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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
13 Aug 1990: Saloojee, Cas
POM Cas, just for the tape would you identify that you're the Indian ...?
CS President of the Transvaal Indian Congress, the PWV region which is the biggest region in the country.
POM PWV stands for?
CS Pretoria, Witwatersrand and the Vaal area. At the moment we have an interim committee of the ANC of which I am one of the 14 people on that and I am the Treasurer of the PWV region.
POM To take you back to De Klerk's speech on 2nd February when he announced a series of initiatives. Did his speech surprise you and what do you think motivated him to move so broadly and so rapidly at the same time?
CS I think since early last year some of us had a sense that the Nationalist government would move quite dramatically towards a situation where they would begin to talk to the ANC. That impression we had and that impression was created as a result of the sense that we had of the South African economy. I was amongst a whole number of people who were travelling for the MDM to Europe and other places and talking to big business here and one sense that we got is that as a result of the politically disturbed situation in this country the economy was going into deeper and deeper problems and the perception was developing, especially within the ruling class, that unless they don't fundamentally alter the situation, give hope to the black majority, that they would become part of the political process and there would be a fundamental departure from the old apartheid system, that if strife and conflict and all that continued in SA and that would make it almost impossible for any hope of economic recovery. We don't believe that people like well, the so-called reformists within the NP at that time had a change of heart in terms of fundamentals and all that. What they sensed was deep problems and here it began to dawn upon them that unless they change the apartheid system that no ways are they going to restore any kind of peace in this country and allow for them to reconstruct the economy.
So within that context we thought from the noises that we heard and all that, there were seminars where NP members used to come at universities, informally, at informal gatherings where some of us were invited, so we had this real impression that something quite dramatic will happen but the extent of it that surprised us, the complete unbanning of all the extra-parliamentary organisations, ANC, PAC and all that, release of the leaders and of course what we did not expect is that they would even go to the extent of unbanning the South African Communist Party. When they did that that really took us by surprise, the extent of it.
POM What do you think motivated De Klerk to do everything in one fell swoop?
CS We had a suspicion, also based on discussions with people outside, that we think there were enormous pressures from South Africa's trading partners, the US, people in Europe and all that, we think that there were these pressures. I think that was important. Then it also became clear that with all the emergencies, one, two and three, they simply did not succeed in bringing the situation in the townships under control. In spite of very big pressure structures, the UDF continued to meet, new leadership emerged in spite of thousands being detained and all that, the Defiance Campaign had gone very successfully, the marches and all that, and I believe the mood that people showed through all these demonstrations and marches and the fact that the organisations of the oppressed community survived through this intense repression, I think it began to dawn upon them through people who were occupying crucial positions with the Nationalist Party and in government that this repression is simply not going to bring all these things under control, that there were deep expectations on the part of the African majority and they simply are not going to accept things as they were and a very slow and gradual reform was not going to make any impact. I think they began to realise that there was a tremendous new consciousness and that people wanted to become active participants to improve their situation. Now if those expectations were not fulfilled or some real hope given to the African majority that they were going to be active participants in the political processes in SA, the conflict would actually deepen. So I think there are two things, pressures from the outside and the continuing resistance inside and the very high expectations of the African majority which was expressed through all these marches, that in spite of repression there was no way that they could contain the political activity in the resistance movement that was carrying on.
POM Some people that we have talked to have suggested that De Klerk had some kind of a moral conversion. Do you subscribe to that or do you think it was pragmatism?
CS Oh I don't accept that one. De Klerk had genuinely had a history of actually going for repression. We saw that whole thing around the universities where the students revolted and all that and when anti-apartheid activities intensified on the campuses he took a very hard line and he was very active in that whole process of trying to blackmail the universities into controlling students who supported the MDM and all that, threatening to withdraw subsidies. And all the things that he used to say in recent years didn't suggest a man who was deeply committed to reforming the society and making it more humane. There was nothing in the things that he said and his experience at that time that suggested I'm absolutely convinced that De Klerk and Viljoen and them were smart enough to sense that unless there is a fundamental break with the past that this country was going to be torn apart and the economy was going to smashed. So instead of facing the prospect of an economic wasteland and continuing conflict and all that I think they decided to take a gamble and I believe they were convinced that they could actually have a solution in SA that would secure the future of the white minority as well as satisfying the political aspirations.
