About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

20 Dec 1990: Mabizela, Stanley

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

(with Patricia Keefer)

POM     Stanley, could you start perhaps by giving me an overview of what you saw happening at the Consultative Conference and what are the implications of it for the development of the ANC negotiating strategies?

SM     First of all I think it was a very good thing that we held this Consultative Conference and I think it was very good that in actual fact we decided to have a consultative conference rather than a national conference because many of the subjects that we discussed at the Consultative Conference are still subject to further discussion at the national conference. It brought us together, those who have been in exile, those that have been in prison and those that have been in the struggle in the country. It also reflected how much we have been able to re-establish ourselves between the time we were unbanned as an organisation in February and December 1990. All regions, we have divided SA into four (or fourteen?) regions and all regions were represented. There was of course a predominance of the youth in the conference. I think actually possibly about 70% of the delegates were youth, it could maybe have been even higher than that. There is obviously a gap. I would say the time between 1960 when we banned and 1975 when the struggle really reawakened in SA with the 1976 student revolts, there is a generation of our people which is lost in the ANC so that you have this sort of gap which is a gap of certain generation. Work with very old people, sometimes they are referred to as the old guard, then there is a gap and suddenly you have this predominance of youth that date to 1976 political.

     I think it was very good that we  brought the question of negotiations to the Consultative Conference. In the first place the decision to enter into talks about talks with the government was purely a decision of the National Executive which they took on behalf of our organisation. It was therefore necessary for us to bring this decision for ratification to our organisation. It was discussed at length. The people had the opportunity to criticise the leadership on certain aspects of these negotiations. There was strong criticism which we welcomed and accepted. It's better to be open about things. But in the end they endorsed the decision of the National Executive to enter into negotiations and actually also passed a resolution to continue the negotiations.

     There were certain areas in which they subjected the leadership to severe criticism and this is in the area of return of exiles and the release of political prisoners. Our leaders jointly with the government of SA released statements on the release of political prisoners and the return of exiles but up till now these people are not yet back with us and they wanted to know why. So our leadership who are involved in these negotiations did their best to explain things and of course, indeed, we did admit that sometimes an agreement is reached and then it is supposed to be subjected to these working groups. But the government side sometimes does unilaterally take decisions which are not agreed upon by both sides and the delay in the release of political prisoners and the return of exiles is just one example. For instance, our people were subjected to a very severe questionnaire from the government in order to return.

POM     Was this document something that the government said this is going to have to - ?

SM     After they actually imposed it and when our people sent this document to Lusaka, our people felt that it was virtually an intelligence gathering document and rejected it. So the negotiating group had to go back to government and say that this is unacceptable to our people and they explained why. For instance, one of the clauses in that questionnaire requires that you tell the government all those crimes that you want to be indemnified from. And indeed you will be indemnified but should you hide anything you can then be prosecuted when you return to SA. Now that was unacceptable and in the end our people, our leadership demanded just blanket indemnification which fortunately yesterday now has been announced by Mr de Klerk as the position.

PAT     That announcement yesterday was different than the previous approach to it.

SM     That's correct.

PAT     What happened? When we were here in July and I think when we talked in Washington, their approach to this, they said, was to be  which was pretty much giving them amnesty. I thought that that was the approach that was going to be used.

SM     What has happened now is that the government, when asked why they worded the questionnaire like that, the government said that they wanted people to record all crimes they were involved in. Suppose you were involved in a bank robbery before you left and if you had to say that bank robbery was part of your political work then you would be indemnified from that crime and that's how the government explained it. But now the whole thing is reworded, it's just going to be a question of it is the government itself now that has categorised in a certain paragraph all kinds of crimes and all you have to say is, "I refer to crimes that obtain under clause so-and-so of the questionnaire", irrespective of whether you committed those crimes or not. Our people refused to write down the things that they were involved in here and the government has now made a list of the kind of crimes that we could have committed, like going for military training in SA. If you're black you're not supposed to do military training, guerrilla warfare or intelligence training and that type of thing, security training and that type of thing or actually to participate in the actual act of guerrilla warfare, blowing up police stations, blowing up railway lines and that type of thing.

