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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

26 Jul 1991: Viljoen, Gerrit

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POM     I'm talking with Dr. Gerrit Viljoen, the Minister for Constitutional Development, on the 26th of July. Minister, I want to ask kind of a basic question first. And it'll take me a couple of minutes to read it and you can assimilate as I am reading: that here there is disagreement in South Africa over the extent to which the conflict is about race as opposed to being about oppression merely in the guise of race. Or among nationalisms among groups demarcated by race, or about looking, or about contending claims to the same land. And there is disagreement on the identification and even the names of the various racial categories. There is disagreement over the extent to which the conflict also involves ethnic differences within each of the racial groups. There is no consensus whether a future South Africa might also be divided along racial and ethnic lines or how severe these divisions might become. And there is no agreement over what measures might be required to reduce such future conflicts. What I'm getting at is, there's is no common perceptual frame of what the problem is and to be negotiated, where the parties sit at the negotiation table. And, in your view, what is the categorisation of the problem that the government negotiators will be involved in?

GV     Well, I would say that, in the first place, it is the ending of an era in which, on the basis of racially-defined group differences, certain groups enjoyed particular privileges from which other groups were excluded. In other words, apartheid as a discriminatory and unjust and unequal system has to be fully dismantled and removed and replaced by a political, social, and economic system which would be just, which would not in any sense categorise in terms of race or colour or creed and which would try to not only eliminate the injustices and inequalities of the past but would try to introduce or to remove backlogs especially in the quality of state services provided to the population and differentiated thus far, in many respects, on the basis of race. and to normalise the system so that all people are treated equally. But in this process, provision will also have to be made for bridging the backlog of the inequalities of the past. In other words, eliminate them and not only create quality for the future but also eliminating inequalities of an historic nature.

POM     But do you still see the problem, in your formulation, as being one in which ethnic differences between groups may continue to play a big part and that provisions must be built into governance arrangements to ensure that no ethnic group becomes dominant in government or in governance arrangements?

GV     Well, ethnic differences, as Mandela himself recently emphasised, are a fact of life and they will have to be accommodated. There will have to be measures to ensure that ethnic differences, and especially the concerns of ethnic groups about their own continued identity, be properly accommodated. But I think the big challenge is to move from a system where ethnic differences form a conscious building-block of a system to a new deal in which not only ethnic but also, one could say, political differences should be accommodated in a way that a simple majoritarian system is not obtained, because a simple majoritarian system works well in a society which is more or less homogenous and which differs only in respect of internal political issues.

POM     I'm still talking more in terms of the perspective of South Africa being classified as a deeply divided society in which governance arrangements will perhaps have to be consociational or involve power sharing along the lines of ...

GV     Well, I don't think it is likely that we will find it possible to negotiate a new constitution with ethnic definitions as a basis for political representation. I think there has been a shift in the thinking of the National Party over the last two years from a position where we argued for group protection, groups to be defined in the constitution. And while we did say that those definitions should not be racial but should be based on voluntary association and should be in terms of matters such as language, culture, religion, ethnicity insofar as it was not a racial factor, it was nevertheless an approach in which the constitution would define groups. And once groups are defined in a constitution, there's a certain rigidity and a certain inflexibility which militates against the concept of voluntary association.

     So we moved to a second stage, where the thinking was that you could not do more than provide guidelines and procedures in the constitution for groups who want to constitute themselves and have themselves recognised for the purpose of political protection in the constitutional set-up, that they are not defined in the constitution but that they are defined in a process which is set out in the constitution. But that still would result, although a much more flexible system, a much more flexible system because they are not rigidly defined in that constitution, would nevertheless result in a process which would be rather interesting because there would have to be procedures for groups to, as it were, assert and register themselves and then have a form of representation, say, in a second house of parliament.

