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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

09 Aug 1991: Irvine, George

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POM     Bishop, when I talked to you last year it was 1st August and in the following week the Pretoria Minute was signed and the ANC suspended the armed struggle. There seemed to be a moment of hope that a negotiating process was going to get under way reasonably quickly. Then within a couple of days of that you had the violence breaking out in the Transvaal and that violence has more or less dominated the political scene here for the last year. About that violence: would your understanding of it be that it has now become, or had become, essentially ethnic in nature or that it was really violence between supporters of Inkatha and supporters of the ANC without a tribal component?

GI     I think it would be for me clear that the main component in the violence, there may have been other factors, but the main component in the violence was the Inkatha/ANC thing. There's no doubt that that is so in Natal and that's where it began and I have no reason to believe the spill over on to the Reef was anything else but that.

POM     This brings up maybe the question that I'm really getting at, is what do you think is the nature of the problem that the negotiators will sit around the table and negotiate? There's conflict about the nature of the conflict. Some say it's simply a question of white domination over blacks which must be redressed. Some say it's a conflict between two nationalisms, black and white. Some say yes, it is about race but also about ethnicity that within each of these racial categories you have substantial cleavages between different ethnic groups and that any final settlement, if it is to last, must take into account those cleavages. That in that respect South Africa is what would be called a deeply divided society in the same way that Northern Ireland would be called a divided society or Cyprus or Sri Lanka or any multiple of other cases, Yugoslavia. What's your own view of what the nature of that problem is?

GI     I think when they actually sit down and talk, the various parties sit down and talk, there will be a multi-faceted dimension to the issues facing the country. I think there will be the racial component, there's no doubt about that. I think there will be the tribal component and I think there will be the political component in the various parties all fighting for some kind of place in the sun. For me the ultimate thing, or the priority thing at the moment is to get them around the table and see what comes out. I think up until now the government has been trying very hard to get a major support constituency so that whatever the deal is that they come to they will have a major, predominant almost, part in the final outcome. I think that's the reason, for instance, why De Klerk has been able to take so many whites with him because he has managed to convince them that in the negotiation, whatever else happens, he will not sacrifice a large almost predominant role which he sees himself playing in the new South Africa for the protection of whites in particular. You know, he's managed the impossible really. He's managed to convince the whites who support him that they can actually negotiate without losing. Now whether he can do that or not, Patrick, is another matter. I'm not prepared to comment on that but that's what he has managed to do. I saw in the paper this morning, that chap from Ireland, Connor Cruise O'Brien, he was actually speaking out, if the paper's got him right, he was speaking in support of De Klerk's desire to be predominant in the final outcome.

POM     He said that was the aim of the government. In that connection, I don't know whether you were here or you were away when Inkathgate, as it's been called, broke loose.

GI     It was exposed in the Weekly Mail on a Friday afternoon in South Africa.

POM     Are you familiar with the broad outlines of it?

GI     Reasonably so. Not too clear. It caught a bit of news in Singapore, a bit of coverage in Singapore but not to a great extent. Just that this money had been given to Inkatha, a lot of money had been given to a Trade Union which was basically UWUSA, and that the money was being given back by Inkatha to the government. And then of course it led, thank God, to the change of Malan and Vlok. That's all I know.

POM     My question would be, what do you think is the political fall out of it? Who are the winners, who are the losers and in particular what does it do to Buthelezi?

GI     Well, I think the ANC have benefited from that schlemozzle almost more than any other group I would think. I think it's put Buthelezi well back in the stakes. You know we've known all along that Buthelezi's support lies in the rural areas of KwaZulu. It doesn't lie in the cities and Durban, in the black cities. It lies in the rural areas. And I think there were a lot of people beginning to believe, especially whites, that Buthelezi was a good, reasonable kind of guy and in comparison to Mandela a very nice conservative person who could be trusted. But I think this has put him way back.

POM     So you think it will damage him not only among blacks but among whites as well.