POM When Mandela says that De Klerk is a man of integrity do you still put a question mark beside that?
CS Personally I do. I won't simply accept that. That's why I would belong to those who, you know, this whole notion that we shouldn't create a situation where we demobilise the masses before there are occurrences. There is this deep political consciousness and there is a development of massive non-violent action against the regime. Now that kind of thing, you can't simply tell people they're all very sincere and all that and now we can be very complacent and all that and let's get ourselves ready simply as a political party that soon the negotiations, non-racial elections and all that - belong to those who say first of all the apartheid reality is still with us. I think before one can say when you're talking negotiations again, we can discuss a political dispensation and all that, but if in the day to day life of people they still experience massively the effects of the apartheid system in other areas of their life, I mean tremendous changes have taken place in SA, the organisations can function, the leaders are with us and all that kind of thing and that has made an impact, but as far as the African people go, as far as the African majority go, some of these changes too like the Group Areas being eroded and all that kind of thing, some hospitals would allow black people and all that, all these things, that hasn't really made a real impact on the lives of the people who are condemned to live in the depths of the country, in the rural areas.
Some of us are not convinced that this approach that De Klerk is developing, whether finally he will succeed in carrying the NP and the white group in this country along with him. At the same time I think that the prospects appear to be good now but we haven't reached a point where we can say with confidence that now there is an inevitability that we're going to have negotiations, we're going to have a final settlement.
POM At what point do you think there would be that inevitability? At what point is the process irreversible?
CS When we see evidence, when the government actively plays a role in, say, an area like KwaZulu, for example KwaZulu, in spite of what the regime will say. ANC militants are angry and would like to defend themselves to the people and would like the ANC to take on a more militant position in that area. But I think enough research has been done and enough evidence has come out that the real perpetrators of violence are Gatsha and his Inkatha movement. Beginning way back when some of us were in the treason trial and one of our lawyers was murdered, we know that they simply killed her.
POM Her name was ?
CS Kenge, the wife of the dissident Kenge. And because evidence was coming out that not only the regime but Inkatha too wanted to eliminate him and here his wife was simply murdered and all that.
POM I'd like to talk about Natal later.
CS What I'm actually saying is that until we see the government actually playing an active role in trying to bring that situation, withdrawing the police, recognising that the KwaZulu police is not there just to police and all that but actually part of perpetrating that violence. The Sebokeng thing I don't think is as simple as what they're trying to suggest, that the youngsters from the Youth Congress we say the government is aiding and abetting anti-ANC forces in these places and that is generating further violence. Until De Klerk's government begins to show that they are going to actively play a role in bringing an end to that kind of violence I don't think that we can safely say that we have reached a position. On the one hand they keep talking about negotiations and settlement and all that and in fact they are to some extent even winning the propaganda war by suggesting it is the ANC that is generating all this violence now, but the root cause of all this violence that we see, they are the ones who are generating it and for as long as they are going to stifle African political aspirations
We are beginning to see what they are doing in Namibia. When people begin to talk about final settlement and all that, immediately the SA government began a process of undermining SWAPO. Now here sometimes subtly and sometimes not too subtly the regime is actually actively involved in that process of trying to undermine the ANC and to try to erode its support among the people.
POM Do you think on the issue of majority rule that De Klerk has conceded on that issue?
CS Oh yes. I don't know whether he will be able to take his supporters along on that one.
POM He has conceded but he hasn't succeeded?
CS Conceded in the sense that here I think they have looked you see the things that have been worrying them, like say nationalisation and moving towards socialism and all that, I think for the first time it is beginning to dawn upon them that the programme that flows out of the Freedom Charter, the talks around the constitutional guidelines and the discussion that the ANC is having with big business and all that, the question of nationalisation, the question of free enterprise, it's survival in this country, I think it is beginning to dawn upon De Klerk and Viljoen and these people that you're not going to simply that even questions like nationalisation and all that, that there will be compromises. I think they sense that. Now the fears that they had of a democratic government emerging under the leadership of the ANC would be simply another Marxist/Leninist party. I think that is out of their mind. I think they sense that what the ANC wants to achieve in this is to achieve a democracy which will be acceptable to most western countries, parliamentary systems, multi-party systems. You're not going to have this indiscriminate nationalisation. They will talk of redistribution of wealth but they've said quite clearly that they're not completely wedded to the idea of nationalisation. They would look at other ways of doing all those things.