     And then we moved into a third phase, where the thinking has been much more on the lines that the instrument through which people, whether as political groups or ethnic groups or cultural groups, articulate their needs in a state context or political parties. And that, therefore, the instrument to be considered is no longer so much groups as such but groups as articulating themselves through political parties. And that, therefore, the kind of protection that we should seek is not so much minority protection for ethnically-defined groups but minority protection for political parties. And that there should be, therefore, with assurance that those political parties which have a significant part in the voter support, say, you could have an arbitrary minimum requirement, 10%, 5%, 15%, what have you, that all political parties receiving a certain minimum support should be assured not only of meaningful representation on a one man, one vote basis, which effectively excludes the minority parties in the decision making, but should at least with regard to certain sensitive issues affecting the interests of groups, affecting the interests of regions, affecting the rights of individuals as defined in the Charter of Human Rights ...

POM     I'll get to some detail on that in a few minutes but just to stay on the ethnic question, The Economist, about two weeks ago, in an editorial said that the violence between Xhosa and Zulu was for all intents and purposes similar to the violence between Serbs and Croatians, that this was ethnic nationalisms clashing with each other. Would you disagree with that assessment?

GV     I think there is a large element of that. But the matter has been aggravated and has been brought to a point by the fact that there is now, at this moment, a strong competition about who is going to get the biggest share in the ultimate political power, political power which is restricted today, which would become available to all. And those who have not been enjoying access to political power are, therefore, now locked in a severe battle as to who is going to have the biggest share of this new political power equation.

POM     So, to a certain extent ...

GV     And that, incidentally, has an ethnic side to it as well. But I don't think it is exclusively, and perhaps not even primarily, ethnic. I think it is primarily a political conflict about a new power becoming available and amongst the competitors for that power, an ethnic element has certainly come forward.

POM     So, you don't see the violence as a paradigm that might be replicated on a broader scale in a future South Africa?

GV     I think it is certainly a paradigm that could be replicated because if you were to have, in a new constitution what is presently still the formal position of the ANC, namely, an excessively centralised government, all of them speak of socialist centralism, that would mean that all of the decision making will be concentrated in the central government. We believe that a devolution of power, whether in the more extreme form of a federation or in a more limited form of a regional government having constitutionally-defined powers, as against the constitutionally-defined powers of the central government, unless you have that you're going to intensify your conflict rather than diminish it. If, for instance, you have regions defined on a geographic basis without being racially or ethnically exclusive, it would inevitably, in terms of the realities of South Africa, result in, for instance, a region in the Natal/KwaZulu area which would be dominantly Zulu and where you could have arrangements accommodating certain values or certain expectations or certain demands from the, shall I say, the Zulu ethnic context. You could accommodate them there much more readily than if you were to force it into a national structure or system.

     Similarly, if you had a regionalism, whether in one single region or two regions of the present Cape province, it would be dominantly, even more so than in Natal, a Xhosa-orientated set-up and so, accommodation of particular needs of a Xhosa ethnic context could be more easily found there. So, unless devolution of power in regions which would, without introducing ethnicity or colour as a criterion, nevertheless in practice work out in regions which are dominantly this or dominantly that type of ethnic context, that would more effectively accommodate conflict than an excessively centralised system.

     So, in that sense, the answer to your question as to whether this kind of ethnicity which does assert itself in the present conflict will become a paradigm for the future, my answer is that it could become a paradigm. For instance, if we have an excessive centralisation of power as against a combination of central government and regional governments, each having got ...

POM     Just following up on that, the State President is on record in his brother's book ...

GV     In what?

POM     In his brother's book, the State President, as he was quoted in his brother's book, is quoted as saying that, kind of making the contrast between the collapse of totalitarian communism and the collapse of apartheid, that totalitarianism successfully repressed nationalisms in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union that had been there for decades and that as you lifted the yoke of totalitarianism, these ethnic differences began to assert themselves once again. And that in South Africa, you could have a similar situation, that as apartheid is dismantled, the one thing that brought commonality to the black population will begin to disappear and their own ethnic differences will start to play more of a part.

GV     Yes, that is true. I think we've already experienced that, I would say, in the positive rather than in the negative. The conflict we accept. At the beginning of last year, after the release of Mandela, there was almost a neurotic reaction against apartheid structures, but including the self-governing homelands. Some of these leaders said that there must be an immediate breakdown of apartheid structure, including the self-governing territories, and everything should be transferred to a central government. Gradually, in a the space of three or four months those leaders who had taken this very extreme view rethought their position and expressed themselves in favour not of federalism, which has a very strong regional autonomy, but in favour of what I would call regionalism. In other words, that there is a role for, geographically not ethnically, for geographically-defined regions to exercise certain functions with regard to, say, for instance, education. But at the same time it should be recognised that education couldn't be completely transferred to the regions. They are still matters of overall national policy which would have to be reserved for the central government in the constitution with respect to such things.

