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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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

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POM     Jenny, could you take your mind back for a moment to Mr de Klerk's speech on 2nd February. Did what he had to say come as a surprise to you and what do you think motivated him to move so broadly and so sweepingly at the same time?

JDT     It didn't come as a total surprise. We had started to expect something by way of unbanning of the major liberation organisations. We had expected it, I would say, after the September election but certainly the thing that really I think we were incredibly surprised by, we expected him to unban the ANC and the PAC but did not expect the SACP. We also didn't expect the breadth of things like the moratorium on the death penalty. It was a pretty broad sweep in one go given the sort of funnel that we'd been going down for such a long time.

     In terms of what motivated him, I've got to try and think back because things have happened so fast that your perspective changes, you get more understanding of things and it's hard to remember back to a particular point in time. Certainly round about then our perception would have been, or at least my perception (let's not talk about 'our', the Black Sash has 2000 women across the country, they pretty well have their own opinions on virtually everything so holding these strong minded women in a general path together is quite fascinating), FW de Klerk is a constitutionalist and sees his role, I think, in bring SA back into a western constitutional fold and I think that differs fundamentally from PW Botha whose portfolio had been defence within the government and under whom certainly the whole mass security system that was developed here was given much ground for growth. Under Botha of course a lot of our legislation had moved away from constitutional control of policy to shadow government. We were living, I think we still are to a large extent, but we were certainly living under a shadow government and it was a military one and it was a military one that had penetrated every aspect of our lives. It was the most cohesive piece of policy after the initial sort of grand apartheid. It was going one way which was conflict and I think that FW and our understanding now is very much influenced by the Broederbond and the intellectual think tank within the Broederbond was very much encouraged to start moving away from that conflict and looking for a constitutional answer to the country.

     I think for me, and this is a very myopic kind of a perspective maybe, one of the changes that has taken place between when the NP first came into power and now is that in response to the tremendous impoverishment of the Afrikaner people Afrikaner nationalism came into being and in 1948 the Afrikaners were very much of the whites, the poor. I think in the intervening time (I was out of this country for 11 years, I lived in Canada in the seventies) and certainly what happened between the time I left and the time I came back, because I found it quite noticeable when I came back, was that the Afrikaner people had gained economic power. There had been a tremendous movement in terms of Afrikaner business which had been very much held by the English in this country, had gained economic power and had also obviously become the bureaucracy, there had been that change which also had tremendous economic spin-offs. The previous tremendous isolation of the Afrikaner people, I believe that D F Malan who (I've forgotten what dates he was Prime Minister) but I believe he had never left SA except on a cruise ship to Rio, so one must remember the tremendous isolation of particularly the Afrikaner people in SA.

     What I am saying is that the new generation of Afrikaner had become internationalist through being part of big business. Some of our most powerful people in this country like Rupert, part of Rembrandt van Rhyn that owns a lot of international companies, so what I am saying is that SA, I think, and the people who can make the decisions and particularly the Afrikaner businessmen had moved from that isolationism to an internationalism and realised that SA was economically going down the tubes because of sanctions. Well not just because of sanctions, because of a whole lot of factors but that sanctions and the international isolation was certainly not allowing SA to grow and to begin to address the issues. Apartheid was too expensive. Legislated racial discrimination was too expensive and I think that they are smart enough to know that economic discrimination seems to be perfectly acceptable world-wide and that if we move from open racial discrimination the whole issue of economic discrimination is something that is going to be a much more hard fight, a much harder fight for the liberation movement.

POM     I was going to ask you that. Do you think De Klerk has a grand design that he has in his head an idea of where he is going and what he wants and do you think part of that would be his effort to maintain economic power while giving away political power?

JDT     Well that's a very personal point of view of mine. Yes, it seems to be relatively clear that he was very - I don't know if it's a grand design but I'm just saying if I were in his position coming from where he was I would certainly have given up political power because anybody who is actually going to run this place has the most appalling God-awful job on their hands and if I were him I'd get out of that stuff knowing I could maintain economic power.

POM     Do you think he will attempt to have provisions relating to free enterprise, non-nationalisation of land and things like that written into the constitution?

