other hand there is no doubt that they voice the aspirations of the vast mass of people so I wouldn't be surprised if given a formal opportunity of expressing their wishes the ANC would get the majority of votes, certainly among the black people, I have no doubt about that. But that's an assumption, we don't have proof of it.

     In the second place whether they have control over the masses, of course they don't, because how can they have if they've just returned from exile? The same is true for the UDF so I would say we have a problem in this country which is that of discipline, of control which will get a lot worse before we have a better situation.

POM     How do you expect it to get worse?

HVM     Well I have a feeling that while negotiations are going on the government, having been deprived of their moral base and legitimacy in the whole process, they're responsible for it partly themselves, lack the courage, the force, the legitimacy to take firm action and also because they fear that any firm action might ruin the negotiation process. I anticipate that in the transition stage the security forces will not act with the necessary firmness that is required, for the reasons I've given. I don't blame them, I'm just saying that I don't think they can. For the same reason Mandela, who is running the risk of being seen as soft or selling out because he's negotiating, especially the criticism coming from the left and from the PAC, from the radicals, he will find it very difficult to be too firm with violence.

POM     Just for clarification. When you say 'too firm', that the government won't act firmly enough, do you mean the security in relationship to the right wing or in relationship to the problem of violence in general?

HVM     I'm sorry, I don't understand your question but let me try to explain. On the one hand I see that the government has a responsibility to maintain law and order as the de facto government but I don't think their forces are in a position to take the necessary firm action about these young gangs and so on in townships. At the same time I don't think Mandela can be as firm from his side exercising moral control (I would like the vocabulary to explain what I mean) but he will hesitate to be too critical or to take too firm a stand because he must also be cautious that he doesn't estrange the radical people. Now I make a clear distinction between the armed struggle and this uncontrolled violence. Mandela has always been very clear on his distinction between disciplined force or resistance, the armed struggle, and any other kind of violence. So I anticipated that he will be firm against township violence but not there in the negotiation process. So I anticipate that until we have a negotiated settlement there will be a lack of discipline coming from above, from both the Nationalists and the ANC and therefore I anticipate an escalation of what we may call this gang violence or township violence.

     On the other hand I am not surprised at the cease-fire announced this morning because I knew this would be Mandela's stand that if we move towards a negotiated settlement he will be quite firm, he will be disciplined in it and if he was in favour of a disciplined armed struggle he will also be in favour of disciplining the armed struggle.

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

HVM     Oh without doubt. They have made it clear enough officially. Long before they did it officially they admitted it in their inner circles and this is one reason why I usually say I'm optimistic because I find very often a clear distinction between private convictions which they air when you talk to them privately, and that applies to members of the ANC Executive Committee and members of the Cabinet. They will admit things which they can never say publicly, or at least not at that time. I usually anticipate public statements a year ahead of time because I'm an Afrikaner, I grew up with these people and I have a feeling for what's going on inside and even if they won't tell me in words, when you look a man in his eyes you can see when he states something which is party line, when his heart is not in it, and I had the same feeling when I met with the ANC Executive Committee members. I predicted a year ago, two years ago, who of those people are committed communists and now it comes out, for instance, Mac Maharaj, after I met him I said I'm quite sure he's a communist but I never felt it was true for Mandela or for Thabo Mbeki and a few others. So I knew there was an intellectual acceptance among the Nationalist leaders that we must accept majority rule but emotionally it was very difficult for them to accept.

POM     Would you make a distinction between majority rule and simplistic majority rule?

HVM     I like De Klerk's distinction between majority rule and power sharing. Majority rule in his sense, he doesn't mind the concept of winner takes all which also applies to the British parliamentary system which we have in this country, that the party that gets the majority of seats, but not necessarily the majority of votes, runs the whole government and the opposition party is completely left out in the cold. Now De Klerk has been asking that while we're moving away from the British parliamentary system let us also move away from that system in our new deal, not only with regard to the existing government. In contrast to that he argues that power-sharing means that there is the dominance of the majority group but minority groups share in the decision making and in power and therefore, in what we are moving towards, it implies that the whites will participate in some way in the new system, in the government.