GI     I would think so. That's if the whites are going to be perceptive and think about it.

POM     Why would whites who might support him now turn away from him?

GI     Well you know a lot of whites in Natal were for Buthelezi but obviously, to a few of them that I've talked to, just last night I was talking to a couple of them, they saw him in this kind of pristine purity at first. Here he goes up front, he calls himself a Christian, goes up front and makes all kinds of noises that sound good and now he's been tainted by the fact that he's been taking this money from the government. I think there are some whites who are still with him and they will say, 'Well he did everything possible and look how much money the ANC is getting from other places.' Some have turned against him.

POM     Again, when you go back to the question of the violence on the Reef, do you see Inkatha as the prime instigator of that violence?

GI     I think it's both. I think both ANC and Inkatha have been to blame.

POM     One view has been that when Buthelezi saw a process emerging in which Mandela and De Klerk were like the two main actors, he wanted to elbow his way on to centre stage and he used the violence in the Transvaal as a way of saying 'Listen, I'm a major player. You can't leave me out of it." Last year I remember you said you wished there was a meeting between Buthelezi and Mandela, there was talk of there being a triumvirate of leaders. It's really now again two major players, De Klerk and Mandela with Buthelezi more or less on the sidelines?

GI     I think so. I was talking to Rory Riordan who went to the ANC conference and Rory was taken around with other press people in Natal to see, taken round in Natal, to see the extent of the damage and there was no doubt in Rory's mind, and this wasn't just a bit of propaganda, Rory is more perceptive I think than to fall for that. There was no doubt in Rory's mind that Inkatha was the basic instigator of the trouble there. No doubt in his mind. Now when it spilled over to the Transvaal there was also no doubt in our minds that they were the main instigator there. But it would be naïve, I think, to say they were the only instigators and that the ANC never started anything, that they were always the sinned against. I don't think that would be true.

POM     In the larger context of that question now come the assertions by Mandela over this past year that the government had a hand in the violence and that the government had a double agenda, the olive branch of negotiations versus trying to undermine the ANC on the other hand. Do you think that sufficient evidence has now emerged to give substantial justification to those allegations?

GI     I think so. I think so. I am sure that it's clear to people that De Klerk has turned out to be in some ways the leader of the National Party and not the President of South Africa with the good of the whole country in his mind. I think this has proved that he is still the leader of the National Party.

POM     So would you see then that help to Inkatha, or that orchestrating hand or whatever, as being carried out by renegade elements within the security forces was done under the approving eye of the government, or would you go so far as to say that De Klerk himself must have been aware of it?

GI     I'm sure he was aware of it. I'm also not unhappy that he's trying to say he wasn't, because I wouldn't at this stage like anything to happen to unseat him. I think he's a pretty important player. You can actually go into negotiations with a guy knowing he's dirty, but he's the only guy you've got and he's the best of the bunch. I think that's where I am with him. And indeed with all of them. There's none of them clean. They've all been up to one or two things. But basically De Klerk's major problem, as we said last year, is that he can't be referee and player at the same time. I don't know how he's going to sort that out.

POM     Might this be the biggest fall out of Inkathagate? Not what happened with regard to Inkatha but with regard to what happened in Namibia, where you had a situation of where the South African government was supposed to be the overseer of this election and while it was the overseer it was funding [the DTA]. So this lends much more credibility to the ANC's insistence on -

GI     I'm afraid that Mr Mandela has been proved right.

POM     And that's just a factor. But do you think there's any way that De Klerk could resign, in a way put his own government out of existence in order to bring in a government of national unity or whatever into place?

GI     If politics is the art of the possible, then I would think that he's not going to, that he can't put himself out.

POM     That he can't?

GI     I don't think he can.

POM     The other part of that of course is that it makes it very difficult for members of the ANC to join the government because that would be called simply a form a co-option.

GI     You know, I'm not sure what's going to happen up the road but a step in the right direction would be if they could choose a mediator, a chairperson of the All-Party Conference and he could get out of the chair of that. Now he's still President, he's still got his government, but if he could get out of the chair of that then you could get someone in the chair for those meetings, I have a feeling that something good could come out of that.