JDT     Well it's going to be a very hard piece of negotiation. All the parties are going to have to come from a position and then gradually move towards a negotiated basis. I would imagine that's where he would start from, yes.

POM     Let me go back a step. You said he realises that apartheid is too expensive and conflict will continue. Do you think he has conceded on the issue of majority rule?

JDT     I don't know, I can't say what he's conceded because he obviously is not going to give those things away. I personally believe that he has had to concede on that. You only have to look at the rest of Africa to understand it. I think it's non-negotiable personally.

POM     That majority rule is non-negotiable?

JDT     Absolutely.

POM     I'll make a distinction, do you believe he has conceded majority rule which would essentially be a black government or that he will concede majority rule but within a power sharing context? That is to say, for example, that the NP would still have a role in government, a role in the executive, would maybe hold three or four important portfolios where the rest would be held by blacks or do you see essentially the NP becoming an opposition party in a new state?

JDT     Those things are terribly, terribly hard to say. I would imagine he will go for that, your first option of having the NP having some degree of say in an executive. I just don't know at this stage if the black people of SA will accept that kind of thing. I don't know that it's a model that people are even, that the black people of this country are even contemplating.

POM     But when he says the phrase 'there must be universal franchise one man one vote', I mean what does that convey to you without going into the intricacies of it?

JDT     To me that's straight majority rule. I think he is planning to come to negotiating with all kinds of models that will set up systems that don't allow a total free for all but I think that the NP would certainly become a party ...

POM     At the same time he's given a promise to the white electorate that he will take any new dispensation or proposed new dispensation back to them for their approval. Is that a promise he can keep or is it a promise he must keep?

JDT     Maybe it's a promise that he ought to keep but I wonder what meaning it will have? The expectations now are so high that I think that if he were to take it to the white people and the white people would turn round and say, no, there would be the most awful, awful uprising. Things are volatile enough as it is but I strongly suspect that people won't accept that.

POM     In that regard, in your view what is the threat of the right wing? I make a difference here between the Conservative Party (CP) and the right wing. Do you see increasing white support for the CP? Is the threat of violence real and has to be taken as a serious threat?

JDT     I think it's very real because I think to a lot of the right wing is armed, it's angry at what it sees as a betrayal. After all this apartheid thing has been woven around people's lives, people have been fed it from, it's been spoken of in schools, it's been preached from pulpits and to suddenly take it away from people they certainly are in some ways justifiably angry. I don't support them and I never have. The government has sold them a bill of goods for an awfully long time and they are saying, hey look, we'd better re-think because the natives are restless, and I think one has to take them quite seriously. I've always argued that when you look at the right wing, and when you see Helen she knows quite a lot more about the right wing because she's actually done some in depth interviews with them, they constitute maybe a million, a million and a half of a country of 34 38 million (we don't know what our exact census figures are). How long can we go on being held to ransom by that grouping? I feel that we mustn't allow them to get the upper hand but we have to be very careful because they are violent.

POM     Do you think that if there were an election held today that a majority of the white community would vote for the CP?

JDT     I have no idea, I really have no idea.

POM     What about your friends and colleagues, people with whom you come in contact, white people, do they express fears and anxieties? What are they? I assume most of your friends are liberals.

JDT     Yes, I live almost like sheltered employment, all the people that I fortunately have most to do with think like I do, which is not like most South Africans so it's a bit of a problem. Within the white community there is a lot of uncertainty, there is a lot of fear. We feel that within our membership there is a lot of uncertainty and a lot of fear. What we are going to try and do now over the next period of six months is start to run a series of meetings on the issues of looking at the future, of restructuring and what they mean, issues like what does it mean to Cape Town to be one city instead of a divided city, what do we mean when we look at a new health care policy? Every one of these things has been so stratified. What does a new social welfare policy mean? For instance our particular focus this last year was pensions, there are 17 different departments in this country that deal with pensions and that's on a racial basis, or a racial and geographic basis, and quite a few of them have very different policies. In one of the homelands you can't get a pension, there are no new pensions being given, you can only get one when somebody dies.

