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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

27 Jul 1991: Jordan, Pallo

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POM     We're talking with Pallo Jordan, the Director of Information and Publicity of the ANC, or is it just Information? What I'd like to do, Pallo, is to read you a statement and you must bear with me. It takes a minute or two. And then for you to comment on the statement. In a way what it goes to is, the short question is, what is the nature of the problem that the negotiators will be sitting at the negotiating table to solve? And the statement is, this is taken from a book by Donald Horowitz who just recently brought out a book on South Africa and it says, "There's disagreement 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 contending claims to the same land. Where there's disagreement over the identification and even the names of the racial categories and there's disagreement over the extent to which the conflict also involves ethnic differences within each of the racial categories. And there's no consensus whether a future South Africa might also be divided along racial and ethnic lines and, if so, how severe such divisions might become. And there's discord over what measures might be required to reduce future conflicts." In other words, he's saying there's a lack of any conceptual, common perceptual framework. In your view, what is the nature of the problem that the negotiators at a table will try to solve?

PJ     Well, also the problem is that there are different perceptions about abolishing apartheid. There really are different perceptions and quite a variety of different interests. The fact of the matter that is recognised, I would say, universally, is that in South Africa you have a completely undemocratic political dispensation. The whites first wouldn't accept that at all, when we first established a presence in this country, they have never exceeded 7% of the total population of South Africa. And yet it is that group which controls the political destiny of the country. And the size of sectors of productive property are also in the hands of the whites and the entire political machinery of this country is in the hands of the whites. All the organs of shaping public opinion and public perceptions, information services, are effectively in the hands of the whites. The higher professions are monopolised by the whites. Higher levels of skill are monopolised by the whites. The boards of all the major corporations are totally dominated by the whites. If there are blacks there, they are just there as window dressing and everybody knows that. So you have a situation and a contrary society which is, in a sense, completely upside down. Where a small minority of the population effectively controls the country. That is the issue. And anyone who tries to present it in any other terms is either just indulging himself or is trying to deceive others. And that is the problem.

PJ     What is the problem? If you ask people on the other side, furthest right of the white liberals, they will put it in exactly these terms. The difference is, they will claim that this is their land and that is why it is right that they should be dominant. The only difference. You go to the so-called liberal portion of white political perception, they will tell you that this is, in fact, the basic question. Go to the Government, they will tell you that this is the basic question. And all the other stuff about ethnic claims and other nationalisms, I mean, it's just so much rubbish and I find it actually insufferable that people want to speak in those terms. Because the facts are known, they are very clear, and there is no disagreement amongst the major political players in this country, that that is what the problem is. And I think that has to be resolved. Now, the question of how it is resolved, that's where there is disagreement among the players.

POM     Just before we back away from that question, scholars from other countries have sometimes characterised South Africa as being what is called a divided society with all the kind of ascriptic characteristics of a divided society. Would you reject that?

PJ     I don't know. It's only to use those terms to evade the basic questions. You see, ascription and ascriptor for categories in a society both exist in and of themselves. They serve a particular function. Ascriptions in South Africa, ascription on the grounds of race or on the ground of ethnic origin serves a specific function. Being a minority, the whites in this country could not hope to control the majority except if they created institutions to maintain their government. Force of arms is one and has always been the last resort, first line of defence in any situation in which the blacks raise their voices, they're shot. Or put in jail, tortured, hanged, whatever, murdered in detention. Take a man like Steve Biko. Steve Biko didn't so much as lift a twig against this government. If you so much as throw a pebble at officials of this government - all he did was express ideas. And he was taken one day off the street and virtually tortured to death. That is what it's about. Now, the ascription is, re-enforce that. Now Steve Biko, because you are of African origin and you live in South Africa where the whites are dominant, you shall not be this, you shall not be that, you shall not do that, shut up and grovel. We don't own property, we don't do certain types of jobs. When you get education, the education you will get here will be education that equips you only to serve the whites. You will come into the urban areas at certain times of the day because you're prepared to serve the needs of the whites. When you cease to serve the whites, you leave that urban area. Right? But urban areas happen to be also where the economy is controlled from. Right? So, the ascription serves all those purposes. To defend and buttress the domination of the whites over the economy and over the politics of the country.

