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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

23 Aug 1990: Boraine, Alex

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POM     We're talking with Dr. Alex Boraine on the 23rd of August. Maybe I should talk about what has happened most regarding the violence that has spread to the Transvaal. What is your interpretation of what is happening and is the ethnic factor coming out as one of the big factors involved in the situation in South Africa?

AB     Well let me say the obvious, that it is an extremely complex and difficult situation to analysis and one is going to have to spend a lot of time as things settle down inside, talk to a wide variety of people so the remarks I will make now must be seen against that sort of background. But there are a number of points that can be made. First, Inkatha is very much a Zulu movement. In fact only a few weeks ago you had to be a Zulu to belong to Inkatha, a cultural organisation, which now has been extending to a normal political party and assumes therefore that other people may wish to belong to it. So far they don't seem to have had many applications. And I think that one should keep that in mind. Second, visitors occupy specific hostels in the Transvaal where the entire population of that hostel are Zulu speaking, come from Natal as migrant workers, who come and therefore live in single hostels, they group together, so you have not only the concentration of Zulus but you also have a fundamental sociological problem of the hostels themselves which for a very long time many people have been very critical of for a number of other reasons. I think that the carry-over of the war, if you like, between the Congress movement in Natal and Inkatha is a very decided factor with Zulus having cousins and brothers and aunts and uncles all involved in that fighting, would certainly be affected in their relationships with other people. I think too that so far the evidence or the allocations that I have seen from people living there, it is clear that whatever else is true the fight is started by the Zulu. Whether they were rising up as Inkatha or simply as a Zulu minority in a situation where they felt they might be attacked it is unclear to us. What is true is that the initial march by the Zulu MPs onto the Xhosa was supported and protected by the police. There were any number of eyewitnesses who watched not only the policemen walking and the cars but actually there were these people marching with unbelievable spears, choppers and axes and guns . I think once that took on there was no way that one could reasonably sit down quietly and talk it out. Heavy casualties were inflicted and the violence took on its own life, its own momentum. I think where Buthelezi was absolutely right was when he asked possible for him and Mandela to come together and talk this thing out. He said, "Well, violence is all about." It is no longer a question of just simply sorting out a problem. It has become a revenge issue, it has become a reaction issue, it's become - well everybody gets them and they have got to get us and it has a history of its own. And that what frightens me, it's a tragic situation.

POM     Do you believe that Mr. Mandela should meet with Mr. Buthelezi?

AB     Absolutely, but I don't think, I think it ought to have happened two or three weeks ago and I think I can say that because I reported pleading for that to happen four months ago when I wrote they must meet, before it reached this level. And when I saw Mandela two weeks ago and I made the same plea and he said, "Look I want it do it but it is very, very difficult for me because people on the ground tell me, how can you meet with a butcher? He and his police are killing us. And now you want to meet and that is going to make it very difficult, it will be very public and that is going to tug right at and make it very difficult for us to hold our constituency." So there are all sorts of, also a lot of ANC people, particularly in Natal who believe that Buthelezi is actually behind all of it, they actually believe it. And that he is staking his claim to be at the table in a significant way, almost compelling Mandela to meet with him, which gives him the respect internationally and nationally. And there may be some truth in that. But I don't believe that he was sort of actually conspiring in getting hold of a whole lot of local Zulus and saying, "March today, that will help me." I don't think that it was being unhelpful from his own political point of view.

PK     Do you think that if Mandela were to meet with Buthelezi and they were to sit down that they could deliver (unintelligible)

AB     Not now.

PK     ... encouraged to go into negotiations if they don't have that leverage?

AB     That is his dilemma you see, he doesn't, then people would say the reason why the alliance is conceding is because you refused to meet Buthelezi. What sort of violent people or youth ...?

POM     (unintelligible)

AB     It is a no-win situation for him and that is why my guess is that the ANC is going to actually take a delegation of ANC people but not necessarily Mandela in the first round of talks. De Klerk has been pushing very hard. Indeed, in fact he made an offer to Mandela saying, "Look I understand that you have a problem and I would be more than happy to meet, to bring the two of you together, I will facilitate that." And I said to him, "What did you say to him?" He said, "Listen, they had no problem about me meeting Buthelezi. If I phoned him this afternoon and told him to be in my office tomorrow morning he'd be there." I think he is absolutely right, he's absolutely right. Buthelezi is apt to do this. He has got to come to this party because he is losing support at an incredible rate in Natal . So regrettable, too much blood has been spilled for there to be a nice easy patching up or coming together. What I think is that you must probably find that all the parties, the police, the residents, the blacks, the Zulus, Xhosas are wanting some way out but don't know how to do it. Because if it continues then I have to continue, my cousin gets one life I've got to the other. There is a macho overtone as well as anything else. So I sort of feel that despite all, the violence is so bloody, I think of over maybe 600 hundred people being hacked to death and hundreds of thousands of them injured, and dislocation, and burning and arson and instability. Leaders have to take some risk including Mandela.