     You remember Mandela said if by April next year our political prisoners and exiles are not back then the ANC will review its participation in the talks. I think the day after, this was Sunday, the day after

PAT     De Klerk was playing to the international audience. It seems that Mandela sort of issues this challenge in his speech and the conference passes it.

SM     There had been meetings between Mandela and De Klerk about this subject, just the two of them, and there had been a meeting between Thabo Mbeki and Kobie Coetsee.  There had been a meeting between Mandela and De Klerk about this subject, just the two of them, and there had been a meeting between Thabo Mbeki and Kobie Coetsee, the Minister of Justice, on this subject and Thabo came back convinced that the whole issue would change. I don't know about the meeting between Mandela and Mr de Klerk, he hasn't briefed us on that. I didn't get any briefing from Mandela about his meeting with De Klerk but Thabo did say that he thinks that there will be an announcement by the government because Kobie Coetsee accepted the objections of the ANC in that when they worded the question as they did they did that unilaterally without subjecting that questionnaire to the other side and Thabo was convinced that De Klerk would answer Mandela's ultimatum that by April next year the prisoners and the exiles should be back.

     Last Monday there was a meeting of the National Security Council of this country. I think these matters, our declaration must have been a subject of discussion because De Klerk's statement really did answer some of our concerns so it's quite clear now, by April everybody will be out of jail and everybody will be back from exile.

POM     Even though he was engaging himself in this task?

SM     He has actually conceded.

POM     He has already taken concrete actions to facilitate the process.

SM     Yes he has definitely taken definite steps in facilitating the process.

POM     Patricia made a very astute observation after the conference and that is that to her it appeared a little like a Democratic Party conference in the United States where the people who get elected as delegates are the real activists who tend to be to the left of the mainstream and then they kind of in a way impose their views on the leadership so the leadership is pulled to a more left wing position than they would normally be. They are maybe more in the mainstream but the conference itself has pulled them to adopt positions that are more left.

SM     Reasonable.

POM     Yes. Do you think ?

PAT     That's the reason perhaps they're

SM     Yes, you see we have our radicals in the ANC. We have those that always play up to the gallery, indeed get popular by being able to throw stones at the government recklessly, verbal stones I mean. These people tend, of course, naturally to get popular because they are able to articulate the painful things that the government does to our people but ultimately it is not the hard line that gets you moving forward, it is always the people who are reasonable, people who are prepared to be moderate in language and who can speak without emotion who can get the other side to make concessions. We have our radical wing in the ANC, no doubt about it, we have our centrists and we have our conservatives. Those of us, people like Thabo Mbeki who are doing a lot of international work, who are able to meet business people, are able to persuade them to understand these things. In the end they are the ones who win at conference. Mandela was, for instance, saying some people were saying that the private consultations between Mandela and De Klerk must stop, the secret and confidential talks must stop, everything must be open and the organisation must be informed about everything. But Mandela pooh-poohed that thing very strongly, I am sure you read that statement (oh, you were there) where he says that there have to be confidentialities, there have to be secret talks and we can't be running between Pretoria and the organisation all the time when we have to be negotiating. That is nonsense, you don't understand the meaning of negotiations.

POM     Moving on from the conference to something we briefly talked about last Sunday night, the violence. Here you have a situation where for months now there has been a continuing pattern of violence and after every incident the ANC accuses the government and accuses the security forces in conjunction with Inkatha of being involved with especially the police. The government says no, it's all between the ANC and Inkatha and they ought to get their act together, and it goes around and around. Two questions: (i) why hasn't De Klerk done something about the violence because in any other country such a level of violence occurring among the population ahead of  talks the government would have stepped in and done something? (ii) I've forgotten two.