POM     Joe Slovo, when he was questioned about communism, has said that communism was the right airplane but with the wrong pilot. And when you look at the theory of separate development, would it be a case of where you had the ...

GV     The right thing about the right pilot?

POM     The right plane but the wrong pilot?

GV     No, I don't think so. The practical reality about separate development stranded not on, shall I say, human planning or organisations. I think we have some very able, if not the ablest of available thinkers and planners and managers. But it stranded on the practical reality that the settlement pattern of ethnic groups in South Africa is so intermixed and intertwined that you couldn't solve the problem by dividing power according to territories unless you were to bring about a social engineering of a completely unobtainable nature. That is where separate development failed.

POM     Are you abandoning the theory of separate development while at the same time holding onto the construct that there are racial groups, and within those racial groups, there are ethnic groups and that a way must be found to accommodate them? Again, I'm asking you this question particularly in relation to a recent book by Donald Horowitz. And that's been receiving some attention on whether or not your perception, ultimately, of the problem is that of a divided society requiring certain kinds of structures and whether or not your perception of the problem is different from that of the ANC or the other people who sit at the negotiation table, so that when you sit to negotiate, you both bring to the table two different perceptions of what the problem is.

GV     Yes, but I think we are both, in accepting negotiation, acknowledging that there is room for change, for flexibility, for adjustment, for give and take. Unless you do that, you needn't start negotiating. You must continue quite outside the armed struggle. And though we enter the negotiation process with firmly defined positions on both sides, I think we have on both sides also indicated that there is room for flexibility. Mandela has before and after his release, and recently again, formulated, although he tends to become very ambiguous in this, but formulated a position acknowledging that a simple, an unqualified accommodation of majoritarianism in the sense of one man, one vote, would lead to results of "serious concern", I think that was the phrase he used, on the part of other groups, specifically the whites, against being completely dominated by this other ethnic majority. And that, therefore, some accommodation has to be found. Repeatedly, when he said this kind of thing, he qualified it by saying that the National Party approach is rejected because it is pure racism. Well, I think that is based on a wrong perception of the National Party's views. On an earlier National Party position, when the National Party defined groups, and wish to continue, we try and achieve recognition for the definition of groups in racial or colour terms.

     And that's no longer the case. Especially, I mean, as I explained to you, in the light of this sort of three-phase change from an approach where minority or group protection has first been sought in terms of constitutionally defined groups, secondly in terms of groups defined in terms of constitutionally defined procedures, and thirdly, and this is, I think, our present position, protection of minorities through special accommodation of minority political groups, assuming that the needs of minorities are best articulated through political groups whether they're big or not, whether that minority is dominant in the particular political group or whether it is, you could almost say, bought by that political group by accommodating its particular needs as part of that political group's program of action.

POM     Since 1967, power has never passed from one elected government to another in Africa, I think, with one exception. What would you point to as evidence that South Africa, perhaps, might be different?

GV     I think this is perhaps the most fundamental point of concern amongst most people in South Africa not belonging to either an ethnic or a racial or a future political majority. I think one of, perhaps one of the biggest ones, I don't want to say the biggest concern for other than myself, is the lack of a common democratic culture amongst the individuals and the groups and the people of South Africa. Especially a democratic culture in the sense of recognising that the inherent value of changes of government, recognising the value of competition among parties. In other words, real multi-party democracy and acknowledging the right of one's opponent party to be free to articulate his views and to mobilise support for those views. Because I think lack of appreciation of this fundamental tolerance for the opposition is at the root of the violence and the armed conflict aspect which characterises the present conflict amongst black men.