POM     So when ...?

PJ     No. So, when you first begin to talk about ascription you are concealing something which lies behind ascription. Ascription is not an end in itself. The purpose is domination. And if there are those who insist that ascription just exists as a theory, not some new technique but a classic ascriptive system, you have a caste system in India. The untouchables are not just ascribed because they need someone to clean the toilet and someone else does want to clean toilets. And it's to maintain those who are going to clean toilets that you have ascription. So that those at the top don't have to clean toilets. It serves that purpose also. It doesn't just exist in and of itself. And if a society in which there is ascription finds those whose status, whose ascriptive status is high, living on the streets, those whose ascriptive status is high live very well. It's those whose ascriptive status is low who are living in poverty. And ascription seems to maintain that situation. So to think about ascription in abstract terms as if it exists in and of itself, I will say is either self-deception or ...

POM     I'm saying it for two reasons. One is that you have many scholars who do just that. Who take it as a feature of it being a divided society. Like perhaps Northern Ireland, like Cyprus, where there are deep cleavages between different groups. And what struck me in reviewing the literature is that, and this is not only those who are writing in South Africa but abroad, is that it is mainly white scholars or intellectuals who will use divided ...

PJ     ... for what racialised is, but the point is, even if you look at Northern Ireland, the heart of the matter is that until the main Catholic population of Ireland raise their voices against the degradive, ascriptive state, no- one gives a fig about them. In 1969, they began to stand up and say, we won't tolerate this anymore. And ascription served certain purposes, right? If you were Catholic the likelihood that you lack opportunities would be greatly reduced as it was increased with Protestants. If you were Catholic, the likelihood that you were unemployed was far greater than if you were Protestant. If you were Catholic, the likelihood that you were disadvantaged in many, many ways was far greater than if you were Protestant. So, again, ascription serves certain purposes. It doesn't exist in and of itself. It is a useful device when you have something such as religion to designate and to demarcate the differences between the people of the community. It is very convenient when you have something as visible as race, when you can actually see the difference between black and white. And there already you can allocate advantage and disadvantage, that's on sight. It makes it very easy.

POM     Yes.

PJ     First, I would say it is very convenient if the allocation of privilege and underprivileged can be pinned onto regular, identifiable features such as race because you just really have to look at the person and you can readily identify status. It's also, of course, very easy when you can ascribe status on the basis of identifiable features such as religious practice.

POM     I'm asking in depth on this in a way because during the last year there have been many articles written abroad about the violence in the townships and in many organs of opinion it become increasingly seen as black-on-black violence, Xhosa versus Zulu, to the extent that just two weeks ago The Economist said in an editorial that the violence between Xhosa and Zulu was really no different than the violence between Serbs and Croatians. Would you regard that as being a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation?

PJ     It's clearly a fundamental misunderstanding now.

POM     And when F.W. de Klerk, in the interviews he gave to his brother for his book, made some comparisons between Eastern Europe and the lifting of totalitarian communism and South Africa and the lifting of apartheid, saying in the one case suppressed nationalisms came to the fore, and now as apartheid ends in South Africa you will see nationalisms or ethnic groups competing against each other.

PJ     Very remarkable. Very clever of him to do that, when he's paying someone to actually unleash the violence, isn't it?

     The terrible, the terrible thing is, about proceeding from this presumption is that it assists people like de Klerk and his hirelings unfettered by the public. His hirelings, he pays them, he's paying mercenaries from outside the country, as has occurred in all the wars of destabilisation in the region from Angola to Mozambique. Pay them, right? But then get people from Namibia or take them out of their own society, work for the South Africans, and we'll co-opt you, because we can't sit down and talk. Political flotsam and jetsam from all over the region who are trained killers. These people are black, these people very easily resemble the people of this country. You pay them, you use them, you put them on trains, they came to the Zulu, they kill other people day in and day out. And you now have these theories about imagined nationalisms and ethnic divisions, social divisions. And it is the ideology of the Nationalist Party of de Klerk that while you make the institutions of apartheid here it is because of competing ethnic groups, of competing claims, and it re-enforces this. Look, even the blacks are fighting amongst themselves. You pay a group like Inkatha, which is an ethno-nationalist group like the Afrikaner National Party, which has no political support among Africans in this country. A poll that has been taken this month indicates that they won't pull more than 5% in a democratic election, you pay them also to do the terrible things that they've been doing. And say, 'Look, you see this is what happens in divided societies. And it re-enforces this perception. And your editorial writer in the London Economist who think along these lines would gobble it up and regurgitate it. Margaret Thatcher is the culprit. That's what you're dealing with. Margaret Thatcher had never been involved with it, never had been involved with any political relation in this country, amongst blacks has identified itself as ethnically this. Is that a feature of other parties as well? Amongst blacks in South Africa it's completely new! And it's quite evident that is normal function, where the Nationalist Party paid certain blacks to do it.

