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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

12 Aug 1991: Worrall, Dennis

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POM     Dr Worrall, I don't know whether you've yet seen Donald Horowitz' recent book on South Africa?

DW     Yes.

POM     Have you read it much?

DW     I've read parts of it.

POM     He argues a strong case in the book for there being a strong ethnic dimension to the underlying structure of society in South Africa and argues that if not taken into account in the final governance structures that are arrived at, then troubles will lie ahead. My question is, given the conflict about the conflict, as he would call it, what do you think is the nature of the problem the negotiators face when they sit around that table? How will they define the problem or will they all define it somewhat differently?

DW     Well I think that the essential problem of what people want to get, what different parties want to get out of the negotiation process I think will rather depend upon how they look at their interests and their sort of ideological assumptions. Now many of the white people coming to the negotiations will be the mainly white political parties, some of the other parliamentary parties coming to the negotiation process do so on the basis first of all with an interest in protecting minority interests and the Asians feel quite strongly about this. And others come with a predisposition to recognise Horowitz' view that ethnicity will express itself in the South African society and should be acknowledged in the constitution in some form or another. On the other hand the ANC and the other extra-parliamentary organisations will be downplaying that aspect. They will be stressing unity in the South African nation and they will tend to be predisposed against allowing ethnicity any kind of role. So I think self interest, ideological background will rather determine the approaches which will be adopted by the different parties.

POM     Do you think there will be any propensity on the part of the ANC in particular to reject out of hand arguments about ethnicity because somehow it would seem to validate the government in the sense that they defined the problem maybe rightly in terms of ethnicity but they got the wrong solution?

DW     I think that certainly will be the approach that the ANC will adopt, although what interested me very much was Mandela's statement at the ANC's July conference where he used the term 'ethnic groups', if I'm not mistaken, in communities, minorities, and said that the ANC had not done - when he was referring to the fact that the ANC had not done - (interrupted by phone call).

POM     You were talking about Mandela's remarks to the conference.

DW     I'm afraid I'm going to have to take phone calls. Mandela's remarks when he was talking about the ANC's lack of progress, mobilising minorities, he actually used the term 'ethnic groups' in the communities. And of course the Freedom Charter speaks of different national culture groups, nationalities and, if I'm not mistaken, the Freedom Charter does. So it's not totally alien to their thinking but they will certainly be politically predisposed, politically and intellectually predisposed to play down the ethnicity.

POM     About two or three weeks ago, it may be a month by now, The Economist in an editorial said that the violence between Xhosa and Zulu was really not dissimilar from violence between Serbs and Croatians. Do you think that was an accurate analogy?

DW     Well I think, yes, if you limit the violence to Xhosas and Zulus, you reduce it to that level and, yes, there is I suppose a parallel with Serbs and Croatians. But the fact is that the violence that is referred to is not simply between Zulus and Xhosas. It has political overtones to it. It's also an Inkatha and ANC thing and I think that one must see it in its totality. That ethnicity may express itself in the South African situation in much the same way that it has occurred in the rest of Africa, I don't doubt.

POM     You don't doubt that it will express itself?

DW     It will, sure. We will have ethnic political expression. This is one of the points that Horowitz makes and this is one of the points that even though he disagrees quite strongly on constitutional mechanisms, it's a point also which Aaron Laycock makes in his book and those are the two really important publications or writers who have actually looked up the constitutional and political situation.

POM     He gave me an article last year. This more or less fits in with what you've said, what Mr de Klerk has said, he made an analogy to Europe that when the yoke of communism or oppression was lifted from Europe ethnicity and the nationalities which had been suppressed began to express themselves and that as the yoke of apartheid is lifted then again these ethnic differences will tend to come to the fore and make themselves more felt. I'm concentrating on this because it seems to me that when you talk about governance structures you come up with an entirely different range of possible alternatives. If you say the kind of ethnic violence that has been in the rest of Africa or is in deeply divided societies will probably exist here then if you say, well the tensions are there but by and large those tensions have been artificially created by apartheid and a Bill of Rights will protect everybody. You see what I mean?

