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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Aug 1990: De Lange, JP

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POM     We're talking with Dr de Lange on the 14th of August. Nothing will be published for five or six years. I'm doing this on a year-to-year basis. Looking back to the 2nd of February, did Mr de Klerk's speech surprise you? What do you think motivated him to move so broadly and so rapidly at the same time?

JPD     Well, I think the basic motivation is to be found in the fact that in 1986, under the leadership of the previous President P W Botha, the so-called Rubicon was, in fact, crossed in the sense that the National Party and later on the government took the position that blacks were permanent and full citizens of the Republic of South Africa, whereas up to that time, they had been seen as transients, that their political place was in fact, in the so-called homelands. Having crossed the Rubicon, Botha then took this decision no further for three years, and pressure was building up to continue with the journey beyond the banks of the Rubicon. There was so much pressure for continuing change in the format built up within the National Party that there was immense support for De Klerk to continue with it, which he could only do once he'd become President, and once he'd consolidated his views on the matter, which surfaced on the 2nd of February. But, yes, the high risk situation into which he'd moved was a tremendous acceleration in the whole process.

POM     And what do you think motivated him? Was it, was there a moral factor involved?

JPD     Oh, there was certainly a moral factor involved, but also a very pragmatic factor in that the forces of change at the pre-political level had become so intense that something had to be done.

POM     Do you think that Mr de Klerk has conceded on the issue of majority rule?

JPD     In essence, yes, but with qualifications, obviously. I could, as I understand it, summarise his position in a single phrase, as it were, he will be looking towards a political dispensation in which the commonality of South Africa finds true political expression in the one-man, one-vote type of situation, but in which the reality of our diversity also finds expression. And the combination of these two must somehow be brought into play in a constitution.

POM     Is this what is meant by "power sharing"? Or how is that phrase used?

JPD     Nobody really knows what the practical implications of the term 'power sharing' are, but certainly that was what was implied by it.

POM     So, the answer is, yes, but with qualifications.

JPD     Yes.

POM     How about Mr de Klerk's promise that he will take whatever new dispensation is proposed back to the white electorate for their approval? Is that a promise he can keep? Is it a promise that he must keep?

JPD     It is a promise that he'll have to keep.

POM     He'll have to keep. But that suggests that the white electorate has veto power over any new political dispensation.

JPD     He cannot go beyond his power base. His power base is within the white electorate. Whether that, then, in effect, means that the decision as far as the whites are concerned lies with the whites and that this has implications for the total population, certainly it implies that. But I cannot see him ignoring his power base. He would be discredited totally.  You're dealing with a measure of reaction within the white community that he couldn't control, which would have a completely negative consequence afterward.

POM     How do you see the process itself unfolding? I think people have generally given us three broad scenarios. One is the path of a Constituent Assembly, the second is one where the negotiating table is broadened and the other major political players sit around it and a consensus develops on the way forward, including a consensus on a constitution. And the third is rather a combination of the first and the second, where you would have not an interim government, but the present government perhaps taking in some members of the ANC, and alongside that, you would have a special, perhaps an assembly of eminent people within the country who would work on drawing up constitutional principles, framing a constitution. Which path do you think is the most likely path?

JPD     I think the combination path is probably the likely one. What exactly its format would be is difficult to see, but certainly you spoke of bringing some blacks into government. I'm quite sure that in the process of negotiation or in moving towards negotiation, and while at that table, the destabilising factors will be extremely high in this country. It is a high risk situation. And that risk will have to be managed. It cannot be managed by the government alone. They will have to have the support, an alliance, as it were, with the other parties involved. In that sense, I'm quite sure that if there must be sufficient stability over that period, complete stability would not be available. But sufficient stability will. And an alliance will be necessary. What form it will take is difficult to know.

POM     When you talk about the presence of destabilising factors, what would you enumerate as those factors?

JPD     Well, those who exclude themselves from the negotiating process will be the major destabilising factors. Plus, a factor which I think is not sufficiently recognized and that is, a large number, an agonisingly large number, of black youth are beyond control. I don't believe you have time to listen to an analysis of why this is so, but I think that is an extremely important factor that must be taken into account and somehow must be accommodated.