POM     Do you have anybody in mind, a South African in mind that might fill that kind of bill?

GI     I think Van Zyl Slabbert could do it.

POM     It's just the name that came into my head, but then I decided to see what you would say.

GI     No, he could do it.

POM     The trust between the ANC and the government, whatever minimal amount of trust that was there is now severely damaged.

GI     It is. But there's another factor you see. It has actually led to Malan and Vlok being changed. Now that was a masterly stroke I think by De Klerk. I think he should have put them right out of the Cabinet altogether but I don't think we can hope for that. But here you have a strange thing, you've got Inkatha being supported by the government and the government supporting Namibia and all that kind of stuff and we can see that their hands are anything but clean, and so they're exposed, and what Mr Mandela says has been proved true. Now that's led De Klerk to sack Malan and Vlok. Now in a funny way with those two guys going into minor posts it's opened the way even more for negotiations. So I'm putting on a scale the removal of Vlok and Malan and the support of Inkatha and saying which is the weightiest one to help the negotiation forward. I would think that the removal of those two men.

     And also there's another factor you see, when it comes out that the government supports Inkatha and Dirk Mudge and all these guys in Namibia, there's only one conclusion you can come to and that is that this government supports losers. I mean they haven't got the wit to support the winners. They have never supported the winners. They spent the money on the losers. Now that has a strange kind of weakening sense of this government. They are not the masters that they pretend to be, they are not the great negotiators that they're trying to set themselves up as. They are supporters of the failures of this world. They are supporters of the losers. So it demythologises them a bit. When you get Mandela and De Klerk now getting together it's not the Colossus and Mandela meeting. It's a very human, stupid, incisive, intelligent, ordinary kind of guy called De Klerk whose government can pour its money down the drain and Mandela with a wife who's giving him hell and we've got two totally human people heading up this thing.

POM     Just to finish with the question of trust, do you think that negotiations can be carried out where lack of trust between the negotiators is fairly pervasive or do you think that by their nature that negotiations are things that enemies do, so you can have successful negotiations even if trust is absent?

GI     Yes indeed. I think you can have negotiation without a great deal of trust. I don't think anybody who goes into negotiations can expect a world without the snake, you know what I mean? You can't go in there naively. And all these exposés that have happened they have removed the naiveté out of the situation, if anybody was naïve at all. I'm not sure whether they were. You can negotiate with a fellow who you believe is going to knife you. You can still negotiate but at least if you know he's going to knife you, you can watch your back.

POM     Last year you said about De Klerk, 'I think he is sincere. I think he intends for a new South Africa to emerge.' But you also said that something could happen between conception and delivery was the analogy you used. Has your assessment of De Klerk changed in the last year?

GI     No, I think he's been pretty sure footed. If anything has happened to De Klerk in my mind he's become demythologised. He was beginning to look to me like a bit of a Moses, getting us out of trouble. But now he's come off his pedestal, which is good. So if any change has happened to him, he's a Nationalist politician, maybe the best one they've got at the moment, but he's still a Nationalist politician and in negotiating with him they're going to have to watch him like a hawk. As he's going to have to watch Mandela.

POM     And how would your assessment of Mandela have modified?

GI     I think Mandela and Sisulu are good men. I suppose De Klerk's a good man too. But I think none of them are clean. None of them. As they go into negotiations I just hope and pray that they will be able to arrive at some result which will be good for this land. But I don't pedestalise (i.e. put on a pedestal) any of them now. I wouldn't want to.

POM     Did the Winnie Mandela affair hurt the ANC?

GI     I think they closed ranks to be honest. That was a nasty business and I think they've closed ranks. That's exactly what they've done on that one.

POM     One has the perception, at least from abroad, of the ANC following a very zigzag course last year, of being uncertain and laying down demands and time scales within which they have to be met, the time limit passing, they are changing the demand or setting a new time limit, a kind of lack of cohesiveness.