POM     You have to die in the family? Leave your pension in your will?

JDT     Well pensions have become a major source of sustaining a lot of the rural areas of this country. Old people will get pensions and entire families are living on them. We've got a book which I'll give you. We collated our information on pensions last year.

POM     What kind of fears do members of your organisation have?

JDT     Well they obviously have tremendous fears of violence and of the violence that is happening now although it doesn't come terribly close to us because apartheid cities, as I'm sure you've noticed, have worked incredibly well. The problem is 'over there'. Other people's lives are 'over there' and most South African whites have not been into black residential areas at all. The violence seems to be something that does frighten a lot of people, especially given that our television has certainly fed us on the violence of Africa north of us as well, families that have been murdered on farms in Zimbabwe, etc., etc., gets a lot of coverage, or has had a lot of coverage because we are fed with this whole image of blacks being violent people and violent for no real reason, it's in their blood kind of stuff. So again this whole mental turnaround that's got to happen. With our members they're exposed to a whole lot of other stuff but our members also sit and watch SA television which is the only source of television there is in the country.

     But there are other fears obviously because we are an elite class, we have land, we have privileges, our kids have had better education than other kids, so there is a fear of what it means to become Africanised, what it will mean to the education of your children. I think a lot of the talk of nationalisation frightens people because they don't actually understand nationalisation and don't necessarily understand that SA has been nationalised for a very long time. It was just nationalisation for a very tiny segment of the population.

     People are very frightened about the whole property issue and of course when you come to the stage that we in SA have, land and property become one of your key issues in terms of redistribution and reallocation. So there's a lot of fear and a lot of lack of understanding. I mean none of us understand what's ahead in terms of property rights and things like that. I suppose it's a fear of the unknown and a fear of what it's going to mean for you to change your lifestyle and an organisation like the Black Sash where people have been espousing this stuff, we are now faced with what it means.

POM     So there is some guilt attached to its having these kinds of anxieties too I would assume?

JDT     Yes because you're saying this is what we've been talking about now, now what is it actually going to mean to me? So we started the process of having special meetings talking on the future, and we just feel it's a terribly important part because if at least our members understand then maybe the reaction to transition is going to be that much easier.

POM     Just to return to the question of violence for a moment, the violence of the last two weeks, particularly the last week and a half, has that had a discernible impact on your members again in terms of this is what the government said, tribe will turn against tribe?

JDT     No. Well again it's very hard to make blanket statements but the Black Sash members that I've been in contact with, which is usually the leadership in the other areas, but in particular the Transvaal where the violence has been particularly bad, are absolutely distraught by what is happening, are pretty convinced, or at least some of them seem to be quite convinced that there are elements that are orchestrated. It's been orchestrated so often that we find it hard to believe it's not orchestrated any more and our members have been so deeply involved, like in Cape Town there was the Crossroads issue where literally the police stood by while one element burnt out half of the community. Our members in Natal believe through their involvement that the police and the army have been siding with Inkatha. So I am saying that it's hard to rid yourself of those pre-conceptions of what's going on.

POM     So that you understand what's happening when you can fit it into a pre-existing framework?

JDT     Yes, yes. It may or may not be so and that might be a very simplistic way of trying to put the blame onto something that at least you understand because for a lot of South Africans and for us too the whole issue of moving from resistance politics to engage in trying to define new nationhood, trying to look at what we stand for as opposed to what we were against is the period of transition that we're in now.

POM     When Patricia and I walked in first you said that you remarked on how things are changing so rapidly and how when everyone was against apartheid there were no cracks and now you're talking about cracks and divisions arising or being there or exposing themselves. Could you enumerate what you think some of those divisions are and how serious they might be?

JDT     I think that before when we were united against apartheid, yes, as I say the cracks are not there, now I don't think people are all that clear themselves but I think certainly some of the cracks have to do with economic order, some of the cracks maybe have old roots in terms of Black Consciousness and I think that the PAC element that was not very obvious in the past 18 years is starting to come much more clearly to the fore. I think that the SACP, well nobody would even tell you that they belonged to, is starting to gain great ascendancy. I think people are terribly frightened that we are merely going to have a change from white patriarchs to black patriarchs and no real change down at the bottom, that there will be no redistribution, redressing, affirmative action, etc., etc., because a lot of black people, especially the massive youth curve that we have, we have 50% under the age of 18 in this country, see that without some kind of major change and shift they have no stake in the future.