POM     Why do you think this is so important? How do you think it can be, if it can be, accommodated?

JPD     Let me give my view on how it came to be. Fast urbanisation, over-fast urbanisation in the sixties and seventies, caused, as it does everywhere else, the disruption of family life. Plus, the influx control measures exacerbated the whole situation. So that by 1976, when the Soweto riots started, 70% of all the families, for instance, in Soweto were single parent families.

PK     How many?

JPD     Seventy percent, seven-oh percent. These were families in which the mother left home at six in the morning, more or less, on average time, and returned after six in the evening. So, those children were without any parental supervision during the day. In fact, the nursery school age, the kindergarten age children, were without parental or adult supervision. And the streets were strange to see in Soweto. Say, at eleven in the morning, there were two to five year-olds, plus the criminal element, who had control of the streets. Then, to my mind this was a strategic mistake, a bad one made by the ANC when they started criticising on a very large scale black education's quality, they tended to focus very strongly, and this was taken up by much of the press, on the low level of qualifications of black teachers. And this destroyed the authority in the classroom. So you had generations of young blacks growing up with very little bonds of authority, or affection, even, at home and almost total lack of authority in the schools. But they knew one kind of authority and that was the peer group authority which is by and large at a teen-age level an unthinking, brutal, and arbitrary kind of authority. This was worsened, this whole situation, in the middle '80s when the ANC developed its strategy of destabilising the black urban townships so that the black councils, local councils, could be discredited as being part of the establishment, unable to govern those black townships. In attempts to destabilise them, they used many of these youngsters as their front line soldiers, as it were. Allowed them to rape, to murder, and burn. That was the time of the necklacing. And an overlarge percentage, I would guess anything between 5% and 15% of our youngsters who have grown up as I've just indicated, were also brutalised by this experience. And they are present in our society in extremely large numbers. I think we should talk of millions. And they will be a destabilising factor during the movement toward negotiations, during negotiations, and after the new system is implemented.

POM     If the PAC stays outside of a negotiating process, does that become a magnet for these people?

JPD     Thus far, they've not succeeded to a very large extent. Largely, I would guess, because of their lack of organisation. Their infrastructure is almost non-existent. More, for that reason, than for any other reason. But it is not impossible that they might.

POM     I'm thinking of a situation. Earlier today we spoke with the Minister of Finance and one of his messages was that resources are very scarce and there will be a tough future. If you have a transitional government or a new government, it's going to be faced with huge demands from the black community, and the wherewithal to meet these demands is going to be largely absent. So that the cries of "sell out!" that have come from the PAC will take on a different tone.

JPD     I cannot but agree with that. It is going to be difficult. I can speak only of a few functional areas and one of them is education. We are at 19% of our national budget being devoted to education. That is in formal terms. In functional terms, it's 24, 25 to 26% even with pensions and all the other things related to education, but which is not direct education expenditure. Now, that is just about, in terms of an international survey we did for the Report on Education which I brought out in 1981, just about the limit which any given society can afford. If you go beyond that, you will be cutting into the meat, as it were, of other services, health, welfare services, security services, whatever, that the state normally provides. So you cannot go lopsided. The expectancy within the South for instance, the educational expectations have been formed in terms of the education that the whites have been receiving up until now in South Africa. That is largely an academically oriented education at the secondary school level, which produces people who do not fit the manpower needs of this country. To give you a simple figure, 80% of all white secondary school pupils are in academic courses, as if they would be going to university. Most of them don't because it's simply beyond their capacity. And only 20% are in vocational courses. Of the black children, 99% are in academic courses, and only 1% are in vocational courses. And the median for South Africa should probably be not more than 30% of the children in academic courses and 70% in vocational courses if we want to meet the manpower needs which a growing economy demands. So, I tend to agree, that unless we can change our view of some of the services that we provide, medical and educational services are two examples, we will not come near to affording what is expected.

POM     Where does one place first the Conservative Party and then the right-wing in all of this? Is the seemingly increased support for the Conservative Party something to be expected, given the uncertainty that's out there, something that will pass, or does it pose a real threat? Should De Klerk be looking over his shoulder, trying to gauge his own strategy in terms of bringing his electorate at some point along with him?

