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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

07 Aug 1991: Mhlaba, Raymond

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POM     Mr. Mhlaba, I would like to take you back in this whole conflict and that is I want you to think about what will be the nature of the problem the negotiators will sit down to negotiate a resolution of when they in fact sit around a negotiating table? One group of people say that this is a problem about race, it is about the domination of black people by a white minority and that is the problem to be redressed. Others say it is a problem between two different kinds of nationalism; white nationalism and black nationalism. Again it is a question of domination. Some people say yes, it is about those things but it is more complicated than that. There are also ethnic differences within different racial groups and any future settlement must take account of these ethnic differences. So there is conflict about the nature of the conflict. People across the board don't agree on what the problem is. In your view what is the problem that negotiators will sit down and try to resolve?

RM     Well as I see our situation, it is a situation of white domination, of dominating the majority, the blacks. The question of ethnic groupings is there, but it is not as prominent as it is in other countries. I think the reason why this is so is because you have a white minority oppressing a black majority and the majority have come together to fight the white minority, white rule. So therefore the racial differences, or tribal differences, have not appeared sharply and the ANC from its inception took this into account and said whether you are Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho speaking, we are one under the umbrella of the ANC. We are fighting whites. This has been so all these years. That is why we have not really had historical tribal conflicts in this country.

POM     How would you characterise the violence that went on from just about this time last year, August of 1990 right through to today in the Transvaal?

RM     You see, this violence is not interpreted correctly. The representative of Inkatha was interviewed on the 1st of May. He said don't interpret this as violence in the first place. That is how he put it. "It is not violence between Zulu and Xhosa. It is not violence between Inkatha people and the ANC people. It is a war." That is how he puts it, that is Musa Myeni, a representative of Inkatha speaking on the 1st of May.

RM     He says it is a war on communism. "We are fighting this war on communism and we are inviting everybody who is against communism to join us." It would appear that is in fact the war taking place in SA. Now it is apparent that there are people who are organising this violence. The aim of the organisers is to stifle, to stop the negotiation process. The conflict therefore which is going to face us in future is the demand all of us are making, black and white alike, for a new constitution. There are those who will say no constitution, this one that we have is alright.

POM     So does Inkatha see it as a war on communism? How do you see it?

RM     The violence, this fellow says is war. But generally speaking people are talking about the violence.

POM     Yes, but how do you view it?

RM     I view this violence as being organised by the reactionary forces making use of black people to prosecute it.

POM     These reactionary forces are they part of the security forces?

RM     It would appear, as the information is coming up now, the army, the reactionaries in the army, the reactionaries in the police force and certain individuals are organising this, getting hold of loose people. Some of these people are unemployed. They are employing them for this purpose. Now that is in fact how we see the situation in so far as the violence is concerned.

POM     Mr. Mandela himself on a number of occasions has said that the government has a double agenda, the olive branch on the one hand and encouraging the violence on the other.

RM     That is our understanding. The leadership of the ANC sees it that way. That it is the reactionary forces in the police force, in the army and certain white individuals who are actually conducting this violence.

POM     Do you think sufficient evidence has now emerged to substantiate those allegations that the government itself or members of the government are involved in the organisation and orchestration of the violence?

RM     We cannot say that the government as a government is openly involved. But we say its state apparatus is operating it. Knowingly or unknowingly, they are involved. That is why the last speech by the President said, "You must not think that every member of the police force supports us, the government. You must not think that every member of the South African police force is supporting the government. There are those who are not supporting the government. They are supporting Treurnicht, they are supporting the right wing, and that this a fact. These are the people who are producing the SA Renamo. This is the style of doing things. Killing children, innocent women. How can you, even if you are a terrorist, go for a child? What has the child done? Actually that is what is happening in Mozambique. And you can just wonder what is the aim of Renamo in Mozambique. If you want to take over, you can't destroy everything. You would like have those things intact. What is the intention of these people? They are destroying like mad people in Mozambique. This is what is happening here.

