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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

08 Aug 1990: Zille, Helen

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POM     We're talking with Helen Zille on the 8th of August in Cape Town. Helen among your membership to start with, your friends, colleagues, whatever, were they taken by surprise by the events of the 2nd of February when De Klerk made his announcement of the unbanning of the ANC and SACP? And what do you think motivated him to move so rapidly and so broadly at one time?

HZ     Well there are two points to that question. The first is, were people taken by surprise and the second part what made him do what he did? It's really easy in retrospect to say that one was foreseeing these developments but especially following the Bermuda Conference that I was at in March of the previous year, 1989, and subsequent developments, I felt and said as much in an interview with the BBC the week before, that his speech on the Friday of the opening of parliament will be primarily geared to meet at least some of the major pre-conditions to negotiations that have been set. And I think that that is what he did. I think that speech was an attempt to try and build towards meeting at least some of the pre-conditions that had been set by the ANC and the international community for negotiations to get underway. And there was clearly going to be no progress until some of those pre-conditions had been met. Primarily opening the political space to enable the major players to organise their constituencies and to play a role in transition.

     Now that signified a very major switch because until that point the government's stated policy had been to try and marginalise the resistance groupings, the major resistance groupings, and particularly the ANC as a player in the transition. So while there were at least at some levels aware that apartheid in terms of discrimination entrenched in law would have to go, they had not yet acknowledged in any way that the ANC in particular and the PAC and the other resistance marginalizes were major players in that process. They thought that they could undercut their constituencies, marginalise their constituencies, by a mixture of co-option and reform on the one hand and very hard hitting security, repressive security measures on the other. Now that fundamentally changed and it had been in the process of changing for the 18 months prior to that.

     Now I felt convinced at a particular point in the middle of last year that the government was going to move towards unbanning the ANC and the PAC. I mentioned that quite strongly, especially to people while we were in Bermuda. Lots of people were arguing that it was structurally impossible for that to happen from the government's perspective and from their constituencies' perspective and from the strategic agendas perspective. Now the reason why it happened must be seen as a mixture of structural forces and the role of the individuals concerned. And I think it is a combination of both. The structural forces that came to play in that process were numerous and based on political developments and political perspectives that had been evolved through the political process of the last five years. Now, these were insights that had developed within the National Party itself in a way that is very analogous to the perceptions that developed for example, around the collapse of petty apartheid, in the sense that developments on the ground themselves made it quite clear to the government, for example, that they couldn't sustain influx control by which the majority of Africans were to be kept out of the cities and in the rural areas.

POM     When you talk about structural problems you're talking about problems in the socio-organisation of the economy, demographics?.

HZ     Right. Then in those processes, they've made a particular political policy untenable and unworkable. And once that acknowledgement has been made a number of things have to follow. And I think it is that kind of process that we have been seeing over the last ten years at least. The acknowledgement that that process has happened, the acknowledgment that that process has made certain political policies untenable and the logical consequences of that that have to follow. And I think that that's what you are seeing at the moment. That the process is irreversible I think is true. What the outcome will be is highly open to debate. And that is where we are seeing a complete flux and very few predictions possible.

POM     In that connection, let me ask you some standard questions that I have been asking of people and getting a very great variety of responses. Do you think De Klerk has conceded on the issue of majority rule?

HZ     I think he's conceded on the issue that everybody has to have an equally weighted vote in a common system. What that system is going to be is the subject of negotiations. I think if you have agreed on the principle of everybody having an equal vote in a common system, that by definition means that blacks are going to be the majority in that system. And then the question arises what are the protections and guarantees for the minorities? That is going to be the subject of, the crux I think, of a constitutional discussion. I think it's going to be a sine qua nom that everybody is going to have.

POM     The government tends to talk in terms of power sharing, the sharing of power and responsibilities. And it seems to me sometimes that the government sees that maybe somehow as the final solution, where as power sharing for the ANC would just be an interim step on the way to a final solution. Do you think the two often are at cross purposed, when they use phrases like that.