POM     Let me give you an example of that in the case of Northern Ireland. They tried a power-sharing executive in 1974 and the manner in which it worked was that the Catholic population, roughly 40% of the vote, was given roughly 40% of the executive positions in the Cabinet, so it had Minister of Housing and Minister for Social Welfare and what have you. Do you envisage a similar type of power-sharing here? That what De Klerk has in mind is that the white community, or the NP, is actually involved in the executive levels of government?

HDM     I'm sorry I don't know. I have given very little thought to the form or the structure of anything that will emerge and I've given no attention to constitutions. I would say probably, but I haven't given it thought.

POM     De Klerk's promise that he would take any proposed new dispensation back to the white electorate for their approval. Is that a promise he can keep?

HVM     This is a point of debate now especially in inner circles. In the first place what it implies and whether it means a referendum or what it means. There is also a debate about what the words mean and one political scientist here said that the advice he would give De Klerk is to consult the dictionary to see how many options he has of trying to bypass this commitment because it now seems that it was an unwise commitment and it's compared to Gorbachev's promise that he will consult the masses about the economic system, which seems to me a stupid thing.

     My suggestion about this was that if De Klerk hadn't made it so clear that he would consult the white constituency, his way out would have been to say that in 1983 we consulted the whites about whether we would bring coloured and Indian voters into the system. The whites then approved, 66%. Now he should say, now we want to bring in the Africans so for that reason we consult the whites, Indians and coloureds together, not separately, because we have already consulted the whites, they have agreed to this system. Now we must ask these and he doesn't need to count the votes separately or at least he could pull the votes and then he would have the majority. There are now fears that if he had a white referendum he might lose it. On the other hand the government people I've talked to assured me that they will win, they feel confident. So I'm not sure where it's leading to.

POM     How from this point on will the process unfold? We've come across about three scenarios that have been painted. One is that there is the root of the Constituent Assembly somewhere along the lines of Namibia. The second is one in which the negotiating table is broadened to bring in all political parties and that they reach some form of consensus on the way forward. The third is an amalgam of the first and third, you've got some kind of interim government along with a commission of eminent people, again perhaps representing every political point of view that would draw up a new constitution. Which path do you think is least likely and which at this point is likely?

HVM     I'm afraid I don't have an opinion, I don't know.

POM     I'll take the question of a Constituent Assembly and this is something that the government has opposed pretty vociferously because it would be conceding what they want to negotiate. Do you think a CA is likely or not likely?

HVM     I shouldn't be drawn into an argument in which I feel I have so little to say. I could speculate. I would think that the government would be hesitant to do it because they would like to be both negotiator and also mediator or in charge of the situation because the government has gone far enough, I think, for any government in conceding power (is that the right word?), or handing over power so I am not sure whether they will go much further. They would like the new government to grow out of this one so I can see their objections to having a kind of interim government or a CA because that means that they're handing over to a body which they're just a partner in. I really don't know where we're heading.

POM     Along those lines is it more likely that the government will bring in the ANC like a junior partner, that new government, as you said, will grow out of the current one?

HVM     No I thought some more radical one. I think the government is willing to hand over to the ANC. I think that one must conclude from the statements they have made saying that the government will not be the controlling member, it will be a minor member in the new system and so I believe they are heading for handing over to a new government which will be a largely ANC government, hoping that they will be assured a share in the power and the same will be true for Inkatha and for some of the other political groups.

POM     So you have political groups that would be able to exercise some power in the new dispensation?

HVM     Yes, they would like to have the assurance or they would work towards a new system in which the ANC will obviously have the larger power share and then there will be meaningful participation of other groups. But I must qualify this by saying that there are also indications that the government, many government people, today feel that they may be able to develop a coalition like the Turnhalle Alliance which would assure them, in the total vote, more votes than the ANC in which De Klerk may, strange as it sounds, end up being the President or otherwise a black person who is a member of that alliance. So there's a lot of evidence to show that this is not impossible so I must leave that open.

POM     What about the threat of the right wing, of the Conservative Party? Personally do you think if there were an election held today that the Conservative Party would command a majority of seats?