RM     People are going to town to work, and the women are just being killed. I can well imagine if you say 'right, I am going to kill ANC people,' or 'I am going to kill the leaders of the ANC, start killing them one by one and so on'.

POM     But this is just indiscriminate.

RM     Indiscriminate!! Now what is your aim? Just tell me, what are you aiming at? If you are aiming at fighting an enemy, you want to reduce its strength then you attack the enemy to reduce its strength because you want to take over, you want to weaken the enemy. What is the aim of destroying? What are they aiming at? They are just lunatics! Pure and simple lunatics! Their aim is to cause unrest.

POM     I want to go back for a moment to something to something you said about ethnicity which was that it is there to an extent but not as sharply defined .

RM     We acknowledge that there are Zulus, there are Xhosa, there are Sotho speaking, there are Afrikaners, there are English speaking people in South Africa. We acknowledge that. But the question is, is there an conflict because of that? I say no. Historically no. You know yourself, I mean you know the SA history, there have been no conflicts on that level.

POM     I know that, but then I say I have talked to a lot of people such as in Inkatha, Dr. Buthelezi, to the King, to people on the kind of middle and top levels of Inkatha, I have gone out into townships and talked to people, Zulus, Inkatha members in the townships, who have been burned out of their homes, and asked them what is their understanding of the problem. Almost all of them said this is a war, there has been an attack on the Zulu nation. This attack is being mounted by the ANC which is a Xhosa dominated organisation and what they want to do is subjugate and divide the Zulu people and establish a one party state. That is what I am told again and again. Therefore my question is how do you address that?

RM     Well, the thing is what is strange is what is the cause, what is the reason why the Xhosa, if at all they are correct, why should they go and attack the Zulus, do they want to take their land, what is the aim?

POM     They see it as the ANC would become the government and it would establish a one party state.

RM     There is no question of a one party state.

POM     I know that but this is what they are telling me.

RM     I am trying to show you that the premise of this argument is wrong in the first place.

RM     In the first place you go to the history of the ANC, there are Zulus prominent figures, even up to now. You have got Zulus on top there in the ANC. Leaders, elected democratically. You have got Sotho, Xhosa speaking, it is a composite in the ANC. The ANC has been saying all these years this ANC is a black parliament. They used to say so in those days. You must know that the ANC has developed now, and there is no question of it being solely black. We have got whites, coloureds and Indians today. The ANC is too advanced now. But earlier we used to say the ANC is the black parliament. All blacks, that is their parliament. That is where we used to discuss problems pertaining to blacks.

RM     Today we are no longer talking about that, in fact I have said so to organise business people when they invited us, I said don't talk about a black parliament or a black government in future. You will not get that, as much as you will not get a white government in future. Forget about that. The government which we are looking for, preparing for is a SA government, black and white. Now where is the question of a one party system? Because we are not preaching one party system in the first place.

POM     I know this. How do you begin to address the question with 'the Zulu nation', the people who speak on behalf of them. How do you go about altering their perceptions of what they think?

RM     This is why we have been encouraging the coming together, the Inkatha leaders and the ANC discussing this properly.

POM     That process is still going on?

RM     At this stage, because of the revelations we may stop doing so. But it won't be for long.

POM     Last December there was the violence between the residents of Phola Park and the hostels, and I went out to Phola Park. One evening I went back to the hostels to talk to the workers living in the hostels. They swore to me that they knew for a fact that the night before Mr. Mandela himself had gone to the police station and had helped to orchestrate the attack on the hostel. They knew it for a fact. There was no question about it in their minds.

RM     You see in this situation the organisers are exploiting the ethnic element. They go to the Zulus and say 'look you are a Zulu, the Xhosas are going to attack you because they want to organise us', you see. This is how these elements are organising the Zulus.

POM     So, would I be correct in saying that the organisers find the differences in the groups and get them to the point of ...?

RM     There were no differences, they started by making use around nationalism, tribalism actually; that, look, the Xhosas are going to attack you, the Xhosas want your land, to run Natal and so on. Whereas that is not so. And of course the Zulus will get ready because they are going to be attacked.