GI     I think that's passing. Were you in the country for the ANC conference?

POM     No, I just came the week after.

GI     You know something? That ANC conference did something for the ANC I think which was quite remarkable. Up until then, to be honest with you, people like Rory and myself, we'd laugh at their lack of organisation. The local ANC office would drive us dilly, they'd make appointments, they wouldn't keep them, you know the usual. Rory in fact was called in by the local ANC office, I think to try and sort them out administration-wise. But that conference was absolutely well organised. It was the kind of party they needed to say to themselves, 'You know, we're really OK. We've actually got the show on the road now.' And after that conference was over there was a dignity and a togetherness which wasn't there before.

POM     Do you think the introduction of people like Cyril Ramaphosa to the leadership will make a difference?

GI     Absolutely. Absolutely. I would now, outside of being a Bishop now, outside of being a Bishop because I don't want to take party sides out there, but as an individual I would join the ANC. I don't know what Rory will be saying to you but Rory I think would do the same thing.

POM     What about this continuing association between the ANC and the SACP? Is that a real factor in people's minds?

GI     I think many people are worried about that and I think the ANC is going to have to look at that. I might be naïve but I don't see a great problem there. One of the things that I have discovered about black people who I know is that their communism, if they are communists, is not related to atheism. It's not related to the hard core atheistic stuff that we got. I hope I'm not being naïve, but I think they're actually talking a kind of socialism. They are talking a political economic structuring of society which I'll fight them about. But they're not the bunch of atheists that we are under the impression we've got to wipe out the church and sending people off to personality hospitals. I'm not too worried about the communist dimension in the ANC.

POM     I talked to somebody last night in the ANC about this question of an election for a Constituent Assembly and in line with the ANC's insistence that it should be the people themselves who should pick their representatives to go to a Constituent Assembly, my question was: should not at that point the ANC become a political party in its own right so that people should have the right to know whether they were going for a member of the ANC or a member of the SACP?

GI     I think that's going to come.

POM     Do you think it will come sooner rather than later?

GI     I think it's going to have to come soon. You see it's very difficult to get the ANC to jettison people who have supported them in their struggle. And the other factor which you really must keep in mind is that for years and years and years those of us who were working for liberation were called communists by the government. So the word 'communist' has not got the overtones of fear in the black community. I mean if I'm a communist then they like communists because they like me. If Beyers Naude was a communist then OK, communism must be good because Beyers Naude was not a bad man. So what the government did was, the government made communists look good and made communism acceptable in the struggle. Now when you get out of jail and everything begins to gel and now you can see obviously Beyers Naude wasn't a communist, obviously George Irvine wasn't a communist, but the hero guys who are actually calling themselves communists they have been with us in the struggle so we're not going to reject them. But there's no doubt that when we start talking political parties and when we go to vote the Communist Party is going to have to be one of the parties that are voted for or not voted for in election and that will be where you will find what the people really think about that, about the Communist Party. I don't think they'd get a lot of support.

POM     But there's this troubling, that even if they tried to separate themselves the leadership of the ANC is now so inter-twined with the leadership of the Communist Party that in a political party system half the ANC leadership would be leaving the ANC or having to make a choice to stay with the ANC and ditch the Communist Party.

GI     It's a perplexing question and I'm not sure what the answer is. I'm not sure what the answer is.

POM     On another matter, over the last year have you seen any evolution in the government's thinking on what kind of a constitutional settlement it might be prepared to settle for?

GI     No. All I've noticed, and I said this to you last year and this is continued, they make statements but they never close doors. They make quite definite statements 'We shall never have an interim government BUT ..' and those doors have remained open. And that for me is enough at the moment.

POM     When they talk about power sharing, do you have any particular understanding of what they mean?

GI     No I don't but I'm absolutely sure that by power sharing Mr De Klerk means keeping pretty firm control.