POM     You said that Buthelezi is behind the scene orchestrating Inkatha, what do you think with regard to police?

AB     Well, yes, look at the history of the police and if you understand that the police are really torn in a sense of who has decided that everything has to be done to maintain the so called existing order. They have developed a cross-culture which says that anybody who opposes their existing order has to be dealt with, to put it mildly, and anyone who can assist them in maintaining the existing order, black or white, has to be assisted against the other forces. And the history of Natal certainly and the history of Crossroads here in the Cape visibly, I saw with my eyes, where the vigilantes were actually directed, assisted and protected by the police. Who told them to wear white bandannas or white around their head so they could see who to shoot and who not to shoot and who to attack and who not to attack? Now I find that the Zulus in Soweto are all wearing red.

PK     Not only bandannas. Now they are fully dressed in red.

AB     [Monzana(?) tells me] I was told that they were instructed to do so by the police.

POM     One explanation we heard was that there were people in Inkatha, high level people in Inkatha, and people in the police who were colluding but that it wasn't being orchestrated by Buthelezi at the top or by the police at the top. It was kind of a middle level thing, done by individuals rather than done on behalf of their organisations as such.

AB     Yes, I would tend to think that that makes an awful lot of sense. I think the warlords, as it were, have been in collusion with the police force for years. Bear in mind that KwaZulu has had its own police force which means you've got pretty senior Zulus running a fully fledged, fully armed police force in Natal. Very easy to get arms into the West or into the East Rand or anywhere in this country. Secondly, I would argue, however, that there is another dimension to it. And that is I think you certainly have the police and the warlords but you also have, I think, some fairly active white right wing people involved. Because again you see, one has had people phoning in and telling of white people seen in cars delivering suitcases to hostels prior to the first initial onslaught. And one of those suitcases was recovered by a group of comrades who went out to defend and attacked, they made no bones about it, they went to attack in order to return the violence and they actually confiscated one of these and the Zulus had dashed out of the hostel, they found one of these very nice suitcases, full of arms, guns, not just knives and hatchets. And when they asked they said that a car came and there were whites. Were they in uniform? No they were not in uniform. OK they could have been out of uniform and how does one, you know, there are a lot of right wing people in the police force. But I think that some agencies of the right wing, either on duty or off duty, security police and others, have been involved. I mean you ask an age old question, who gained, who didn't, for what is happening the black townships.

POM     We met with Buthelezi yesterday who said that the king, I think, was taken back by the degree with which the king passionately spoke of these Xhosa (attacks)on the Zulu people

AB     Sorry?

POM     That the king, I think we were a little taken aback by the intensity with which the king maintains that this was a conflict in which the Xhosa was trying to kill Zulus. I mean putting it very starkly in terms of the ANC, Xhosa organisations destroying opposition in its path to establish a one party state. Does that ...?

AB     He might even believe that you see.

PK     He believes that, unless the guy is a great actor.

AB     This is a problem of perception, even though the SABC whenever they have interviewed someone that is running around. I mean if you hear the news this morning, there was a women I think by the name of Mariam, now what is happening, what is the Zulu - and I have interviewed - I saw you at that restaurant, that was last week, it was the day after Soweto, I visited a company, I had to speak at their board meeting, I said, "While I'm here why don't I just go into the factory and interview some people?" They said, 'Yes OK." So I interviewed only four I think, or five, individually and without exception they passionately believe that this is Buthelezi, that they had seen for themselves Zulus were attacking and this was Inkatha and it was Buthelezi.

