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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
10 Aug 1990: Maphai, Vincent
POM We're talking with Vincent Maphai on the 10th of August. Vincent, when did you come back to the country?
VM In January.
POM In January. OK. Did De Klerk's speech on the 2nd of February take you by surprise and what do you think motivated him to move so broadly and so sweepingly at that point in time?
VM Yes, to answer the first part of the question, yes, it was quite surprising and I certainly expected him to - he had already given an indication that he would make some reforms but he certainly went much beyond all the wildest expectations. And if you ask me what motivated him, frankly I don't know and I know there has been a whole of speculation. One view actually says that De Klerk has always been a reformist, but that he played his cards very, very close to his chest. And the second point linked with that is the fact that he belongs to one of the three sister Afrikaans churches in the country called the Gereformeerde, which is also known as the "burghers". Now, it's difficult to translate that in English because all three Afrikaans churches have three different Afrikaans names but they all translate into "Reformed Church" in English. English doesn't have three versions. Now, if the church that has the reputation, and I don't speak authoritatively, but it has the reputation of being one of the more enlightened or the least reactionary of the three. Now, this clearly says that church has always made De Klerk an enlightened politician but he knew that his constituency was in the Transvaal and therefore, he could not afford to be open, he needed to carry his constituency if he needed to make any progress.
And a good example of somebody who did not adopt that strategy will be the Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, who is also from the Transvaal, also enlightened by party politics, but has always been unable to carry the whole constituency with him. And so, what this theory says is that De Klerk was aware of that shortcoming. And then he decided to lie low and left no footprints wherever he has been. And that when the opportunity came , when he was elected first, Party Leader, not President, and while Botha was still President, he made it a point to talk to everybody in business, people outside the government, to find out exactly where we are. And then he thought his timing was to do it now, because he was still powerful to do it and he didn't want to negotiate in a weak position that Smith did.
The other view was simply that De Klerk is a right-winger. I mean, the only footprints he left were those of a right-winger in their party. And the Conservative Party has always taunted him into joining the Conservative Party because they felt that's where he belonged. And so, the second view says, well, that's where he has always belonged. But that, like Nixon, although Nixon was very strongly anti-communist, he was the first President, really to open the doors. And others say, well, there is no rational explanation except that he happened to be there at the right time, he was a right-winger but he happened to be there when sanctions were beginning to bite and when the effects of the first state of emergency were such that the first state of emergency was also beginning to fade and the movement was beginning to resurrect itself from the UDF to the Mass Democratic Movement and that he thought to prevent things from getting worse, he just had to act. In other words, one view says it was a matter of principle and the other view says he was a pragmatic right-winger.
POM Do you think the government has a strategy, a plan, a result that they are aiming to get to in stages, or do you think that this is all ad hoc, that anything can happen?
VM They should have some plan. But as you know, sociologically it's easy to initiate change but not always to foresee the unintended consequences or to control that change for any reason. I think definitely the government has some plans but I don't think they will be able to control the situation. I think, for instance, that politically they have decided to hand over power. I think they are now settled for majority rule but they will hand it over in such a way that there are constitutional measures to safeguard their main interests, particularly the economic interests. Because I think that De Klerk is much closer to business and away from the army than, say, his predecessor was. And so what I think they will do is to follow the kinds of strategies that were recommended by the English philosopher, Locke, will try to make sure that the new South Africa carries with it the existing economic power relations. I don't think he would like to see that changed immediately.
POM So, you are saying that he is willing to make concessions, or even a lot of concessions, on the question of political democracy, in order to keep, to prevent economic democracy?
VM That's right. I think that is basically what he will do.
POM But their real interest is economic, not political?
VM At the moment, yes.
POM You used the phrase that he is willing to "hand over power" and I think you must be one of the few people outside of the ANC who actually say that, few members of the ANC that we've talked to have actually talked in terms of the government is willing to hand over power, most people have talked in terms of the government is willing to share power. Do you make a distinction between the two?
VM Yes, very well, my view is always that the ANC will accommodate the government in power. I don't think the ANC wants an all-black government. And I think that the first transitional government will definitely involve members of the present government. So in that way it will be sharing power. But what I'm essentially saying is, I don't think the government, for instance, sees itself in the same situation that you have under the tricameral system where they were sharing power but effectively in control. I think they would still like to share power but not necessarily from the position of control.