POM     I've been given a couple of possible scenarios with regard to what they mean by power sharing. One is that they are talking about a situation which in a new government in South Africa, one elected after a Constituent Assembly and a constitution has been voted on, in that new government the National Party would continue to have a share in executive authority. That is to say, some members of the Nationalist Party would have Cabinet portfolios. That's scenario number one. Scenario two is that they would regard that as an interim arrangement for the first government and perhaps even for the second government, but as just another step on the road to eventual black majority rule. Do you think that the black community would accept an arrangement in which the ANC would be the major party in government but there would be a minor party, the National Party, who would continue to be members of the Cabinet and to exercise executive authority? Or do you think that to too many that would smack of being a sell-out or a different for of co-option?

GI     Well I have a feeling, I'm not too sure of this, but I have a feeling that blacks in this country would takes whites being part of the government so long as they got elected. I don't know how you do that, but they would be very suspicious of a deal that would be struck between the ANC and the Nats and the ANC saying OK we've got to have 12 and you've got to have 6. If that was anything more than interim there would be a great deal of difficulty with that. But if they were to say we're going to do that for 5 years and then we're going to go to the people, then people could live with that for 5 years. But they couldn't live with that kind of thing permanently. It wouldn't be acceptable.

POM     What about the right wing? This time last year I asked you about the Conservative Party and you, I think, said the Conservative Party had now become the party of the Afrikaner and that if you had a white's only election a year ago this time, that you might have found that a majority of people would have voted for the Conservative Party. Do you think that situation has changed?

GI     Yes I think a little better. You know this fiasco, not fiasco, this thing in Uitenhage yesterday when they brought the food in for farmers for supporting the Conservative Party.

POM     They brought the food in?

GI     Did you see that?

POM     I didn't.

GI     OK. Farmers arrived from all over the country with truck loads of food and they arrived in Uitenhage, for drought relief, but it was only for farmers who supported the Conservative Party. The food wasn't given to farmers who supported the Nats. And they finished up with a great big meeting in Uitenhage and speeches and all kinds of things. Now I think that there is a large group of Afrikaners, Nationalists, who have gone Conservative, but I think, it's clearer to me now than it was last year, that De Klerk is managing to hold his own in that struggle. I remember saying to you that if he went to the whites for a mandate to do what he's doing he wouldn't get it. I don't think he would have got it a year ago but I think he would get it today. I could be wrong.

POM     Do you think part of the problem with the Conservative Party is that it's tactics, that it will not participate in negotiations and that the solution it propounds, somehow the partitioning of South Africa is so impractical, that even whites who might agree with them ideologically don't understand that what they are proposing is totally impractical? Do you think that's true?

GI     Yes.

POM     I visited a family last weekend at Zeerust, a man who owned a hotel, a Conservative Party member of the Zeerust Town Council, he wouldn't allow blacks into his hotel, one of those people who are totally racist yet very nice. If you take away their racism they're

GI     Generous, well-meant people.

POM     Yes. But I got the feeling that even as he railed and ranted that at some deep level he had accepted that the past was over and that he would have to adjust as time went on.

GI     Right. I think that's the mood right now, Patrick, it wasn't last year. I think as the time goes on the white person is saying we've gone so far down the road now, there's no going back. We have to accept what's happening.

POM     We talked about this last year in terms of: when does the process become irreversible? And you said that the SACC had determined that they would regard the process as being irreversible when an election for a Constituent Assembly would take place. Do you think that too has changed? That it is now irreversible in the sense that the ANC has no option but negotiations and the government has no option but negotiations?

GI     I think we have got there. I think we've got there sooner than I thought. By that I mean that if there's going back now there will be chaos. That's what I'm saying. And I think anybody with any wit at all will know that.

POM     That the alternative at this point is - ?

GI     The alternative, to go back now, is so devastating, so terrible to contemplate. It would have apocalyptic proportions to it.

POM     Again, when I asked you did you see if there were any obstacles facing De Klerk and Mandela, you said that the major obstacle for De Klerk was the holding on to his white constituency and for Mandela to hold on to his black constituency. Do you think they have both been able to exercise their authority in a way where they are now bringing them in?