HVM     Well the situation is that if we have another election under the current constitution and the CP wins it's an old system of winner takes all and the CP will determine where we move after that. That's what happened in Rhodesia; after three elections, every election, the government got a more conservative party and eventually it was stalemate and the civil war. So if we would allow another election here we face the same situation. I believe that government will not run the risk of having another election in which the winner takes all. Therefore, as we see now we're moving towards negotiations, what I envisage is that the CP will join the negotiating table and they will, of course, make their claims. They would hope to see well they would make a claim for having a homeland or whatever, and the ANC, I think, will allow it to be put on the agenda knowing that it has no chance of succeeding but it will serve the purpose of involving the CP in the negotiation process.

     With regard to the more armed resistance of the AWB and such groups, they're not political parties and therefore I don't see them participating in the negotiations which means that they will be dealt with by the security forces, in this government by the current forces and then in the new system by the forces of the new government.

POM     Do you think there has been a significant swing of the white electorate towards the CP in the last six months?

HVM     I am not an authority on that. I don't know, but my impressions are that there will continue to be a swing because the more concessions the government makes the more voters' support it will lose. There is no doubt about that but that doesn't mean we're heading for a rebellion or a revolution. The situation is just that as long as the government makes concessions it's a fruitful field for the CP to recruit support.

POM     So you would see the swing of support to the CP as something that is part of a passing but perhaps necessary stage, that ultimately it won't be a destabilising influence in itself?

HVM     I'm not sure if that's necessary, but perhaps I do, I see it as natural and therefore I think for that reason I will say not so disturbing. Our hope lies in the fact that the government will be able to negotiate a fairly good deal, certainly much better than what the conservative whites fear. There is also on the one hand the fact that they will convince white voters that while we have to make sacrifices in the short run in the long run it's to our advantage and you can't actually make a good case or argument in the long run by words, you can only convince people by showing it works. So I would say that while we are facing severe drops in standards, many things will deteriorate because of many factors, there will be this kind of assurance that, look here, in the long run it saves our country. Something like that. I would say that the CP will certainly remain an important force and it may even retain the majority of white support in the new system so it will be something like an opposition party or whatever but I don't see these people as resorting to arms. I would say that the actual resort to violence will be limited to a very small proportion.

POM     I would to draw an analogy, and you can tell me if you think it may be valid. In Northern Ireland, where the police and security forces are almost entirely in the hands of the Protestant community, the Protestant community puts great emphasis on law and order and as a result paramilitary organisations in the Protestant community rarely have commanded any real support at all. Do you think that the Afrikaner community has, again with the security forces in their hands, always been a law and order community and that acts of violence by the right wouldn't really draw much public support?

HVM     I'm afraid I didn't follow.

POM     Well if a community considers itself to be a community that follows the law, it doesn't give much support to organisations that step outside the law, particularly commit acts of violence, even though that organisation is purportedly doing it on their behalf.

HVM     I think we have here a complicated situation. In the first place it seems to me that what the conservative community is challenging now, or questioning, is the legitimacy of the government and whether they act on their behalf. So I get the impression that certainly the conservative part of the white population do not accept the legitimacy of the current trend and therefore would their law-abiding is relevant and it doesn't apply at the moment.

POM     White fears, what are they and how deep do they run?

HVM     I have always argued that fear is an important factor that accounts for white behaviour and I've had many arguments with especially one colleague of mine who always argued that it's not fear but greed that motivates whites. There's a big distinction; if you put the emphasis on greed one is much less sympathetic to them than if you put the emphasis on fear, one is more sympathetic. I think this has been more my nature to be sympathetic to all parties so I would say the fear is while, maybe we could say objectively it cannot be justified, some of it is imaginary, and therefore one could say with education you may influence them. I would say that there are many real fears and the one fear with which I am sympathetic is that if you do have some kind of equalisation of educational opportunities and you spread the available resources more equally among white and black schoolchildren then surely there's no way you can avoid dropping the standards of white education and I am very sympathetic to any parent who says I'm not going to allow that to happen. I tend to be more sympathetic towards the whites whose fears are justified and, again, here I feel that the best way to overcome that would be to argue in terms of long run interests of these people themselves and the country and you have to make these sacrifices in order to ensure a better future for the whole country.