So I think they're under the impression that the ANC, finally what it wants is the establishment of a classical liberal democracy in this country. In spite of all the propaganda the regime itself knows that just across the border in Zimbabwe, in spite of all Mugabe's talk about Marxism, Leninism and all that, after ten years you have essentially an economy that is functioning the way it was ten years ago. It is still essentially in the control of the white minority there. They have not been uprooted, land has not just been confiscated on mass scales. So on the one hand he talks about socialism and on the other hand you have essentially a free enterprise system. Now these are huge compromises that those people made but I believe that they think that the regime here often think that they could make those kind of arrangements with, you know, a negotiated situation.
POM But do you think that the white government is more concerned with protecting white economic interests than it is with a sharing of political power or even political power going to the black majority?
CS Political power going to the black majority, at least those who within government support De Klerk I think they've accepted that political power will have to go to the African majority.
POM So is their main interest in protecting the economic interests of the white community?
CS Yes. Look, like this whole thing, they talk at the moment of group rights and all that but I think they want to ensure that they are able to preserve their cultural rights, their language rights, the right to practise their religion. You have a Minister like Kriel when he talked a few weeks ago on television he talked the ANC's language. He said, "The black man is living right next to me, he's no threat to me. As long as I know that if there are facilities, for example, community halls where I can go, where we as Afrikaners can practise our cultural activities, the Jewish people can come there and do their thing in that community hall, the African people can come, South Africa must remain a multi-cultural country, a country where people's language and culture is guaranteed, their right to practise all those things." I think the emphasis would be on that, how to create a political system where these basic rights would be assured and you do not move into an economic system that would be socialistic, that the so-called free enterprise system continues and if they talk of restoring the old historical imbalance and all that that they use other means, taxation, anti-trust laws, those kinds of things. They want to, they hope, I think they're hoping that this privatisation thing, they would like to privatise what they control at the moment. The extent to which they privatise that, that here you have the NP government in control of an important section of the SA economy, take that away and give that also to private enterprise. To that extent you weaken the clout of the new democratic government. So let them take over politically as long as you have a system that would be essentially what they called a free enterprise system. I think they would now be prepared to live with a political system in which the African majority will be dominant and that I think, I really do believe that they've accepted that.
POM So when De Klerk says, however, that he will go back to the white electorate and ask for their approval on any proposed new dispensation, is that a promise he can actually keep?
CS No way, I don't think there is any way he can keep that promise. I think they will go into a situation where at one point they are going to say whether it is a referendum or non-racial election for an assembly that will hammer out a new constitution. At that point I think they are going to do this turnabout and say, look, the future affects all the people of this country so if we're going to decide about the new future, the people of this country must decide that future together. So you would have, if you have a referendum or you have a non-racial election for a Constituent Assembly, out of that situation you would have a situation where the right wing within that context would be isolated in a way that it's not isolated today. At the moment political power is still in the hands of the white minority. Within that context the right wing's political influence, it's threats and all that, are very serious. If you have a situation look in the tricameral system they still have that kind of majority to be able to make certain constitutional changes so if they go through the motions of having a non-racial referendum or a non-racial election and that referendum or that election occurs at the end of it all you will find a tiny little group of right wingers saying no and the overwhelming majority of South Africans saying, well look we're moving now towards a genuine settlement and a new SA. But if he's going to be serious about getting the approval of whites only before he makes the real moves then I think he knows as well as anybody else that if it's going to be put only to whites there is no way the whites are going to accept a non-racial constitution which would embody the principle of one person one vote. No ways are they going to accept that. So to talk of a final settlement, to talk of bringing the African majority completely into the political process and then saying that that should be finally decided by the white minority, it's simply just not going to work and I don't believe that he will do that.
POM So you take the threat of what appears to be white support moving towards the Conservative Party, you take that threat very seriously?
POM The threat of the right wing violence, do you think this is significant?