POM     Would it be ...?

PJ     Now, at the end of the day if this happened a lot, well, of course, I would hope that it would be uncovered. You wouldn't then have those repercussions that people who are suffering at their hands as well as at the hands of the Zulus. If we begin to hate Zulus, and we're beginning to fear Zulus, our own ... begins to have its own dynamic. And this is what British colonial policy has typically done. The interesting issue of Cyprus is that when the Greeks and the Cypriots, when the Greeks and the Turks had occupied that part of the world, at one time the Turks ruled Greece and so on, and Cyprus was originally part of the Ottoman empire at one point in time, etc., that the hostility between Cypriot Turk and Cypriot Greek is a part of the result of British colonial policy and the British have asked us if manufactured ethnicity has affected politics. It didn't really here. And that's been a running sort of emphasis. Pakistan on the one side and the rest of India - they did it in Cyprus. In practically every instance ...

POM     They did it in Iraq.

PJ     I don't know about Iraq but I know in Malaya, all right? Then in India, in Cyprus, between Greek-Cypriot.

POM     In Ireland.

PJ     And Turkish-Cypriot. Well, Northern Ireland is different, because there you had a situation in which you had a colonialism similar to South Africa, a settler colonialism. Protestant settlers who were brought in to occupy part of Ireland and replace it with the British colonial authorities as the dominant group. It's not as if you set different sections of the Irish community against each other.

POM     So, in other words, to you it's become so abundantly clear that, after the ANC saying time after time that the hand of the government was in this violence, and that the evidence more directly emerges, it would seem to me that you're at some kind of a crucial turning point.

PJ     Yes, that's right, because we've always known of their involvement. Our difficulty was the circumstantial evidence was there, and it was under the circumstantial evidence that this was said. What was missing was the smoking gun but we now have it.

POM     What are the minimum steps that de Klerk must take to ...?

PJ     There are quite a number of steps to take, I suppose. De Klerk will have to distance himself visibly from the violence and take a number of measures to indicate that he's not going to continue with this policy, so he is parting company with this type of policy. I mean, we enumerated a number of demands as to what he has to do. Amongst these would be the dismissal of the ministers that are involved in this scandal, the disbandment of these special forces of the South African Police and the SADF, made up of ... and other groups they are using for these vicious purposes. Opening up for public view and research and scrutiny these secret accounts and budgets for these nefarious activities that the security forces are conducting. Institute a multiparty commission of inquiry into government funding of political organisations and secret funds. And also offer protection to those civil servants who have come forward and made this information available to the public. In addition to other demands.

POM     Is it the belief of the ANC that de Klerk had personal knowledge of these activities?

PJ     I think that's totally irrelevant. He has the ultimate responsibility as the head of the government. And that he didn't read every memo or the function of the President is only to defer ... But if he never had read the memos or was informed, he has to have a firm grip. But in any case that is his business how he chooses to run his government and how to run his Cabinet. But with it, he has to receive the responsibilities of the government, just as the ministers do. He has received his responsibility. It's his business how he chooses another minister and he says, don't tell me every detail, I don't want to know the grey parts of it. I mean, that's his business. But then, you have to accept responsibility even if he doesn't want to go into detail.

POM     Just again talking to people within the ANC and PAC, whatever, all on the government, there are literally two kind of messages. One is that all these conditions, like the resignation of Vlok and Malan, have to be met before this process can go forward. The other is that this process has to go forward anyway because it's the only show in town. Negotiations are the only way forward so that no matter what happens, whether conditions are met or not met, we must find a way of keeping the process on track.

PJ     No, no. That's commendable optimism.