POM     What else would you classify as a real fear, a valid fear and what would be the imaginary ones?

HVM     I would say among the real fears would be the dropping of standards of certain services, like, for instance, medical. I've always felt that it was unfair of many of the anti-apartheid critics in the movement who would point to poor medical services for black people, implying or arguing that under a black government the blacks would get better medical services. I am worried that the services will actually be poorer for all concerned under a black government. That is not necessarily so but if you look at many of the African countries one tends to get the impression that there is a real risk of poor management and so I would say that's a real fear. On the other hand it's also true that in such a system there will be advantages in the sense that there will be a fairer distribution of services and of facilities. So perhaps one would have to accept that if you have a process of democratisation that it looks almost inevitable that you sacrifice some efficiency. It seems to me we are faced here with a kind of a choice between legitimacy and efficiency and then, of course, people tend to go for different options so I, as a humanist, tend to go for legitimacy but it seems to me we have to face the consequences of democratisation.

POM     What are the imaginary issues?

HVM     I haven't given it thought. Let's say the fear of miscegenation. We grew up with the idea that you have to have laws to prevent black people marrying your children and we never gave much thought to the fact that will our children want to marry them. We always saw that as a threat to us and as if marriage doesn't come from two sides. I have also had the impression that there will be much greater co-operation, forgiveness, conciliatory approaches on the part of blacks towards whites. To put it in simple words, I don't think the blacks are ever going to do to the whites what we did to them. I am inclined to say that we'll have a much better relationship than what many whites fear.

POM     Do you think that it is necessary as part of a healing process that the whites apologise to blacks, admit the error of their ways?

HVM     Oh yes, this is something that comes up repeatedly now at this stage. Whether De Klerk says I'm sorry and the Nationalists and the Dutch Reform Church especially. What I hear from the blacks is that they say, yes, it was wrong and that apartheid was wrong, it was a mistake but they don't say we're sorry. I believe we have to go through that process. It's important both for the whites and for the blacks.

POM     I asked Dr Heyns, the Moderator of the DRC, whether or not the church had condemned said apartheid was evil and he said no, that it was wrong and to say that it was wrong was to imply that it was evil. Do you find that a weak answer?

HVM     Yes. That's what I'm saying, I believe we will get to that. Surely Heyns himself hates this as Moderator of the church, looks over his shoulder very much to make sure he doesn't estrange himself from his following. He's a good leader but he doesn't want to move ahead too far. I believe he himself will lead the church in that direction of saying sorry but he may not say it publicly at this stage. Although I haven't expressed my own opinion, I merely said I hear from black people the need to hear from whites that they are sorry, they complain that they don't hear enough or they don't hear it at all.

POM     There seems to be a tendency at the moment for whites to say OK, let's wipe the slate clean, forget the past and start over, but you can't forget the past.

HVM     That's correct and I see this as a psychological process we go through. I think it's pride, I don't know what it is, I'm not a psychologist, I can't really speak about fears but it is a process through which I am sure we're going and all I can say is the current atmosphere of conciliation and negotiation is certainly favourable for creating an atmosphere where we will find it easy to say sorry. At the moment it's still embarrassing. You can't get them to say it with conviction.

POM     Looking at both De Klerk and Mandela, what do you think are the main obstacles or stumbling blocks that are on the path of each as they try to manage the process towards fruition?

HVM     In the first place it seems to me that personally there are fewer stumbling blocks. It seems to me that the two of them, if it was left to them then they would come to terms fairly easily.

POM     Stumbling blocks, but their respective constituencies?

HVM     I think it's their constituencies. I've always argued that because of De Klerk's following and because of Mandela's stature that they will not have major problems in coming to terms among the two leadership groups and it seems to go that way but their problem will be in selling it to their constituencies. I would say that's where we must anticipate the most trouble and in the case of De Klerk it's what we usually refer to as the right wing but then it appears to me that the civil service and the police are not such obstacles as I've always thought they would be.