SM     I think this is a very difficult situation not only for us but for Mr de Klerk as well. You know my position, you know how I explain this thing of violence, where it emanates from and how it is orchestrated. We are in an extremely embarrassing position. The bulk of the people of SA, particularly the blacks, look up to the ANC for a solution to this violence and the ANC can't say there is nothing we can do. We do not like, we are not happy about having to take the steps that we intend to do establishing defence units, self defence units, so that the people are protected from these hordes that emanate from hostels to attack the townships. We don't like to do that but what else can we do when the government drags its feet to deal with the situation and deal effectively with it, a government which is in a position to do so? Whenever they have ultimately decided to act on this violence they always easily, within a day, suppress it but as soon as the whole thing is suppressed then government retreats and the thing is going to start somewhere. This is why we have continually said that the government, some government structures are involved in this violence. Therefore it would appear that De Klerk has got to go about it very carefully. He would not like to see, in our opinion, a revolt from the security services, both those people who are in the army and who are in the police, who are in charge of this violence. He wouldn't. He always goes about it very, very carefully. That's why I say I think he is in difficulties.

     There is something else I want to say. You know from the beginning as soon as we were able with our own machineries to establish who exactly is responsible for this, we went to Mr de Klerk, we have given him evidence not just of the whole structure which is engaged in this violence but the personalities in his own structures who are involved. He has the evidence, we have the evidence and I think that is partly the reason why no steps have ever been taken against the ANC to a court of law to justify our claim why we say certain elements within government structures are responsible for this violence. They have never taken us to court, to law.

POM     Have you publicly identified those people?

SM     Not publicly but we thought that Mr de Klerk would act.

POM     Do these people still remain in the same position of authority?

SM     Yes in the structures of government, both in the army and in the police they are there and that's why we have taken the steps of establishing self defence units, we've got to do something and we are going to involve members of MK in this, in the training and organisation of the people for this kind of work. We can't allow it, we can't allow our people to be slaughtered so recklessly by people who we know who they are.

POM     So the ANC's analysis of the situation is that this is an orchestrated campaign by the government?

SM     Not by the government. I said elements within government structures.

POM     To undermine and dilute support for the ANC in the townships so the rank and file begin to say these guys aren't helping us.

SM     Yes. There are three major objectives: to undermine the ANC, to weaken the ANC and to derail the process towards a democratic SA. Those are the major objectives. In fact in some respects they are beginning to succeed, people have come to us to say, "I want you to know that I love the ANC, I am a follower of the ANC and I want to be a member of the ANC but I've decided not to take up ANC membership because I don't want to die." People have come to us, particularly in violent places like Northern Natal, because if they take out ANC membership they will be killed.

POM     You also, as I recollect, talked last Sunday about cases where you had submitted affidavits to the government and not only did the affidavits disappear but the people who

SM     The people themselves who submitted those affidavits have disappeared into thin air, because it's people who are involved in the violence who came to the organisation to say, "Look, we are some of these people involved in this violence, this is what is happening and we don't want it and we have come to tell you the whole thing." Our lawyers came along, discussed, took notes, extensive notes about this thing, who are involved and ultimately these people signed affidavits to this effect.

POM     And then they all disappeared?

SM     They all disappeared. We have more affidavits but this time we are keeping them to ourselves. We were hoping the government could take us to court for saying that security people are involved in this thing.

POM     Would that be a libel action under SA law?

SM     Yes. They haven't, they haven't. Mandela both inside the country and outside the country has put this blame squarely on certain elements within government and they won't because De Klerk has got his evidence.

PAT     MK being involved in -

SM     MK is now a legal organisation.

PAT     Right, involved in the defence units. Seeing that most armies are organised, how would you relate this to the suspension of the armed struggle?

SM     No, we won't be engaging in armed struggle. MK has been now unbanned, it's a legal military organisation. You can stand up from any platform and declare yourself a member of MK, there's nothing illegal about it and this time precisely what kind of a defence system they are going to put up or establish I don't know I must confess. I don't know what they are going to do but they are going to be involved and there is nothing illegal about it. MK existed from the beginning for the defence of the people. Actually that is the major responsibility of any army anywhere in the world to defend the people, defend the country, defend the constitution of the country and that is what we will do.