DW     Yes. I think you're quite right and I think that what you're saying is the rational approach. One should start with: what's the nature of the South African society? One of the very first things that you would conclude if you're being objective about it is that there really are no South Africans. This is a country in search of nationhood and this is a fundamental problem. This does affect, adversely, negatively, the prospects of us achieving a state of democracy. There are other things that I would mention that would contribute to stability, but the fact is that certainly a single sense of nationhood we don't have. Now I mention that as an example of if we were all objective about the situation we would say OK, what kind of society, extremely diverse society, can express itself with different cultural and in political terms? We have to recognise that. Our institutions should reflect it and we should model the thing or rather design the thing to take into account the forces and pressures that will emerge. But I'm afraid the approach is not a rational one or an objective one because there is the whole sort of apartheid legacy that has to be dealt with. There is the intellectual corruption of ethnicity, of cultural factors, which took place in the name of apartheid, separate development. And of course there are also political expectations. Certain organisations believe, the ANC, for example, believes correctly I think that it can gain a majority of people on a non-ethnic basis.

POM     The ANC believes it can put together ...?

DW     Yes I think the ANC approaches the situation with the confidence that it can put together a majority and that it can draw this majority from across the South African population given its reputation and perception that it is the major anti-apartheid force.

POM     In the talks that we've been having with people, people in the National Party or in the government talk about power sharing and people in the ANC for the most part talk about transfer of power. Are the two again entering negotiations with two quite different perceptions of what this process is about?

DW     I think that if one looks at the rhetoric, no. I think first of all you've got to distinguish the ANC from the PAC. The ANC I think is into negotiation with the government. There's a remarkable degree of progress in that respect. I think that behind the scenes talks are going on all the time. I think the personal chemistry is good and there's an understanding that they need each other, that the ANC needs the government and the government needs the ANC. Beyond that I think that the PAC and others take a much tougher line.

POM     So, when I talk to government people and they talk about power sharing as being executive power sharing, i.e. holding some portfolios in government and exercising authority at its highest level, they talk about it either in terms of that being an interim measure on the way to black majority rule or as kind of the final settlement. Do you think, just from your own experience, that a deal where the National Party would be part of the government structure, albeit the junior partner, that would be acceptable to most blacks?

DW     Yes I think so. I think a lot depends on how the process of negotiation goes. I think that there is going to be a sorting out of the goods guys and the bad guys. The violence over the weekend I think put de Klerk in a certain light as far as including blacks are concerned in relation to the AWB and the reactionary right. I think to some extent how he conducts himself over the next two/three years, bearing in mind the possibility of some kind of transitional arrangement, I think that he could to some extent first of all reduce the apartheid associations that he and the National Party still have. And secondly, I think too that what is going to happen, or what could certainly happen, there will be a much greater appreciation of the sheer impossibility of a government by itself, an ANC government by itself, governing the new South Africa. I mean the threat is going to come from the right. What are you going to do with the police force in this country? Disband it? It'll join the right wing. What are you going to do with the civil servants? This is a source of stability in South Africa. You've got to marry that to a new political system and what I find, I do think is that we've got guard against Utopians.

POM     Sorry - which?

DW     We've got to guard against Utopianism. Some of the biggest disasters in history have been caused by people with enormous good intentions. And I think that we're managing, there's a fair amount of pragmatism in it and quite a lot of realism if one just looks past the rhetoric on the part of major players. But I think that there is always the danger of people wanting to remake this whole society and in the process pulls in other problems.

POM     Some people have suggested to me, again outsiders, visiting academics for the most part who are probably a dangerous species, that they see de Klerk, they see the National Party pursuing two strategies simultaneously. The first is the strategy you've outlined. It becomes clear to the ANC that if they want a stable government, if they want to govern that they will have to bring the NP in some way into the government with all the factors that you've outlined and that they can take that hand quite a long way in terms of how necessary it would be for them to be part of the arrangement. The second strategy would be connected in a way to the first but it would be based on the premise that political parties don't give up power. They find ways to minimise the degree of power that they have to give up and this scenario would see the ANC trying to put together a coalition of other partners, albeit Inkatha, be it whatever they are. That would in fact be a governing coalition, that part of that strategy involved is: why don't you come in on that first and then I'll get to the double agenda question? Is there a National Party strategy or are they in this weighing it on a day to day basis? They haven't worked their strategy as to what exactly their objectives are and how to get them, or have they very calculatedly, does de Klerk know what he's doing?