     The one reason is that De Klerk has been very wise and right in the early stages of his takeover he met, over a period, with all the top civil servants in each department separately and addressed them. I've talked to a Defence Force General who tells me that his whole interpretation and view of society and of politics changed on the basis of hearing De Klerk setting it out. I have the impression that this has also happened in the police where there was all the evidence that the police actually supported, the majority of the police also on high levels, supported the Conservative Party against PW Botha. Now there are many indications that De Klerk has won over the support of the police on the high levels. I don't know about the lower levels. The same is true in the Defence Force but there I am less surprised about it because the Defence Force has always been a liberal element.

     The other reason, I suggest, that explains the police behaviour on the higher level is the fact that professionalism prevailed over personal or politics and I've always felt that the current Commissioner of Police, General Johan van der Merwe, really leaned towards the Conservative Party and now he's come out in very strong support of De Klerk and that applies to several of the Generals in the police force. All I can say is that they turned out to be professional policemen and they were willing to follow the current leadership. But that has as much to do, especially what I hear from some of the top people, with personalities because they found President Botha so objectionable so as soon as they had any political disagreement with him they turned

POM     They abandoned him.

HVM     Yes, and in the case of De Klerk, because he's a convincing man, he's pleasant, he's respectful, they also show him respect.

POM     Is there any chance that if De Klerk moves too quickly he will lose his constituency to the point that it would result in a backlash that would topple him or stop the process?

HVM     I don't see any such possibility. Theoretically, of course, it should be true but I just don't see this happening. I just mentioned the case of the church leader Heyns who is cautious in moving because he's afraid that he may lose his influence in the church and so that's true for many leaders. I know for over many years many political leaders and church leaders have used that argument to justify their conservatism which I never found very convincing. I have just not thought of that argument as applying to De Klerk. It seems to me De Klerk has this moral commitment, he's doing what he thinks is right and then he explains it to his constituency. It's not that De Klerk argues, how much can I do? Of course he does, in practical politics you have to. When he develops strategy and so on he has to say look here, is it right to do it at this stage or at this step? But it seems to me there is less of this element of calculation in De Klerk's case, it's more a matter of, I'm committed and how will I implement it?

PAT     Can you explain something to us about the security forces that might not be apparent which is in the last two weeks the disclosure of documents that had been uncovered and it was a major news story. It looks embarrassing in some ways to De Klerk. Nobody has been reprimanded. Is this just a matter of journalism in the way it is reported or is there some aspect of discipline and the relationship between the security forces and the government?

HVM     I have no inside information but I felt quite sure that on both sides, in the case of MK, of Chris Hani and uMkhonto weSizwe and the Communist Party, and on the other side the security forces, that they have been severely reprimanded by the top leadership. But surely they will never make this known, it will never be said publicly. I think De Klerk was very embarrassed and he must have been very angry and he just called them to task. I think on both sides it happened.

POM     This is just speculation, but do you think in the case of the police that this was something that began at the top levels, orchestrated at the top levels or was it orchestrated at a middle level and accepted by the top?

HVM     No, I would say it's a natural thing in the police. It's their job to uncover such things and they all like to take credit for something so they found evidence and they got too excited, they threw it out of proportion and there was a lot of truth in it and I think really I don't know the inside information, I'm speculating - but I would guess that when they read the minutes and they saw somebody was addressed as Joe, they never gave it any thought whether it was Joe Slovo or the other Joe and so they go ahead and they publish it saying Joe Slovo was there. It seems to me this was a very natural thing for the police to do. If you want to be sinister you can say, oh, it was because they wanted to ruin the Sunday meeting but if they did, which I am sure they did, it also is evidence of their stupidity because to blow this up is just going to bring more support for the communists among the blacks. By having this front page news in the week before the public launching of the Communist Party this will just bring more people to that meeting. It brings estrangement because it will scare the whites and encourage the blacks because surely many blacks would have argued, oh fine, we're still working, the revolution is still going on, so it will encourage them and therefore endanger the negotiations, the talks.

POM     When you look at Mandela with his constituency, what obstacles does he face, what stumbling blocks lie in his path?

HVM     I'm not sure if I should try to comment on that. Is there something else? The questions you ask me, there are so many other people who know much better than I do.

POM     It's a range of opinion that I'm interested in. A few people have said to us that the unbanning of the ANC and the SACP really exposed a lot of divisions, brought to the surface a lot of divisions within the broader liberation movement itself.