POM Do you see the development of a coalition government where the ANC would be the dominant partner and the NP would be the junior partner?
VM I think so.
POM The weaker partner. It still would have an important portfolio, though.
POM Now, the government might like that as a final solution. So that the interim solution kind of becomes institutionalised in some final form. Do you think that the ANC could settle for that in the long haul?
VM I think so. The ANC wouldn't like to admit it but you look at Rhodesia. Mugabe and Nkomo were really strong enough to wipe out Ian Smith and the western powers intervened in time to make sure that even they settled for some form of accommodation for whites, you know, in terms of minority controls. And I don't think the ANC is half as powerful as the weakest of the true partners in Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia, as it was then. And my own feeling is, both especially the United States, I think it's going pressurise the ANC. The United States and Britain are going to pressurise the ANC to go for concessions that can retain white confidence, that can protect business interests. And I don't think the ANC as it is now has strong leverage to say no. The ANC is strong enough to make it uncomfortable for the South African government but not strong enough to go without it. And what you are going to see, it's a very, very strange relationship developing which is going to have serious impact in the long term on South African politics. That you are going to see a very strong love/hate relationship between the government and the ANC because they are the only two haters who need one another.
POM Which the state will depend upon.
VM Oh, Yes, they'll be depended upon for some time.
POM If that kind of "solution" emerges, can the ANC sell it in the black community or will there be cries of "sell-out"?
VM There are three theoretical possibilities, three theoretical possibilities, and one which I think is the likely one and it ultimately lies on the fact of what is the ANC? You see, the ANC is basically a very broad front of anti-apartheid alliance, and that accounts partly for its strength. And now when it transforms itself from an anti-apartheid front to a political party it will be forced now to start trimming down its own policies and focusing more. Now, I think for a beginning, if there is going to be a new government, the ANC will be the first to move into it because it has no serious contenders now. So, I think there will be resentments against the kind of concessions that the ANC is making but nothing more can be done about it except maybe sway against the movement in private. It still enjoys the status of the oldest movement. Nobody can afford to stand up publicly now and call Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu sell-outs. I mean, only an imprudent person, even if you believe they are, only their rivals but not their party rank and file. So, I think, whether they sell it or not, they will get away with it even though there will be some resentment. And why? Simply because there's no home for ANC people at the moment, outside the ANC. The potential homes are going to be the SACP and the Pan-Africanist Congress, I think. Now, the PAC will be strong enough just to make the ANC uncomfortable, to ask awkward questions, to put potentially divisive questions within the ANC on the agenda. It's strong enough to harass the ANC but not strong enough to take it. The PAC organisation has still to prove its mettle. It doesn't have a Walter Sisulu. It doesn't have an ANC. So that even if you believe the ANC is a sell-out you would still be forced to operate within it because that is the only way that you are. And so, even at the moment, one has to make room for the possibility that there may already be lots of members who are, who have misgivings about the ANC but who still feel we have to operate within it. And so, I think the challenges for the ANC are not now but once it is in power. I think it will get into power whether people like it or not.
POM I was going to take you to that point but let me phrase the question this way. If tomorrow morning, there were this coalition government, or even a majority ANC government, what difference would it make in the life of the average black person who lives in a township or a squatter camp?
VM Right, and those are potential nightmares for the ANC. If you had one tomorrow, it would make absolutely no difference, except symbolically. It can only begin to change things.
POM Let's say, over the next five years, five years from now, their government is there for five years.
VM Well, it will depend on what kinds of deals the ANC pulls, and that is why this whole issue of nationalisation is sensitive. It's sensitive not so much for what nationalisation is or whether it has succeeded or failed, but for what it symbolises. And the real question is, can the ANC get into power with the sole purpose of supervising black poverty? And with the government busy privatising everything, the transport, all kinds of things which the government used to finance, the poor Afrikaners say they are now privatised. In other words, the ANC has no source of income in the immediate future. And there is no doubt that De Klerk is going to undermine them further by even cutting on personal taxes, you see? So that when the ANC comes into power, it is going to be very, very reliant on the private sector for support because the last thing it can not afford to do is to raise personal taxes immediately. And the private sector might be prepared to give their support in trade-offs, you see, now. It raises difficulties then that, depending on what kind of money the ANC can generate, if it is not able to address those squatter camps, COSATU and so on, then it could, of course, be in serious trouble. And that is why my theory is while the ANC will definitely be the first party to win the election, it's not so obvious for me that the second election might be theirs as well, that's the thing. So, it will depend on the amount of money that is pulled in. Whether the US, for instance, or the western powers are prepared to put in quite a lot of money to be able to give the ANC something with which to reap the benefits.