HZ     You see ultimately a negotiated constitution is going to be one where the political rules of the game are considered legitimate by most of the major players, if not all, and their constituencies. Now I can't see a situation, and I'm sure the government couldn't be so naïve as to have a situation in which you'd get a player with a limited constituency, a small constituency probably under 10% of the votes, playing as powerful a role in government as a constituency with 45% of the votes, or 55% of the votes. So I don't think that that is on the agenda if power sharing is seen to be a mechanism where by differently weighted constituencies have an equal role in government and administration. I don't see anybody is so naïve as to see it as that. I do know that the government is thinking very clearly of power sharing in the transition, which is probably what the ANC is perceiving as well. But ultimately, the exercise of power will be determined by the rules in the constitution. And at worse or at best, depending on which way you look at it, there's going to be a mechanism whereby legislation will have to get a certain percentage of the support of different parties involved to be able to be passed. But a transition is going to last a long time.

POM     You say a long time, you mean?

HZ     It may not take a long time to get an agreement on a constitution, it may take a much longer time when one is looking at the transition, for example, of administration, in running this country. And in that sense there is going to be fundamental power sharing because there is no way that you can take the bureaucracy as it is established now and replace it overnight or even in a matter of a year with a completely new bureaucracy. So the interim period is going to be a much longer and more complex one.

POM     Give me a ball park, I want to know how many years I'll be coming back here.

HZ     Well it depends upon where you're going to be putting the full stop at the end of your book. But I would say, they have to reach an agreement on a new constitution before the next election is due which is in 1994.

POM     1994.

HZ     Yes, 1994. They have to do that because the government cannot face its electorate, as you've probably heard from a lot a people, in a situation where they haven't been able to deliver constitutional agreement in a situation where the whole fabric of the society is falling apart through violence. I mean they just absolutely cannot go to an electorate under those conditions. So they have got to reach a constitutional settlement and let's say it happens in the next three to four years. Let's say three years. Then the nuts and bolts of transition are really going to start happening and I say it is going to take another three years from that point. So let's look at transition being a process not an event. And let's look at it being a very multi-faceted process and let's look at it having an outcome in which the administration of the government is directly responsive to the political decisions that that government makes. I mean that will take about six years at least.

POM     You talked about De Klerk going back to the white electorate, without a constitution in place, he has given an undertaking that any new dispensation would be put before a white electorate. Is that a promise he can keep?

HZ     He's got to.

POM     Does this not imply a veto power to the white electorate?

HZ     It does.

POM     When you say he's got to, he's got to because?

HZ     He's made that promise. And I think it is one of those very, very few things that is holding the white constituency intact as the transition proceeds. I think it is the only guarantee they've got right now. I mean what he is basically saying to them and what his ministers have said to him is, follow me into the future, trust us, there are no guarantees, we are going to negotiate ourselves out of power and they've said that very clearly and unambiguously, and perhaps in the words of Gerrit Viljoen who is the chief constitution maker at the moment, we will not be in power and that will be the outcome of the negotiations. Now to tell that to a constituency that you've told for forty years that the sole command of political power has been their key to survival in the subcontinent, that's taking a major political risk and one has seen the outcome of that political risk in cases like Umlazi, although there were other factors involved there as well and one seeing that in the kind of violent resistance that's developing from the far right. That was a deliberated calculated policy by de Klerk, as I understand it, to say, what we need to do is give the white constituency a psychological safeguard by saying to them, you will decide whether you can accept the outcome or not as the case may be. It also gives him strong leverage in any negotiations to say I can't sell that to the white constituency obviously. And he will use it for those political purposes I have absolutely no doubt. But taking the white constituency with you after a psychological break of such major propositions is not a minor concern for a politician and a solution won't work in South Africa unless the two major players, the ANC and the government, can bring a majority of whites and blacks with them into the new constitution.

POM     When you look at what appears to be the rising strength in the Conservative Party and the threat from the right, do you see either or both as a passing phase, something that had to be gone through in the road to some place else or do you see them as potentially explosive obstacles?