     And that is the frightening thing that perceptions are such that Xhosas believe it firmly, the Zulus believe something different and I am sure that it is not nice and easy and simple, I think there are a hell of a lot of violent people out there. And if you look at the history of South Africa in the last forty or fifty years where blacks have been excluded from normal constitutional politics, where the whole concept of debate and of decency and of tolerance all go into that democratic framework, even in our own highly undemocratic parliament you have the vestiges of that. Now, and I talk meeting blacks and they say you are absolutely right, we are desperate about this. When people in the black community want to resolve a problem it is very seldom that they have forgotten the basis of violence and indaba and that sort of thing. Now you go out and you attack that person, it is a life and death issue and it can be a resources issue, ideological issue. Therefore you are going to state your claim and if you stay in my way you must get out of it. So there is, that is below the surface. A hell of a culture of violence. Because if you don't have any other way to resolve that, what else are you going to do? Either give in or you are going to ...

POM     If the violence continues, not at its present level, but kind of assumes a life of its own, get used to it, doesn't it pose a real problem to negotiations?

AB     Absolutely, it poses an extremely difficult problem, (i) because blacks will ask the hard question as to what or why bother about negotiations when it can't really help, that the fight goes on. But more and more whites who very easily can say whatever you do, they are barbarians, they're savages, they're killing each other. Why are they killing each, their own people? I've got it about five thousand times in the last week.

POM     Do you get that from people who live in your neighbourhood and are very active in politics?

AB     [These people are the plain taught(?), people stop at their restaurant and say, what do you think prominent business people] It is right across the board. It is not just the diehards. They, of course, would like the police and everybody to get out and they can kill each other off. As many people as possible, the fewer you have got to deal with in the future. It's as crude as that. But that is not the person I am talking about, I'm talking about whites who are already confused about what is happening. Their expectations were raised just as blacks expectations were raised, after February 2nd. Well we may not like this, we are not too sure but at least now we can find some solutions. People are going to sit around the table, they are going to hammer out a future and we can get on with it. And suddenly it becomes highly complicated. They don't understand the 40 odd years, and the 100 years and the 300 years and the legacy of apartheid. They get impatient. They think Buthelezi is a good guy, most whites, because he has successfully got that image across the television, because he has got access to television over many years now and he's always almost a bleeding heart kind of liberal, pleading for peace. I have heard from Dr. Mandela, and I have great regard and respect for him, but what can I do? What can I do he won't speak to me? And I'm against sanctions, and I'm for peace and I'm against the armed struggle. So whites generally, whether you, people in the DP or whatever, get very uncomfortable when you even suggest that Inkatha might be playing a role in this. They feel that that is very unfair, that the ANC, Mandela, won't speak to Buthelezi, for God's sake why won't he speak to him? They can't understand the dynamics, but why should they, they have not been informed. They have been told that this is how it is going to be for so long. Now the thing is happening they, I mean the CP must be doing a dance for joy every night, you know, keeping a tally so every black that gets killed that means more whites going.

     So I think negotiations would certainly be, how do you negotiate when people are dying? Now you should negotiate even harder of course, and we know that, because people are dying . That's not the general view and I can't see de Klerk going on having another Minute somewhere, some resolution. Either he has to re-impose the state of emergency here then the ANC will say in that case we are not going to go on with the negotiations and if they don't go it doesn't matter who the hell talks, it is not going to work. He knows that. But he is hesitant to do that. And then you get Holomisa who is seen as Xhosa and Buthelezi accuses him of sending troops into ... and how do you approve that and how dare you? And Vlok? The whole thing is becoming very, very messy indeed and that is not good for negotiations. That doesn't mean that I think negotiations is at an end. I think that it reaffirms the view. [I don't know if you know the game, I used it a lot growing up and I don't put them down.]

POM     Six years old.

AB     You see I use that as an address because de Klerk used the idea of a chess game and I said no we should use - not like that, there should be a series of reverses, a series of victories, a series of reverses, it depends on how things reverse out as to how significant our victories will be. And then I suddenly thought of that game that you go up the ladder and down and that seems to get through to people. You've never heard of it?

PK     No I haven't, it must be Irish or British.

POM     Other than violence what obstacles do you see lying in the way of Mandela as he tries to move or guide his community through the negotiating process? And how would you see de Klerk as he tries to manoeuvre his community?