PAT     And you now consider MK is now considered to be a legal army?

SM     Yes it is actually a legal army except that it is not an active army. We are hoping that in actual fact this is one of the areas where we and the government can reach an understanding, an agreement, whereby MK should be integrated into the SA Defence Force.

PAT     While you're not part of that structure, in the next couple of weeks when you go abroad - one of the major initiatives of the ANC on the international scene is the suspension of the armed struggle. It is going to be interpreted, it is being interpreted as some kind of qualification to the suspension of the armed struggle, the fact that you're    How are you going to explain that this is not one of the related activities of the armed struggle?

SM     I see your point but how can we be expected to fold our arms when the other side is not playing its role correctly. I don't know in actual fact if you speak about self defence units what this exactly is going to entail. I don't think it's going to entail arms and ammunition but it's going to be worked out and I'm going to make it a point to enquire what it is going to entail. I am personally in full agreement with the decision to do something to defend the people from being slaughtered so mercilessly by these hordes that call themselves Inkatha. But there is no intention on our part to revive the armed struggle, armed action. Mind you, armed struggle itself is not terminated by the ANC. What has happened is that we have suspended armed action and related activities and by related activities we have undertaken to government not to infiltrate trained people back into SA from our camps and not to infiltrate arms and ammunition into SA.

POM     When the phrase 'related activities' was being put into the Pretoria Minute was it spelled out at that point what would be included in related activities and what would be excluded?

SM     Yes, we spelled it out exactly as I have just told you and the government refused to accept this. They want us, they want us to extend the term 'related activities' to include the handing over of all arms caches we have in the country.

POM     They also put mass mobilisation in there too.

SM     They want us also to include stopping recruitment of young people into our army. We refused to do that. We continue with recruitment.

POM     Don't they want to include mass mobilisation?

SM     And they want us to stop mass mobilisation.

POM     None of these things were specifically included in the phrase when you were sitting round the table?

SM     No, there were just two things which were specifically included in the suspension of armed action. That is that we shall not infiltrate men into SA from abroad and we shall not infiltrate weapons into the country. That is what is meant, that is what is entailed in our suspension of armed action. No military action on the part of all the guerrillas which are in the country, no infiltration of weapons or infiltration of cadres into the country. That's all. But recruiting for our army continues. The mobilisation of our people to demonstrate against grievances which are there today like grievances of housing, houselessness, lack of proper education, lack of proper medical services, landlessness, our people have got to continue demonstrating for changes of direction of these imbalances in these areas.

POM     You mentioned Inkatha and the role of Inkatha. One, I think, difference that we notice from being here two months ago is that where there was a lot of emphasis then on Inkatha being the instigator of the violence, now that emphasis has shifted to accusing elements within the state of being the prime movers. Has the role of Inkatha in this changed somewhat?

SM     We are trying to correct Inkatha and trying to get Inkatha to play a different role, trying to get Inkatha to be part of the liberation process, part of the liberation movement in this country, to direct Inkatha against the apartheid system rather than against the ANC. I have difficulty, but here we need a psychologist to analyse the leader of Inkatha. I think there might be something wrong with the man mentally. I am saying that he knows that he is a very small element, if any, in this whole process of violence. He should know that the whole thing was taken over from him. If he began it in 1986 the whole thing was taken out of his hands and is now being directed by other people, this violence. If this violence projects him, the image of Gatsha, sort of gives him a high profile it would appear it doesn't matter to him whether that which gives him this high profile is the violence. It seems not to matter with him and that's why I say a psychologist would be able to explain what kind of a person is this. We have had two meetings with members of his executive, or rather members of his Central Committee, at leadership level, there have been two contacts between Inkatha and ANC. There will be now a meeting which we are jointly working at, at which meeting Inkatha will be led by Gatsha and the ANC delegation will be led by Mandela. In fact there is complete agreement to hold this meeting. When we wanted to take the decision as to when that meeting should take place the Inkatha people pleaded with us not to fix the date, they would prefer that the date is fixed by Gatsha and Mandela. Now they said they would ask Gatsha to phone Mandela or Mandela could phone Gatsha and the two of them should fix a date. We made a concession but very much against our wishes because they pleaded with us and we have come to understand what kind of a leader he is for his organisation and we said, OK then you tell your man to phone our man and we shall try to accommodate the dates that he will propose. Now both Mandela and Gatsha have been travelling a lot lately and so no date so far has been fixed.