POM     Just a few more questions on this ethnicity part. A number of people have said, including Mr. De Klerk, they made a parallel between Eastern Europe and SA, and they said that for the better part of 50 years, totalitarian communism had suppressed the national identities of ethnic groups in central Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and that as that was lifted, the ethnic differences that had long been submerged began to bubble to the top. They say that similarly in SA as white rule is lifted, ethnic differences between different peoples may become more of a factor, may become more sharply defined. Do you think that is a good/bad analogy?

RM     I regard it as a bad analogy. In the first place the republics, you cannot talk about that they have suppressed the nationalism when the republics are there. I understand the republics of the Soviet Union are republics on the basis of, I won't say tribes, on the basis of nationalism.

POM     I am talking about Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, (breaking up into Czechs and Slovaks). The Bulgarian minority, you have got Moldavia where you have many kinds of different people, etc.

RM     There is that. Historically if you study the history of Europe those nations, they used to call them nations, were there. Now we take into account the geographical area and whether these people in fact in the process and because of wars they had to come together. If these people now want to have independent states, well, as far as I am concerned they should be entitled to that. If the republics in the Soviet Union want to be independent, they should be allowed to be independent. And I think as we see the developments, it seems to be going that direction.

POM     You don't think that as apartheid is taken away here that nations like the Zulu nation, whatever, or the Xhosa nation?

RM     You see this is brought about by the Afrikaners, this argument. SA Afrikaners they promised that the 'verskillende', we are talking about separate states, within the framework of apartheid. Now, at times you will find it strange if a white man in SA can talk about that. He says I am an Afrikaner.

RM     Look at the whites as a whole. The Germans, Jews, English, etc. Why don't they talk about tribes amongst themselves? They will talk about the Zulus the Xhosas, the Sotho, etc., what is wrong with the whites? Are they homogenous? They are not homogenous at all. You have the Greeks, Germans, Jews, Afrikaner, English, etc. They are tribes themselves. But when it comes to the black people they hammer this point. There has been no problem with the black people consciously knowing themselves, I am a Zulu, Xhosa and so on. We have been staying together for all these years. Working together in one factory, working in the mines, and so on.

RM     But the Chamber of Mines put up compounds. Zulus, they started this many years ago, once these mines were discovered. They were doing that to divide the workers not to have a strong trade union. They failed even in that. Today we have got a trade union called COSATU, you have got Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho miners all belonging to one trade union and working well. But they built these compounds to divide the workers so that they could not have solidarity to fight against employers.

POM     In the last year internationally, very often from liberal news sources and magazines like Time and Newsweek, international magazines, they have increasingly portrayed the violence as having a strong, particularly on the Reef, having a strong tribal component. Just about three weeks ago, the Economist, whatever you think of its politics, it is well regarded internationally, in Europe and in the US, and it is available here: said that in essence the violence between the Xhosa and Zulu was really in essence no different from the violence between Serbs and Croatians. Why do you think that this kind of reportage would be coming out of SA?

RM     You see the people who are organising this violence have taken into account that they are going to exploit the question of tribalism. They have done so, and they hope that is what is going to keep the divisions. But, people have been accusing Chief Gatsha Buthelezi that he is a tribal leader, but he does not want that, he hates that very much. He hates it because he is himself a product of the ANC. His politics, he has been trained politically by the ANC. Now he feels ashamed to be called a tribal leader because he has been taught in the ANC school what tribalism, black tribalism is. We forget about tribalism in the ANC, we are one. He is conscious of that. That is why he is very sensitive when you say 'you are a tribal leader'.

RM     But when it suits him to arouse tribalism, "We are Zulus, we are commemorating Shaka, we are commemorating Cetshwayo, etc.!" to bring them together. When we say, Look, what are you doing?, he will say, I am not a tribalist!, because it is a disgrace. He has been taught this in ANC school.

POM     What went so wrong between Mr. Buthelezi and the ANC?