CS I think we will have what we have. Historically we look at Algeria. When the French Algerians realised that transformation is going to come and the process of de-colonisation is on the agenda, you had those groups who went really Christian, you had the Pierre Noirs and all that and you had the indiscriminate killings, but finally De Gaulle then had to use him in the French army to bring that situation under control. The ANC can't bring right wing terror under control. If De Klerk is serious about a new political dispensation for SA it will be the responsibility of his government to ensure that they use the police and the defence force. So you would have the problems that within the police you would have significant elements that would belong to the right wing. There might be rumblings in the SADF, but he will finally have to use the SADF and the police to bring the situation under control. In that period we might experience awful tragedies. The right wing is not going to simply sit back so you will have killings and shootings, but I think the right wing itself as long as De Klerk and company are clear in their minds that they want to work towards a settlement, I do not believe that the right wing movement in this country can really block that process. What they can do is to cause serious racial conflict and the cost of it could be enormous but I do not believe that the right wingers can actually no, their importance is to arrive at a settlement after deep racial conflicts and killings. At the end of the process surely that will do something to the psyche of the African majority, but you don't want to arrive at a settlement with deep bitterness and all that.
So there are all these things. So one simply cannot underestimate the significance of right wing activity. What I'm actually saying is that they won't block, if there is seriousness on the side of the ANC and the Nationalist government to move towards political settlement, that settlement will come but in the course of what's moving towards a settlement you could have all these awful tragedies.
POM The process of reconciliation would be enormously more difficult.
CS Very difficult and that's why I believe Mr Mandela, this thing about clearing ANC activists and all that, it is terribly important for us to mobilise support from within the white community. I think it must not just be rhetoric. The ANC must begin to actively canvass support and tell its members that it is crucial that they do everything possible to wean support from the right and to give them the assurance, not force assurances, that when we talk of this country, of a common destiny, but they must address themselves to the fears and anxieties of the white group.
POM What are these fears and anxieties?
CS That once they come over they will simply take over. They have the simplistic notion that their businesses would be nationalised, their land would simply be expropriated, that there would be swamping of white residential areas. There are all these fears. Now the ANC would have to seriously address itself, it mustn't simply say that we don't want to upgrade the lives of our people by taking from people who have and just simply giving it away. There are certain things you can't do. Take, for instance, the whole land question, that is one they would have to address very seriously. You can't have a situation where a little white minority has control of say 80% of the productive land in this country. To some extent the ANC will have to address itself to that problem, but address itself to that problem in such a way that it's not going to mean the ruination of whites economically. It would have to be negotiated sensibly.
POM Could you divide white fears into those that are imaginary and those that may be valid or are they all really valid?
CS There are some. The whole thing the ANC must go out of its way and it must show genuinely a commitment, for example, to the multi-party system and all that. Mr Mandela last night said to the judiciary, "Look, all of you know what we are interested in. We do not have a serious problem about the judicial system that you have, the independent judiciary and all that. Take away the racial aspects of it and we could build on the system as it is today." So there are all these things, fears about people's courts and those kind of things.
POM Other, it may be badly characterised as Indian fears. Where does the Indian community as a community stand with regard to all the changes that have taken place?
CS The mass of the Indian people live in Natal, in Durban and its surroundings and along the sugar belt of Natal. 80% of the Indians live there. Of the 80% it is only 12½% who are engaged in training and a very small section, about 2½% - 3% in the manufacturing sector of the industry. The awful thing about this, the traders, is that here you have a planter and you have the beginnings of Indians buying shops in the inner city area. You go to Durban, you go to Grey Street, you have whites coming here to the Oriental Plaza, the Indian trader is very visible to the broader South African. This false perception that people have is that the majority of the Indians are traders and are a very affluent group. Most of them are condemned to living in a ghetto which is not very different from, say, the big African ghettos if you look at Phoenix and Chatsworth.
POM We just came from speaking to a senior person in the NP who said that the average income in the Indian community was higher than the per capita income among the Cabinet.
CS I'd like to see that one! Really! I mean I work here, my day to day work is with the Social Work Agency. In fact in proportion to the size of its population you have the highest percentage of people dependant on state grants, pensions, disability grants, maintenance grants and all that. People have actually done work which is available to show that there is no basis to that one.
