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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

20 Dec 1990: Maduna, Penuell

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POM     Penuell, what impact do you think the direction and tone of last week's consultative conference have on the question of negotiations themselves?

PM     First and foremost of course it should depend on our strength on the ground. I think the strength on the ground is going to be heightened, going to be increased. A lot of people are going to join in the various campaigns of mass action that we intend embarking upon, there is no doubt about it. You might have seen about two weeks ago what happened in three cities when, I mean during a weekday, when we called for peaceful marches, that was in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein. So masses of people are going to join us in mass action, people know that the conflict is not over yet and therefore the struggle for liberation is still in place. Whatever we can hope to achieve through negotiations would be determined by our strength on the ground and we need to do quite a lot about that. I want to believe also that we will be in a position to attract many more people into the ranks of the ANC. That is being paid attention to.

PM     Then of course your question is the impact on the process of negotiations. I know that some newspapers were saying that we even resolved to suspend the joint working groups and so on. No, there was no such resolution at conference. The working groups though, they may be having all sorts of defects and flaws are useful and we are using them.

POM     How many of them are there?

PM     Basically there are two working groups at the moment.

POM     On the suspension of the armed struggle?

PM     No, there's one on the suspension of the armed struggle and one on the return of exiles and the release of political prisoners. These are very useful as far as we are concerned. They are, for one thing, a means of communication with government and there is need for regular communication for government on various issues and these come in handy. So it's unthinkable that we are going to cancel them and in any event the basic resolution is the one that puts an ultimatum on the whole issue of talks about talks. In other words there is a perception amongst our people that the government may tend to be stringing us along on the issue of talks about talks and in the meantime not moving fast enough by way of clearing the decks, as it were, for proper negotiations take place. This is it. And therefore we want to believe that the government is going to respond positively because it's got no other way really, it can't do otherwise. It will have to move and it would appear when one listens to de Klerk, de Klerk's Christmas message, Christmas and New Year message, that the government indeed is thinking seriously about these things. He says there was no need for the ultimatum because in any event the date, 20th April, was agreed upon at Pretoria on 6th August. That is true, that date was agreed upon, but looking at the way things are moving it became quite necessary for us to put an ultimatum and to sound a word of caution also to warn the government that it cannot hope to string us along. Talks about talks are not an end in themselves.

POM     Does the tone of the conference, the tone of the resolutions give the leadership somewhat less room than they may have had before? There was a renewed and very vigorous insistence on a Constituent Assembly, a renewed and very vigorous insistence on an interim government, two issues where the government said they're for negotiation, we're not about to concede them.

PM     Right, I wouldn't completely agree with you when you say that the tone suggests that the scope of the leadership has been reduced. No, on the contrary, that resolution specifically says that the leadership should have maximum flexibility and discretion as far as these issues are concerned. But then again there are non-negotiables.

POM     There are? I remember the last time you had said to me that a Constituent Assembly - well instead of it you could have this round table conference where participants from every party would participate, that in the end a Constituent Assembly wasn't exactly something that you would insist on.

PM     Well I didn't put it that way. I said in fact that as a matter of policy we are wedded to the idea of a Constituent Assembly but we are prepared to discuss it at negotiation. We regard it as the most democratic form of giving a country a constitution. It allows for maximum mass participation in the process of constitution making and we want to believe that this is what should happen. We shouldn't say we will draft a constitution on your behalf and then come back to you for endorsement by means of a referendum. The ANC frowns upon that kind of idea. So the conference was instructing the leadership to put forward even much more vigorously the notion of a Constituent Assembly, in fact to fight for it at negotiation. And it looks like from the look of things a lot of parties in any event prefer it to a referendum. In that sense there wasn't anything new except that the leadership was being formally instructed by conference to pursue it much more vigorously.

PM     The same applies to the issue of an interim government. We have always said, and conference confirmed this, that it's unimaginable that one of the parties would be both referee and player at the same time. We can't allow that. A lot of things are happening now in the context of talks about talks. They just think of arresting members of the NEC and they just pick them up. Once we are talking to them why not use the existing channels of communication and say to us, look, we are not happy about the behaviour of X in your ranks and let's discuss it, let's do something about it. It embarrasses us.