HVM     Yes. People have often argued that once the UDF is transformed into a political party it will split into five parties.

POM     The divisions or obstacles within the liberation movement, that the real differences between the PAC and the ANC - you've worked with the PAC?

HVM     I really at this moment don't see how the PAC will come into the negotiation process. They have to be included because they can't be left out, they would sabotage the agreement if they're left out so they have to be in. In the case of Inkatha it seems to me that the whites will bring them in as allies in the process. In the case of the CP I think they will come in because they will come and make their claim for their kind of proposal. The PAC, I'm not quite sure, so I don't have an opinion on what to anticipate. One reads occasionally about meetings between the PAC and the ANC so it's not inconceivable they could come to terms especially under Mandela's leadership. It's not impossible that something can be achieved but if I listen to some ANC people, and especially abroad, even in private discussions there is no indication that they will come to terms, and this I hear in SA too. So I don't know what the developments will be.

PAT     Do you think they have the capacity to completely derail the process if, as you say, they are not brought in they will sabotage it?

HVM     I think to say completely derail, I would say that's not correct. I would say sabotage, that means that they cause damage to the arrangement, the same as the white right wing, although I'm less worried about the white right wing than about the PAC partly because I see the white right wing as kind of a transition phase and also I don't see large numbers involved in white right wing violence. I would say that there's a lot of threat and they will go on marches and they will come on horseback and even carry guns but I don't think they will continue for a long time with mass violence. In the case of the PAC while it's also got a relatively small following there is a kind of a commitment that I'm worried about.

POM     Natal and the violence there. Could you just very quickly give your interpretation of what you think the violence is about and whether matters can be brought under control and whether if it is not brought under control that it may again undermine the negotiation process nationally?

HVM     It's not clear to me yet to what extent the Natal violence undermines the national negotiation process. I really don't know. I see it as a long term thing. I see no short term solution for it. I see it as continuing over generations, not just the next decade. The major problem at the moment is that the violence that's committed at this time is almost all of it seems to me retribution and vengeance, and so even if you come to terms now there will be people who feel that they have been wronged last week or last year and they take revenge. Then the problem then is that every event takes on a political character. So if there is a bus accident or if there's a shack burning or if somebody gets shot then the two parties are identified as Inkatha and UDF or ANC and therefore everything becomes politicised.

     Now I'm not sure at the moment what the chances are that there will be some kind of political reconciliation. On the part of Nelson Mandela there is no doubt that he wants to come to terms and, as you know, he publicly said he wanted to meet Buthelezi. On Buthelezi's side there is also no doubt about his public commitment and it's interesting (now this won't be published soon?) the one thing that worried me was this man I just talked to, Terror Lekota, assured me that they will not allow Mandela to meet with Buthelezi publicly because they are afraid that would give him too much legitimacy. And now just a few days ago Lekota came out in a public statement, a very firm statement, pleading with ANC supporters not to take revenge. Now it may be that Lekota has now come around in his thinking and being more conciliatory so it is not impossible that there will be some kind of political conciliation in Natal which would not defuse the situation but would help to. That would certainly make things easier but it's not going to end the violence.

     I see the violence as in the first place the need for political conciliation but, secondly, you need the whole educational and upliftment development programme because much of it is also linked, just like Northern Ireland, with unemployment and poverty. If we want to address these matters it seems to me we're faced with a very long educational programme.

POM     You said that Lekota said, "We will not let him meet with Buthelezi." Is Mandela tied to the internal process of the ANC itself, it's decision making mechanism, the NEC, or can he rise above it and take them with him?

HVM     Well there is an interplay of power between them and in this case Mandela came out of prison with a very firm commitment to meet with all parties, including Buthelezi, and a meeting was scheduled. Then it was cancelled and I only know two references about it; one is Mandela himself at a later occasion, when he felt the opportunity was right, using the expression, he said, "When I came with a proposal to meet with Buthelezi I was almost strangled." The other one was Lekota telling me it won't happen. In fact he said they will never meet. I thought, well, given these circumstances here Mandela certainly was not able to do what he was convinced should be done.

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.