RM     Buthelezi is still claiming that he is following the teachings of the founders of the ANC. He is still claiming that up to now. But when he sat within the structures of apartheid, he was actually advised by the ANC to form an organisation, and this organisation was called Inkatha.

POM     The ANC asked him to form that organisation?

RM     He was advised to by the ANC. Because he had been consulting with the ANC and was a great friend of Mandela. Even in jail, he was communicating with Mr. Mandela. He was waiting for Mr. Mandela to come out so that they could work together but things have not gone that way unfortunately. By the time Mandela was stopped by the membership of the ANC in Natal, he was on the verge of going to Natal to visit, he felt that he was now out of jail and was ready to discuss the future with Buthelezi. But it did not work that way unfortunately.

POM     Do you think part of it is that Buthelezi believes there are three major players here? There is De Klerk, there is Mandela, there is himself? He sees himself as a person of national stature.

RM     You see, now Buthelezi has reached a stage in the way of thinking in his mind that he is now a leader in his own right. He is representing the Zulus. He is thinking in terms of numbers, he talks about six million which means all the Zulus, according to him, are followers of Inkatha. Which is not true. He now regards himself, and actually he is fighting for that, that he must be accepted as a leader representing the entire Natal. He sees that the ANC seem to be an accepted organisation, and they are already negotiating with the government. He feels very hurt and insulted by that. He is now fighting to see to it that he must be recognised and accepted as what you say, a third player.

POM     Do you think the revelations of recent weeks of government funding of Inkatha and SAP funding of UWUSA, what is the political fallout? Who are the winners, who are the losers and in particular what does in do to Buthelezi?

RM     We can't talk of winners and losers at this stage. That will be seen sometime in future, when the time of election comes. What we can talk about now is that these revelations have shaken Inkatha, because they have been denying all that the ANC has been accusing them of, which is that the government and Inkatha are conniving. But the revelations have shaken both parties, the NP and Inkatha. In that way, from the point of view of a mental image, that image has been tainted. It would mean somehow you have to portray this image for future purposes. I don't know what can be done. Of course the government admitted that they have in fact funded Inkatha. It would mean therefore we have now to judge the performance of the government as we proceed from now on. It is that type of conduct which has to be shown by the government, that we are in a position to assess.

POM     Along that point, do you think the revelation that the government was funding the DTA in Namibia at the same time that it was supposed the overseer of elections - I am surprised that the ANC has not made more of that in the sense that the government was seen to be a player and referee.

RM     We have said so, if you have read our latest statement which was issued on the 31st. We have noted how dishonest the government is. But in spite of all that, having exposed the government, having indicted the government, we are saying that we are still going to negotiate.

POM     Where does this leave De Klerk? I mean, last year the phrase that reverberated again and again was Mr. Nelson Mandela has called Mr. De Klerk a man of integrity. Is that belief still there?

RM     There is a big question mark against that statement, but we are not going to accuse Mandela and say to him, You have made a wrong assessment, because some of these things are relative. The behaviour of an individual to a certain stage, if that behaviour was good, we say it was good. At if at this point something crops up, we say well, this was my assessment, but apparently, it was the wrong assessment.

POM     Do you think that last year, beginning of August, before the violence started, when the ANC and the government signed the Pretoria Minute, there was a moment there of real optimism, that a climate of trust had been established that could be nurtured to get negotiations underway. Do you think that climate of trust has now been eroded?

RM     It has been eroded because of the violence. And when we find that this violence is in fact being perpetrated by elements within the government structures, that confidence was shaken.

POM     My questions is two-fold, one, can you have successful negotiations if the major parties to negotiations do not trust each other, where you don't trust the government?

RM     It is what you call in English, a Hobson's choice. We have no other way. Let me put it bluntly, we must talk to the government. The ANC must talk with the government and the government must talk with the ANC. There is no choice.

POM     So in that sense, you are interdependent to a degree where you have very limited ...?

RM     If you want to carry on with the process. If one partner finds that the other has behaved dishonestly, it must say so publicly, and in saying so says that don't do it again, let us proceed. That is the only way of handling this situation.