HZ     They could be either. I think anybody who is going to make a very firm prediction on that could be proved wrong.

POM     What would make it potentially explosive?

HZ     What would make it potentially explosive is if de Klerk was unable to hold the bulk of his constituency in the Transvaal and in the Orange Free State, especially. And if that growing resistance saw or came to believe that constitutional politics was no longer a way to safeguard their interests. That would make it explosive. At this stage the Conservative Party still believes that they can have an influence through constitutional political processes. And they believe that they can still, for example, force the government into an election or defeat the government when it calls a white referendum on the new constitutional proposals. And that is to a large extent what is keeping them in the process. Their very good showing at the Umlazi by-election, I don't know whether or not you know about that, has been another factor in keeping them in the process as it were because they see that there is still a way in which to mobilise and reflect their support through constitutional process.

     There are very many groupings on the far right who do not believe that's possible any more. That the very Rubicon in a very real sense has been crossed to the extent that even the ceding of state power now will make it irreversible. And so they have basically ditched working within the system as the phase goes in South Africa, for the kind of resistance that you see bubbling up and boiling up all over. Now if that becomes, which it isn't yet, the general analysis on the far right, it will be explosive.

POM     Do you think that the Conservative Party, well two things, one is now the voice of Afrikaner nationalism and two, just if there was an election held today would the Conservative Party command a majority of seats?

HZ     There is no doubt that the government has ditched the rhetoric of all star Afrikaner nationalism. They are talking about South Africanism in a much broader sense. And if you talk about Afrikaner nationalism premised on the idea that the Afrikaner is a distinct and separate nation with a right to govern itself and its own territory which was the hallmark of Afrikaner nationalist rhetoric, then there is no doubt that the Conservative Party has seized that rhetoric if that is how one defines Afrikaner nationalism. If one defines it differently as the right of any of South African people to pursue their own culture, their own religion, their own language, then the Conservative Party couldn't claim to be the sole repository of Afrikaner nationalism. But if one's defining it in the former sense, which is the way it has traditionally been defined in South Africa, then it is.

     Whether they would command a majority in the election, there is a simple projection of Umlazi . But the Umlazi circumstances were different in the sense that they took place in Natal which is a particular province for all sorts of reasons where the whole process of orderly transition is seen to be unattainable for all sorts of reasons. Where people feel particularly threatened and nervous and the fact that it was a by-election makes people much more likely to cast a protest vote than they would potentially be if there was a general reason. So I think for all of those reasons, one can't make a simple projection from Umlazi to the country as a whole.

POM     Would you see people voting for the Conservative Party as being a vote against something rather than a vote for something?

HZ     You see it would depend on the specific circumstances in which that election were held. If it were held in the worst case scenario from the government's point of view in which there'd been failure to reach an agreement on a new constitution in which violence would become totally endemic and was tearing apart the structure and fabric of South African life. If there was a very real feeling that a process had been embarked upon with no clear vision and no possibility of an outcome because the differences between the key constituencies were too vast to reach some kind of compromise, then I have no doubt that there would be a major, major protest vote against that kind of situation and a strong desire to get to a situation in which a government could impose some form of law and order. If on the other hand one had the figure of Nelson Mandela who is a figure of tremendous stature rising above the constituency and presenting an image of reasonableness, moderation, rational outcome, non-racialism, all the issues that symbolise what most South Africans want which is peace and a decent future together and if one has a constitution that manages to compromise to achieve that kind of result, then I would say that there'd be a chance that a lot of South Africans would say the alternative to that is too ghastly to contemplate and one wouldn't have the protest vote even if a lot of people felt they had to compromise a lot of their principles to support it.

POM     Patricia and I were in Port Elizabeth and while we were there we talked to Judy Chalmers and I was asking her about the reaction among her friends to de Klerk's initiatives and she said oddly enough that many of them were talking in terms of leaving South Africa. That many had anxiety and fears about their anxieties and that there was a peculiar irony to it because it would appear that many of those who had opposed apartheid all their lives were now going to get out of if it was gotten rid of whereas those who were for it all their lives would be left in South Africa. What kind of experiences have you had with your friends? What kind of concerns or whatever have been expressed?