POM     One thing that I have difficulty in understanding is that since August when the violence began to break out in a significant form in the Transvaal, that after an incident the ANC would say this was Inkatha with elements of the Police helping Inkatha and they would demand that the government do something about it and the government would say, no, this is the ANC and Inkatha fighting over political control among themselves in an area and it would go round and around and around in a circle and the ANC would say we have affidavits, we have this, we have that to show collusion. Yet nothing ever happened, the government never came out and said we admit there is a problem but we're trying to cope with it. There was a denial that the Police ...

PM     Denial. OK. You know that in a normal democracy, in a democracy normal or abnormal, the government cannot be satisfied with Police reports when there are so many deaths occurring, definitely it would be so worrying that it would initiate an investigation of the death of so many people. Obviously. And when the government has been pressured to investigate, like for instance when it had to eventually succumb to our pressure and investigate the death of a lot of people in March this year and set up the Goldstone Commission, you will remember that the government, rather that the Commission found against the Police. So the government would definitely have to do something about this. They would have to investigate it and they know that once they start investigations and these affidavits that we collect, that we collect through lawyers from the ground, are brought before the Commission, the Commission is once again going to find against the Police.

POM     The Commission?

PM     This is it, we've asked them this question. If he can afford the luxury of setting up a commission to investigate spying activities in the Johannesburg City Council he should actually have much more reason to set up a commission to investigate the death of so many people. Thousands of people have died already. In a matter of months we have lost over 1000 people in the Reef alone. And of course our people are prepared to give evidence to show that indeed the Police are behind this massive violence. Inkatha is a tool, an instrument, but the Police themselves are fully behind it. For instance we have brought before them evidence they would never refute. They only had to say this was ANC propaganda, that video tape that was actually - you see when we produced that video which depicted what they were doing with Inkatha they couldn't produce a counter video or counter evidence that they had also been picking up so-called Xhosa leaders and they've not even brought these Xhosa leaders forward to say these represented that group. They cannot.

POM     So why will de Klerk not do something like this? He's aware of the immensity of the problems of how the entire negotiating process would be in danger if you were forced to deploy your defensive units in the townships and yet he's saying ...

PM     I suspect he's got a lot of problems with and within the Police. You see the Police Force has always traditionally been a Police Force of the white establishment and certain elements within it are obviously members of extreme right wing groupings such as the AWB and that creates problems for him. You see there is resistance to change. Within the Police Force there is resistance to change and therefore I want to believe that he seems to be thinking that he can deal with that by molly-coddling those elements, by treating them with kid gloves. We've picked up evidence that when a bus was attacked in Inanda, near KwaMashu in Durban recently by whites, those whites were working with senior Police officers within the Security Police in Durban. It wasn't following a lead and I want to believe that in fact it will lead to very senior people within the Police.

POM     Was this the incident in July?

PM     I can't remember the date now but it's a recent thing, I think end of October, beginning of November.

POM     That's a new one, sorry.

PM     There are many such incidents. A member of the Foreign Office has been picked up for bombing the residence of the American Ambassador so it shows what programmes ...

POM     He wasn't invited to a cocktail party!

PM     I am quite sympathetic with him honestly, he is having a big problem.

POM     At that conference you moved from a situation, it seems to me, where you were saying in July and August it's Inkatha plus elements of the Police to a statement that this was an orchestrated campaign, orchestrated by the government itself?

PM     Yes it is, it is.

POM     Is that senior people within the government, within the Cabinet?

PM     Well one can't say at what level these elements are operating. It's only an investigation that would show this, an investigation, and why doesn't the government investigate this? I mean there are serious allegations against the Police and against the government. They would have to sit down and say, look, now we've had enough of this, we're investigating it. And we are prepared to participate in that kind of investigation. We participated in the Goldstone Commission which revealed that indeed the Police were behind the mass murder of people in Sebokeng. So we are prepared to co-operate with them on this because it's in our best interest that the violence is eventually brought to an end. It is.

POM     There's a threshold in terms of continuing violence that if it continues at the level it's been at in the last couple of months that you would have no option but to employ your defensive units.