GI     They are both doing it rather well I think. At one stage I would have thought that even the ANC would have put Mandela out and put Hani in. At one stage I wondered about the Old Guard in the ANC being acceptable to the New Guard but Mandela has done a remarkable job in holding on to everybody as De Klerk has done I think.

POM     So do you see black youth whom last year you were very concerned about, about their big question mark, that question mark is still there?

GI     Oh yes I think Mandela's holding them.

POM     You do. And the PAC?

GI     I don't know whether you've talked to Moseneke but he's a most reasonable man.

POM     I've asked to see him and everyone speaks very highly of him. Everyone says he's the most intelligent politician in the country.

GI     If we could put him up I'd vote for him tomorrow. He's a remarkable man. I'd like to know what you think of him when you're talking to him. I was most impressed. He impressed me much more than Mandela and Mandela impresses me. I think Moseneke is not riding as complex a horse as Mandela. The PAC have got their ideas pretty well shaped: this is what we believe and this is what we stand for. I think Mandela is trying to hold on to a far wider constituency than Moseneke has to. But you'll be impressed with him I promise you.

POM     Somebody mentioned to me and you brought it up in a different way, I think it was something Connor Cruise O'Brien was alluding to and I got a copy of an article from Judy Chalmers yesterday by a local journalist in a paper where he talked about the NP isn't thinking in terms of saying 'My God, we're going to be a minority party in the future, for ever', that they are in fact saying 'We can go out there and compete for white votes, get white votes, form alliances with other parties and God damn it, maybe end up being in government again if we play our cards right.' Do you think that their strategy is to try to pull in a portion of the black vote as well as to form alliances with other smaller parties like Inkatha or whatever?

GI     I think that's true. I think this government, if I've heard you correctly, I think this government is spending this time before the negotiation thing starts in broadening its base as much as it can. It wants to go to the table. That's why it supported Inkatha, it wanted to go to the table with Inkatha, it wanted their support. This government needs Inkatha like they need a hole in their head, like they needed Dirk Mudge like a hole in the head, Dirk Mudge, the fellow in Namibia. But they are trying to widen their base and I think there would be people who would be - you know it's interesting the number of people who are prepared to go overseas and work for the Foreign Office now, people who are not Nats, like this guy from the newspaper, he died of cancer before he could do much.

POM     Tertius Myburgh, yes.

GI     And Harry Schwartz. There are some significant people saying, 'Let's get behind the government and let's help them broaden their base'. And some may be doing that to get into politics in a more significant way.

POM     A different kind of question, I know you're running late.

GI     I know I kept you late. What time do you see Rory?

POM     I don't see him till eleven. Since 1967 there has been no instance in the case of Africa where power has passed from one elected government to another elected government. Either every country has become a one-party state or the government enjoyed such a monopoly of support in the first instance that it simply was re-electing itself. There was no real democracy. What do you think are the factors that might make South Africa different?

GI     I think, to speak against myself, I think apartheid, separate development, had a way of liberating whites for the training of blacks to be effective in their own areas. So we have a lot more trained black people in South Africa than any other country that I know of in Africa. It came about I think through apartheid in one sense because they were happy with blacks being trained so long as the blacks did it in their own areas. They're not going to do it in their own area any more so they are more ready now for participation than many, many blacks were in Zambia and other places. And I think there's a maturity, here again I speak against myself, there's a maturity in our politicians which I haven't seen in other black countries. I think what's going to keep us from the blood bath is negotiation. I think guys like Mandela and De Klerk and others will be mature enough to keep us from going over the edge.