POM     Sorry?

PJ     Commendable optimism. You can't negotiate when you see the other guy has got a loaded gun under the table which he would fight in a minute.

POM     But I would think that so much emphasis on the interview that Mandela gave two weeks ago, I mean, he laid great stress on the fact that negotiations were, he almost used the words, the only way that the liberation of South Africa could be achieved.

PJ     Yes. We are interested in pursuing negotiations and we have done personally. Even now we have conducted ourselves with considerable restraint in the face of what is happening, even now because we want to maintain negotiations on track. But, at the same time that Mandela gave that interview these facts hadn't come to light yet. They came to light two days afterwards. And I would think, myself, it's one of the things which builds with ... that it was that very week that Mandela first spoke in those terms that these facts came to light. Because what is being said now by various ministers, especially those whose hands have been caught in the till, or a lot of them, they're saying that, 'Oh, no, the ANC brought these facts to light only to embarrass the government.' Would Mandela speak in those terms which were intended to embarrass them two days afterwards? No. It wasn't that at all.

POM     What does all this do to Buthelezi and Inkatha?

PJ     No, no, no. You see, some of us have only been of the view of Buthelezi and Inkatha are not really a major factor in South African politics. Buthelezi and Inkatha want to behave as if the Zulu people are still living in the 1870s. And they're not! We are living in the 1990s, let's face it. And the so-called Bantus you had in the 1870s are gone forever. I mean, history is like that. The so-called coalitions of the 1870s were at the time false. We are living now with an extremely privileged population. Some people might still adhere to certain traditional forms but not the content of tradition. You can't. Living in the middle of Durban or working in a mine in Johannesburg or living in Soweto or working in a big corporation you can't live by those rules. They're long gone, finished. You have to come to terms with that. So, we have never considered them to be a factor in South African politics. And I doubt that they will become a factor in some sub-region of the South African government.

POM     How would you rate the ANC's performance over the last year, both in terms of strategy and tactics? And again, let me preface that by saying that from abroad it's often appeared that the ANC's followed a zigzag course. Setting deadlines, and then deadlines going back and setting back from what has been kind of a demand, asking or requesting or demanding the resignation of Vlok and Malan, and then that going, that coming on. And one popular thing certainly in media circles and academic circles is that the initiative in the last year has been in the government's hands and the ANC always appeared to be playing follow-up, or catch-up.

PJ     I see, you've obviously judged. You have to be zigzag with the types of strategy if the course of liberation is a zigzag course.

POM     Would you rate the ANC higher on strategy content or on its tactical content?

PJ     No, I would leave that to others to judge. At the end of the day our assessment is going to be as the results, when the game is over.

POM     Is a Constituent Assembly going to be one thing on which there will be no backing away from?

PJ     I can't see how the ANC will back away from it. I can't see how. The ANC has to insist on a Constituent Assembly because otherwise what we have been talking about will not be realised. You see, if you have another sort of forum other than a Constituent Assembly, what you're facing is the possibility of artificially-created political structures. Those who don't come to that forum and have their points of view tested, their weight in the political arena tested, know that they have been tested, the significance of being tested, the constituency that has been tested, and they have equal claim. The South African government funded a whole number of parties against SWAPO in Namibia. At least there was virtually ... but they funded them. Now, who knows? Those parties that might have disappeared like snow on a summer's day, if it hadn't been for the money of the South African government. We were at war with SWAPO. Same thing applies to us. So what should the government do? So, if you don't have a Constituent Assembly, what's the alternative?

POM     But, this goes back to something very basic. How do you negotiate with somebody you basically don't trust? I mean, how can one arrive at an accommodation if basic trust and the sincerity and the goodwill of the other party simply isn't there and their experience constantly reinforces the fact that it's not there?

PJ     This is the difficulty, which is why I commended the optimism of the people who go on their way. Because it makes it virtually impossible. Which is why one has to insist on certain ground rules. Now, the ground rules are not going to change the moral character of the opponent, but they might change his behaviour. Which is, after all, the only thing we're interested in. We're not interested in changing de Klerk. I don't think that we're changing him. But I think we can get ground rules that change his behaviour. Well, that's about the most optimistic of which I can think. Hence our insistence on an interim Government and codes of conduct for the police and security forces. Code of conduct for political parties. And all those other issues. So that we at least can change their behaviour if not their moral character.