POM We've heard a lot about the youth, the disaffected youth, the whole generation of young people who are uneducated and unemployed and maybe unemployable. Do they constitute a really volatile threat?
VM Oh Yes, undoubtedly so. I mean, they are not a threat, they are a reality. You know, we had them already in 1984 and we know what they are capable of doing. They are a group that is totally rebellious in a radical sense. I mean, all young people are rebellious but it has become cynical of any form of authority and they are not afraid of any authority at all. And that is why, when Mandela in Natal called on them to dump their knives into the sea, there were lots of boos. Now that comes from Natal which tends to be a very, very traditional society in terms of deference for authority. If it happened in Soweto, that would have been remarkable enough, but the fact that it happened in such a largely traditional society as Natal is indicative that not even the ANC can claim to have a full grasp on the youth, so they are a threat in that sense.
POM Two things in relationship to that. One is, what assumptions do you think De Klerk made, what assumptions about the ANC did he make when he decided to unban them?
VM Yes, he made the assumption that Mandela would come in here and within 24 hours tell everybody to behave and violence to stop and then the deal would be signed within a matter of weeks. I think he thought Mandela has the same kind of grip over the young people which Afrikaner Presidents have over the Afrikaner youth. And I think that was a serious miscalculation. So, I think it will be easier for De Klerk to deliver the part of his deal, but not easy for the ANC. And basically because the Afrikaner mentality is such that you don't argue with your authorities too much, they know what they are doing. And the mentality of the youth here is that the only virtue you have is when you disagree with the authorities even when they are right.
POM This is like a generation of young people who - the only thing they know how to do is to protest. They don't know how to obey. They haven't learned how to obey authority.
VM Yes, because obedience in South Africa is not a virtue. First of all, South African society as a whole is very authoritarian. The church is authoritarian, their school is authoritarian, their family is authoritarian, so we have what is institutionalised authoritarianism. And what has actually happened, part of the result of that was, it made it easy for our parents to be very deferent to the state. And I think the youth have come to identify any form of obedience with a slave mentality that makes any authority, including that of an illegitimate government, accepted, and that is why they are very, very defiant, as a matter of principle. I mean, I'm teaching at university, if I tell them I want their essay today, they will bring it tomorrow as a matter of principle to make a point. And we have to live with that for some time.
POM Is the PAC kind of a sleeper here? I mean, could it sit out this protest, say "Sell-out", and stay out, not participate in any meaningful way in the first government but become kind of a magnet that would attract the disaffection, if the problems of squatter camps, housing, and education haven't been dealt with in some way over the rule of the first government?
VM That is still to be seen. Part of the problem with the PAC is we know a lot about what they don't like, but they don't have a positive credit. You know, they don't have a product where they can say these are things that we have delivered. And I think that is why even their potential support will say, but let us first see your balance sheet. I think that is basically the problem with the PAC. Now having said that, I'm saying the PAC remains a potential threat in this way, that we forget that the ANC is an unusual organisation in terms of South African politics. It's a miracle that the support is not with the PAC but rather with the ANC.
I mean, the ANC is unusual for two reason. It's the first liberation movement which made negotiation a goal. Other liberation movements have a goal of taking over total power and negotiate only when they are forced to, but for the ANC it was always their goal, we will bomb the enemy to the negotiating table whereas as the PAC will say, we'll bomb the enemy to their grave, which is much more attractive to the youth. And secondly, it is inconceivable that the IRA would include British people in its leadership, and the ANC has done that, you see. So, I'm saying the ANC is unusual. In terms of historical precedent, the power should actually be with the PAC. And the only reason, in my opinion, that the power is not with the PAC is because the PAC hasn't done its job, it hasn't organised itself and it has a tendency to shoot itself in the foot.
Now the point of this whole long introduction is to say that in the event of the PAC getting its house in order, attracting credible leadership, and there's quite a lot of potential support within the country, amongst the squatters, even amongst your labour unions, because the ANC, it's like any government. In future, it may have to send its police to control COSATU. You know, it's just like any other one. So that is another potential support for the PAC, especially amongst those, the consciousness organisations, I mean, unions which might be afraid of linking with the South African Communist Party.