POM But some people have said to us, Indians that we have talked to, that among many Indians there is a fear, while they are all for the repeal of the Group Areas Act, they don't want to wake up tomorrow morning and find a black family squatting outside their house or a situation developing where the value of their property is going down. We have had many Indians leaders that we have talked to who have said that in an election that many Indians would vote for the National Party and I think that is specifically because of the manner in which you took Archie Gumede to task for what he said. So what's your assessment of the situation?
CS I'd like to answer that one a little more carefully and to show you the ANC's registration book that we have on that issue. Do you know throughout this century every time the white minority after they realised that there's no way they're going to repatriate the Indians to India, they knew that these people will fight to live here. When they realised that there is no way that they're going to get rid of the Indians they tried all sorts of ways of making their lives as uncomfortable as possible, but then they took the approach of trying to draw them and co-opt them into the white group. Before even the Nationalist Party, during the days of Smuts and the old United Party, they wanted to give them representation in the white parliament, reserve a certain number of seats. That was the moment too when the Indians had to make a choice and they came out squarely in favour of seeing their destiny linked up with the African majority. After the war within the Indian political parties those leaders who were talking of the broader unity of the oppressed communities succeeded in smashing the political influence of the conservative Indians completely. People who had a self-centred attitude and people who had deep fears about the Africans democratically they got rid of them.
When you had the period of mass resistance the Indian leadership played a notable role in developing an incredible situation where Yusuf Dadoo was a non-pass carrying Indian but the Vice-chairperson of the biggest anti-pass campaign in the history of this country. Now because of the fact that the Indian leadership succeeded always at those moments, when they had to make a political choice the choice obviously fell on the side of the African majority. From the SA Indian Council too there was overwhelming rejection of it. When we come to the tricameral system I would say if we actually take into account the lies that the regime told the people and how they blackmailed people into voting, that the active support for the tricameral system would be even less than 10%. It's never been more than 18% even according to their figures. Now what I am saying is that each time people would say, every time we have these elections for this thing, you know the Indian fears the African majority and all that and he's going to move closer and closer. Now this has happened each time when we've had these elections, and now recently, they talk of the deep fears. Now here in Natal they talk of violence. The deaths have been essentially of African people. After all this talk they say that Indians are going to be killed. You ask them how many have actually been killed? Even white liberal newspapers are not able to tell you more than three persons. Now those three who died we have doubts whether they died as a result of that kind of conflict, political conflict, so then they say all these deep fears.
You know in this community I've been going around personally, if you take copies of these pages to anyone here, here we have Indian professions, Indian businessmen, Indian workers, and I've had this remarkable experience. In the last four weeks, except for one single home, we've been going door to door not to meet enduring members of the ANC but to get a direct sense from the people of what they want. Now you know this Fordsburg, Newtown area, you have a cross-section of the Indian community; there are professionals, there are business people, there are students, there are workers. These are people who in spite of the Group Areas Act in some of these areas, they had been going night after night doing this kind of work and it contradicts completely all this nonsense that people are saying that they have fears about the ANC's policies, they think that the ANC is going to generate violence, they have no place under African majority rule and all that. I want to believe that when it comes to the crunch again you will see that the Indian politically is going to take the democratic option and that is going for a non-racial democracy and he's not going to seek his future security under the white minority government. Already white liberal newspapers are trying to suggest that they will vote for the NP and all that kind of thing. I say that is so completely contradictory to the experience of those of us who are directly involved in the political life of people, involved with being a community based organisation.
You might see this as a little place but the agency that we run is one of the biggest social work agencies in the country, one of the half a dozen biggest. Our services are out in Lenasia and elsewhere in Johannesburg. They changed their name from Johannesburg Indian Social Welfare Association. This kind of organisation is traditionally controlled by conservative Indians. They changed the name to take away the racial connotation out of it. They are actively opening their services for all. Like here they have acquired properties to re-establish the kind of social services we have in Lenasia. It's now called the Johannesburg Institute of Social Service. The biggest contributors to the funds of this are the big Indian business people, literally contributing tens of thousands of rands. They have consciously taken the decision that they must de-racialise the service organisations operating among the Indians.