JPD     I've no doubt that communication at the grass-roots level has been neglected by the National Party's failure to speak to whites. The party has moved beyond the comprehension of the ordinary voter. This has created uncertainty, there's no doubt about that. Whether the right poses a threat, I have the impression, and I base this on, inter alia, an in-depth analysis a group of us made, mostly political analysts and journalists, a few months ago and we came to the conclusion that the right-wing had reached its zenith in the Transvaal, moving onto a plateau, with a downward trend beginning to show itself but that this was not yet the case in Natal. And this was illustrated a few weeks later in a largely English-speaking constituency in the last by-election. They might now be close to a zenith. But in the rest of the country the zenith will probably be reached earlier in Orange Free State than in the Cape Province. However, our conclusion was the following: that the right-wing ideological base had, in fact, been discredited in the sense that apartheid had not worked. It had been a practical failure, not only a failure in terms of the economic realities but also a failure in terms of moral values. If you put political trust in an ideological base which has no integrity anymore, your staying power would be limited. The first signs of that would be in the fragmentation of the right. Lack of coherence. I think this has become basically true, also, of the base of the South African Communist Party.

POM     Sorry, you think this is also?

JPD     True of the South African Communist Party's base. Their ideological base has also lost its integrity practically speaking. However, their far right and far left emotional staying power may remain high if the risk situation that we are in, and will be continually in for quite a while, becomes worse.

POM     Do you see this reaction including more violence or will it continue to be of a sporadic nature more than a coherently-organised violence?

JPD     I would tend to think it's going to be more sporadic and probably become less instead of more coherent.

POM     I mean, you would never see, or would you ever see a situation in which Afrikaners, in particular, would rally behind an organised attempt to fight the - ?

JPD     Yes, that's quite possible.

POM     That is quite possible?

JPD     Yes. If Afrikaners, and when I use the word "Afrikaners" I do not only mean Afrikaans-speaking whites, I mean those whites who are committed to a future in Africa. So, we call them the "white tribe of Africa", if they are threatened in their very existence, yes. They would come up not in fear but in anger. But that is something totally different from the present white right-wing reactionary activity.

POM     But would, for example, the introduction of black majority rule, a black government, pose such a fear to a majority of Afrikaners?

JPD     It's not a question of the introduction a black government as such, but how that government views its responsibilities and acts on them. If, as is often mooted by the PAC in its less guarded moments, a huge revenge period is envisaged, then you would have that type of reaction.

POM     I suppose what I'm getting at is that if Mr de Klerk had to go to his electorate tomorrow and say, 'We are moving to majority rule and that means a black majority rule and there may be some whites in the government but they will be chosen by Mr Mandela from the ANC, or he may even choose one or two outside of his own party but by and large, the dominant party in government is going to be a black party. And we will have guarantees relating to our language, we will have guarantees relating to our culture and our religion and protection of property rights, and that's it.' Wouldn't that be an awful hard sell?

JPD     The word "guarantee" wouldn't go. Nobody accepts guarantees in Africa. There must be real power. The word "guarantee" wouldn't go one yard in creating a sense of future perspective for whites.

POM     So, would I be correct in saying that what De Klerk would have to put before a white electorate will, in fact, be a form of power sharing? That there would be a dominant party and they will be black, but we'd also be there, and we'll be sharing power in a very significant way?

JPD     In certain issues we would, in fact, decide. With Afrikaans, for instance, will it be the medium of instruction or not, will not be based on a guarantee. I think that distinction must be made and it is what I meant by stating that I think that De Klerk's basic position is both creating structures or being party to creating structures which emphasises our commonality but also recognises our diversity.

POM     And diversity requires a sharing of power.

JPD     Ah, yes. And let me say this, and, granted, I may not be correct in the shorter term on this, but the expediency of black unity in the striving for power must not be misread as being a permanent kind. This is simply nonsense. The diversities in South Africa are as real as anywhere else and they will express themselves in real terms as anywhere else.

POM     Do you think that the outside world has been unfair to South Africa in the sense that when people would perhaps even defend apartheid, but would talk about diversity among blacks, and that there were ethnic differences and tribal differences, and histories of feuding and violence, and that people in other parts, in America and Western Europe, dismissed this as some kind of rationale to keep apartheid, that they haven't faced up to those kind of things, that they really do exist?