POM     What is the minimum that the government must do now to restore that element of confidence? After De Klerk had demoted Malan and Vlok and announced his commission of enquiry, your NEC said this is not enough. What are the minimum things that De Klerk must do to show that he is now trying to act in good faith?

RM     That is a good question and I am going to be direct. We say the ministers of religion have been advising the government that all the whites need to do is to confess. The whites must confess that they have committed sins by oppressing the blacks. They must say racial discrimination was wrong from the very word go. Now we say alright, now let us build a new SA. Everybody agrees. All of us agree on that point. All of us agree that we need a new constitution. The old one is no good, it is rotten, let us bury it. Now, we say alright step number one, interim government. That is the test now. The government says, Good Lord!! What does that mean? Surrendering of power? It is unpalatable to them. At the same time, they want to find a way out. How do we reach, or how do we produce the new constitution. We say you can only produce a new constitution within step number one, interim government. What does interim government mean? It means that you as a government should declare - you vote yourselves out.

POM     They resign?

RM     They resign in other words. It is that resigning which the government is scared of. It says, Does it mean we just surrender power? There will be chaos!

RM     Interim government means we have to set up that organ for the sole purpose of seeing to it that we move from there to a Constituent Assembly. The task, the main political task of the Constituent Assembly is to produce a new constitution. Now how do we then set up the interim government? Supposing we do, do you think the army will be obedient to that structure, do you think the police will be obedient to that structure? If not, then the interim government has not got power. That is now the big question. How do you solve this question?

RM     On the 30th of last month the President said that it is a matter which must be discussed. He is prepared to listen to an argument as to how we can bring about an interim government, but he says we can do it in a number of ways. We can have a multi-party congress. It may well be that that multi-party congress will produce some type of what you people call interim government.

RM     Now therefore, the ANC says alright, let us have this, we don't want to call it an all-party congress, we call it the all-parties organisations congress. That is what we want to call it. The purpose of this congress should be to exchange views as to how we can bring about a new constitution.

POM     How do you make the distinction between an all-party congress and an all-parties, organisations congress?

RM     I envisage a stage where somebody will say the ANC is not a party, it is an organisation, I am covering that. I am saying all parties and organisations congress, anticipating some clever fellows who will say as we enter the doors, What party are you representing? we say, ANC, and they say, The ANC is an organisation, get out!

RM     Now, you can see I say from where we are we just take a step forward and we call that step interim government, the second step, the Constitutional Assembly, then we produce a new constitution. The test is going to be shown in this process. The honesty of the parties concerned.

POM     In your heart, do you believe that at this point a white government, which maintains that it is a government of a sovereign state, recognised internationally, etc., will actually vote itself out of office?

RM     I am happy with the way you have put it, from a personal level. I find it very difficult, more or less, I would not say impossible because there are so many things which have happened which I thought were impossible, you see, when we are looking at white supremacy as a structure, you would find it difficult to believe say 20 years ago that that can be shaken to the level at which it is today, where the whites, all of them say that we can't proceed with running the country as whites, forgetting that there are other groups, blacks, in the country. Let us just forget about that! They are saying it openly. Even that thinking is the new thinking. Now, it is going to cost people to sacrifice and to take risks to say that we have just to give in in this matter. Let the concerned organisations and parties come together and give a direction, a way out, or a way forward.

POM     This brings us to one of these distinctions that come up in a number of conversations that I have. Let me phrase it first by asking you, since I talked to you last, have you seen from what you have read and what you have heard and from what the government has put out there, have you seen any evolution in the government's position as to what it would regard as being an acceptable accommodation?

RM     The government is not clear on two very important points which one can even call obstacles. This question of agreeing that there should be an interim government, this point of agreeing that there should be a Constituent Assembly. In Namibia where they were party to the arrangement, they accepted these structures, they accepted these steps. But in SA they are speaking a different language.

RM     That is why I say then we must in fact say that it is not as simple as it seems.

