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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

31 Jul 1991: Klaaste, Aggrey

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POM     I would like to start by going back a bit to the problems that will face the negotiators when they actually sit down at the table to negotiate. As a way of introduction to the question, I am going to read to you a statement from an eminent American scholar on divided societies, who has just brought a book on South Africa, his name is Donald Horowitz:

     "There is disagreement over the extent to which the conflict is about race as opposed to being about oppression merely in the guise of, or among nationalisms demarcated by race, or about contending claims to the same land. There is disagreement over the identification and even the name of the racial categories, and there is disagreement over the extent to which the conflict also involves ethnic differences within each of the racial categories. There is no consensus whether a future South Africa might also be divided by along racial and ethnic lines, and if so how severe such divisions might become. And there is discord over what measures might be required to reduce future conflicts. There is a lack of a common perceptual framework: there is conflict about the nature of the conflict."

AK     Well. I am in doubt, I don't want to spend too much time on that because it would seem to me negotiations, after all, are about differences and conflicts. That is the bottom line. You don't go into a negotiation situation agreeing on the agenda on what you are going to say. You go in there with particularly different perspectives as to what is going to happen in future, and what happens before you even go into negotiations is that you rather sharpen the conflictual pattern to strengthen your hand. We believe you need to strengthen when you're coming. You seem to be stronger by coming up with a more radical solution. It might not actually mean that though.

POM     Well, maybe I could demarcate it in a better way about a number of black liberation groups, they would see the problem as one of white domination of blacks, and the purpose of the negotiations is to end that domination and establish a Government where everybody has set up a constitution, where everyone is equal under the law. On the other hand, the government might say 'Well, the problem isn't as simple as that. From our point of view this is not just a problem between black and white, it is between contending ethnic groups within the non-white populations and even within the white population of Afrikaners and whites', and therefore, their perspective is different as to what the essential nature of the problem is.

AK     No, that wouldn't be entirely true because although there is some ethnic conflict among the blacks, even among the whites, I would imagine, for instance, among the whites, the Afrikaner and the English-speaking white people don't have such deep ethnic divisions as they used to have before this year, amongst blacks too the ethnic differences are not that sharp, the ideological differences amongst blacks are more sharp than the other differences. The ANC versus the PAC versus AZAPO versus Inkatha, which I don't really think is just a matter of purely ethnic division.

POM     The Economist of London, which is a fairly widely respected periodical both in Europe and the United States, recently said that the violence between Xhosas and Zulus was in essence no different from the violence between Serbs and Croatians. Do you find that a correct analogy?

AK     I think it is wrong, totally wrong. I don't read about events in Europe as much as I should but basically when you are talking of Africa, there are ethnic groups in South Africa. There are definitely Zulus and there are definitely Xhosas. But within the ANC there are also Zulu speaking people, and within Inkatha, I just found out the other day, there are even Sotho speaking people, although not as much as we would like to see. So, while there is definitely as sense of ethnic division, which can be used by whomever pleases, or interpreted in that form, particularly by whites, the stereotypes that are comfortable assessing the typical African kind of parody that there is a tribal thing going on here, and I am not saying there isn't anything of that nature, because there is, since mostly Inkatha is mostly Zulu and the ANC has a great number of Xhosas leaders, not Xhosa numbers, but leaders. The ANC has got all sorts of tribes under its leadership. So, I think The Economist is wrong.

POM     So, your analysis, looking at the violence which began last August, which you were so disturbed about I remember when we visited with you last August, and you were trying to get hold of Mandela to say that he had to meet with Buthelezi, how do you analyse the route of that violence over the last year?

AK     I think that one of the most interesting things that has come out was certainly that a vast number of black people were totally distraught, ashamed and angry about the violence. Most of them did not know why there was violence. Even the people involved physically in the fight, the so-called Inkatha and the ANC, if you really have to push them and ask what they were fighting for, they wouldn't know. So, as a newspaper what we had to try and establish was where it started and how, which was terribly difficult because nobody knew, until eventually, it was a very interesting example somewhere in the East Rand where a fight started between a group of chaps, some of them were Zulus some of them were Xhosas. They had gone out to drink. Something went wrong during the drinking session, and then the Zulu guys killed a Xhosa, the word then got back to the hostel to say that the Zulus are killing Xhosas. And then the word spread from that hostel to the townships in the East Rand, the Zulus are fighting Xhosas. When it reached Soweto, it was Inkatha versus the ANC. The whole thing had then taken on a new dimension and I'll tell you the reason for that.

     The reason is that most of the violence, I think, starts because of a breakdown in a peasant situation. People who live in hostels and in the squatter situation have got no resources, so they fight over the smallest of things. For example in the West Rand there was a killing over a toilet. Overall most of these people in the hostels are peasants, who would have an ordinary peasant fight because they've got no good living conditions, they live under terrible situations where there is regular hassling, there are guns, there are all sorts activities going on within the hostel. The political scene runs through this collapse of a civic situation, almost like a live wire, and the political scene can be tripped off by any old thing, by rumour, it can be tripped off by a third force or anybody can go in there and grab these guys and say 'go and kill a couple of Sothos or Zulus' or whatever and start a fight. These violent situations happen quickly at the most depressed political climate inside the country.

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.