JPD     I think there was hypocrisy on both sides in this regard. I think there was a real, amongst many whites in South Africa, a real attempt to, what is the word?, disguise apartheid by referring to these things. But there were many also who looked at these things only in real terms, objectively. And I'm quite sure that the outside world in some respects were also hypocritical, the word "unfair" I think doesn't even apply, hypocritical in its denying of this reality.

POM     We hear a lot about white fears. What are white fears? How will they have to be assuaged?

JPD     That's a very interesting one. I'm not sure what white fears are. There is a great fear of numbers. Huge numbers. For the average person, there is no conception whatsoever of the immediate demography of the situation. The nearest they come to it is when the streets on Saturdays are swamped by blacks in the small towns and the large cities. Then, they flee as the Americans also did to their suburban shopping complexes, leaving the centre of cities alone at night. This is true in the United States, by and large, or it used to be true. And this has happened in South Africa. Secondly, there is a fear of being the victim of crime in their homes, assault, robbery, and murder. And these things have become extremely prevalent in our time. We're becoming a violent society.

POM     Do you think that many white people out there look at what has happened since the 2nd of February and at one level just see there's been a huge increase in violence as the harbinger of things to come?

JPD     It is not impossible, although I'm not sure that this is the case. Certainly it's been part of right-wing propaganda, to ascribe the increase in crime to the 2nd of February. Whereas the increase in crime should probably be ascribed to the growing unemployment, a continual rise of cost of living, and certainly, also, to this wild element beyond control among the young.

POM     Do whites have economic fears, the fears that standards of living declining, of the economy becoming like the rest of the economies of Africa?

JPD     Yes, there are such fears. Yes. Although there's a lot of fat in the economy, is that the word?

POM     There's a lot of?

JPD     Fat that can be cut in the economy.

POM     In negotiations, will the future structures of the economy play a large part?

JPD     I certainly hope so, because the political structures that will be negotiated could be empty shells unless the economic realities are also considered and an economic philosophy in which this country should operate has a clear broad base of meaning.

POM     Could you define what you think that broad philosophy ought to be?

JPD     I would, I'm an educationist, not an economist, and I'm inclined to define rather in terms of human responsibilities than in terms of markets. Any system which promotes the acceptance of individual responsibility for what you do and don't do is a system which tends to unleash the creative forces in human beings. And this relates very strongly to the free-market system, but it would be unreal to accept that the end-all and be-all of economics of South Africa is a free-market system in the naked sense of the word. I would think that a market-oriented system with a strong sense of social responsibility is what probably will be necessary to ensure that the services are created for the upliftment of people and that the work situation is created which will promote the growth of our economy.

POM     How do you think this will work in terms of arrangements? Obviously, you've said guarantees are insufficient. Will, for example, provisions related to economic structures have to be written into the constitution?

JPD     Yes.

POM     Yes? That would pertain to free enterprise?

JPD     And to social responsibility.

POM     Social responsibility. And the rights of private property?

JPD     Yes.

POM     Do you think there will also be limits imposed on the type and extent of nationalisation that might occur?

JPD     That is within the ambit of social responsibility and I don't think one can write that into a constitution, but certainly one would hope that if these basic tenets of an economically responsible government and of every individual being a responsible actor in the economy is accepted in the constitution, that realism will prevail when it comes to such methods as nationalisation.

POM     If you look at the black trade union movement, its rhetoric over the last number of years, and the commitment to socialism, this will be a very difficult medicine for them to swallow. Do you think there's a potential point of difference between the ANC, as a small political element of the ANC, and the trade unions?

JPD     I think it's beginning to show. It found some expression in the position of Cyril Ramaphosa. He was the Secretary of the Reception Committee for Sisulu and others and then also took over responsibility for Mandela's programme and overreached himself and was pushed to one side. He decided on whom Mandela would see and for how long, to an extent that raised Mandela's hackles. At that same time, I don't know who did it, I have an inkling, somebody put into Cyril Ramaphosa's hands an evaluation of the labour movement in Africa where blacks took over power and the history is basically that all these labour movements have been destroyed. And Cyril Ramaphosa and others took a few steps further away from the ANC as a result of these two factors. I have the impression that they are developing a workerist basis as their power base. And it's probably not impossible that we will have a labour movement.