     So, I must say, in reply to your answer, that they are concerns. I, however, believe that if we change from the parliamentary sovereign of the British system to what one could call the constitutional sovereign which I think is more or less how one would characterise the American and the German systems, and if you accept that an independent Supreme Court or special Constitutional Court, whatever the details may be, will have the authority to invalidate any acts of state, whether legislative or executive, in conflict with the constitution or with the fundamental jargon of fundamental rights, that would be something completely new in our system. Then people say, well, but in Africa it doesn't go that way. In Africa, courts are just kicked in the teeth. If they declare invalid, there will be simply a military coup.

POM     Do you have to build into the structures of governance itself mechanisms that would preclude a government simply tearing up the constitution and locking up the courts and saying, no, that's that and that's just a fait accompli?

GV     Well, what if a coup manipulates the courts? So there would have to be structures which would put the appointment of Supreme Court judges not in the complete discretion of the political edge(?) but that there should be some kind of, as they have in Namibia, need that the judges must be appointed from a panel submitted by a council or group of legal experts who are predominantly neutral and not state-related. Something similar would have to built in with regard to the control of the armed forces, which would be, of course, much more difficult. But then ultimately, if the concept of constitutional as against parliamentary sovereignty were developed and also checks and balances both in the constitution were developed, the realities which people will have to accommodate in their own thinking before they decide to do this sort of smash up operation is that the, shall I say, the first world part of the South African society is much bigger than that of any of the other situations. But if you put it in pure race terms, and I don't think race is the only element because the values on which these things depend are values which are increasingly being shared across racial divides, but even if you were to put it in race terms, Namibia had about 70 or 80,000 whites, Rhodesia had about a quarter of a million, 250,000 whites, at the time of their sort of changeover. Even Algeria had only, I think, a million. We have more than 5 million in terms of whites. If you were to add Coloureds or Asians, and those blacks would share the same values, it would be quite a considerable numerical reality to reckon with. And if there's to be a fight out it would be rather different from the kind of fight out that would eventuate in Namibia or in Zimbabwe. And this is the kind of risk that whoever wants to smash up the constitution would have to recognise.

POM     I'm going to just run through, very briefly, some statements that you made in parliament last year, just to get a line on the development of your thinking. That one time you talked about there being a need for guarantees of a significant share in political decision making and given the background to the misery discernible in the rest of Africa, the ability to help ensure that civilised norms and standards be maintained in every sphere, these rights would have to be accommodated in the constitution. In addition to a minimum degree of participation, a minority would have to have effective participation in decision making on certain issues specified in the constitution through negotiation. And then the emphasis changed a little and you talked more about power sharing trying to change the politics of confrontation to the politics of consensus. And again, you talked of decentralisation of power, the imaginative devolution of authority, constitutional checks and balances, the requirement of consensus on contentious matters, systems which were conducive to consensus, and a strong, independent judiciary. And your kind of starting point or was that the essence of any new constitutional dispensation would have to be impervious to manipulation without consensus. [Has there been...?]

GV     I think the word "consensus" I try to avoid generally.

POM     Well, this I got from Hansard.

GV     Well, what is consensus, then?

POM     Yes.

GV     I think that is also a point on which the National Party position has moved. At the 1987 election, the idea of an inter-group consensus, both in the legislature and in the executive on any decision making was sort of the basic position. But quite clearly, that would lead to almost a continuous impasse in the practicalities of government. And, therefore, we more and more are going to the position of having minority protection not for all decision making but for decision making on certain defined issues. I think you raised it there.

POM     Defined issues.

GV     Defined issues. Which are defined after negotiation in the constitution. Issues related to the basics of democracy.

POM     Sorry, to the?

GV     The basics of democracy. To the economic system. To the concept of what one could call a sort of community self-determination and so on. Not, for instance, as sort of a general reader for minorities because that would virtually eliminate and break down the right of the majority. [And the right of a majority is ...]

POM     Would security come under that wrapping, too?

GV     Yes, I think hopefully there would be built into the constitution certain procedures ensuring proper use of, say, the legislature or proper functioning of a legislature and proper functioning of security. And any changes in those legal frameworks provided by the constitution will have to be subject to say, a two-thirds majority or to a decision in which the minorities concur.

POM     When you talk of power sharing, do you mean power sharing in the sense of minorities having effective participation at the executive level in the Cabinet itself, effective power sharing in terms of decision making within parliament?