And the other potential support is within your conservative element in the community. If the PAC is seen as a party for Africa, it will have an appeal. And also your middle class, your black middle class, who are going to be quite a big disappointed lot now, because the ANC explicitly is strong on non-racialism. And if you get some white liberals serving in important key portfolios, and your black middle class overlooked, then the PAC can say to them, we have told you always that the ANC is a sell-out, so come to us. I'm saying there is potential support for the PAC and the ball lies into the PAC's court to get that support. And I wouldn't write them off. It depends on what the PAC does, I think, rather than on other factors. So, I think they have two options now. They can move straight into the negotiating table and then get tainted, you know, with the mud. Or an alternative, and I don't know where they are, I know they had the Pan-Africanist Movement in the PAC, the Pan-Africanist Movement was an internal one before the PAC was unbanned. The other alternative is they may maintain strategically that separation and send the PAM into the negotiating table. If that works, then the PAC can start joining the moving train. And if it fails, the PAC can keep itself clean and call in somebody else. So, I think there are quite a lot of possibilities for them.
POM How do you see the negotiating process unfolding? I mean people talk about a Constituent Assembly, people talk about a broad negotiating table with everyone involved where some kind of consensus emerges. And third is like, it will take the form of an interim government with a special commission of eminent people representing every political view, again, drawing up a constitution. How do you see the process?
VM I haven't given a lot of thought to that point as yet because it's still making - you know, some of us are worried whether we will reach that point at all. Assuming that we reach that point, the first issue, and that's why I say, I wonder whether we will reach that point, is the issue of the Constituent Assembly. Unlike Namibia, South Africa, it's a bigger legitimate state and, therefore, it's difficult to get the United Nations coming to supervise anything here or a third party. And secondly, the warring partners, at least some of them, have already started talking to each other, which makes it unnecessary at all for the third party to come in. Now, the issue, then, is, how do you set up the machinery and who supervises that machinery? Now, De Klerk has made it clear that after the constitution has been negotiated, he wants to take it back to the electorate, you see?
POM The white electorate?
VM To the white electorate. And talking truly in power terms, not in moral terms, it is essential for him to do that because if he doesn't, he is going to bestow a great deal of moral authority on the right-wing. It's quite strange that undemocratic as South Africa has been within the white constituency, there's been respect for certain democratic processes. And so De Klerk cannot afford just to walk out there without the white electorate feeling that that was done democratically and with their blessing. If he does that, he runs the risk of the whole right-wing getting the backing of the military and so on. So, I think whether he likes to do it or not, he will be obliged to do it, I think, and he would like to do it. And he also knows that he will succeed in doing it. All he needs to do is to organise a red veto from New Zealand and Britain and bring it here and then the whites will buy that constitution. So, that is not his big problem. So, it would be fatal for him not to do that.
Now, the problem with the Constituent Assembly is that it forces him to resign and hand over power even before the electorate agrees. And I think that is why this whole issue of the Constituent Assembly is going to be an intractable problem. One other possibility is that De Klerk might say to the ANC, OK, we won't have this Constituent Assembly but would you like, in the interim, to share with us, for instance, the day-to-day running of the government? Because that just has to continue, at any rate. The ANC might be prepared to go there. There are indications that on the local level, for instance, in areas like Springs, that the local UDF civics' association is already working with the Nationalists and so on, co-operating on certain things. Now, whether you can bring that kind of co-optation on the national level before negotiations, I mean, to go on before negotiations have started, remains to be seen. It's going to be sensitive, it's going to be difficult, because if you hand-pick ANC people, you might make it very difficult especially if they see their job is continuing to implement some of the apartheid legislation in the meantime. The other possibility is for the government to go for this Constituent Assembly and to insist that we nonetheless retain the executive wing of government that will continue to run the day-to-day affairs of the government. And maybe that's a possibility with which the ANC might be comfortable.
POM In the absence of any agreement on a Constituent Assembly, do you think the ANC will back down on it?
VM Yes, I think they might. You see, part of the problem is the ANC and the government are finished if this thing doesn't go through, more particularly, De Klerk. So, one can expect that they will try to back down. I mean, if you look at the Pretoria Minute already, this time De Klerk virtually gave nothing and the ANC gave a very, very big prize symbolically, the cessation of hostilities. And one can assume that with the ANC at least everything is possible and theoretically and even probably, they might be prepared to back down on the Constituent Assembly.