So, there are people who would say that but I say finally when we ask people to make political choices, and here I want to believe, already the first ANC branch, you know that one in Lenasia was the first one, but since they've established their offices they are recruiting Indian people daily for the ANC. Now you take Alexandra Township, the ANC up to now has not been able to recruit more than 1100 members. In Mayfair here we have already over 500 Indian members. Now what I'm trying to tell you, Indians having these deep fears and all that, last night Mr Mandela was on TV and many of us worked till about eleven o'clock visiting homes, they were actually very excited about what they heard Mr Mandela talking about. They are aware that, look, I mustn't paint tremendous pictures, they know that there are certain problems.
This link between the SA Communist Party with the ANC, it is something that worries Indians. But that is not only the worry of the Indians. There are churches here in the African areas who are also deeply worried, in fact to the extent that there are some church people who told their congregants, don't just simply go and join the ANC until such time as they explain to you properly this link with the Communist Party. In the so-called Coloured areas, there too the churches are telling the people to be cautious. In fact some of the churches have actually told the people, "Don't join the ANC because it's communist." But that hasn't made a deep impact at the mass level. This is a concern amongst Indians, right. They are a deeply religious people. That is a fact so this association with the SA Communist Party is something that does worry them.
POM How would you as an Indian explain who brought up this fear? How would you explain the difference between a member of the ANC and a member of the SACP?
CS You see we went out of our way by saying, you have the kind of explanation that Mr Mandela himself is giving, that the SACP has played a long historical role in the fight against racism. They were genuinely, as people know, the older Indians do know, that the first political party that talked about a non-racial approach to SA politics were the communists. And then there was this leader, Yusuf Dadoo, who was a towering figure in the whole liberation movement. He was the first person to throw out the idea of the Non-European United Front, that was way back in 1949, well before people started talking of the concept of the UDF, about unity and all that. Now there is this agreement that the move towards liberation under the leadership of the African majority, that the historical leadership that the African National Congress, that is the leadership of the oppressed community, and they succeeded in getting people to understand that. People have been going out of their way to explain that the SACP has had to accept that what we are out to achieve and what the so-called revolutionary alliance has to achieve is a political society as suggested in the Freedom Charter. It must be non-racial, it must be democratic, it must have representative political institutions. There is no way that it is going to be a communist political system.
POM Yet many of the senior leadership in the ANC are members of the SACP so that perhaps in an ANC government, a government dominated by the ANC, they would exercise a lot of power. Now does that not again put question marks in people's minds about the form the economy will take?
CS Slovo himself has been compelled to say publicly that the market model of the economy was prematurely terminated in many African countries, many Asian countries and it caused disasters. He has been compelled to say that the SACP is totally committed to a multi-party system. He has been compelled to say that the further the notion, the ideology of the communists can really actively take place only when we arrive at a point when we have established the democratic SA. They will have to go on a market-based economy. More importantly for me is that the process that has been, the new constitution of the ANC that we have at the moment, you can't make the assumption - in December the ANC's leadership is going to be reconstituted. Let's say many of the old communists who are at the moment in the leadership of the ANC, some of them might be re-elected and might remain but from the branches, from the branches you are going to have a situation where ordinary political activists who have been working with people actively in the last 10 15 years, these are the people who are going to become it is the branches who are going to be electing the national leadership, it is the branches that are going to directly participate in the election of the national leadership. Now for as long as the ANC was an underground organisation in the country and for as long as the effective leadership came from Lusaka the role of people on the NEC was enormous. I say that now that the ANC is going to be compelled to go through a genuinely democratic process that it is going to begin to well what I am saying is that you are going to see gradually a change in the leadership of the ANC and that leadership that will emerge is not simply going to be people who will always be old communists and all that.
I say that in SA you also have a situation if you look, on the one hand you have these very old members of the SACP occupying key positions but the contemporary resistance movement has thrown out a group of leadership, a very capable leadership, people who are in their early thirties, late thirties, early forties, who are going to come into their own very soon politically and are going to play an important leadership role. In fact at the ground level it is the Terror Lekotas and the Popo Molefes and these guys who are beginning to assert themselves powerfully and I don't think the assumption must be made that they are all simply going to be communists. I say we have a changing situation at the moment within the country and the events of Eastern Europe and all, that you mustn't disregard that. So I don't believe it's simply going to, because it's a fear that because they occupy key positions that the communists are going to take control.