POM     An interim government would mean the resignation of present government and the formation of a broad national government to oversee the transition?

PJ     Yes.

POM     As distinct from what the National Party or the government sees as an interim government, which is where the government is the government but they bring in a number of people from the ANC, from the PAC.

PJ     No, no, no, no, no, no.

POM     What is your understanding of what they want?

PJ     We want a new government.

POM     Over the last year, have you detected any changes in government thinking on what they're after in a settlement? I mean, I've noticed, for example, a movement away from groups towards power sharing. But I have a very hard time trying to find out, what do they mean by power sharing?

PJ     No, well, they've changed, I would say, their style and perhaps how they put across their lines and the objectives. But the content of it has not changed. You see, the Nationalist Party is anything but a national party. It's an Afrikaner party. There was a time when if you were not of Afrikaner descent, you were not admitted into it. They changed that some time in the late '50s, early '60s. The only people were white. It still remains an Afrikaner party. Now they've opened to the doors to people who are not white. But that doesn't change it. [It's still their own -- you know, they've got all these ... to run it]. They're an Afrikaner party. It won't change its character. So, the content doesn't change, just maybe the appearance has changed. Now the question of group rights became an embarrassment to the Nationalist Party politicians because everyone could see that group rights was just another code for white privilege. And it's very difficult to say that to people who are not white. So, in addition to manufactured ethno conflict amongst Africans in the form of ethnic violence and this other state-supported violence, they then change direction away from group rights, this code for white privilege, and talk in terms of community values. And you try to present those values as being Christian values. They ran into difficulties, of course, when they tried to be a white National Party for the long term because a lot of our members are Christians, true supporters of the Nationalist Party, so you had even fuller awareness of Christian values when you talk about community values. At the end of the day, the content of what you're talking about turns out to be exactly the same, because you must ask people to expand or to amplify what they mean by community values. They'll tell you that, no, no, we mean, for example, if you've got a school in some such area, and the community there wants it to be part, a main part. Once you have ensured through legislation over the years that the human ecology of the country is racialised, whites live here, blacks live there, well, of course, because his character is white and the whole community's character is white, but don't call it that. Say "community values". ? And the "community value" is that which is white. He leaves out that the school remains white, effectively. Not in the name of white group rights but in the name of community values. The end result is the same. A community wants its character to remain the same. I am very sure that if it is white it feels that it doesn't want the character of the school to change and they should have the right to do so. So blacks will be unable to be admitted. No, it's not because of the party. The community or the values of the community remain the same. The end result is that the neighbourhood remains white. One doesn't use the word "group rights" at all, the end result is the same, however. Our community feels that here in this part of town or this particular institution or this, that, or the other, the town's values and the character, etc., etc., etc., is such and such. If someone in the neighbourhood says to you, I went to school, it's a neighbourhood school and it is a white school and it was Christian, and he would like our school to remain like that, should you have the right to change that? If you bring in a lot of blacks it will change. I said to him, Harrow, Eton, the most English of English schools in England, you go there, you will find kids from Caribbean, from India, from everywhere in the world. What's your problem, living in South Africa, the Englishness of your school? Just because a few blacks come in - no, no, no, no, but you see those are a minority! You see? They have their own attitude. Yes, of course, they have their attitude, but that's England. But this is Africa. Blacks are the majority here. But what he's saying to you is that, I want a white school! But he is using the term "community" and "values" but the end result is that it is exactly the same. So, the rhetoric of the government and the National Party has changed. The content of what they're saying hasn't changed substantially. It's exactly the same content.

POM     When they talk about building a new South Africa where there is the sharing of power, power sharing, do you see that as a code word for them saying, we are building a new South Africa where, to a considerable extent, we would still hang on to our power and our privilege?

PJ     Of course! Of course!

POM     So, when you're saying you're moving to a democratic non-racial South Africa, that essentially is something very different in concept and design?

PJ     In the crudest terms we're talking about stripping the whites of their power. Sure. Because they are very ready to describe that. It is stripping the whites of their power and their accumulated privileges.

POM     Do you think they have maybe figured that out, have decided that they will concede a political power and the trade-off will be to protect their economic power, that what's at the root of all this is protection of economic power rather than political structures?