POM If you take Mandela first and then De Klerk, what are the major obstacles and stumbling blocks that lie in his path as he tries to, within his own community, as he tries to manage this process through to a conclusion?
VM OK, let's start with De Klerk. De Klerk's obvious problem at the moment is, there are white fears, not just amongst the right-wing, even amongst your mainstream Democratic Party members. The thing has not, the process has not started delivering goods and I think De Klerk's argument is to rely on the results rather than on rhetoric, and that is why when the Conservative Party created an elections psychosis in parliament, he avoided that by simply waiting on his ability to say, here are the results. And so far, the first thing he has delivered was the cessation of hostilities which was only symbolic. And secondly, and this is the main problem for both De Klerk and Mandela, on the ground both blacks and whites do not realise, let me put it this way, there is a very important missing condition for negotiation: namely, the shared perception of an existing stalemate. That perception is only shared by the leadership. The whites have never experienced a necklace, have never experienced arson, have never had their schools bombed, have never had their children out of school for a year. And over and above that, the government media, especially television, has succeeded. You know, even the courts, in the ANC trials, were transformed into forums portraying the ANC as a bunch of amateurish terrorists, you see? So, the whites knew that the government was winning all the time, that there was no need to talk. And suddenly, there is this whole urgency. And as recent as this time last year, De Klerk warned the whites that if you vote for the Democratic Party, they will unban the ANC and the Communist Party, and that's exactly what De Klerk has done. So, De Klerk has created a great deal of uncertainty. He hasn't given people enough time and enough reasons for the need for change. And so that is his big problem, showing people that there is need for change but, over and above that, showing them that that change is to their advantage. That's the whole point.
POM What role does the Conservative Party play in this?
VM I think the Conservative Party will continue to exploit white fears.
POM But is this kind of a natural and passing phase?
VM I think it's a passing phase. I think the Conservative Party, the Conservative Party and the PAC might eventually end up in the moving train. You see, the Conservative Party is able to exploit white fears, but I think its capacity to give them an organisational home is very, very limited, you see? If the Conservative Party won the elections, I think it will take the negotiations from where Mr de Klerk left off. If they think they are going rip the country again into black and white spots they are wasting their time. And I think many whites are aware of that. So, the Conservative Party, like the PAC, will continue to exploit fears of people, but they haven't given people a viable alternative. That is their problem. The Conservative Party is trying to sell a policy that even some whites realise has failed.
POM Right-wing violence, is that a threat?
VM It is a threat, that is where the power of the right-wing is. I don't think they have a power politically in terms of numbers. But their power, it's a threat and even that threat, it's not organisational. It's not like, for instance, one group, the AWB is going for violence. That power, it's just a group of lunatic fringes who ran out of control. And the danger for me is that if they continue like they do in Pretoria, just killing blacks randomly, very soon somebody from the military wing of the ANC, completely without the knowledge of the organisation, will plant their bomb in a rugby stadium and sabotage the whole thing. So, that remains a threat. But only on that military level.
POM You don't see right-wing paramilitary organisations getting any significant support from rank and file Afrikaners, do you?
VM No, they can get support. But the point is, even the South African military strong as it is, it's not strong enough to launch a coup d'etat. So, the power of the military, both within the ANC and within the white establishment, will always be symbolic, will always be disruptive, but will never be political in the sense of a coup d'etat. That's not an option in South Africa.
VM I think Mandela, first of all, his major challenge is going to be explaining to the youth why he needs to negotiate. The youth feel that from 1984 to 1986, they managed to fight a strong government only with bricks and stones and held it ransom for three years. And in 1976, they put pressure on the government. In other words, all the reforms that came from 1976 were basically the result of an armed youth. The youth felt we were winning all the time, so why do you negotiate now?
POM Ironically, then, they're like the white community, they liked to believe that they were winning, too?