POM If I wanted to make a distinction between a member of the ANC and a member of the SACP how can I distinguish one from the other?
CS Simply. There is an acceptance of dual membership within the revolutionary alliance that if you are not a communist, and the ANC has no choice but to go on saying continually
POM But what does a communist believe or want to do that is different from what the ANC wants to do?
CS No, look, there is genuinely, there are documents that the ANC can produce and Mr Mandela is saying that there is this historic agreement between them. The communists can't say that within the ANC he can actually work to promote communism.
POM But given today what is communism? I mean communism has collapsed all around the world and is in total disarray. I suppose my question is: what does a South African communist believe that is different from what a member of the ANC would believe since the whole concept of communism seems to have collapsed in disarray since you say Slovo himself was compelled to say, "I'm for a market economy", what's the difference?
CS That is why the communists are not even expounding. Now they're not talking of the vanguard party. They accept the multiparty system.
POM That's what I mean. What's the difference?
CS In fact you know what they're actually doing is expound essentially the view that is emerging no, the ideas that they are expounding when they interpret the Freedom Charter and the constitutional guidelines, so what they are doing at the moment and in fact this is the assisting, you know this process where people have deep fears about a communist take-over, that at every meeting, gathering, public meeting when they talk they are talking essentially of what the African National Congress is putting forward to people. You don't hear Slovo talking of nationalisation, a single Communist Party, a centralised political system. They are not talking of those things.
POM It's actually very difficult to see any difference.
CS Yes. People are seeing communists today as activists of the ANC. It is in the interests of the regime to go on emphasising the great importance of the communist in the leadership of the ANC but I think as the ANC now is working with the masses and is compelled to work with the masses, in fact it is quite amazing that process the ANC is actually going through. You know this business about the ceasefire, for example? The younger ones are saying, "What have you done? You've simply capitulated." The ANC goes down and talks to its rank and file activists and those activists in turn interpret ANC policies to the masses. In all those things if you see what is happening, communist and non-communist activists of the ANC are talking essentially of ANC approaches. There is no question of them expounding SACP ideology.
POM Talking about the youth for the moment, there is this huge generation of young people who are unemployed, perhaps unemployable, who are out there, many of whom would feel that calling a ceasefire is a sell-out. What kind of problem is this and how is it being dealt with?
CS First of all you must accept to the younger people in the first instance they have this romantic notion of the armed struggle. You can't get away from that one. So for the first time the ANC has been compelled to go to the activists and the leaderships of, say, the student congresses and the youth congresses and they have to explain that the armed struggle has been one of the pillars of the resistance movement, international pressures, isolation of SA, mass mobilisation. Now they have had to explain to them that there is also a difference between a ceasefire and a complete cessation of hostility. The MK soldiers will be kept mobilised and organised but the ANC historically has tried to effect changes as peacefully as one can and it was the response of the regime to ANC demands that finally compelled people's right to go to the armed struggle. For the first time there is a genuine possibility of real transformation. Now along these lines people have had to go out, activists have been sent over, right at the moment I can tell you, all over the country, report back meetings, but especially and quite amazingly that it is being accepted. For the last few days Youth Congress leaders have actually been going around telling the younger people. As far as the older people go I just don't see a problem because I think the adults in the population within the oppressed community are really desperately hoping that we come to the end of this process, that this violence and conflict, all that must come to an end.
POM In some places we've been told that there has been a perceptible move among young people towards the PAC. Is this taken seriously?
CS You know the younger people themselves are the first to see the contradictions of the PAC. They are aware of the fact that when it comes to real armed actions and all that, I mean the joke that goes around about the PAC, they talk of one bullet one person, you know one settler. Then this came up with the youngsters and this joke is doing the rounds all over and they say, ja, one bullet one person, but the PAC has only one bullet. So what we're trying to say is the people that are talking, they are aware of it. The first person who took advantage of the agreement between the government and the ANC about the exiles coming back, without even consulting his organisation, was Barney Desai who is supposed to be their chief co-ordinator and all that. So what is coming across is that they are taking advantage of all these agreements but making military noises. So now today the ANC in its negotiations with the government they have created a situation where they today can go on talking of the armed struggle without being picked up by the Security Police and being charged immediately for treason. Now these things do occur to the politically conscious young people.