PJ     Well, we feel they return to absolute bottom lines. I mean, that's what they'll hold onto. If it's OK you hold onto political power. But where I think there's an emotion, also, that once there is political empowerment you open the door to economic empowerment as well. Now, the roles in society have been such, and the role in which the whites have run the economy of the country is such, that the only place where there is equal power, the only place where there's any redistribution, is amongst the whites. So, economic empowerment will come about with blacks taking over the white government.

POM     Lately I've noticed in the last year, there has been a rather dramatic dropping off of the use of the word "nationalisation". It no longer appears to the extent that it did, say, before Mandela got released. So on the one hand one can read this as if there was this massive campaign that nationalisation would mean the strangulation of the economy, there would never be forward investment, this country will never recover economically, will never grow to an extent that you can redistribute wealth. And, given the enormous mal-distribution of resources, how in the short to medium term can you address some of those imbalances so that your people actually see that the benefit of a non-racial democratic government comes down to an improvement in their own lives?

PJ     Well, I don't know how many groups do it. In Northern Ireland, it's a quick fix solution. But the era of it being economic change and economic policy and socialism, we're working on this. [Some of ??? ??? to other countries. ???] What I will say is that why people stopped the term nationalisation and such is that nationalisation sort of occurred that if you eliminated the content of what you were saying it obfuscated it, you see. So, those who used the term were reducing its use in their vocabulary. Because the issue was that it was an emotive buzzword. The issue is the captive of policy. And you need to address certain questions such as the redistribution of wealth. One of the big problems with the white domination and whole economic power that grew in this century is that big problem in this country. So, why are you complaining about the mal-distribution of wealth? [And, of course, looking down upon the wealth and the ??? would like to have ???] But people living in some wind-blown, dark shelter have enormous problems, with their kids coming off the land every winter as the result of pneumonia. And also survival. There are enormous problems. And this is one of the great differences. [If you had a situation in which the people are ??? the burden of ??? communists ??? at least there ??? the problem there.] We don't think that that's such a good idea, nationalisation. We've got better ideas.

     Here are our solutions. Why don't we have a dialogue? But he refuses to recognise that. The corporations who dominate the economy have done that for years, decades, as if the only people who ... in this country were the blacks who provided services and then disappear into the darkness of the townships at the day's end, only to re-emerge in the morning to deliver services. And when they were too disabled or too old or infirm, they'd disappear into some Bantustan somewhere and be forgotten. [The collapse of the economy ???] The manufacturing sector contributes a far greater portion of the GDP than the mining and agricultural. But our average earnings come from mining and agriculture. [Our manufacturing sector is highly import-intensive. Any little commodity that the ... and manufacturing sectors put on the market and that so many foreign inputs to reduce it, but] Internationally South African manufacturing can be competitive. You may need a lower rate structure for part of those who have never been an effective market, effective demand amongst the majority of the population, where the manufacturing can produce goods in abundance and they could be absorbed internally. [Because ??? ] ... but pay them a pittance.

     So, of course, in the boardroom, it's no big deal, it's no big problem. The government isn't much of a problem. How much do these guys devote to research and development in the manufacturing sector? You talk to a Japanese manufacturer, and he'd say, 'What? Are those guys serious?' He'd laugh at you. A pittance! It's an absolute pittance! They have been prepared to live off crumbs and droppings from other people's tables and there's nothing invested in research and development in the South African manufacturing sector. Again, because the problem was the only people who matter are the whites. [If the whites got ... they'd do it.] If the whites can absorb it, well, fine, and they've done nothing in terms of enhancing and enrichment. So, these are many of the questions that these guys don't even want to begin to address as problems. You've got this weird economy which is overly-dependent on the export of raw materials. I mean, that's a no-win game. And everyone knows that, everyone knows that you can't exist in a national marketplace. And yet they want to give lectures about it, he lectured in economics. And he was quite content to give proper training. The manufacturing sector in this country was prepared to put up with this situation. It was beginning to take off in the 1950s. The Nationalist government [reduces ??? describes it.] introduced it in 1954, just when the manufacturing sector in the South African economy was taking off. And they went along with it! They went along with it! How do you rationalise something like that? They accepted it. The whites voted for that government year after year, gave it money. Which produces ... without thinking ahead. Is that having the interests of the economy of the country in mind? No, it isn't. But when they decide to ... and say, Hey, maybe power's going to change hands, what are we going to do? We'll devise something to make ourselves an offshore company, so that if the worst comes to the worst, we could take our money and run.