VM That's right. That's why I said, on the ground there's no perceived shared perception of an existing stalemate. And secondly, that Mandela will have to explain exactly what is in it for us. Is it just a vote or are there going to be economic benefits coming through them? That is his challenge. The third challenge for Mandela is the violence in Natal and in the townships. How does he contain it, does he speak to Buthelezi? I think Mandela wants to speak to Buthelezi but the hatred for Buthelezi is so strong that Mandela will have serious problems selling that to his constituency. He might succeed in speaking to Buthelezi if he can get De Klerk to control the right-wing. And secondly, there is a perception that the government, it's either unwilling or unable to control both the right-wing and Inkatha. And if Mandela can get De Klerk to demonstrate that he's able to control both of them, then he might be able to say, well, now let us talk to Buthelezi. In other words, De Klerk has to give him something before he can talk to Buthelezi. And if the challenge is with big business, Mandela claims that he wants, the ANC says that it wants the economy to grow so that it can fulfil the expectations of its constituency. But on the other hand the business community is faced with three things, rising violence, the threat of sanctions, and the threat of nationalisation. And what big business basically is saying is, where is the beef? What is in this for us? So the fifth challenge for Mandela is to find a formula that can enable him to deliver something to his constituency, a form of nationalisation, whatever it is, but which can nonetheless retain business confidence. And that's going to be quite tough, I think.
POM Just on the economy, do you think that the government will attempt to have specific provisions relating to the structure of the economy written into the constitution, i.e., that the constitution would prohibit nationalisation above a pretty basic level, that would have special provisions regarding property rights?
VM No, I don't think they will put it in the constitution as saying the government cannot nationalise this. I mean, I don't think they'll put it that way. What they will do or what they are already doing is pushing this massive privatisation, which puts all the wealth in the hands of whites. And what they will be trying to do is to include in the Bill of Rights a clause declaring property rights as inalienable. I think they will try to control it that way.
POM But maintaining the structure of the economy as it is?
VM Yes. I think what the government would like to do, would rather be to say, let us address the imbalances through straight fiscal policies. Let's have a free market, let's say we'll go, no nationalisation, and let us look at graduated taxations, and those kinds of issues. I think that's the way the government would like to address the issue. And they will say, Well, let's also ask the Americans and the British to put their money where their mouths are.
POM But there's no reason to believe that there is going to be a substantial amount of foreign investment in a new South Africa.
VM Yes, there is no need, but also, at the same time ...
POM But there's no reason to believe that there will be that kind of investment.
VM Yes, but at the same time, people all over, I know this question comes in relation to Eastern Europe, that everybody says, well, Europe will now face the East. Maybe. But I think South Africa will still be attractive to the West, largely for three reasons. The first reason is that it has a waiting infrastructure, you've got roads, you've got transport, you've got telefaxes, you've got telephones that work. Number two, it has a respectable credit record internationally. And number three, even though not everybody, but least 20% of your population understands the market economy, the Soviet Union doesn't even have a Graduate School of Business, so I think there will still be an attraction here. I'm not saying there will be an influx of capital, but all things remaining the same, this region has the attraction better than Eastern Europe, in my opinion.
POM Going back to Natal for a moment, what is your interpretation of the violence that is going on there? First. Second, if the level of violence continues at about the current level, is it possible, will it impede the progress of negotiations between the government and other parties?
VM Yes. The first thing is, I think the beginnings of the violence were very clear. The patterns follow everything that starts in the township. It starts on a specific issue and as it goes on it becomes blurred. I think the beginnings of that violence were very clear, that Buthelezi is a frightening megalomaniac. And Buthelezi believes that Natal and Zululand are his territory, and no organisation will be allowed there. So, while he talks of multi-party democracy when he's in Washington, nobody has actually asked him how many parties are there in the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly. So, I think that is how it started. But like every township violence, as soon as it starts, it gets out of control, you lose sight of the cause and effect. So, I think that is what has happened now.
POM Why did it get out of control so quickly?
VM Because usually there is low leadership that controls it, you see. You found that, for instance, what happened, you'll have the warlords there. I mean, just of its own nature, violence leads to very, very irrational things. I mean, you attack me because of Inkatha and I attack you because you are ANC. Now, somebody attacks me because you were his brother. At this point, it has absolutely no political content. And my theory at the moment is, what is happening in Natal, it comes down to hooliganism, not even Mandela or Buthelezi can stop it. And we have seen it in the townships before the state of emergency. And what began as a march against apartheid, the leaders are killed or detained, a vacuum exists, common law criminals just move over, they start terrorising people in the name of this group. And I think what has happened in Natal now is that the situation has become totally irrational, nobody is in control of it, and I'm not quite sure if it's going to survive. The only saving grace about it is that Natal is in the corner of the country. It's not that it is happening in the middle of the country now. I think that the effect of it has also been that Buthelezi has been seriously undermined, politically. I think he has lost a lot of support. Because what you have there, it's not a tribal war, it's a war within one group and Buthelezi's men have just been killing randomly. And I think Buthelezi has lost quite a lot of political support. They know, I think their intelligence has told him the man has lost a lot of support. And so, what we are having then is our own potential Renamo and potential Savimbi in Buthelezi. And the only issue is, who will support him? At the moment, all the major actors, including the government, would like to see the man go.