POM     Do you think they have moved away from their position on the protection of population groups?

RM     Yes. They moved. With these commissions on human rights, bill of rights, to protect. Although the ANC says that we don't need all that, once its citizens are covered, has got a constitutional right, there is no problem.

POM     In that context, another thing they talk about a lot is the word 'power sharing'. They always say 'this is not about a transfer of power, this is about the sharing of power and my understanding of what that means, and from what I can get from talking to them boils down to one of two or both things. One, power sharing to them would mean that the NP, as a party would continue to have and to exercise executive authority in the government. That is to say they would hold one or two or three cabinet portfolios, they would be like the junior partner in an alliance and the ANC would be the major partner.

RM     We cannot accept that you see. We cannot accept talk about 'junior' or 'senior', there must be equality.

POM     You said that the ANC would have majority voice in government but they would have the NP - it would be like a coalition government. Like in Ireland for example, you have coalition governments between a big party and a small party. And the big party by and large sets the policy, but the small party gets a couple of portfolios.

RM     You see the ANC has taken that into account already in our deliberations. We are talking of a government of national unity. We add those words 'national unity'. What does that mean? It means we will take into account other groups, supposing that the ANC is in the majority. In the first place if we are really looking at our situation honestly, I don't see how we can so otherwise, that is why I keep saying that we must not think in terms of a black government. Because once we think about that, then the whole thing is upside down. You must think in terms of a South African government, composed of South Africans, black and white. In that way, the ANC must, of necessity, take into account that you are an engineer, we have not got black engineers, you need to serve and do that other thing. We must take into account that we have had white government, they are experienced in running the country. We must make use of that experience.

RM     If for instance, just to give one other example, you say well, so and so was a good Minister of Finance, why can we not make use of him? That is what I have in mind. No black has ever been a Minister of Finance. Then we will say when we are setting up a cabinet, so and so should come in and serve in this position. To me, there is nothing written of course of what I am saying, to me we have to take that into account.

POM     So would you envisage after a Constituent Assembly and after an election for a government, let us assume that the ANC emerges the victor and it says, for the good of the country, the government will be a government of national unity.

RM     That is right, national unity.

POM     Then we will move from that and we might change the next time.

RM     We will say after five, ten years, when people are now used to it, and we all talk in terms of we are South Africans, because we must make use of that expressions, we are South Africans. Don't be telling me I am an Afrikaner, English, Xhosa, etc., we are South Africans, we now have accepted the fact that we are one nation, although others will ask, what do you mean by nation and so on, but let us say One nation, one country, one parliament' Once we have accepted that then we are going to behave in a normal way.

RM     There are those of course who will tell you that there is the question of tribalism which will crop up; we will see that when the time comes. But the constitution is there for everyone to enjoy himself/herself. At that stage if you make a mistake of trying to disturb the peace, we will say, what more do you want? Tell us. What more do you want? You have got the right to vote, you can be voted for yourself and be a member of parliament, you can vote for somebody whom you like to be in parliament, what more do you want? As a South African you have got the citizenship rights, you have got political rights, you have got economic rights, what more do you want as a citizen, tell us?

POM     You mentioned the right, a little while ago. It seems to me, and again I get this impression from other people I have talked to, that the Conservative Party (CP) is kind of withering on the vine, that whatever it seemed last year that a lot of whites would support it, but that seems to have shrunk and they feel isolated.

RM     You see the CP, and you find this throughout the world, they are going to die out as we move on. They have not got any policies and they have got no future. As we go on mobilising ourselves, black and white, they are just going to wither away, some of them will say, well things are not working out, let me join somebody else.

POM     Have they marginalised themselves at this stage, but saying they are not going to enter into negotiations? Do they become more irrelevant?

RM     Well, time is going to tell there. In the first place they know that the CP has not got the power to stop this process, if at all the ANC the government and progressive forces come together and work. They cannot stop this unfolding momentum.

POM     It is simply irreversible at this point?