AB     Well I think Mandela made a couple of bad mistakes in doing the right thing, you know what I mean. I think when he made the initial speech about throwing knives into the sea he hadn't done the preliminary yard work. We must expose ourselves and be killed. That's what he said. We are not going to do that. And everybody, his followers thought him saying this to them, so there was the act of mercy of the police. He's learned from that and he acknowledges that that was a bad mistake. But you then go into the Pretoria Minute and in my book he rightly announced the end of the armed struggle. And then a big campaign of telling people, that he has wised up. Now he doesn't seem to understand that during the struggle there has been a very strong demand for the process to be democratic as far as talk and that takes a long time and it's agonising and its difficult and paralysing very often and sporadic. But people were accustomed before they were smashed, for people to be on the streets as they were going to be or do this or do that. I've heard a very prominent ANC person who was appalled at the way this was done. I now have the hard work of persuading ... I've got to believe Mandela did the right thing. When he told me on that Wednesday that this was imminent I never dreamt that it would be as close and as clear as the way he announced it. I mean the poor old government delegation went into a tailspin. They asked for an immediate halt to the proceedings for an hour and a half. They were going to get even with both barrels. He knew that. They just saw them as quite smart at that level but not very smart at the grassroots level. So I think that is where he is going to have a problem.

POM     Was there a perception too that he got nothing in return?

AB     That's right. They can't see what he has got in return. They say this is a compromise and that means both partners compromise. He believes that he got a lot out of it.

PK     A round table?

AB     Yes, that and that they are going to get something out of the Declaration of Intent which will enable him to then act on it. Secondly, that he reckons he did a deal on the whole question of people coming back from exile with government assistance, that anyway these are South Africans and therefore South Africans paid for this. We didn't chose to go, we were driven out. But that is not a nice easy thing to explain. And a lot of people are upset with that. They don't see that as a bargain they see this as part of the problem. So they are having to explain all that you know. He also reckons that he gave Captain van der Bergh the numbers involving police and de Klerk promised to take those and Vlok promised to take those one by one and report back to Mandela on each of these. Because he reckons that unless you stop the police violence you know you can't have it both ways. Probably he always maintains that there ought to be a joint declaration of the stopping of the violence. And it came out as sort of one sided.

     So I think that is going to - and I think the PAC has grabbed this with both hands and they are making a lot of capital out of that now. I don't know if it is going to really in the long run lead to enormous support for the PAC. I think the ANC's roots are very deeply in the history of the country, that it is going to take a hell of a lot to shake that but I think that as long as Mandela is there, despite some of the people feeling that he should have talked to them, he is a man of such stature and compare him with what you know of the PAC or anybody else, AZAPO, they haven't got anybody much like that. So that also the young people, the millions of uneducated, literally uneducated , many homeless, they are so ready, already you see yesterday the first signs that young people are getting involved in the riots, the young people they are there. They are unemployed, they play soccer and they are going to take sides. And most of them in the Transvaal will take sides against Inkatha. So that is going to be the problem. They are betting generally speaking, I think with the fact that you have got Chris Hani, really bucking things political, to put it mildly, then getting flack from de Klerk's community, whereas the ANC has got to take a strong stand on that. [But having said that the ANC is a lot.] And therefore why shouldn't - and a lot of laws that haven't been repealed and mostly, there are certainly no social economic benefits coming the way of the vast majority of blacks. They don't see those benefits. So I think he has got a huge job and the trouble is as you go down the hierarchy of the ANC, the leadership, beyond a certain level, it is not all that hot, not all that able or convincing. So he is very much, he and a couple of people are on their own.

     De Klerk on the other hand, I mean he is not out of the woods of violence. I think he has got huge problems in his own community and you know any kind of lack of action by a head of state when hundreds of people are being killed, which jeopardises the economy, which ruins any talk of investment from Britain or anywhere else because of the instability, inevitable loss of confidence and, what do you do, just having meetings with Holomisa and Buthelezi pursuing statements you want to say, you must love one another and all that, statements that such a - so blatantly ... So he has got a lot, you know, on the one hand he has got to be seen to be running the country and being in charge, on the other hand if he goes too far on that it reverses all the gains that he has got in the last two meetings. So [he[has got to as well, set ourselves] he's on a very fine knife edge and decisions in the next couple of days could put us back a long, long way or could help us to get over this particular sleigh that we are sliding down, in fact trying to get.

     But I think Tutu might be able to help. And it is good that he has come back and it is good that he walks the streets of Soweto. Because you need that sort of influence right now. But the average white, I mean, they don't have - but I am demanding why in the hell haven't the police disarmed everybody? Xhosas, Inkatha or ANC, anybody, if you have a gang of people walking down the road with picks and shovels and guns and axes, you don't just sort of follow them, yeah, and then wait for it to happen then send into the car. You stop them and say ah ha and take it away, otherwise you lose control. And the general view of a lot of people in this country is that they won't be charged. And I don't care, what should happen in any country is if you have nobody in charge then you have chaos and you are in real trouble.

POM     Leave it there.

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.