GV     Yes. What we mean by power sharing is that you would not have a system where after an election in everything the majority takes all, but that there are areas in which the majority must also persuade the minority to obtain its support, either in an absolute sense or in the sense of having a say. [I think the majority...]

POM     I suppose when I'm talking about power sharing at the executive level, I'm asking in terms of the members of a minority political party having a Cabinet position within the government.

GV     Yes. The President has formulated that, the concept of multi-party concept. In other words, acknowledging that not only the majority party has a say but that all parties have a say with regard to constitutional matters. This is a concept that we should also consider in structuring the executive. In other words, that the executive should not be composed only out of parties forming the majority but that, again, subject to certain minimum requirements, those parties which have proven noticeable or substantial support, though they are minorities, should be given some kind of a representation in the Cabinet. We had that previously in our provincial system where the Provincial Executive was not appointed on the basis of representing a majority party but on a pro rata basis, representing all the parties.

POM     When you talk about power sharing in this sense, do you talk about it in terms of it being part of a transitional process? An arrangement that might apply to the first election after a new constitution.

GV     No, no. I consider it as part of a system and a structure.

POM     It would be part of the final solution?

GV     Well, no solutions are final.

POM     Well, as far as the final solution can be final?

GV     I think that probably you should know that better than a politician. No, obviously the experience of a South African nation. Let me put it this way. A new constitution's main goal, its first prize to achieve, would be building a South African national sense of unity. There is no South African nation except in a technical sense. I think we have in the past half century succeeded in bridging a lot of the big gaps and chasms separating the different, the two main white populations and that was quite an achievement. And I think there has in the last decade been a tremendous progress, although, perhaps outside observers would still consider this to be grossly insufficient, towards accommodating within the concept of a nation also the Coloureds and the Asians. At least on the National Party's side the blacks were excluded from the concept of nation in terms of the Separate Development. And the big change that was brought about in National Party thinking under the guidance of PW Botha was in 1987 when the Federal Congress of the National Party decided that the blacks are permanent. As the married, as the wedding formula says, for better or for worse. The blacks are permanently part of South Africa and must therefore be accommodated fully in a concept of joint nation. So, we will have to be building, in spite of our differences and overarching our differences, a new nationhood, a new sense of national unity. Nation building, in that sense, would be our goal. Incidentally, to just put it in by way of a footnote, we believe that that can only succeed if you also accommodate the reasonable need of the subgroups within that nation. You're not going to succeed as a nation unless you have sort of a sense of security amongst the main subjects.

POM     I want to ask you a couple of quick questions.

GV     Well, if you will just let me just try to complete this argument. Now, as we succeed with this nation, the perceived need for protection of one group against the other might considerably change and diminish. And some complexity in the constitution which might be irritating and frustrating could be identified as matters which could well be dispensed with because what they purport to protect is no longer necessary to protect because of the new sense of nationhood. And that is a possible and perhaps even a likely, and certainly from my point of view, a wished for, a desired development in our process. So, that would be my answer to your question as to whether there would be power sharing in this or not. I think all constitutional arrangements, especially in communities which are complex and which are divided, have an inherent momentum, an inherent sort of growth, which could be divisive but it could also be unifying. And if our constitution succeeds, it should be unifying. If we fail, obviously, we will be divisive to the point of explosion.

POM     So, you're kind of looking for arrangements that will not push differences to the point of division?

GV     Yes. And I think one of the things that we've come to realise is that when you have your party political structures coincide with ethnic structures, then the divisions are so overemphasised that the possibility of nation building is almost nil. That is why, one of the reasons why we have come to the conviction that the accommodation of minorities should not be through ethnically or culturally-defined group structures but through political structures which, in the first place, are by way of voluntary association. They are more flexible, they change. Some people are for a group. Then you'll find you standing against it, a part of this more basic, I mean, support another party. And it doesn't result in this coinciding of ethnic structures being part of the political structures which would be highly undesirable in the South African set-up. And that also is why the National Party took one of its most difficult decisions from an emotional point of view last year. And they opened the party membership.