RM     At this point they are trying to do everything within their power to stop the process, but they just have not got the power to do so. Even if they attempt to use force they can be crushed if the government, the ANC and other forces are united.

POM     A couple of last questions just on the SACP. One is about the question of identity. What is the identity of the SACP in its own standing?

RM     Their identify is simple. The SACP stands for socialism. Simple. Despite the fact that you say, what the hell are you talking about, don't you see that socialism is dying, but that is what they stand for. I am just telling you it is that simple and pure.

POM     How would the SACP's vision of a future SA differ from say the vision of the ANC?

RM     The ANC is not advocating for socialism. That is the fundamental difference.

POM     The ANC is not for socialism?

RM     It is not advocating for socialism at all and it has been clear there. It is only the CP which talks about socialism. Of course I do see now that the trade unions are also talking about some form of socialism. But if you are talking of the ANC and the SACP, that is their fundamental difference.

POM     I am going to ask you an obvious question, which is what do you mean by socialism. Now I put into context before I came here. I sat sometime in Czechoslovakia and talked with people at a conference where there were a lot of people from all the Central European countries that have been undergoing change, from Lithuania and from Russia. What was interesting there was that when they were called part of the USSR, they went crazy. There seems to be a universal disregard for communism and what it had done, of its failure in these countries, of the way it had oppressed people, both politically and economically, and to the world over, now communism is a word associated more with repression than with freedom, where it was practised as a government it resulted in one party states which were non-democratic.

POM     In view of the fact that you yourself would have spent your lifetime being weaned on the theology or theory of Marxist-Leninism, that this was the ideal way to set up a state, why do you remain so committed? What are the features of this socialism that you are so committed to?

RM     You see, I am not going to use the world communism. Socialism has been practiced in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe. Quite clearly there have been some defects in the application of socialism. We are now saying that we want democratic socialism. There must be no question of one party but a multi-party society. Democracy must be practised and in fact the very fact that we talk about multi-party in the society is in fact an element of democracy. Now in a number of fields then we must see to it that we democratise.

RM     On the question of religion, we say there must be freedom of worship, freedom of expression. All the fundamental freedoms must be practised. Now, this was not happening, as you know, there was one party, the communist party, and it was imposing itself to an extent where it has failed even to make use of trade unions in formulating policy.

POM     But my point would be that while they were practising in this way, the SACP never came out and said, this is wrong, this is undemocratic.

RM     You see the communist parties in these countries that you are talking about, as you say, have never challenged that dictatorship they were talking. It was not fascist according to them. It was not proletariat dictatorship. We have not even seen its application because it would have meant that the workers are taking part in formulating policy. But the Communist Party was the big boss. That is not democratic at all. We would like to see the workers in the democratic socialism we are talking about in SA, where the workers participate, not represented, but participate in the a number of things. We would like to see that there is state ownership of certain industries. We want to see private ownership of certain industries. We want to see what we would call the 'peoples co-operatives' and so on. We are talking about the economy now.

POM     So you would be for a far larger degree of nationalisation.

RM     Selective nationalisation. Not overall nationalisation.

POM     Would you be far more nationalisation oriented than it appears the ANC is?

RM     Yes.

POM     The word nationalisation has been appearing ...

RM     That is true, they would say that because of certain economic imbalances, we maintain that industry which we envisage cannot be effectively run by a private company, the state should in fact take over and run it. We would argue it that way.

POM     Would you have state, worker representation on the Board of Directors of those companies?

RM     Yes. That is where democratisation now shows itself.

POM     Let me ask you the hundred million dollar question. It seems to me, coming here, visiting and looking around, that the major economic problem that must be faced is the one of the massive inequalities in the distribution of everything.

RM     But that also will take time to show itself. The effectiveness of that will take some time. The imbalances are so wide that you need to sit down and have commissions; what about education, what about housing, what about this and so on and so on, and how do you deal with them?

POM     What would you be for? Would the SACP be for a more radical plan to redistribute wealth than say the ANC?