POM     Would you see, perhaps, a Labour Party arriving similar to, with a relationship to the unions, similar to the relationship of the British Labour Party to the trade unions in Great Britain?

JPD     I think it is not impossible. It tends to show in that direction. The ANC, of course, is reacting to that and insisting that they represent the workers. They did this from the moment that they thought that Cyril Ramaphosa was trying to develop a power base away from them.

POM     Talk for a moment about the South African Communist Party. The question we've been putting to people is, what is the distinction between a member of the SACP and a member of the ANC? How would you say this defines the one and this defines the other?

JPD     I saw a private memorandum that circulated within the SACP which gives a very distinctive, special differences. The ANC is basically charterist, Freedom Charter. They have not yet departed from those basic tenets. The SACP sees that as an interim phase on the way to socialism and will accept it in the interim period. This is their stated prior position. As far as the Freedom Charter, the basis, that's the ANC response. Once that is in operation, they would then try and take it further into a true socialism.

POM     But is their - ?

JPD     That has received some revision, that point of view. That was February last year. In January this year, Slovo, also in a private document, undertook a revisionist point of view and started speaking about a mixed economy.

POM     So, the difference is more amorphous? But yet it - ?

JPD     Yes. I'm not sure that Slovo has convinced them, his own party. But definitely he is thinking in that area.

POM     It still seems to be, though, like a red flag to a bull, that even though communism has been discredited in much of the world, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, there still remains here a visceral reaction to it. Why is that?

JPD     Why the reaction? Well, we've been fed for a long time on empty communist propaganda. It's almost a conditioned reaction.

POM     Some people have suggested to us that the more the ANC associates itself with the South African Communist Party, the less well it may do among many blacks who are very, very religious and associate communism with atheism.

JPD     I would tend to agree with that.

POM     And other people have said that among the black population, that perhaps up to 20% could vote for the National Party. Would you find that surprising?

JPD     No.

POM     You wouldn't?

JPD     Blacks are, by virtue of their culture of decision-making, by and large very moderate people. Their decision-making culture is a culture in which the individual, the leader, consults his constituency and these decisions are refined over time, and a balance is brought into them. It's interesting to note, there's another element in this. The religious element is extremely strong amongst blacks. I'll give an example. I don't know if you've ever spoken to the man, perhaps you should, Lekganjani, the head of the Christian Zionists.

POM     We saw him on Sunday, last Sunday.

JPD     That is a remarkable phenomenon. You know, his membership cuts across all the cultural differences of South Africa. And they're probably the best disciplined, single religious group in this country. And also the largest. What did he give as his membership? Five million? Six million?

PK     Five million in South Africa. Six million throughout Africa.

JPD     That would be very close to the truth.

POM     And do they tend to have a particular political disposition?

JPD     I don't know how open he was with you. His father, the older Lekganjani, once told me that if ever we go to the negotiating table in South Africa, this was in 1980, and the ANC is there, then he would see that he is also there. Whether the present, the younger Lekganjani also has that point of view, I don't know. But he is a moderate man. Was that your impression also?

POM     Um-hmm. If tomorrow morning there were a majority government, or even a power-sharing government?

JPD     What kind of a government?

POM     A power-sharing government or a majority government. What difference will it make to the life of the average person in the township or a squatter camp? What could they reasonably expect to change in the next four or five years?

JPD     In the short term it will make very little difference. In the longer term there will be a new set of powers. These will be developed which will certainly try to enhance the living conditions of these people. There will be limits on what that new government could achieve. To give you some idea, the ability to build houses from bricks and mortar, for everybody becoming urbanised in this society, is not too high. I would imagine, and let me expand a bit on this, that the habits of protests and boycott will not disappear overnight. They could continue after a new government has indicated its position. I was speaking to the now new Director of Education of the ANC last Friday, Samuels. He was in Zambia when Kaunda took over power. As here, also in Zambia, the young had been used in the forefront of the freedom fight and there was a marginalisation effect. There was also disruption of family life and order in the schools. For five years after Kaunda had come to power, there were school boycotts. He mentioned that in the fifth year, they had 52 disruptions on the school year. That'd be one per week, in fact, a couple a week, if you take it there are only about 30 school weeks in the year. I would imagine that would tend to continue despite a new government. These young people have inflated expectancies. Within the first few years cars and houses will not suddenly be available. Expensive expectancies have been raised. There will be frustration and reaction.