POM     So they haven't talked.

SM     They haven't.

POM     They need car phones or something.

SM     They will talk. Whenever Mandela chooses to speak to him he does. Anyway when Mandela returned he got busy, he had to go to Cape Town to receive an honorary degree at the University of the Western Cape, no University of Cape Town, and he had to meet some of the leaders in the region, it's an important area of SA, it's the capital town of SA. Then after that he got involved in this conference so it's only now that he probably will be able, after consultation of course with senior members of his own organisation, to say when this meeting should take place. It's Christmas time, everybody is going away now.

POM     One of things that appeared to come out of the conference was a renewed emphasis on a Constituent Assembly and on an interim government. I think I recall you saying the last time that a Constituent Assembly is something that you could negotiate on and if some other kind of structure was proposed by the government it might be acceptable. Must the negotiators deliver a Constituent Assembly?  They were given to negotiate, the limits are coming in rather than expanding.

SM     Yes. You see ultimately it's going to depend on what De Klerk is going to propose in place of a Constituent Assembly, elected popularly, which we want. It is there in the Harare Declaration. We will always consider it seriously, we will discuss it and if he does not contradict this democracy possibly we might accept. Also we might accept it if we think that we shall not be very much compromised. We are for the Constituent Assembly because it will have been constituted democratically by the people of SA as a whole. But at the same time, as I said, there is also now something which we have to consider all the time, that we do not lose Mr de Klerk. We need him for the process of moving forward all the time and that's why I say we might compromise.

     On the question of the interim government I don't think that's going to be a problem. He himself has started speaking our language at the level of local government. He is speaking about the constitution of town councils democratically where both, in the case of, for instance, here in Johannesburg, both Johannesburg, the City Council of Johannesburg and Soweto will come under one City Council, the councillors will be democratically elected and the council will not be a council which deals with Johannesburg, it will be a City Council which deals with Johannesburg including  Soweto, the townships. There must be no separate council for Soweto, separate council for Johannesburg. So he has already started speaking our language when it comes to the level of local government and if you are going to have a City Council in Johannesburg elected democratically I can't see him not agreeing to the constitution of an interim government. In fact it would be a good thing to have an interim government  for supervising even the process of the constitution negotiations. After all he is not a negotiator, he is not an initiator of this process. Why can't he, in good time and for the sake of preparing the country to accept a non-racial government, why can't he move to include the other forces which are important in the process towards a democratic SA? Why does he maintain this white racist, illegitimate government of his? This is how I see it. But strictly speaking, although I do not spell it out, I think the question of the interim government will come into play and I am basing this solely, of course, on his pronouncement on the composition of local governments.

POM     Would you see if such an interim government came into place that what he is trying to do would be to draw in members of the ANC into it?

SM     Other parties.

POM     And other parties and just broaden the whole structure of the government itself?

SM     Yes, just broaden the whole government.  Yes, he needs to do that. As far as I'm concerned all that he would need to do is a public announcement and all he needs to do is to say, Mandela, I want so many people from you, and Mandela would look around for the right people to send to him.

POM     Would there not be a cry of co-option?

SM     No, you see in the ANC we don't care for these labels of sell-out because already PAC has said that we are selling out. We don't care for that type of thing as long as we are convinced that we are doing the right thing and we can always defend our position anywhere in the world. We don't care for that type of labelling, sell-out, no, not at all. We would not hesitate to do what we think is going to enhance the process.