HZ     The transition for whites is going to be much more traumatic than they ever thought and especially for very many liberal ones who took some kind of comfort in opposition to apartheid and yet had never thought through the logical consequences of what the alternatives would be, will find the transition very, very difficult indeed. Cape Town is a specifically interesting example of that kind of transition because Cape Town to a large degree has not been part of Africa in any serious way. It has always been this kind of Mediterranean toe on the foot of Africa with a so called Coloured majority and a very fundamental affinity between white and Coloured people, not in a political sense because there has been rather political conflict in that in area, but particularly in the sense of a common culture. It's been a much less problematic reaction in many ways than, for example, one would have had between whites and Africans in the Transvaal.

     The demographics of Cape Town have made it an easy option for white Capetonians to be liberal. And they have been liberal. But the demographics and everything else is changing fundamentally. It will be very fascinating to watch black Cape Town's politics in that transition. And it's very interesting to see how things are happening already. For example, what we call squatters, which is a term for homeless people who go and build their shelters where they can. Moving into places, strong liberal constituencies, Noordhoek, upper class liberal constituencies who have always lived 50 kilometers from the nearest black place of residence. Now Africans are moving in, building their shelters next to some of the best houses. And people are actually realising what transition is going to mean. It doesn't mean monopolising the land and monopolising an area that is conveniently distant and has domestic helpers coming in from a long distance away but actually is going to mean finding land for the homeless, building structures for the homeless and incorporating a vastly changing demographic situation in our own city. It's leading to incredible nervousness and resistance amongst whites who, I'm sure, traditionally, have viewed themselves as very liberal. Public prices falling, those sorts of issues have been critical.

     I've just watched in the place that I live which is Rondebosch, and the situation we've seen there in which they wanted to start a school, that was the Leadership Educational Advancement Foundation, LEAF, wanted to start a school to teach African children maths and science in an old building that used to be used by the Technikon in the middle of Rondebosch. Now granted Rondebosch residents don't like students in the middle of where they live despite the fact that it has the highest per capita school rate of any suburb in South Africa, but nevertheless, when the black students were going to move in there Rondebosch mobilised and they did it on very non-racial grounds because they're liberal and faced up to, realised that you can't use race for arguments. But nevertheless they used all kinds of spurious planning arguments and everything else, which, you know, the City of Cape Town cannot give the go ahead for it to happen. I mean planning consideration has to been taken and (the objections) were not regarded as significant The extent to which the residents of Rondebocsh mobilised indicated to me that there were a lot of other issues at work there. And although none of them used the racist arguments, the fact that there were going to be black students in the middle of a white residential neighbourhood was a fundamental fact. Although they would deny it furiously. But there seems to be a lot of, and the defensiveness seems to me to indicate that that was a major factor, and the property price with students in the neighbourhood etc., etc. in spite of the fact that it has always been the place where students have lived. As I have said that they like having white students there but the fact that it was black students just. The fact that LEAF will go ahead now anyway, thank goodness, etc., etc., is beside the point, The response indicates to me that white residents of Rondebosch will be incredibly nervous about it. Equally when UCT buys up lots and flats to put students in, residents don't like it because students are moving in there per se but because they are 90% black students the response is much more pointed.

     So I think, in the transition if violence continues to escalate and if one has the increasing disjuncture that one is seeing between the accord amongst the elite not reflected on the ground, the continuing tradition of total lack of respect across the political spectrum for political competition, which characterises South Africa, you are going to see more and more whites saying it was great and we always opposed apartheid but we can't get into this kind of situation. And a lot of people taking their options and leaving if they can. I mean the value of the rand keeps a lot of people here.

POM     You mentioned the level of violence and a common theme running through the interviews we have done seems to be a concern with violence per se. That is that this has just become a very violent country with huge increases in all categories of crimes over the last few years and people are associating more and more the process of change with increasing levels of violence.