PM     Certainly, certainly. We can't fold our arms when we're being shot at.

POM     Do you think you're close to that threshold now, that if there were, say, another incident like what happened in Phola Park a week ago that that threshold is reached?

PM     You see I can't say so but at the same time we are worried about the level of the violence, seriously worried. A lot of people are dying and not only that, it affects the whole process of talks about talks. It is a huge obstacle.

POM     Do you think de Klerk is in control of his own process or that in some way he's a hostage to major hard line elements?

PM     Strictly speaking he's not, he's not, he's not in control. There are things de Klerk can't do. For instance, if de Klerk wants the conflict to end why not just declare a general indemnity, let the prisoners come out, let the exiles come back and let's get on with the whole thing of negotiation.

POM     This is more along the SWAPO lines of things and you think it's the hard line pressure within the government that precludes him from doing that?

PM     It is yes. Look, negotiations can't be in favour of the forces of apartheid. At the end of the day forces of apartheid have a lot to lose and therefore they would resist negotiations as far as they can.

POM     Why no general amnesty? What were the obstacles that he put up to general amnesty?

PM     In fact there are no obstacles to a general indemnity, he can declare it now, he has no obstacles but the obstacles are within government, elements within government who are resisting change. If he could bring those round to accepting that change has come, let's get on with negotiations, then he would do these things with a lot of ease.

POM     If you had to think back to 2nd February, the release of Mandela, the unbanning of the ANC and SACP and the general positive mood that real change was on its way, do you think things are much the same now, that they are better than they were then or that they're worse than they were?

PM     Things are better than they were, there's no doubt about it. We are getting closer and closer to negotiations, there's no doubt about it but of course we can't sit on our laurels and say let the de Klerk game play itself out, we can't. We would have to bring as much pressure to bear upon them as possible so that the decks are cleared for the beginning of negotiations.

POM     The violence, going back to the violence for a moment, I went on a trip last week with the SACC out to Phola Park and then around to the hostels. In some respects the media grossly overplayed the whole thing that happened at Phola Park. You could have been there and said, 'I didn't see that', but that's beside the point. We went back out to the hostel, Patricia and I, two days ago to talk to hostel workers and to a man their perception of what happened was that the Police had aided the residents of Phola Park in gaining access to the hostel, that Mandela himself had been to the Police Station the night before and this was Mandela in collusion with the Police setting things up and that this was a continuing attempt by the Xhosa speaking people to dominate and eliminate the Zulu speaking people. This was right across the board, not a man there or a man there. How is that?

PM     You see the hostel dwellers are politically not sophisticated at all. These are ordinary people from the rural areas most of whom can't even write their own names. They imbibe a lot of propaganda from Buthelezi. Buthelezi goes around saying that the ANC, which is Xhosa dominated as far as he is concerned, seeks to eliminate the Zulus and so on. That's not true but then again people are dying. You can't go to them and say look, we are not killing Xhosas and Zulus and so on, you can't. You can't even reach these people. It's unimaginable that anybody could believe that Mandela, who 27 years ago was in jail, for the past 27 years has been in jail, is now working with the Police to destroy what he has been fighting to beat. It's unimaginable and yet this is true that you can find a lot of people who believe that there is collusion between the ANC and the Boers against them. Of course in this emotion-charged atmosphere anything sells. People are dying and you say to them, 'You are being killed by the ANC and the Boers', they will believe you, especially because the hostel dwellers themselves are not behind this whole thing of violence. They don't want to be killed, they don't want to be killing. They are victims themselves. So Police would sneak in under cover of darkness, it happened in Sebokeng, you remember one morning I'm sure you've read about it one morning they discover that Inkatha's Themba Khoza was there with a boot full of weapons and hostel dwellers had been killed. Do you get the point? If they had not been found there most probably some finger would be pointed in some direction the ANC attacked you that night.

PM     But you see this is what I was saying to the government, it must investigate this. If the ANC has been killing them the evidence will show. If the Police and Inkatha have been killing them the evidence will also show. In other words a dispassionate investigation is absolutely necessary as far as this is concerned and the ANC is agitating for that.

POM     Do you think Buthelezi played a bigger role of this in the beginning than now, that state elements are taking over and that he is more becoming marginal within this process?