POM Would like to see?
VM Buthelezi out of the way. And so, that is a saving grace. But the problem with Buthelezi is that he's not a man who dies easily. So, my own thing is, although he has the potential to be Renamo and Savimbi, Renamo and Savimbi had South Africa and the United States, and the issue is who will support Gatsha if the whole country is going the other way? And that remains unresolved, I think.
POM When the ANC was unbanned, what were the major problems it faced on the ground?
VM Well, the major problems are obviously the problems of transition from a liberation movement to a political party. Point one: the two organisations obey different rules. A liberation movement is strictly undemocratic, it has to be undemocratic, it's secretive, it has problems of accountability, and so on. Now, becoming a political party, it has to unlearn all of those things. And it moved into a situation, which was not a virtue, where there was already a traditional democracy in organisations like labour unions and organisations like the United Democratic Front. So, the first challenge was getting to terms with a democratic tradition, I think. And secondly, setting its own branches, redefining its role with COSATU, with the UDF. So, those were the immediate challenges, I think of where are we going and redefining its new role.
POM Is there, again, a potential dividing point between what would be the agenda of COSATU and the agenda of the ANC?
VM In principle, yes. I think COSATU's very conscious about the ANC because one of the things that struck me, and I haven't been able to find an intelligent explanation for that, was the fact that in the Groote Schuur talks the government put in a very professional team, but the ANC put together a very, very symbolic and prophetic team. And so it was symbols there. And the most important symbol from the ANC was the exclusion of COSATU and the youth representatives. And I don't think that went down unnoticed by COSATU. And also, just a thought, that they came in from Lusaka, talked here, and went back to Lusaka. There was already the feeling that do these people realise that a lot was going on here? I think at the moment COSATU cannot afford to cut itself off from the ANC and the ANC cannot afford to cut themselves from COSATU. They still need each other. But that relationship, it's going to be influenced a great deal by what happens after the ANC is in power. And that I've said to you. Will the ANC go the Mugabe way and start looking up unionists? And if that happens the Siamese twins will be separated.
POM Two final things. One, what is your assessment of Mandela's performance since he was released?
VM I think he did very well now, recently, the way he handled the Joe Slovo thing, he was very firm, but also very conciliatory. I thought symbolically he shouldn't have gone to Europe during the World Cup, you know, nobody notices you. I'm a soccer fanatic, I thought that was a bad choice to visit Europe during World Cup. I think he visited America at the right time. Though I'm sure there are Americans who have never heard of soccer and I wonder what the World Cup in the US is going to look like.
VM With adverts every two minutes. So, I thought the choice of the US was the best, I think. His imprint was there. And I don't like to sound patronising but I think Americans like heroes and messiahs, and he did very well there. But to the negative thing, I thought Mandela should have been here on June the 16th. That would have been the very, very first June the 16th he was able to celebrate, and he was out of the country. On balance, or from ability, he did better. I think he's the only man who can hold the vote together at the moment.
POM Next year, when we are talking this time next year, what will have changed? Where can we expect to be?
VM I think there would have been serious advances. I think the constitution would either be in progress or parts of it would have already been agreed to.
POM Will this still be the government and the ANC?
VM No, I think it will be expanded. I don't think they will afford to go, the two of them, alone. I think once the prisoners have been released and so on, De Klerk might start, for instance, to put pressure on the PAC indirectly. I mean, Inkatha is ready to come in, I think they will allow it to come in. What the ANC will do is either to look at the Black Consciousness organisations and the PAC to come with it on the same negotiating table, or alternatively, the PAC might still refuse to come. But what De Klerk might do, for instance, is, with the release of prisoners and the whole negotiation about the refugees coming back, just to make it easy for ANC's refugees to come back. And the other refugees might either come alone or put pressure on the PAC to negotiate on its behalf, so they can drag it in. But in one form or the other, I don't think you will have a majority government. But I think you will definitely have constitutional talks advanced beyond the two present partners.
POM Thank you very, very much.
VM Well, thank you.
POM That was a lesson!
PK Too much to absorb in one hour!