HZ     I think that's true. I think we are looking at a situation where people are genuinely expecting to have an accord between the major political actors and an increase of violence on the ground. And so you can have a cease-fire between the government and the ANC, but what's that going mean in Crossroads or in Natal or amongst the white ... constituency? And in South Africa and largely as a result of apartheid, although I wouldn't say entirely, because I think we must get out of the very convenient temptation of blaming everything on apartheid because we'll never take responsibility for what happens in its vacuum if we do that. I think largely as a result of apartheid there's absolutely no tradition or culture of respect for political competition. So people delineate their areas of political space and if anybody else comes and tries to organise in that political space violence tends to be the outcome. I see that in all sorts of areas.

POM     Let me tell you something else we've been hearing in that regard, is that, again, a number of people have said that you have the ANC and Inkatha and the violence there, political competition and you have the ANC try to make inroads into Sebokeng and the Labour Party there were responding but they see a pattern of where the ANC goes to organise, of violence resulting. And they came to interpret that in the sense of the ANC wanting a one party state. What would your reaction be?

HZ     Again there is a disjunction between what the leadership says and the political culture on the ground. There is a complete disjuncture in all our politics. I mean there is a complete disjuncture I think where de Klerk is at and where the majority of his followers are at. I think there is equally a disjuncture between the political rhetoric that Nelson Mandela and Joe Slovo would use about multi-party systems and translating that into political behaviour on the ground. Now, I can just perhaps illustrate this by some anecdotal examples. I went to a meeting recently at which some young lions, as they call it, I don't know if you know the phrase, but it's basically the cadres on the ground, brought up and questioned the speaker quite strongly about this multi-party state idea and said won't that allow reactionary elements to undermine the victories we've achieved in the revolution? And the speaker was at great pains to explain that one would never be able to bring peace or stability into this country if one did not allow people with different views to organise politically. But that is a long term political culture that has to develop. That basically says, I might not agree with what my opponent says but he has a right to organise and to organise for the same supporters as I'm going to. Now that's a political culture that has never been fostered in South Africa, especially not from the efficient politicals. I mean they denied the right of the main opposition organisations to exist even be a member of those. Now that is going to be a long time in coming. And that is a critical component of the transition process of really trying to get infused into the political culture of South Africa the idea of respect for political competition. That a guy can get up right next to you and say, I don't agree with what you say, I'm going to try to convince the people that you want to be your supporters that they should to accept that.

     Another anecdotal example, we recently had a major strike in Cape Town which was with the Cape Town City Council's workers going out on strike and there were big rallies in support of the workers. And there were a number of intake who see themselves very much as workerist parties and wanted to support the struggles of the workers. Now some people from the new Unity Movement, which is one of those parties, there was a small party in Cape Town, very small but significant for a number of reasons that we won't get into now, came into one of those mass rallies and held up their banner to show that they were supporting the workers struggle and some ANC young lions came down and nearly killed them to make sure that they took their banner down. And basically, they, the one person said to me, 'I thought we were going to go down there fighting.' Because they all rallied in front of their banner and said look we don't want your banner going up, we're also putting our banner up. And there was absolutely, in terms of the person who told this story, fundamental opposition to their right to put up their banner at a meeting displaying solidarity with the force of South African Municipal Workers Union and their struggle with the Cape Town City Council. So it's that kind of syndrome that is going to be one of the most fundamental things we are going to have to tackle in a transition to democracy. Because that obviously now is at the heart of what many of us understand as a democracy which is the right to organise in opposition.

POM     Did you make, again going back to demographics, a distinction between the youth who, a generation raised in protest who know only protest and what their expectation in this whole process are?

HZ     Yes I do make a distinction.

POM     Like there's something called learned helplessness, it's something that's like all these kids have learned is protest so the only way they can behave is through protest because that's all they know.