RM     Well, what we are going to do - there must be rationalisation, logic in other words. We must be reasonable in the application of these things. We don't want to show an element of radicalism where you make a decree. There must be consultation, there must be negotiation and so on. You must have short term, five-year, ten-year and all that. All these things must be soberly discussed, consultation taking place. That is why I prefer to talk about commissions being set up to see how these things can be balanced.

POM     It seems again to me that what whites want to protect is maybe not so much their political power as their economic power. They would be willing to cede their political power as long as they can get a constitution that entrenches the right of private property, puts limits on redistribution of wealth, so even though you have a popularly elected government you still have the wealth of the country still largely residing in white hands. Do you think whites would make that trade off, the economic power for political power?

RM     You see, I have had a discussion with the business people. They are hammering on the economic matters more than the political. It seems to me that if we guarantee that, I say guarantee, then they may say, alright.

POM     What is the guarantee?

RM     The guarantee is not just by word of mouth. At this stage it is word of mouth, because we are not in government, but we must say this is our economic policy. They want to see it. The ANC must produce an economic policy saying publicly, in written form, that this is the economic policy, then on the basis of that they will decide whether this is a good economic policy.

POM     The last question is, just watching things since I have been here, I have heard two contradictory things. One is that the ANC's insistence that there be no real negotiations underway until first they are satisfied that this government is taking steps to stop the violence in the townships and the removal of Malan and Vlok from the government, and agreement to an interim government. On the other hand I hear you come out and say that De Klerk's response to the Inkatha funding scandal was insufficient. On the other hand I hear just what you said, We have got to negotiate. It is the only alternative open to us.

RM     You see, even in what we are saying, there is no categorical statement from the ANC to say that we have done away with negotiation. The ANC has always opened its doors consciously.

RM     These things you are quoting, they are only labelled as obstacles. Not that I am abandoning this road, or this process, but to say, this is an obstacle, and I want to move so you must remove it. That is all. That is the fundamental principle, the idea of negotiating is paramount. I won't use the word absolute, but it is paramount.

POM     My last, last question. Are you really at a point where any sort of reverting to an armed struggle to try to gain your demands is simply not realistic?

RM     What demand is this?

POM     If the government stalled the negotiations, and was not willing to concede, are you at a point where to win your freedom, that it is simply not realistic to think in terms of going back to the armed struggle?

RM     The armed struggle is a weapon which is hanging all the time. Now, whether the feasibility of it is - it has always been a debatable issue, from the very word go. Whether it is feasible for us to embark on an armed struggle, we have discussed that and in spite of all the odds, we have attempted to carry on with our struggle. Another thing which we must take into account when we talk about the armed struggle, we have never said that this is the only method, it has been part of methods that we have used. We have mobilised the entire world as another method of pressurising the government, side by side with the armed struggle. We have done marches, we have done a lot of things in the country. We have embarked on defiance campaigns, side by side with the armed struggle. It is not just by itself. It is part of a larger whole. Therefore it must not be just taken on its own, just as we are reminding ourselves now that when we talk of negotiations, it is part of the methods. We want to move, to go forward, we want freedom. But you must not think that negotiations by themselves will work. We must do certain things. We are pressuring the government side by side with negotiations.

POM     If the armed struggle is really over and the question of sanctions really is gone, what points of pressure, what weapons of pressure do you have left?

RM     Well, you must know that we have got an organised labour force. You must know that the employers and people who are working with the employers are voters. When we pressurise the employers we want them to move, making use of labour, purchasing power of the blacks, generally speaking and a number of other things which we can do, defiance campaigns and so on. We can do a lot of things. We can even say that without representation we have no right to do A, B, C and D and embark on a defiance campaign and cause an unrest situation in the country. You will find that, to tell you the truth, there are a number of things that we can do to make those people who are part of the government, by way of voters and so on, to think twice that we have to do something ourselves.

POM     By which way?

RM     Representation. Look at how these people have on their own taken decisions to go and confront the government. That, look, apartheid is not famous. Apartheid is just no good for us from the business point of view. They have said so and the government has in fact admitted that.

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.