POM     Finally, it's almost, or in a couple of days time, it will be one year since the Pretoria Minute and the suspension of the armed struggle.

PJ     Oh, yes. Yes.

POM     If things were a year ago as they are now, I know this is speculative, but do you believe that the organisation would have called off the armed struggle?

PJ     If things were where they are today?

POM     Yes, that's right.

PJ     Of course not. It would be impossible to. It would be impossible to. It was deliberately done. It was an absolutely ...

POM     Has the process of what's evolved so far been more or less what you had expected or has it been more poisoned than you expected or are there some relatively good spots?

PJ     No, it's far more poisoned than what we expected it to be. Because you see, last year, for example, when the decision to suspend the armed struggle was taken, we felt that de Klerk had reached a hump in the road, which was very difficult for him to overcome. And it was really the task of his to get over the hump. We had spoken in terms of a mutual ... Now, that would have meant the de Klerk government giving us a role, at least to be a factor, to the ANC as a combatant of equal status and then work out modalities for a cease-fire, etc., etc. [And we said that if it went, a very ???.] And juggle the process along, assist him over that hump by unilaterally declaring a cease-fire. One doesn't have to do that. And we felt that once that hump had been gotten over, it would mean that the process could proceed. It is ironically precisely after we tried to help de Klerk over that hump that they then turned on the violence, especially here the people were attacked with a vengeance. And one of the objectives, stated objectives, which emerges from the revelations that have come to pass that it was to demonstrate to the ANC's constituency that the ANC can't do anything to protect them. The ANC is powerless to protect you against this sort of violence. And it was hoped that that would damage the ANC as well. The ANC might have all those smart ideas and good policies and so on but when it comes to the crunch and you'd be blown away in the streets ...

POM     When Nelson Mandela called de Klerk a man of integrity, are those words that may come back to haunt him?

PJ     Well, I've always considered issues of integrity or absence of integrity as historically irrelevant. I don't think he's judging him by moral character. The worst scoundrels have had to act with integrity in circumstance that dictated that they should. And some of the most honourable men have had to do dishonourable things in circumstances that dictated that they had to. It is not a word that I would use in a situation such as that. I think Mandela used those words also as a means of assisting the whole climate of negotiation by saying, 'Well, look, you know who the National Party are, we know who the National Party is, we know where they come from, we know what their policies are, we know what they've done to the country, what they've done to people and nevertheless, I think that this is a man who we can do business with.' If you transfer judgment, you transfer judgment and we're supposing you can deal with de Klerk. [Now, de Klerk has honoured, perhaps, sort of ??? of the worst ??acity imagined.] He has rewarded Mandela for trying to damage our credibility and negotiate a process of instability in Mandela's constituency with treachery. In fact, on many occasions, I have called into question Mandela's own judgment amongst his own constituency and the people around him. Is this the man of integrity that Nelson was talking about? And when people say, well, maybe we're getting a little bit too old and not as sharp as we used to be. That's de Klerk who did that to him. So, I don't know.

POM     Just a year ago, there was a lot of hope, maybe that is the word I should use. A year ago at this time, before August of last year, there was a lot of belief that Mandela and de Klerk had a special relationship and that they were unique to the process and it was their chemistry that would allow the process to move forward rather rapidly.

PJ     Yes. There was a lot of hope. Well, look, maybe I'm very sceptical about these thing, super sceptical. But I would be very surprised if, to save the process which could be developed, would be that dependent on personalities, on individuals. I'm not saying that individual character and individual attributes cannot become a factor in historical processes but I would be terrified if they could actually be determined by those sorts of factors. Because it would mean that all the other factors and social, political forces that one takes into account are of minor significance.

POM     Well, do you think that's saying the kind of context, do you believe that the process is, in fact, irreversible? That it has reached the point of no return?