HZ     There are two things, one is that they're the generation that's been raised on protest. They're also the generation that has been raised on political demands. And political demands are premised on the idea that the political party is going to deliver on those demands. So it has therefore become a generation that's been raised on expectations as well. Now that's an absolutely mass effect. Because the politics of protest and resistance, the politics of demand, and the politics of expectation have led to the idea that the government is going, the post-apartheid government is going to be in a position to deliver on those demands which are set down in the Freedom Charter particularly.

     Equally it has been a generation of youth who've been raised on a particular vision of how change will come about in South Africa. And that vision hasn't particularly been changed by incremental reform, negotiation and adaptation to one which is opposed to apartheid South Africa. That vision of been changed by victory. Change by victory through revolution. Now it's incredibly difficult to take an entire youth culture, and the youth are a very, very potent and important political force in South Africa. From 1976 on the youth themselves have been the vanguard of resistance politics in South Africa in a major. So you've got protest, demands, expectations and a vision of how change will happen. The ANC's now having to say actually change is going to have to happen by negotiation and by transformation but it will be a process of transformation. Not an event in which we will wipe the slate clean, dissolve present structures and create new ones from the beginning. We will also have to change our demands into goals because we can't deliver. No government can deliver. So demands have to be transformed into goals that we work towards incrementally. We are also going to have make other parties play a role and oppose us in the process. What do you say to the youth constituency who have in fact been the vanguard of the struggle, the young lions, the people who have really put themselves on the line to make the country ungovernable, and to do all the things to make the school ungovernable, etc., etc., all things that were part of the developing strategy? To suddenly turn around and say that all the political truism that they have emboldened, put themselves on the line for, aren't going to materialise, is an absolutely major thing.

POM     If there were a majority government tomorrow morning, what difference in the quality life of the average person in a township or a squatters camp would it make over the next four or five years?

HZ     Look, overnight it would make no difference. If you're talking about four or five years then it critically depends on the resources that the new government has to put in to socio-economic development. And it critically depends on the performance of the economy to sustain those resources. And those are the critical variables. Another variable is the extent to which the more privileged constituency, and particularly the white constituency, can accept politically the need for redistribution in certain ways. So those are going to be the critical variables that are going to be involved in this process.

     Now the hardest thing in South African history is going to be to be the first post-apartheid government in South Africa. They are going to look at those expectations, and I'm probably over-simplifying, but I think that a lot of people expect when there is an ANC government they will have a decent house, that they will have a decent school, and that they will have a decent lifestyle and probably pay no rent, although that's probably pushing it, you know, I mean I think people do accept that they have to pay rent but don't make the economic connection if they have a 40,000 rand house it is going to be probably more than they are going to afford. The two key issues that I come up against again and again are jobs and houses, so people basically think they can have a job because the state's going to guarantee them a job. And they are going to have a house.

     Now within one to two years of becoming to power no post-apartheid government is going to be able to deliver on either of these. There's a current housing shortage of eight hundred and fifty thousand units. I don't know quite what the unemployment rate is, nobody can measure it. Now to provide everybody with a house over the next twenty years has been calculated, it's an easy figure to calculate because you can project the number of people in this housing shortage now 850,000, one in 7 South Africans lives in a shack, it's going to be one hundred and two billion, it's a figure that is being used. Now there is absolutely no way that even over twenty years a post-apartheid government is going to find a hundred and two billion rand to build everybody a formal structure.

     There are huge other priorities. I mean salvaging the education system for this society which is in a crisis beyond anybody's understanding, which is going to leave us with two generations of African children who are functionally illiterate and incorporating those people who yearly put themselves in the vanguard of the struggle into a post-apartheid functioning political economy, are going to be such vast challenges that take up so many resources, that even with the best will in the world and even with the highest cooperation of the more privileged sectors of the society, which frankly can be put in doubt, there is no way that any post-apartheid government can be even be able to begin to meet some of these expectations.

POM     Again where does this leave the youth? I mean it seems, one, that they are being asked to adjust to ahead of expectations in the process of change itself, that they haven't previously rejected and now there is nothing materially coming out of the transition either.

HZ     Very little.