DW     Look, I think that when one's talking about the National Party here we're talking about different elements of the National Party. I think de Klerk and certain of his Cabinet Ministers, I think there is a sense in which de Klerk himself is going for broke. I use the analogy of what Nixon said about Gorbachev when asked in an interview what he thought of Gorbachev, this is at the beginning of perestroika/glasnost, and he said "Well I admire the man. I admire his guts but I'm not sure whether he's prepared to bend his reforms, whether he's prepared to lose power to achieve his reforms or bend his reforms to maintain power." Well I have said of de Klerk that I believe he is prepared to risk power and I still believe that.

POM     Risk power in the sense of ...?

DW     Well he's prepared to lose power in the process of changing this country. I don't believe that's true of his party, the rest of his party, and I think there are people in his party, a lot of his MPs and so on, who think that they've got some secret strategy up their sleeve.

POM     But you wouldn't see de Klerk himself having ...?

DW     No I don't think he's got a double agenda.

POM     There's been talk about that.

DW     I don't believe he has.

POM     The various former members of the security forces coming forward and making statements.

DW     Yes, a lot of that may be true but I don't believe that de Klerk is bluffing it.

POM     Would elements in the government be behind it? There are kind of three parts. Is it a double agenda that is being in a way unwittingly carried out by elements of the security forces operating independently? Is it being carried out by some ministers in the government?

DW     No, I don't believe any ministers in the government. Either it could be rogue elements within the police maybe, rogue elements within the army. I think that there is to a certain extent a natural kind of, given the civil service, a dragging of feet in certain situations.

POM     This is what Inkathagate has really been used for, payment of money rather than to vindicate ...

DW     Inkathagate, quite seriously the last payment, with the exception of the trade union movement, the last payment that went to Inkatha was in March 1990.

POM     What I'm saying is, it's not been used for that purpose at all. It's really become the sort of vindication of what the ANC has been saying all along because to give them money is only the tip of the iceberg with the ultimate collusion with regard to the violence, with feelings.

DW     Look I understand the perception. First of all I accept that de Klerk didn't know that that money was given and, secondly, I don't believe he would have approved it. And, thirdly, I really don't think that if a man makes a speech on the 2nd of February that suddenly - I think that payment of March 1990 was part of the political culture of the PW Botha years, the previous administration.

POM     What kind of problem, you talk about how behind the scenes relations are between members of the ANC and members of the government. In the last couple of weeks I've talked with members of the ANC, the Executive and the Working Group, there's incredible anger among members of both the Working Group and the National Executive about the duplicitous course of the government. Absolute belief, not perception, absolute belief that the disclosures that have come out in the last couple of weeks are proof positive of what they have been saying all along. They feel taken in by the government. The gleam has gone from de Klerk. If that's true, whether it's a double agenda or not becomes irrelevant if they really at this point believe it is. What must the government do, if anything, what confidence building measures?

DW     Look I think de Klerk's done a couple of things. His initial reaction was, I think, very positive in that the demotion of Vlok and of Magnus Malan were pretty courageous things to do. In the police Vlok was a very popular Minister of Police . Magnus Malan was head of the Defence Force and I think de Klerk took the wind out of the ANC's sails with that action. But secondly, de Klerk in response to the whole thing admitted not only the need but the priority of the transitional government. And the ANC has grabbed this. The ANC said, "Right, let's talk about a transitional government. This must be the number one item, as you say Mr President, on the All Party Constitutional conference." And I believe for that reason that the All Party Constitutional conference will take place sooner rather than later, I think in October, and I think that number one is going to be some kind of a transitional arrangement whereby government - you have a more neutral government supervising the process. And I think that's the answer.

POM     What kind of an arrangement do you think? Could you speculate?

DW     I think there are three possibilities. The one possibility, which de Klerk would prefer, would be that Mandela and company and Inkatha come into the present Cabinet, he just expands the Cabinet. They won't do that because that's co-optation into the tricameral system and apartheid system. The second possibility, the other extreme, is that de Klerk and company resign. They vacate their office and you get some new government appointed in its place. That's not acceptable to de Klerk. The third possibility, the compromise, is that de Klerk and the Ministers stay in office but you broaden decision making through multi-party commissions which serve particular portfolios and which influence policy.