     We've just been doing some interviewing here for a field worker post and we put an ad in which is very new for us which said that in the spirit of affirmative action we would interview preferably mature Xhosa speaking women. We have had the most sensational, stunning applicants, the most remarkable women. None of them can get jobs, they see no hope of getting jobs. They've gone to university because education has been very much held in a certain sector of black society as the way of getting ahead. We've seen seven women who would be wonderful to employ immediately, some with social work Masters, there are no social workers in certain parts of SA. So they are saying unless this thing is really re-fashioned completely and a lot of the economics are refashioned it's just going to be black faces instead of white faces.

PAT     Is that how you feel?

JDT     I'm quite worried about it though I think one has to be terribly realistic about reconstructing an economic policy. You can't just do that kind of thing overnight. Our real challenge here is redistribution with growth because I don't know how else we're going to achieve it. I think that also there are going to have to be sacrifices on the part of white people and I don't know how that's going to be achieved.

POM     In the life of the average person who lives in a township or a squatter camp or the average black person, what difference would majority government mean tomorrow morning or even five years from now in the material circumstances of their lives?

JDT     Very little.

POM     Yet we hear a lot about the huge expectations they've been building on.

JDT     Massive, massive.

POM     Is that what your members find too?

JDT     Yes, yes. The expectations are enormous and the ability to deliver in the current economic downturn are going to be tremendous. I think that there will obviously be a reordering of priorities. We maybe won't go round building these ridiculous huge roads and start putting money into providing some of the basics, but there's one hell of a challenge there because the expectations are gigantic, the ability to deliver, I think, is not that huge at this stage.

POM     And related to that is the question of the youth. We hear a lot about this generation, uneducated, unemployed, perhaps unemployable, who have known only a culture of protest and confrontation and for whom the future would look to be pretty bleak even in the best of circumstances and many of whom appear to be dissatisfied with the suspension of the armed struggle. Has your organisation been able to detect any perceptible shift of young people towards the PAC?

JDT     It's very hard to say. I mean we hear that's what's happening but I certainly haven't had personal experience of it. I think that the ANC is in a very difficult position because it is trying to cater to quite a broad spectrum and I think if it caters to too broad a spectrum it could well lose a bolt which is the youth. I think that in the realpolitik that has to happen. If they go too far towards accommodating white fears they could well lose a lot of the blacks.

POM     Do you see the ANC as continuing to exist as a political party or that at some point it's going to split, that it now has constituencies within it that were held together by the common bond of the struggle for liberation but as that bond becomes looser the disparate elements will become more concerned with their own issues?

JDT     It's very early to tell, at least I think it's very early to tell.

POM     Well you mentioned the SA Communist Party (SACP). We ask everyone: what is a South African communist? How do you define a South African communist?

PAT     Nobody has yet shown us their membership card.

JDT     Well you see this is one of the problems at the moment, that nobody, including the ANC, is coming out and saying what they really are. We had a discussion with just one young woman yesterday and we were asking her in this interview about we remain non-party political, we're saying if we employ you and you are a member of the ANC when you go out can you withhold that support of the ANC? She was saying yes and what was really becoming quite a problem for them was that they had always supported, as you said, the ANC during the period of the liberation struggle but that they were waiting and watching and they wanted to know what the ANC stood for because it wasn't clear to them and maybe that wasn't where they were going to put their support although that was historically where they had been.

     Look, actually in a lot of ways it's terribly early times now, it's six months along but of course things are accelerating at such a rate that somebody is going to have to come out and say quite clearly what they stand for because a lot of these parties aren't. What does the NP stand for? Is it going to become a non-racial party? What's it going to call itself? Things are incredibly fluid and a South African communist well have you met Ray Alexander because I presume that she is a member of the SACP?