POM     The question of where does this leave, say, the organisation like the PAC? I mean is it waiting there to just be a magnet to attract the disaffected?

HZ     Sure, and it's got a lot of potential in the medium term to do so.

POM     From the people you talk to, from the ANC, people on the ground, community organisers or whatever, are they aware of these problems.

HZ     Yes.

POM     Is that moving up through the ranks to the leadership?

HZ     The leadership is more aware than the people on the ground. When you say about the specific condition, it's critically concerned about these kinds of problems. That's why, for example, there's a major housing campaign now. To try and see how much money the state can put into housing now instead of afterwards with a completely impossible task on their hands. But the problem by definition is impossible, an impossible task. They are aware of these problems, the leadership particularly but the transition has come much more quickly than a lot of people expected and so to make the transition from protest politics to politics of transition, I mean of resistance to the politics of transition and transformation is an incredibly difficult process. And the ANC's also within a huge policy vacuum, they haven't got policies on some of the key issue. They are developing policies and they are developing them quite fast. But if you haven't got the empirical data and if you haven't got policy positions within the empirical data it's extremely difficult to embark on a major campaign. But they do you know. They do realise.

POM     Some people that we've talked with mentioned the thinness of the leadership ranks within the ANC itself, take out a couple of exceptional individuals, and that the rest are not what one would call of major leadership potential. How do you read the ANC since it has been back? How would you rate its performance from the ways you have run into it? Everyone talks about the telephone system, Johannesburg is just a mess. We used to send, make telephone calls non-stop, send faxes, have telegrams delivered and go there in person, or just to try to get to anyone and there was a logjam, nothing moved, chaos.

HZ     Really in Johannesburg? I mean here the phone system continues to work reasonably.

PK     But we're told they don't have much in the way of staff. And that's kind of natural to us to expect in an organisation that is unbanned but the issue of discipline and of organisational structures, the assimilation of the UDF into the ANC.

HZ     So your specific question is how do I rate the performance in what?

POM     As an organisation trying to get its act together and having to deal with many things it was unprepared to deal with, is it growing fast enough to deal with the demands being made of it?

HZ     Well first of all I think the ANC was taken by surprise by the events of the 2nd February. Now to transform yourself from a very illegal underground movement, despite the fact that you had your allies up front and legal, for example UDF, into a political party in its own right would be a major task. And they've got a thousand other things to do at the same time. They've got to prepare an agenda for negotiation, they've got to prepare policy issues or policy positions across a wide front for those negotiations, they've got to start organising their structures and they've got to start transforming the political debate in order to take the constituency with them. Now that is a formidable list of tasks when you're talking about a very thin leadership structure on the ground which is the inevitable consequence of being banned for so many years. I mean you are talking about very weak organisational structures on the ground which is an equally inevitable consequence of the state of emergency which effectively destroyed all your organisation that was there even if it wasn't with the ANC, or destroyed much of it, I can't say all of it, but a great deal of it. Now with those kinds of demands and very underdeveloped organisational structures it would be impossible for any organisation with the best will in the world, to meet that kind of list of demands that was placed on it in the constricted space of time that they face.

     If one looks at the thin level of leadership, I want to say that I think the ANC has probably a greater developed leadership corps than almost any other political party in South Africa, I mean if one looks at the National Party Cabinet you could probably pick three leadership people out of that and the rest might be good administrators or good in their particular field but they are not political leadership quality in the sense that one understands that term. Where the National Party is strong is that it's good on administration in comparative terms because it's got all the experience and all the people in place. It has got a lot of research and strategic options and policy positions up its sleeve. And its entrenched in actually running the country at the moment, so it's got a lot of experience in that area. But where the ANC is strong is on charismatic leadership. I mean they've got quite a range of that leadership. If one is looking at weakness of leadership then the PAC is in a critically weak position. They have got potential but they have no up-front or clear leadership figures within them or within their ranks that have been visible to me at any rate. So, yes, the ANC might have a thin leadership corps but at least they've got one.

POM     We probably has to stop now.

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.