POM     We're familiar with the debate about a constituent assembly. So what I'd like to ask you is, one, is the government still as adamantly opposed to it as it was? Two, would it be still opposed to it if it were elected on a proportional representation basis? And three, what do you say to the ANC when they say, well, if you're against a constituent assembly, come up with an alternative arrangement which would give the proper weighting to the different political parties which would be represented in such an assembly.

GV     Well, our argument is that the best formula for producing a constitution in a divided society such as we have is by having all the main component elements of the society represented in the decision making and as far as possible, I don't think it should actually be achievable to get consensus amongst the main participant parts. Now this can be achieved by a multi-party conference, a multi-party conference or an all-party congress, whatever you prefer to call it, which both sides have accepted as the forum in which the procedure for setting up a new constitution is to be decided upon. And if you can decide on the procedure, we could as well use the same kind of structure for actually working out the constitution. So our alternative would be a multi-party conference but then subject to approval by the total population by way of a referendum after the negotiations have resulted in a product which is well enough advanced to be subject to the electorate.

POM     A product in terms of the constitution itself. What if this multi-party conference decided that the best mechanism was to have an election for a constituent assembly to draw up the Constitution?

GV     Oh, yes, well, that's the whole idea of a multi-party conference. You try and find agreement on points on which there is a present disagreement. And if agreement is achieved, obviously ...

POM     Would such agreement have to be consensus agreement?

GV     I think the thinking at present, also on the side of the ANC, and we've discussed this in depth with them, is that a multi-party conference should have all the significant parties and the decision making should be on a consensus basis.

POM     Yes. Just two last questions.

GV     I personally, let me say, I personally think that that is a very difficult requirement and that we will have to think, at least on some of the details of what we have to decide about, we will have to think about the alternative to consensus. And I think the kind of alternative that could sell would be that of the Security Council of the United Nations, namely a majority in which there is concurrent support of, shall I say, the four or five or six main role players. That, I think, would be an acceptable alternative to absolute unanimity.

POM     You may know that when Peter Brooke initiated these peace talks in Northern Ireland and brought the constitutional parties to the table, one of the rules was that on every decision, each party could exercise a veto. And it kind of ensured from the beginning, in fact, that it couldn't go forward.

GV     No, I think one would have to have an alternative.

POM     Yes. The last question is a troubling one and it involves the violence. And with the innumerable people that we've talked to since last August, whether it's the ANC, the PAC, the churches, whatever, not only the strong belief but deep insistence that the government is playing a primary role in this violence and a belief that that will be fed by the revelations of the government over funding of Inkatha. I mean, no matter what the facts are, it could be read in a certain way. What can the government do to allay those fears?

GV     It has been doing something already. You will know that we've called, the President called, a summit on violence which, unfortunately, the ANC and its related organisations and some other organisations also which were a bit under pressure by the ANC, did not attend. This was then followed by a new effort facilitated by facilitating groups from the churches and business and the result of that facilitating is now, there was a brief note with regard to one of the working groups this morning in a brief report of one of the working groups resulting from that conference.

POM     Sorry? From one of the working groups?

GV     Resulting from that conference that was formed by the facilitating group.

POM     But, you still have Mr. Mandela out there saying recently, as recently as in the very conciliatory interview he gave about two weeks ago, still talking about the government having a double agenda and either that Mr. de Klerk ...

GV     And this goes both ways. The only thing is that what we say is not so readily reported. We've been battling since last September to have the ANC carry out their undertaking to suspend violence, which includes the joint control of arms caches, the joint control of further recruiting and training of uMkhonto weSizwe people. It's since September that we've been in a working group and we've made virtually no progress. Also, at the airport discussion earlier this year in February where we tried to make progress, we thought we made progress but since then it's been stagnating again. So, we have our concerns as well. And we also have concerns that the way in which the ANC orchestrates some of its mass action, which in principle we accept as a democratic way of protest, but the way in which they orchestrate some of it leads to a spilling-over into violence and intimidation on frightful scale.