POM     No we haven't. How would you distinguish between the two, or is there anything just to your knowledge that a member of the SACP does whether he's still a member of the ANC, or doesn't?

JDT     No. Well I couldn't define it. I think one of the biggest problems for us is that we've been operating in such a vacuum for such a long time that we're needing to redefine all of these things.

POM     Two last quick questions. The obstacles that lie first of all in the face of Mandela as he tries to steer his community through this process to a successful conclusion and then the problems that face De Klerk in his attempts to steer his community?

JDT     Oh. Maybe I'd better wait.

POM     The other one, is the process yet irreversible or at what point do you think it would become irreversible?

JDT     I think the process is irreversible but the options are maybe that will one have to move in an army and essentially have military rule. If the chaos continues maybe it's an option. I think that we're hoping that that won't have to happen. To me in terms of obstacles, and maybe this isn't De Klerk and Mandela's problem, that with such major contesting vested interests, to me one of our biggest obstacles as a nation is how do you encourage people who have never ever been part of democratic process to believe in democratic process, in sorting out issues through a ballot box? I'm starting to it's been my passion all my life that that's the way you do it. I'm having to ask myself some hard questions about whether there is a just way given where we're at right now.

POM     Whether the ballot box is a just way of doing things? Do you mean because the ballot box could result in a change of political power but really if circumstances where there would be no real change and no impetus to change economic structures or bring about redistribution?

JDT     Yes I suppose that's what I would ask, is that possible? And maybe also one is expecting too much too fast. One would hope that the ballot box can gain validity, it has no validity now.

POM     Your assessment of Mandela since he has come out of prison. What has he done very well, where has he exceeded your expectations, where has he perhaps disappointed you?

JDT     I think that anybody given the task that he's been given could never fulfil the expectations that we had of him. I think he's walking a tightrope, I think that in a lot of ways he's done extraordinarily well given the circumstances because the saint was going to come down and solve it all. He was going to come out of jail and it was all magically going to be over but it's very difficult.

POM     Do you believe he should meet with Buthelezi?

JDT     Well they're going to have to come to terms with one another at some stage because Buthelezi, while some of certainly our Natal membership regard him as dangerous, holds key to a large lobby, a large power group. He claims six million. We would challenge that. But if we're talking about peaceful resolution they've got to meet. The problem for Mandela is when and what constituency does he lose when he does meet.

PAT     This connects with something you were saying just a moment ago. It has to do with the ballot box. I just want to tell you more or less what it is that the Institute does or what they're thinking about doing or are actually hoping to do with funding, which will then go into a formation stage over the next six months. But it's the whole - well, you said something very similar and maybe even you said it in a stark way, that was similar to what a lot of people have said, which is, there has been a tremendous vacuum in terms of education, just about the processes that are going on, let alone what the future might hold, which just feeds the fears and anxieties of people and as everything from what a negotiating process is about in a fairly sophisticated way to people who work here in places like Crossroads say, Well, you know, if I could have the Pretoria Minute in Xhosa so I could distribute that at my meeting. So, it's the kind of thing, it's pretty basic stuff, in what would normally be called 'civic education' that people do that we are looking to develop. And probably to do it what we are going to have to do will take a little bit more time, but to develop a Trust that is specifically dedicated to that, that doesn't have a historic history to it, but involving people in organisations like Black Sash, assuming you're interested, and obviously you would have to see what the full perspective on it is. But it will be extremely important, at least in the kind of work that we want to do, that it not be seen as being partisan, that it be as useful to Afrikaner students as it is to Black Sash, as it is to ANC organisers if they want to use it in that way. And so, I hope that as we move along with this we can come back to you.

     Now, one element down the road, something that we have done very well, in very diverse cultures, is help organisations to set up internal monitoring groups as it has to do with the political process. We worked with an organisation in the Philippines, one in Chile, and we're setting up one now in Haiti, and I know there's one in Bulgaria. And the issue is whether Black Sash in its non-partisanship might see that as a role that it can play in the future, from the monitoring of reporting on political intimidation to an actual election monitoring group should there be an election; if it would be a vehicle that would be interested in working with us to develop it or if that's too political for you. I just don't know. I mean, I'm very familiar with the kind of work you have done in the past, and from what I understand from talking to people about the country as we've moved around, there is sort of an evaluation of where do you go now?