POM     Just a couple of final questions. One, what was the message that emerged from the Consultative Conference?

SM     What is your last question?

POM     This is the last one. I was going to ask you, here it is December and this process only jumped off the ground on February 2nd, whether you think it has gone better than you expected or whether it has gone just as you would have expected or whether more obstacles are being put in the way than you anticipated?

SM     You must understand that since we were unbanned we immediately, and contrary to the Harare Declaration or even the Consensus Declaration of the UN of December 1989, we came into the country. In other words even before the government had removed the obstacles to negotiations because the only obstacle that the government had removed at that time was the unbanning of the organisations that were up to that time unlawful. We went against the Harare Declaration, we went against the UN Consensus Declaration and requested a meeting with the government in order to quicken the removal of obstacles by engaging the government in talks about talks. Now we have by so doing, and when we did that we didn't start by asking our people to check with their people because we take it that we have the mandate to act for our people in the congresses. So we did that and to speak the truth, not as we still have fears and suspicions and doubts about the government in certain areas, we have played a big part together with the government in the removal of those obstacles.

     In truth today two major obstacles remain, two. It is the return of exiles, the release of political prisoners and the removal of repressive legislation and all similar laws in the statute book of SA. Now the government has undertaken to remove the repressive legislation, particularly the Internal Security Act and similar laws. They have undertaken to remove these laws during the course of parliament next year. They are  now going to release political prisoners and they are going to allow the return of exiles. So in actual fact by February and by our presence in the country through decisions we took to come into SA, we have quickened the process in my view.

     De Klerk is actually, through our presence here and through the various pressures which we have mounted on the government, through mass action, demonstrations and so on, we have achieved a lot. The government has gone even beyond the question of obstacles through our pressure, through pressures which we have mounted on them. They are removing such laws as Group Areas Act and that is not part of the obstacles. They are moving to fundamental issues of apartheid when they do that, removal of the Group Areas Act. They are going to remove the Land Acts of 1913 and 1936, they are not part of the obstacles, but through our presence here and our demands for land for our people who are landless, the government is moving to fundamental issues.

     So I can say that I am very happy about our achievements here, of course through all kinds of pressures. We are a liberation movement, we must apply pressure on this government. The struggle is still all for liberation and it's the only way to do it. We couldn't pretend that things will be right and just hope that these things are going to drop from heaven like manna. It could have taken decades to do that but through our presence here and the pressures we have applied on them the government has moved.

     And so we are able to go to this Consultative Conference and discuss these achievements through our presence and through decisions we have taken and be able to say, for instance, when people ask why did you come in before the obstacles were removed in terms of your own Harare Declaration? We said that the Harare Declaration is not a commandment from God. We have to study it all the time in relation to what obtains on the ground and act even if needs be for the sake of moving forward, act against it and we will always do that. That's why I say even on this question of the Constituent Assembly we will study what Mr de Klerk puts forward and if it's reasonable and if it doesn't compromise us, to shift from our own position and take into account that if we shift we will still be able to move forward, we will move away. I think it was good to hold this Consultative Conference and be able to tell the people.

POM     Are there any lessons that emerge from it that must be borne in mind?

SM     Yes, I think the biggest lesson is consultation with the people. When you don't consult regularly you sometimes cause doubts in the minds of our people because the press is also saying things which sometimes are not really what your plans are. The people do their own interpretation of your actions so the most important thing is that it is necessary to consult regularly and we have undertaken that in between congresses the regions must be continually informed about what headquarters is doing so that they can in turn take these matters to the grassroots so that the people are with you all the time. This is the most important thing, consultation is very important. This, to me, was the biggest reward, the most important lesson that regular consultation with your membership is very important, with your membership through its representatives who in turn will transmit this to the grassroots; it is very important.

POM     OK. I've finished grilling you.

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.