     So this is a question of, you know, both sides. And therefore, I believe that we have been making progress towards getting agreement on a jointly orchestrated programme for combating violence by this set of five working groups that have been set up in the conference that was formed by the facilitators. I assume that you are familiar with it. They've been working in the past week or two and they will be continuing for another week or two and will probably be reporting back to what they call the Preparatory Committee by the middle of August. And this will then hopefully result in a number of consensus documents on a code of conduct for political parties, a code of conduct for the security forces and a standing commission for inquiring into all allegations of improper conduct and of violence and government involvement and so forth. It also considers the question of a sort of a peace secretariat. In other words, a multi-party organisation countrywide which would locally, regionally, and centrally promote all aspects that would lead to peace as against conflict. I would think that these efforts in which we are closely involved and which we, through this facilitating group, succeeded in getting both the ANC, Inkatha, and the government, which are probably the most important role players at this stage, to work together in each of the five groups. And if this leads to kind of a result that is anticipated, I think that would be a very meaningful contribution to combating violence.

POM     If this violence is not brought under control, can you, do you believe there can be meaningful negotiations for one party to the negotiations to really believe that the party's out to undermine it?

GV     Negotiations, by definition, require a sort of a freedom of intellectual movement, of argument, of debate, of putting different points of view. [broken down by the ???]

POM     Two last quick questions. One, despite all the difficulties of this last year, and I think every observer agrees it's been a difficult year, the process still remains on track?

GV     Oh, yes, absolutely.

POM     Why?

GV     Because I think all responsible leaders realise that there is no alternative. The alternative was tried out by both sides. The ANC tried it out by way of the armed conflict. We tried it out by way of armed and legal repression. Both sides acknowledge, I think, that the other side is not a complete devil and completely wrong. You cannot have negotiation unless you accept that the other side also has a point somewhere. And I think this has been illustrated by both the statements of Mr. Mandela and of Mr. de Klerk and also because most sides realise that unless there is stability and a political accommodation, the economic results, yes, the result would be so disastrous that it wouldn't really be a very exciting or pleasant thing to live in this country.

POM     In that sense, is the process now irreversible?

GV     Oh, yes. Absolutely irreversible.

POM     And finally, what in the United States is now being called "Inkathagate", what is the political fallout of this whole affair? Who are the main political beneficiaries and who are the major political losers?

GV     Well, I think that should be obvious. I think the main beneficiaries are the ANC and the main losers are the government, and particularly because the thing has been structured to reflect on the personal integrity of the President, which is one of the strongest building blocks. I think one of the left-orientated newspapers recently said that whether you liked it or not, you have to keep de Klerk intact because without him there's not going to be a peaceful solution. And I think, nevertheless, the fallout has been very disadvantageous to the government.

POM     And Buthelezi?

GV     I'm not exactly sure how this is going to affect him. He has never been popular outside his support base. He's a leader who irritates his opponents. On the other hand, his supporters are very strong supporters of him. But it will also depend, to a large extent, to what extent it appears that his denial of having been personally involved in this particular operation rings true or not.

POM     Would you still see him even in the light, perhaps, of his somewhat diminished standing in the black community, I'm saying that speculatively, not because I know it, that he still is a major player?

GV     Oh, yes.

POM     That there are three major players: the government, ANC, and Inkatha?

GV     Yes. Yes.

POM     Last year there was a lot of talk about the rise of the right, the Conservative Party, how it might win a majority of the vote if an election had been called last year. Where do you think they stand today?

GV     I think there are two factors. One is the concern on the part of all South Africans, but especially the white electorate, about the effect of violence which has resulted in an anti-government reaction in by-elections. The violence issue is causing great concern. On the other hand, the unworkability of what the Conservative Party proposed and the marginalisation of their refusal to be involved in any negotiations are both meeting with a negative reaction in their support base, which hasn't led to people switching party allegiance but which has certainly led to a certain reserve and distancing on the part of their more, shall I say, their more perceptive supporters against the present stand of the Conservative Party. And I think it may continue, where their absolute blanket refusal to be involved in negotiations, are they going to lose support?

POM     Do they become, in fact, more or less irrelevant?

GV     They will certainly become, they are in the process of becoming irrelevant in the negotiating process. And they're not into it in any way, the ultimate outcome of that process.

POM     Thank you very much.

GV     You're welcome.

POM     I really appreciate the time you've given us. I'll get you a transcript of this in due course, it'll probably be four or five months. It just takes a lot of time.

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.