POM     There seems to be a

JPD     Again, those risks will have to be managed, I think. One of the most important aspects of our time, and into the medium-term future, is the management of risks.

POM     There seems to be a curious parallel here, that on the one hand you are saying that the National Party has, to a certain extent, left its constituency behind it and has not brought it along, and on the other hand the ANC is allowing its constituency to develop a set of expectations that are wildly out of touch with reality. And when you talk about risks being managed, do the education of these respective constituencies have a part in that? In that context, if you look at the process as it unfolds, what do you think are the main obstacles or flash points that De Klerk faces within his constituency? What do you think are the main obstacles, flash points, stumbling blocks that Mandela faces within his?

JPD     The most obvious are the mad fringes that are out there and the fact that a situation as uncertain as is the present situation in which we are now creates a lot of leeway for the mad to operate. We have this shooting in this hostel over the weekend. Nine people were murdered. That is mad. We have the White Wolf killing a dozen people on a square in Pretoria. That's on the white side. So the mad fringe on the right and the mad fringe on the far left are capable of creating flash points. Imagine a situation, and this is hypothetical, that a petrol bomb is thrown into a white nursery school, and one can form some impression of the reaction of anger that would follow. The same holds for the vice-versa situation. So, the reaction of leaders to these types of situations will be extremely important and their management of it.

     Another risk situation is bureaucratic insensitivities. Orange Farm, which is a controlled squatter area created to absorb uncontrolled squatter groups from Soweto, it started at the beginning of this year and by April there were 4,600 children of primary school age sitting on bricks in the open air, receiving their education from teachers who hadn't been paid since April. A number of local representations have been made about the situation, and they didn't reach headquarters. The regional management in education was bypassed and they went directly to headquarters. Within a week an amount of money was allocated to at least pay these teachers something.

POM     How much more time do you have?

JPD     Just let me see.

POM     What role do you think Buthelezi plays in all of this? If the violence in Natal does not come under control, does it pose a threat to the whole negotiating process?

JPD     Yes.

POM     It does?

JPD     It does. The problem is that the violence in Natal has tended to become exported to other parts of the country. We've seen that happen in Evaton, Daveyton, in the south here.  We've seen it happen in the Pietersburg area. There is even talk that it is being exported down to the Cape, the Western Cape. So, in that sense, it can be a multiplier. The more important element, I would personally think, is that if Buthelezi is not given a position to play a really constructive and significant role we will have the Zulus on our hands in this country. And I'm not speaking on white hands only, on everybody's hands. They are a very proud people and if you insult Buthelezi by ignoring him or pushing him to one side in this whole process, you'll be doing that to the Zulus. I had the following experience related to me. When the opinion polls indicated that Buthelezi's acceptance among Zulus was fairly low, something in the 20%, this was unknown at that time to the owner of the Toyota factory in South Africa, Albert Wessels. He invited Buthelezi, and let me just add that Buthelezi's support in the urban areas was lowest of all, he invited Buthelezi to the Toyota factory which is a huge place and took him on an electric car through the factory and he realised that he was bringing his factory to a halt because all the Zulus, and they're 90% of his employees, were following the car to show respect to Buthelezi, not in the first place as leader of Inkatha, as a political leader, but as a member of the royal family. One must, I think, be very sensitive to this double power base of Buthelezi.

POM     A year from now, if I'm talking to you a year from now, how will things have advanced? Where do you think things will stand?

JPD     I'm probably expressing a hope, in answer to that. I think that the government and the other participants will have reached a fair consensus on the shape of their table and might be at that table and have reached, this is the hope, might have reached a basis for negotiation to proceed from there. Some of us have discussed certain so-called preconditions for negotiation to be met to create a sufficient measure of consensus for real negotiations.. I think that's more or less where, at the best, it can be. Probably the first is the more likely.

POM     OK. Thank you very much.

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.