Just to finish up this one, the Black Consciousness types wanted to make last June 16th a testing point, support and all that, and of course it was demonstrated that when it comes to it what carries the bag for the ANC in the final analysis is their support among the people.
POM Let me ask you, if tomorrow morning you had a majority rule government, what difference would it make in the life of the average family who live in a township or in a squatter camp? What could they expect to happen within five years or would anything really change given the huge increases in population, the massive levels of unemployment, the enormous shortage of housing, lack of water, electricity, basic services and the limited resources?
CS Housing, for example, must be seen as a very serious problem for the new democratic government and here I say the encouraging thing is that for the first the ANC is beginning to talk about not waiting till freedom comes in tackling some of these problems. You know Judge Steyn with this money that he got from De Klerk, the two million rand, just a year ago people in the MDM would have said you have nothing to do with a person like Judge Steyn, his association with the Urban Foundation. Now today the ANC is actually talking to him and ANC people might also in fact be involved in the process of utilising that money to build houses for the black communities in the urban areas. They are going out now and actually encouraging foreign companies who are here to go for what are called social development schemes, but putting heavy emphasis on blacks. They're going around to say that when we arrive at liberation it's not simply going to mean that you're going to Houghton, Hyde Park and taking over the homes of the whites, that is just not going to happen.
POM Are expectations very high in the African and black community about what will happen upon liberation?
CS The expectations in the African community are high. The one way of tackling it is that before we even get to the point of liberation action must be taken now to upgrade the lives of people within the past urban ghettos. That must be done. If we don't meet with some real success there then we have, I mean there is no doubt that people do not want to go on, look, they do make comparisons of living conditions in their areas and living conditions in the white areas. Now to them in their minds liberation will mean what the white minority enjoys we too should enjoy. The leadership knows that there wouldn't be these expectations unless they don't succeed through the activists to project a view that these things can't happen overnight, that the problem of developing these communities is a huge problem and it will take time to solve these problems. If this message is lost, like when Mr Mandela went to Lusaka he went to address the cadres in the camps there and he said, "You must be prepared to come there and to know that there will still be years of very hard work."
POM How many years would a government have? How many years to bring about that transformation?
CS This is my own subjective view that if we can actually arrive fairly quickly at a point where Mr Mandela can say now we have irreversible and profound changes and we are now negotiating and we can now seriously consider the lifting of sanctions, I do believe that it is also in the interest of major western capitalist countries to see that the SA economy does not collapse and to see that it develops and that southern Africa develops, that there should be development in southern Africa generally because it could be finally a source, an important market even for the existing trading partners of SA. Although people have been suggesting that with the events in Eastern Europe, where there will be aid that aid will go essentially for those countries and the Afro-Asian world will be neglected, I think there is some validity in that one. I think the rest of Africa might suffer as a result of this but I think the western nations won't simply see southern Africa as simply part of this whole Afro-Asian world and the priority must I think the importance of SA and the extent to which it became a great moral issue for a whole number of years and the prestige of Mandela and SA as a catalyst for real industrial and economic development in southern Africa, I don't think you have that. I think we still have, we're still in that phase where if things would go well you could have the kind of approach developing in major western countries which would tend to assist the development of the new SA to the extent that it would be in their interest. I do believe that once sanctions go one could draw on aid from foreign countries and I think within the country itself there could be a new mood and I want to believe that that mood will impact on the economy and we might move into a situation where in terms of economic and industrial and commerce and trade would begin to function in a comparatively stable and normal situation.
The task, here I say the ANC must actively engage itself in developing communities. As soon as they get to the point where they can actually talk of lifting sanctions they will have to concentrate themselves heavily in terms of beginning to tackle the real problems of people. If that approach is developed and the ANC begins to clarify its ideas about development I say that within ten years you could make an enormous impact on the material conditions of the oppressed community. In this part of Africa we might have a reasonable chance of meeting the expectations of the majority to some extent which would be a little more than what the other African countries have been able to do. I say there is tremendous I say the people should be encouraged about ideas not simply of joining SADEC, the talk that is going around of the southern African common market and seeing the whole of southern Africa finally as one large industrial sector on the continent.
POM Let's leave it at that. Thank you very much for the time. We have your address and telephone number?