POM     I'd like to go back to the question of ethnicity again for a number of reasons. One, because if South Africa is a divided society in the classical sense of a divided society, like say Northern Ireland, then you have to develop separate, sometimes innovative, structures and build them into your governance system or else the system will be unstable and won't last. Two, because when I talk, particularly to white academics, well regarded white academics, they will say ethnicity is the factor, my question always is: is ethnicity a factor but it's not talked about because if you're a progressive you don't stand up at a cocktail party and say I think that this could be a real problem in this country at some point. It seems that you are being an apologist for the government, that somehow you are saying the government was right all along, it just got the solution wrong. What are your views?

GI     One of my kind of dreams, maybe a pipe dream, is the central government I think could, say, use English as the official language, but I think you would go round the country, your regions could give expression to it. For instance in the Eastern Cape Xhosa would be very much a priority but with Natal the Zulus would be very much a priority. I would hope that a system would evolve which would allow lots of space for that. I have no problem with that. I think it's OK to be a Xhosa and it's OK to be a white and it's OK to be a Zulu but it would have to be built in and maybe built in regionally rather than nationally.

POM     So this would express itself perhaps in some form of a federal structure?

GI     Yes, yes, I think that would be better. Although I know little about that. That would be my wish, my dream.

POM     So as you look at the next year in terms of where you were last year?

GI     Well I hope if you talk to me in a year the negotiations will be started. I'm feeling a little more optimistic than I was last year.

POM     It's almost like they have weathered a bad year and the process is still on track.

GI     I say to myself the process is still on track. We have come through a hell of a lot and it hasn't been derailed so maybe that's good for the future.

POM     I know this morning I was listening to something on SABC, and again it was a case of a kind of confrontational declaration by the government and the ANC on something, and then a news item later on was about something very practical and mundane. A working group of government officials and the ANC had reached agreement on how to deal with the problem, so you've got these smaller groups working along.

GM     That's happening and I would think that what we have to learn to live with are statements from the same man at the same time, statements which are diametrically opposed to each other. You get Mandela saying something which is confrontational and he'll finish by saying something that's OK, and he hasn't derailed it, thank God! You get De Klerk or the other guys saying something and you feel, "Oh my God, that's the end of it." And then they'll finish up by saying something else. I'm feeling encouraged that we haven't been derailed.

POM     I have one last question, I may have covered it in the last interview if I have a look at it which, in fact, can save your time, but one of the points I was making last year is when I was talking to people about the threat of the right wing, the militant right wing, was that one could compare the Afrikaners in a sense to Northern Ireland's Protestants who have never given any kind of real support to their paramilitary organisations because in essence they are a law abiding people and see themselves as law abiding and people did what they were told to do by the government. They might not like it all the time but they did it. And whether the Afrikaner is a similar kind of creature, that the habits of law and order are so inbred that when they see militants out there ready to take on the government there's more than a hesitancy, they put distance between themselves and such organisations?

GI     So just tell me again in a couple of sentences.

POM     In Northern Ireland, Ulster, the Protestants do not support paramilitary organisations because they are essentially law abiding people and do what they are told because they have always been law abiding people. In South Africa Afrikaners would not support right wing insurgency for much the same reason. Essentially they are a law and order people who abide by what authority tells them to do.

GI     You think that's true?

POM     I'm asking you whether you think there's any merit in that kind of argument?

GI     I'll tell you what happened when you were talking to me, my mind went off to comparisons between the Irish situation and here. Let me say that the Afrikaners have shown a level of ability in negotiation and in give and take that you don't get in many Protestant politicians in Northern Ireland. And secondly, the Afrikaner has a stickability about him in spite of criticism.

POM     A stick?

GI     He can stick at it. You can criticise him, you can call him what you like but he'll stick at it. The Irish don't do that. When you give us a rough time we resign! When we get a lot of flak we give up and leave it to somebody else because why the hell should we take all this nonsense.

     Your question, I think your question is wrong. I think the Afrikaner is a law abiding person. I don't think he would give a lot of support to bomb throwing and that kind of thing in the same way that I don't think the average black will give a lot of support to bomb throwing. But then you don't need a hell of a lot of bomb throwers to cause problems.

POM     OK George I'll leave it there. Thank you very much.

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.