POM     But the government remains?

DW     Well they stay in office but in effect they accept that they will be advised by multi-party commissions. That's the third possibility. I don't know of any others. I've given it a lot of thought and that to me could be a very workable arrangement. Effectively decision making is taken out of the Cabinet, the Cabinet purely has an executive role. Because you are talking about 32 years.

POM     Until the next election?

DW     No, well until we get a new constitution. I think it's going to happen by 1994, don't you?

POM     I don't know. I could be coming back here for 15 years!

DW     I sincerely hope not.

POM     I know. I think the rate of change will be quicker than that at this point. Just to go back to Inkathagate, as it was called, for a moment. What do you think has been the political fall out and what has it done in particular to Inkatha and Buthelezi?

DW     I think that Inkatha and Buthelezi have been hurt. How seriously I don't know, but they've definitely been hurt. And I think de Klerk also, his credibility also took a knock but his response was, I believe, pretty bold, pretty daring and I think he's regained some of the high ground.

POM     You don't see any, to get back to the strategy questions, attempt by de Klerk to broaden the base, the appeal of the party, have the Coloureds joining, defecting from the Labour Party, the Indian community, that veers far more towards the National Party than to the ANC, you have KwaZulu, you have Brigadier Gqozo in Ciskei, that he's trying to pull in moderate blacks?

DW     Are you asking, is this his strategy?

POM     I'm asking, do you think he has two strategies? One is to say to the ANC we are pretty indispensable if the government is to work, if you are to govern effectively. The other says the best way to pursue this course is to build coalitions.

DW     I think that there's a two track here. I'm not suggesting a double agenda, but at the one level de Klerk is saying to Mandela, look the two of us are vital to seeing the transition through. However, de Klerk says, at the end of this transition there's going to be an election for a new government of South Africa and then I want to be in position where my prospects of doing well in that election are as good as I can get them. And that means alliances, it means becoming part of the majority. And, yes, he's committed to that. What I think one has to avoid is early competition between the ANC and the National Party. We know that these are the two major factors and that there will be alliances around them and we know at some point that they are going to compete but it is important that that not happen too soon.

POM     When you look at the last year, have you seen any evolution in the government's thinking on what an acceptable outcome might be to them? Have they moved away from old concepts of group rights in terms of race to a process like power sharing. Do people know what they mean by power sharing?

DW     No. There's tremendous ignorance. Do the Nats know what they mean by power sharing?

POM     Or do the people outside of the Nats even know what it means?

DW     No I think that there is a vague idea that there should be a more equal situation. Power sharing implies the more equal situation, that somehow we can avoid majority domination. But I don't think anybody really has a clear idea what these things mean. I think we are dealing with a very politically conscious constituency out there but a very politically unsophisticated constituency amongst whites and blacks. I think that this is a major problem.

POM     You said earlier that the ethnic factor would make itself felt probably at some point. If one looks at Africa as a whole since 1967 with one exception, power has not changed hands from one elected government to another, either countries have become one party states or one party enjoys such a monopoly of power that elections were meaningless in terms of democracy. What factors do you think exist that suggest that South Africa might be different?

DW     Well I think the fact that no one party is going to dominate easily, the diversity of the society, the fact that profound as the change is going to be in South Africa there are certain elements of stability, the old order can't be brushed aside completely. I mentioned the police, the security forces, the public service, these are institutions that will continue into the new South Africa. The fact that this country does have an important, does have a well developed economy and there's going to be tremendous interest internationally, I think there will be a general concern that we don't destroy the industrial face of South Africa, let it grow. There's going to be tremendous pressure from our neighbours in Southern Africa that we succeed economically. Their success depends on it. So I think one is taking a lot of factors here, internal and external. I would have to sit down and list them for you.

POM     The right. I haven't heard of the activities really of the right until this weekend. This time last year there was a lot of speculation about the Conservative Party, that if you had an election they might win over 50% of the seats or 50% of the white vote. This year nobody has talked about them at all. They seem to be floundering in the water, not much of a factor. Looking at them first and then at the militant right, where do you think they are at now?