PM     You see Buthelezi is part and parcel of a broad circle of accomplices of the apartheid regime. As the regime begins to crumble he sees his own demise as it were and therefore he, together with the state - you see others have been clever enough to jump in time to save their skins as the ship of apartheid is sinking but Buthelezi couldn't reason that way so he's got a problem. He actually is directly involved in it, he's not being marginalised. At the same time it's forces which are way beyond his control, way beyond his control.

POM     So is he in over his head?

PM     This is it, yes. Decisions may be taken. I am sure if you were to sit down with Buthelezi and talk to him he might end up saying to you, 'Look, I don't like what is happening, at the same time I can't control it.' I can't imagine that he gives orders to go and kill, go and do this, go and do that, he can't be doing it. And Inkatha Central Committee can't sit down and resolve to kill the ANC, to do this, to do that, it can't do that because it won't achieve that kind of goal. The ... has failed to snuff the ANC out. So I think that the problem is you see he aligned himself with forces that are inimical to peace and change in this country and those forces are in control of it, the CCBs and so on and so forth, those are the people who are behind this violence.

POM     Can there be meaningful negotiations, real negotiations for change if these difficulties between Inkatha and the ANC remain, if the two are irrevocably ...?

PM     No I don't think the difficulty is between the ANC and Inkatha. I don't think so. It is a complete misreading of the situation to think that the conflict is between Inkatha and the ANC. The conflict has always been between the masses of our people, victims of apartheid, and the apartheid system. In other words long before Inkatha was there, there was always a conflict, there was always bloodshed in this country, people were dying, people were killing and so on. It's not a new phenomenon. But Inkatha being a ruling party within the institutions created by the apartheid system is always put forward as the contender for black leadership with the ANC. It's not true, Inkatha is a small organisation. I'm telling you in free, fair and democratic elections, non-racial elections, there is no way the ANC can't emerge as the victor and this is their fear, the fear of de Klerk, the fear of Treurnicht, the fear of Gatsha and the fear of all people who have always stood to benefit from the existence of the colonial system of apartheid.

POM     Would your opinion of de Klerk have changed since last February?

PM     I want to believe that de Klerk as a man has eventually begun to accept that he's got to bite the bullet, as some people would put it. He's got to accept that change must come, he can't resist it. At the same time of course he might have been thinking that he could therefore manipulate the process of change in his favour but I am sure he actually will begin realising that that too can't be achieved, the forces of democracy and change in this country are big and overwhelming, not necessarily within the ANC but the broad forces that seek change now in this country are big and overwhelming and no-one can resist them.

POM     Do you see some kind of a confrontation coming between next year, the year of mass mobilisation, and the state which has said it will not tolerate this kind of mass action in the wake of which violence may happen?

PM     I hope not. You see mass action does not necessarily lead to violence. It's a statement against our social being, against our known conditions. It doesn't necessarily lead to violence. You saw mass action, peaceful mass action in three big cities and that was the first of its kind in this country. The Police behaved themselves and therefore there was no incident. You see the forces behind mass action are not violent forces, they are goaded into violence, police throwing teargas canisters into their midst and so on and so forth. If they don't do that, if they don't disturb those mass marches I can guarantee that there won't be a single incident and history has shown that indeed we are not responsible for this. We may have a few elements who are excitable who may destroy I mean bash a window or two. This has happened, we don't deny it, but basically violence does not start with mass action, we are victims of state violence.

POM     One last question because I know you must be running behind already. We talked to some of the people in the Justice Department a couple of days ago, Bester or Bosch, Bosch I think it was, one of those two, and we asked him about the people who were denied entry to the country, the people coming from abroad. His explanation was that he had told you they would have to fill out indemnity forms before they could get in, that the applications for indemnity didn't arrive at his department until late Friday afternoon when nothing could be done about it and they were then faced with the choice of either letting the people in, in which case they could have been arrested for offences thereby embarrassing the State President, or leaving them, holding them more or less in transit until the indemnity forms had been filled out.

PM     Look I won't say whether or not that was true but that issue has since been resolved and people are streaming in.

POM     OK, I'll let you go.

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.