JDT     We do some monitoring at the moment but it's particularly related to violence and of course with a lot of the violence there is a lot of intimidation as well. As this stage we are pretty thinly spread and I can't imagine that we would be able to take a very active role in terms of monitoring intimidation unless we employed more people. Certainly we see for ourselves a role in terms of promoting notions of the ballot box. We're thinking, in fact we started, you know we do little booklets, pocket sized booklets which we translate into various languages and they've usually been on things like pensions and the pass laws historically and the most recent one is on the law courts and legal process and stuff like that. So whether you do a series that looks ahead in terms of you and a bill of human rights, what is a Constituent Assembly, why is a multi-party state important, a whole series of things around the issues of government and the parties, because we have to move from that mode as the government as oppressor, fighting the government, to that whole civic understanding of your role in government.

PAT     Exactly, and written this proposal ... and exactly the same subjects you're talking about for the print and visual media, so if there was a way in which we could work together it would be, say, the video that was produced would be consistent with your work.

JDT     We'd have to take a look at this. What we are also thinking of doing, though not those kind of issues, is that some of our Advice Offices are so busy that what we're starting to do now is use the queues in which they wait to show them videos on things like the Small Claims Court.

PAT     I think people do that in clinics. That's why I thought the Advice Centres would be ...

JDT     Well we're thinking of expanding that. We're only just beginning.

PAT     How expensive is that?

JDT     Actually making the films?

PAT     No, buying the ...

JDT     Buying the television and that sort of thing? A television is about R2000 and a VCR is similar so for each Advice Centre it's R4000. Equipment is terribly expensive in this country. In Port Elizabeth and East London in our Advice Centres there they have to issue them with tickets in the morning, they start queuing at four and if they don't get a ticket for today they've got to go away and come back. So there is enormous potential for using the queues for certain forms of education and certainly given the Namibian experience on how to vote. They had to have clinics in Namibia on what each of these symbols mean and what it means to make a tick and the whole process.

PAT     We did a program in Namibia and we, in fact, had, tried to get funding for much larger civic education programme. We worked with an organisation called the Namibia Peace Plan and it was just that, introducing people to the pencil and the piece of paper, and what that closed environment was going to be, the whole notion of it ...

JDT     You have to start from rock bottom, really from rock bottom.

PAT     Exactly. It's very exciting because you can have a major impact. It does have to be done. Are you thinking about that type of thing?

JDT     We're starting to see whether we've got the resources to do it, what it will take, because it's a lot more sophisticated than we've done. We've usually just sat down and said there's a definite need, write it. There are a whole lot of things like language level, how you communicate, whether a little book is the right one or whether it's workshop formats, etc. So it could be quite a big project. The bill of human rights we're doing anyway because when we say that most people haven't had access to vote while whites have, whites have no concept of what a universal bill is all about. They know all about what rights for themselves are and of course there's enormous suspicion because suddenly a lot of whites are becoming very keen on this bill of rights, it's going to protect them and all the things they've had. So the whole concept of universal rights in itself has a very broad audience.

PAT     Would you have a problem working with grants from us? I don't know how you work in terms of your funding.

JDT     No I don't see any problem. I think what would have to be terribly carefully thought out is what our constituency was, what different roles we were playing with the grant maker. No, we have a trust as well and the trust essentially undertakes contracts with donors and we get a lot of money from the States.

PAT     You do? But you don't receive any funds from the Endowment?

JDT     No. We get from Ford Foundation and USAID.

PAT     I didn't know if you had a problem with government funding.

JDT     We did a while back, or at least there was a lot of pressure on us not to take the money. A lot of SA has lost its objections. I think I'm being very practical and pragmatic.

PAT     I'll put some ideas up to you and when we come back in December maybe we could talk further about it. Is that all right?

JDT     Sure. By then we might well have got things firmed up.

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.