DW     I would say that there are, if you analyse the right wing, there are three strands to it, three elements to it. There is the small but militant extra-parliamentary AWB. There is the parliamentary Conservative Party, the residue of the National Party with it's policies of Verwoerdian separate development. And then there are the various organisations which advocate Afrikaner self-determination on territorial lines generally and who are prepared to negotiate. In the long term that last one is the most important because it's going to provide the intellectual rationalisation and the emotional driving force for Afrikaner nationalism and towards the goal of a homeland.

POM     Who's the person to talk to there? I've talked to Carel Boshoff.

DW     Well Boshoff is - also there are a lot of people around Boshoff. There are a lot of people in this town got arrested. And I think that the violence at the weekend is going to sharpen the differences between those three because as you know the AWB was involved in the violence, the Conservative Party took advantage of it, but the other people don't like the violence. They don't like the racism, they don't like the authoritarian expression, they're unhappy with all of that and I think there's going to be a real debate in the Conservative Party as to where it goes. Does it in fact persist with the completely unrealisable thing of a major partition of the country, a return to apartheid? Or does it plug for a symbolic homeland for Afrikaners? And that debate is going to continue for a long time to come.

POM     Do you think that white voters who a year ago would have voted for the Conservative Party realise what the Conservative Party stands for is totally unrealistic?

POM     Is the right important because of the fact that elements in the police or security forces could be dragged in or is it important in its own right about its political constituency?

DW     No it's important in its own right. De Klerk has promised the whites a referendum. He's got to win it. Right now 50% of Afrikaners are against him.

POM     50% are against him.

DW     Well this is of now so it's not in the bag.

POM     Just a couple more things, Dennis, about the Democratic Party. With all of these changes what is your identity as a party and where do you sit? I remember you talked about being a party that would espouse liberal values.

DW     Well I think that we've been affected, we have been adversely affected by political developments, also at the level of ideas. De Klerk has taken over our policy. The speeches that I was making in 1987 and subsequently are the speeches that de Klerk has made. He's using some of the terms that I used and given the relative power situation it's quite obviously people are not interested in what I have to say. But certainly there is the perception that a lot of our supporters are saying we must support de Klerk because of the right wing clash over the weekend. So I think the DP is in a very difficult situation. We're not alone in this regard because every party in parliament, every parliamentary party has got a question of relevance. The parties here are the products of apartheid. I suppose the ANC also is a product of apartheid. But the question now is how do we relate as parties, parliamentary parties, to the great majority, the 40 million out there?

POM     The SACP and ANC alliance, someone said to me that the brightest people in the ANC that do get things done are members of the SACP. Is the alliance posing real problems for the ANC?

DW     To some extent yes. I think one must not ignore just how conservative the Coloured community is for instance, how conservative the Asian community is, and many blacks. They've not been immune to this whole total onslaught theory. Communism in the SACP has been humanised. They're not immune and I think that this is a problem at a certain stage, will be a difficulty for the ANC. I don't know how serious the problem is but I think it is going to be a difficulty. Now it may just go away but when the SACP starts to compete for support on its own it could be a problem.

POM     There are already those speculating that Hani's move is being pushed out of the ANC as it were or being pulled into the SACP.

DW     I don't know what the reason, what the rationale for that is but it says two things to me. Either it says that the SACP is going to head off on its own or it says to me that Hani's appointment strengthens the possibility of fusion, the disappearance of the SACP at some stage. The fusion if Hani comes back, brings him back, a suggestion of those two possibilities.

POM     The violence of the AWB, I make a very loose analogy to Northern Ireland that the Protestant community in NI never gave any real support to paramilitary organisations although Protestants comprised almost the entire police force because they were a law and order community which placed great value on their being law and order people. Do you think Afrikaners fall into that category too, that the sight of their police force being attacked by an extra-parliamentary organisation is more likely to repulse them than to get their sympathy?

DW     Just repeat that because I've been confused on Northern Ireland.

POM     In Ireland the Protestant community regard themselves as a law and order community, put great stress on it as a value of law and order and the police force is 99% Protestant. So their extra-parliamentary or paramilitary organisations never really got any real public support because it was anathema to the way in which the Protestant community perceive themselves, particularly in operations carried out against their police force. They saw it as being a renegade group turning out an attack on their police force. Are Afrikaners in somewhat of a similar position where their police force ...?