PJ     No, no. Not irreversible. It's very reversible. And the de Klerk government and his Cabinet are trying to do their best to make sure that it is. No, it's still reversible. What is irreversible, if everything is irreversible, what is irreversible is the casting of the matter, and the public or the National Party, that at some point or another the whites are going to have to lose power, political power, in this country. And that's the only thing that's irreversible. I think they've more or less come to terms with that. But what they will do is try to create circumstances so that when that eventuality finally dawns, one way or the other they either have a foot in the door or some sort of handle on the dealing of power so that they can veto any measures that they think they find unpalatable. The entire programme of the National Party and a whole number of white political divisions to our mind is, in fact, how they recognise that political power must one day come into the hands of the blacks. Devising ways of evading the concept of equal vote. And put into that fact such measures as trust or privatisation of the state's assets, which have become very, very popular not only in the Nationalist Party ranks but also within the ranks of the white business community, in the opposition parties, with the exception of the Conservative Party. But white opposition parties, all of them, want that trust, privatisation of the state sector which is a legal device to evade the concept of political empowerment of the majority.

     It was one of those people, we have a transcript which states that none of them, all these years, the Nationalist Party has created it, they talk about ISCOR or ESCOM, talk about SASOL. All those things, the Nationalist Party initiated that huge, huge, huge state sector. It has grown so they have constituencies and the white working classes are very, very ... and they could use the device of the state to ensure that I got that job, irrespective of the level of qualification. It could go to any of them. That's why you see, for instance, the language of the shop floor is Afrikaans. And if you speak English, you are an outsider, it is Afrikaans. Afrikaans is spoken because that's where they put Afrikaners. Well, they won't take that away. But, I'm not surprised they want to, or the likelihood that a democratic government would want to use the same methods. I don't think that's a far-fetched idea. [You can't, if you go to ??? of this country, rely on a state sector that's going to be in the hands of people who are potentially ...] You just for your own, for reasons of your own security, you'd want to clear out a lot of the more devious characters. If you take it out of the state sector, become private, you can't touch it. I would imagine that they have been trying to - it's almost this sort of idea, this insistence, which you get from very acceptable white communities, I mean, it's an entrenchment of the rights of property in any future constitution in which you will be nationalising, or you will take everything away and then have to pay compensation. Once again, it's also with a similar sort of objective in mind in the sense of their also insisting that you're going to have to, if you're going to dismiss any of the thousands of civil servants, you're going to have to pay their pensions. [They're always trying to devise, ways and means of trying to devise ??? the ??? that are in power.]

POM     One last question and then just a quote. Do you think the Conservative Party is still the major political player or is it, by its own tactics, increasingly making itself irrelevant?

PJ     No, it's a player. Not just the measures that have been taken by de Klerk. In our view, they're considered too little, too late. But for the whites, it's sounded like a wild, radical speech. The big problem of South African politics is that one of the consequences of white power at the expense of blacks is that if you wanted to give a graphic illustration of South African politics, you would have to have two political Bell Curves which is a very conventional political concept to someone here. And the Bell Curve for the blacks is that the right would be the centre. And for the whites, the left would be the centre because this is what happens. There's very little convergence in that centre there. If the black right and the white left converged, the whites in South Africa are extremely reactionary, extremely reactionary. And what you would consider the conventional right, in South African politics, the white left, is very, very left, you know. The DP, Zach de Beer, if you were looking for an equivalent, and in Britain, Margaret Thatcher! We are radical! Very left here, you see, amongst whites. So, and then, of course, the right wing of the Nats, and people like de Klerk who are considered centrists here, but are right-wingers in any other conventional political structure. Equally, with the blacks, it's the same. The right-wing of black politics, you have people who are liberals. And that is the centre for people who are in a conventional curve, like Social Democrats. And then there are those who are extremely at variance. That is one of the difficulties. And to compose those differences is one of the problems which affect us. And at the end of the day what you can hope for is that with a democratic government, you will find those Bell Curves beginning to merge. And I think you will always tend to find the right will be very strongly white in South African politics, even in the future. And the blacks will still tend to be the left. But you could possibly get some sort of convergence. And that centre beginning to grow. But that's something very, very far down the line. Not in the immediate future.

PJ     Well, that's a correct characterisation of FW.

POM     Well, thank you ever so much for the time. And in due course, I'll have this transcribed.

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.