DW     I think you're making a very valid point here. You must remember most of the police are Afrikaners and I think, yes, that there is going to be, this is uncle against nephew, brother and brother and so on, and I think there is a sense in which that will happen. But I'm afraid that the AWB has to - you see shooting at black people is not enough. I think this is a horrible thing to say but it's not enough to generate the kind of revulsion that is needed. I think if the AWB started shooting at some whites then you'd get them aroused.

POM     More attacks, encounters with the police.

DW     Sure. I'm saying that they are saying, and they've got the CP to justify them, the CP saying you must understand de Klerk is doing things that he didn't have a mandate to do, and he's causing a lot of frustration and people will express their frustration. That was the justification that was given this morning on the radio.

POM     Two last things. The PAC, is it becoming marginalised?

DW     I honestly don't know. I've no idea. I talk to them regularly. This morning I spoke to one of their people but I really don't know. They do have difficulties. They don't have money, they're disorganised and you see they only had nine months and then they were banned. So they don't really have grassroots. It's a problem but I really don't know what their position is.

POM     The other is a different kind of question. I've been struck that I haven't really seen any government or NP statement other than the one made by Leon Wessels last year admitting that apartheid was wrong and apologising to blacks for what was an enormous injustice foisted on them for 40 years. Do you find that strange or not strange? Should there be an apology, should there not be?

DW     I think that concessions do help in this situation. There's no doubt about it. I suspect de Klerk at some stage will come around to making some kind of confession. But I also understand the difficulty of it in that when apartheid was originated - you see a lot of these fellow would say they didn't originate apartheid. As a matter of fact they were people who were adapting apartheid, adjusting it, removing the hardship aspect because when they came into politics, this is true of de Klerk too, apartheid was beginning to be challenged. I certainly think that a confession in a situation like this is good for reconciliation and I think it's good for the individual soul of the politician.

POM     Has the DP done so?

DW     Well we don't, you see the DP because it never was a party of apartheid doesn't feel that it needs to, most of its members.

POM     And last, last. The ANC. A year ago people talked about how it was disorganised, one story after another. From abroad it appeared that they were making demands with deadlines, ... over the deadlines and that the initiative really up until Inkathagate lay entirely with the government. How would you evaluate their performance over the last year?

DW     I would say that our description is correct. I think that the conference of the ANC was very important. I think before the conference frankly they were unsure of themselves. None of the leaders had been elected into their positions and they misread the consultative conferences, the 16th December, they didn't expect, they thought that they would get a decision setting aside sanctions there. It didn't happen. They were surprised by the grassroots and they were actually worried, most of them, both about their individual positions with a congress coming up in July and the organisation's general direction. I think what has happened is that as a result of the July conference the ANC is committed to negotiations, has got a clearer line, and secondly I think now that it's leadership is more assured. They've got a clearer idea of where they want to go.

POM     Is the process irreversible? That the ANC knows there is no return to an armed struggle, that the government knows there is no return and in this sense they are inter-twined whatever will emerge?

DW     Yes I think that they understand that there's an inevitable, I think they sense the inevitability of the process here and I think they have a sense of the imminence of power and the sense of excitement of being a dominant part of the new government. I think they feel that.

POM     You say a dominant part of the new government? Do you foresee in your lifetime that you will have a situation of black majority rule in South Africa?

DW     Oh sure, sure, the concept of black majority I find very ...

POM     I mean by that government by the ANC alone in which it would reflect the composition of the National Executive. You'd have Indians, you'd have Coloureds, but the majority would be Africans.

DW     Well I envisage a government in which there are more black than white faces, put it that way. But I would hope it's a government, I mean I work on the assumption it's not the colour of the skin that counts but obviously the ideas in the head.

POM     Maybe more accurately I should say a government that will be more than a one-party government.

DW     Yes, you see you're looking at a constitution which is going to be a proportional representation constitution. Everybody's going for proportional representation so I think you're going to have a very wide representation of interests in the parliament of the country in the decision making process.

POM     OK thank you. I know it was hard for you to make the time. I appreciate it.

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.